New Jaguars coach Meyer says he won't raid Ohio State staffers to join him
Urban Meyer on Friday called Ohio State’s coaching staff the best in college football.
The former Buckeyes coach also made it clear he won’t be poaching much of that group in his new job as Jacksonville Jaguars coach.
Meyer said he talked with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and coach Ryan Day and told them that out of respect to the Buckeyes’ program he would not raid it.
“You know my affection for both of those guys and the great university that we represented, and I won’t do that,” Meyer said in his introductory news conference. “Does that mean there might be one? Maybe. I’m not there yet.”
Hours later, assistant AD for player development Ryan Stamper confirmed that he will be leaving Ohio State to join Meyer in Jacksonville, which is Stamper's hometown. Stamper is in charge of off-field development, including the “Real Life Wednesdays” program that helps prepare players for post-football life.
Meyer said head strength coach Mickey Marotti and assistant athletic director for player personnel Mark Pantoni won't join him with the Jaguars.
“No, they won’t be leaving,” he said. “I’m not touching them.”
Stamper's mother and 9-year-old daughter live in Jacksonville.
Marotti and Pantoni are perhaps the two most important members in the football program besides Day. Marotti is revered for his work developing players in the weight room. Pantoni oversees a highly successful recruiting department.
Meyer, 56, steps into the NFL after a college career in which he won three national championships, two at Florida and in 2014 at Ohio State. He retired after the 2018 season with an 83-9 record with the Buckeyes.
At the time, he cited health reasons, specifically headaches from an arachnoid cyst. Since then, he has said repeatedly that he did not anticipate coaching again, but he was careful not to definitively close the door on the possibility.
“Some college opportunities showed up and made you start thinking,” Meyer said Friday.
But no college job was the right fit, he said. He said he has long been intrigued by the NFL.
“I had some opportunities in the past, and it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t the right situation,” he said.
He believes the Jaguars job is. Jacksonville was 1-15 in the 2020 season, but it has numerous high draft picks, including the No. 1 overall selection, as well as ample salary cap room and a roster that’s regarded as better than its record reflects.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is considered the likely No. 1 draft pick. When asked about that top selection, Meyer mentioned Lawrence, as well as Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson as possible choices.
“Who we pick at that quarterback spot, that's going to be one of the most important decisions I've made in my lifetime,” he said. “(After) my initial study, because I have been studying a lot, I see some elite quarterbacks.”
As for his health, Meyer said he will take steps to manage the stress of the job.
“I will not be running around like a nut on the practice field,” he said. “Those days are gone.”
Meyer was a master recruiter in college because he wanted to stack the deck with talent. The NFL, as he pointed out, is designed for parity. Jacksonville lost as many games last year as Meyer lost in his final nine seasons as a college coach.
“If you're asking if I'm going to enjoy losing, I think you know the answer to that,” he said.
He said he has studied the NFL in recent years, and with more intensity in the past 12 months. He believes he can make the transition.
“From Florida to Ohio State, I changed dramatically," Meyer said. "The days of coaching the way you did back when I was in Bowling Green or when I was an assistant coach, I mean, the whole country has changed. Everything's changed, so you have to adapt. Those who adapt have success. Those who don't, fail, and I've certainly had my failures along the journey.”
He said he understands the difference in coaching adults in the pros compared with molding 18-year-olds in college. He said in the past year he has detailed conversations with many of his former players about what works and doesn’t in the NFL.
As for the game itself, Meyer doesn’t believe coaching the pro game is dramatically different than the college one.
“Between the lines, I don’t see a lot of difference,” he said.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he spoke to several candidates before settling on Meyer.
“One man clearly separated himself from the field," Khan said. "He's a winner, a leader, and a champion. He’s the man we want and need in Jacksonville."
In addition to their house in Dublin, Meyer and his wife, Shelley, have a second home in north Florida. He said his two daughters and son are supportive of the move. His daughter Nicki and her husband, OSU quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis, have two young sons.
"We had a Zoom call the other day," Meyer said. "We've had deep conversations. They're all in. They're all grown now. To me, that's a huge difference. I'm not missing as much. I got two grandkids that I plan to shuttle back and forth as much as I can."