Big Ten: Taver Johnson

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue quarterback Danny Etling showed up to a recent interview holding a piece of paper marked with X’s, O’s and notations.

It wasn't a play sheet for that afternoon's practice. Etling had created most of the page himself. Boilers offensive coordinator John Shoop provides his quarterbacks with general concepts, and then lets their minds run wild. He encourages Etling, Austin Appleby, 2014 signee David Blough and the other signal-callers to submit plays for review. Some will be used in practice. Some will even be used in games this season.

[+] EnlargeDanny Etling
Adam Rittenberg/ESPNPurdue QB Danny Etling shows off the sheet where he creates plays that could find their way into a game.
"You just throw it on a piece of paper," Etling told "He'll be like, 'Terrible, terrible, terrible ... that one's not bad. Let's talk about it.' That’s how our plays develop, by that thought process. Out of every 10 plays you draw, nine of them suck but one might be good and that's the one you might run on Saturday."

Shoop is the "puppet master," as Etling puts it, and has final say on all play calls, but Purdue's quarterbacks are very involved in the planning process for practices this spring -- and will be for games this fall.

"I value that," Shoop said. "It's our job as a staff to make our team feel empowered, like they're in control. These guys are not robots. Our staff takes a great deal of pride that the men who come and play for us are going to learn the game of football."

After a 1-11 season, where one of Purdue's biggest problems -- not lining up correctly -- occurred before the snap, you would expect the coaches to take even greater control of the learning process. The classic scenes of coaches and players -- red-faced coaches screaming and pounding on tables, players scared out of their cleats -- would seem likely inside the Mollenkopf Center this spring.

But there's a problem with that teaching model.

"They’ll just sit there and nod their heads, say they got it," defensive backs coach Taver Johnson said, "and then we’ll go down to the field and they’ll have absolutely no clue."

Purdue has chosen a different direction this spring. There's plenty of teaching being done, but the Boilers’ coaches are doing all they can to involve players in the process.

"Every time you take over a new program, your staff has to teach everything," coach Darrell Hazell said. "How do you line up, how do you break a huddle, where you are on the field. Now it's becoming fun, because you don’t have to worry about all those little things.

"You can concentrate on ball and getting guys better."

It beats the alternative.

For Shoop, it means having quarterbacks present their own plays at each meeting, and seriously considering them for use. For Johnson, it's having a player stand at the front of the room and teach his teammates press technique. For wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman, it's having each wideout prepare a report on a concept or set of concepts, while encouraging them to get creative.

Sophomore receiver Cameron Posey took it to heart.

It's our job as a staff to make our team feel empowered, like they're in control. These guys are not robots. Our staff takes a great deal of pride that the men who come and play for us are going to learn the game of football.

-- Purdue offensive coordinator John Shoop
"Cameron used little Indians and cowboys on a cardboard," Sherman said. "He used different color lines on his routes. Very creative. I was very proud of them. They were very, very invested in what we're trying to do."

Etling admits the plays he submitted last year were "high school stuff," possibly because he had just come from high school. But he eventually learned all that goes into a play and what Shoop likes. One of his submissions made it into a game against Illinois and went for a completion.

Although the players' submissions still need refining, Shoop never writes them off immediately. He fully expects to use an Etling play or an Appleby play in games this fall.

"These coaches are very unique, especially with Coach Shoop in the way he challenges us mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually," Appleby said. "Coach Shoop says if you never walk into this room comfortable, we're not doing our jobs and we're not getting better.

"The only time I would say I wouldn't be able to develop as a complete quarterback is if there was a ceiling put over my head. There is no ceiling."

Appleby hopes to pursue coaching after his playing career and would like to be an offensive coordinator in college.

"I can't get enough of it," he said. "It's my favorite class. I know we're student-athletes, but my football class is what I look forward to all day. I get a chance to learn from [Shoop], not only as a player, but if I pursue a coaching career, it's going to pay dividends."

The coaches have successfully created more player investment in the learning process. The next step: translating it to the field when it matters.

"Any time you can get the players thinking like the coaches," Hazell said, "you have a chance to move forward."
Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson finds himself in an interesting position, even if he doesn't care (which he likely doesn't). Johnson was the overwhelming choice as the Big Ten's most significant assistant coach departure for leaving Penn State after 18 seasons.

Well, now it's time to look at the Big Ten's most significant assistant coach addition, and Johnson, the only coach to move within the conference this past offseason, is among the candidates.

Here's the full list (in alphabetical order):


Who is the Big Ten's best assistant coach hire for 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 6,292)

Chris Ash, co-defensive coordinator/safeties, Ohio State: The Buckeyes swiped Ash from Arkansas, where he was the sole defensive coordinator, and bring in a coach with past Big Ten coordinator experience at Wisconsin. Ash's defenses at Wisconsin ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring in both 2011 and 2012. Arkansas' defense went from 113th nationally against the pass in 2012 to 72nd last season.

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator, Rutgers: Friedgen was Maryland's head coach from 2001-10, guiding the Terrapins to seven bowl games (five victories) and an ACC title in 2001, when he won national coach of the year honors. He also has been an offensive coordinator for 21 seasons at either the college or NFL level, helping Georgia Tech to a co-national title in 1990 and winning the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant in 1999.

Larry Johnson, defensive line, Ohio State: Johnson spent the past 18 seasons at Penn State -- the past 14 as the Lions' defensive line coach -- and developed a reputation as both an elite coach and an elite recruiter. He mentored seven first-team All-Americans at Penn State, including Courtney Brown and Tamba Hali, and six of his players were named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year or Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Taver Johnson, defensive backs, Purdue: Taver Johnson's hiring didn't get as much publicity as the others on this list, but he could turn out to be just as valuable to his new team. Like Ash, Johnson escaped Arkansas and returns to the Big Ten, where he enjoyed success as Ohio State's cornerbacks coach. He mentored Malcolm Jenkins, the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award winner, and had three Buckeyes corners earn first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator, Michigan: Nussmeier brings impressive credentials to Ann Arbor, including a national championship ring he won as Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2012, when the Crimson Tide set records for both scoring and total offense. He has mentored quarterbacks such as Alabama's AJ McCarron, Washington's Keith Price and Jake Locker and the St. Louis Rams' Marc Bulger. Nussmeier also has Big Ten experience as Michigan State's quarterbacks coach from 2003-05.

It's that time again. Cast your vote.
Non-Minnesota fans might have missed Friday's official announcement that Mike Sherels has been promoted to Gophers linebackers coach after serving on the team's recruiting staff. Sherels is the first new assistant Jerry Kill has hired in his Minnesota tenure, but the move likely signified -- likely being the operative word -- something bigger for the Big Ten.

The end of the coaching carousel for 2014.

This post always includes a reminder that additional coaching changes still can happen, even though most of the Big Ten has started spring practice. It's the nature of the business.

Despite two new teams in the Big Ten, the number of overall changes in the league dropped for the second consecutive year, going from 32 in 2013 to 27 this year. There was only one complete staff overhaul, at Penn State, and four programs -- Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State and Northwestern -- kept all of their coaches from last season. After replacing more than half of his staff in the last offseason, Illinois' Tim Beckman hopes continuity pays off in what likely will be a make-or-break 2014 campaign. Iowa is back to its stable self after two years of coaching flux, while Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hasn't made a staff change since after the 2010 season. Michigan State made a major commitment to Mark Dantonio and his assistants after the Spartans' Rose Bowl win, but it's still impressive that Dantonio retained the entire staff after such a great season.

Both Rutgers and Maryland have some new faces on staff before their inaugural season of Big Ten play. Rutgers has two new coordinators (one outside hire, one promotion), while Maryland has new assistants overseeing both lines.

[+] EnlargeLarry Johnson
Michael R. Sisak/Icon SMILongtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson moved to Ohio State this offseason after James Franklin was hired as the Nittany Lions' head coach.
Other than Penn State, Indiana and Rutgers are the only teams featuring two new coordinators in 2014. Although IU assistant Kevin Johns previously held the co-offensive coordinator title, he'll be the main man, as he takes over for Seth Littrell.

For the most part, the coaches leaving Big Ten programs did so voluntarily and for potentially better positions. Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien took the same role with the Houston Texans, while two assistants -- Ohio State's Everett Withers and Maryland's Greg Gattuso -- left to become FCS head coaches at James Madison and Albany, respectively. The Big Ten lost several assistants to the NFL, as O'Brien brought four assistants with him from Penn State (John Butler, Stan Hixon, Charles London and Anthony Midget) and swiped another from Ohio State's staff (Mike Vrabel). Wisconsin also lost running backs coach Thomas Hammock to the Baltimore Ravens.

Arguably the most interesting move took place within the league, as longtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson replaced Vrabel at Ohio State.

OK, let's get to it already.

Here's the rundown of coaching changes (head coach and full-time assistants only; number of new coaches in parentheses):


Who's gone?

Doug Mallory, defensive coordinator/safeties
Seth Littrell, offensive coordinator/QBs
Jon Fabris, defensive line

Who's in?

Brian Knorr, defensive coordinator/defensive ends/outside linebackers
Larry McDaniel, defensive line
Noah Joseph, safeties

Other moves

Promoted Kevin Johns to main offensive coordinator. Johns also now coaches quarterbacks in addition to wide receivers.
Moved James Patton from assistant defensive line/special teams to tight ends and fullbacks


Who's gone?

Tom Brattan, offensive line
Lee Hull, wide receivers
Greg Gattuso, defensive line

Who's in?

Greg Studwara, offensive line
Keenan McCardell, wide receivers
Chad Wilt, defensive line


Who's gone?

Al Borges, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Who's in?

Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Other moves

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is overseeing linebackers instead of defensive linemen
Mark Smith moves from linebackers to defensive line
Roy Manning moves from outside linebackers to cornerbacks
Curt Mallory will coach only safeties rather than the entire secondary


Who's gone?

Bill Miller, linebackers/assistant head coach

Who's in?

Mike Sherels, linebackers (promoted from recruiting staff)

Other moves

Pat Poore moves from wide receivers to running backs
Brian Anderson moves from running backs to wide receivers


Who's gone?

Terry Joseph, secondary

Who's in?

Charlton Warren, secondary


Who's gone?

Everett Withers, co-defensive coordinator/safeties
Mike Vrabel, defensive line

Who's in?

Chris Ash, co-defensive coordinator/safeties
Larry Johnson, defensive line/assistant head coach


Who's gone?

Bill O'Brien, head coach/offensive playcaller
John Butler, defensive coordinator/cornerbacks
Charlie Fisher, quarterbacks
Stan Hixon, wide receivers/assistant head coach
Larry Johnson, defensive line
Charles London, running backs
Mac McWhorter, offensive line
Ron Vanderlinden, linebackers
John Strollo, tight ends
Anthony Midget, safeties

Who's in?

James Franklin, head coach
John Donovan, offensive coordinator/tight ends
Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator/safeties
Charles Huff, running backs/special teams
Brett Pry, co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Josh Gattis, wide receivers/assistant special teams
Herb Hand, offensive line
Ricky Rahne, quarterbacks
Sean Spencer, defensive line
Terry Smith, cornerbacks


Who's gone?

Jon Heacock, defensive backs

Who's in?

Taver Johnson, defensive backs


Who's gone?

Dave Cohen, defensive coordinator/linebackers
Ron Prince, offensive coordinator
Rob Spence, quarterbacks
Damian Wroblewski, offensive line

Who's in?

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Bob Fraser, linebackers/special teams
Mitch Browning, offensive line
Ben McDaniels, wide receivers

Other moves

Promoted special teams coordinator Joe Rossi to defensive coordinator
Anthony Campanile is coaching only tight ends after overseeing both tight ends and wide receivers


Who's gone?

Thomas Hammock, running backs/assistant head coach

Who's in?

Thomas Brown, running backs

Big Ten lunch links

February, 24, 2014
Congrats to Penn State students, who raised more than $13 million for pediatric cancer research at the school's annual THON event.

Big Ten lunchtime links

February, 14, 2014
Happy Valentine's Day, Big Ten lovers.
Bret Bielema was reportedly a driving force behind the controversial new NCAA rules proposal to slow down offenses. He might want to concentrate on slowing down his staff exodus at Arkansas.

Purdue announced on Friday that it had hired Taver Johnson away from Bielema's Razorbacks to be the Boilermakers' new defensive backs coach. Johnson was Arkansas' assistant head coach and linebackers coach in 2012 and was interim head coach that spring after Bobby Petrino got fired.

Before that, Johnson spent five seasons (2007-2011) at Ohio State coaching the defensive backs. He and Purdue coach Darrell Hazell were on the same Buckeyes staff for four years, as Hazell coached the receivers. Johnson also has coached at Miami (Ohio) and with the Cleveland Browns.

“I am thrilled to have Taver Johnson join our staff as the new secondary coach,” Hazell said in a statement released by the school. “He will bring energy and passion to that group. Taver has a wealth of experience from major college football as well as the NFL. I’ve seen him work up-close and in-person and love what he brings.”

This looks like a great hire for the Boilermakers, and Hazell's history with Johnson obviously helped here. Johnson knows the Big Ten well and is an excellent recruiter.

It's also another Big Ten broadside at Bielema, as his defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, left for Ohio State last month.
Slap yourselves, Spartans fans: John L. Smith is expected to become the new interim head coach at Arkansas.

Colleague Joe Schad reports that Smith, fired from Michigan State in November 2006, will be introduced Tuesday in Fayetteville as the surprising choice to take over for Bobby Petrino with the Razorbacks. He agreed to a 10-month contract with Arkansas, where he served as special-teams coach the past three seasons before leaving for the top job at Weber State. Coincidentally, Petrino succeeded Smith at Louisville after Smith left for the Michigan State job. The circumstances are very different now, but still notable.

Former Ohio State assistant Taver Johnson had been serving as Arkansas' head coach since Petrino's firing earlier this month.

Smith went 22-26 at Michigan State. He won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during his first season in 2003, but he oversaw midseason collapses in both 2005 and 2006 that sealed his fate at the school. His most memorable moments: slapping himself in a news conference after a loss to Illinois and a halftime meltdown at Ohio State, when Smith famously told ABC's Jack Arute, "The kids are playing their tails off, and the coaches are screwing it up!"

Smith remains one of the more colorful characters in coaching. I'll never forget seeing him playfully shove the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode after a win at Notre Dame. He also has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, has run with the bulls in Spain and has skydived over Indiana.

I'm guessing Michigan State fans, thrilled with their current coach Mark Dantonio, had a few laughs today when they heard about the John L. news.

How do you think he'll fare in Fayetteville? He inherits an extremely good team.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see Michigan State and Arkansas matched up in a BCS bowl game this year. That'd be fun.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson were among the coaches entrusted to guide Ohio State through a storm 2011.

The last thing the two men could have expected at their next coaching stop was another tempest. And, in many ways, a more damaging one.

Haynes and Johnson are part of an Arkansas staff left to pick up the pieces from the Bobby Petrino scandal. Johnson, the Razorbacks' assistant head coach/linebackers coach, is in charge until a head coach is named, while Haynes serves as the Hogs' defensive coordinator after leaving Ohio State in December. Johnson had a chance to remain with Ohio State but left to join Hayes in Fayetteville.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who served as the Buckeyes' head coach last season after Jim Tressel's departure, has been in touch with Haynes since the Petrino scandal broke.

"A very, very difficult situation," Fickell told on Thursday. "Different in a lot of ways, but similar in some ways, too. Everybody learned from last year, whether they were an administrator here, whether they were an intern, a defensive coordinator or a head coach, you learn a lot of different things, and it's going to help them in the long run."

Fickell and Haynes are close friends and remain in regular contact, as do their wives. Fickell hasn't spoken as often with Johnson, but he's confident the two men don't need his advice despite another difficult situation.

"Hell, they were here, they know what happened," Fickell said. "Now if the situation [at Arkansas] stays the way it is, before they start a season, I'm sure just like I had, they'll have an opportunity to communicate with some different people and pick some brains. Right now, they're probably just trying to keep the whole ship afloat."

Through some very choppy waters.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 6, 2012
You're still here! You didn't go to the store for milk and heroin and then never come back.

Q&A: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer

February, 2, 2012
Urban Meyer hasn't coached a game yet at Ohio State, but his impact on the Big Ten has already been massive.

Though he was only hired in late November, Meyer managed to put together an impressive first recruiting class that ESPN ranked as the sixth-best in the country. Several players in the class were at one time committed to other league schools. The Buckeyes put together one of the best groups of defensive linemen in the country as well.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Andrew Weber/US PresswireNew Ohio State coach Urban Meyer made an immediate impact on the recruiting trail.
I caught up with Meyer on Thursday morning to talk about the class, whether there's such a thing as a "gentleman's agreement" in recruiting, and how he expects his recruits to see the field right away.

Did you expect to sign a class this highly rated, given how little time you had to put it all together?

Urban Meyer: I think it exceeded expectations a little, especially on the D-line. If you had told me in December that we would get those four defensive linemen in this class and the two offensive tackles ... that's what separated this class I think, from being pretty good to being really good.

The class is heavy on the defensive and offensive lines. How much of that was need-based and how much of was just that's what you need to build a foundation?

UM: I think anytime you get a premiere guy like Noah Spence, he knows that we need him. That's the way it is nowadays. Kids want to go somewhere where there's a need. The same with the two offensive tackles, Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson. We just don't have those body types right now in our program, and they know that. We made that real clear. Their opportunity to play is going to be real quick here.

How did you go about evaluating what you needed in recruiting when you hadn't seen the players on the current roster much in person?

UM: Well, that's where Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel and Stan Drayton and when Taver Johnson was here, they were the ones [who helped]. Then when I went out to watch practice, I just walked out on the practice field and just kind of watched for a second, and I could tell our offensive line didn't look the way we needed them to look. I could tell we were short on pass-rushers off the edge. And then linebackers. So those are the three areas that we had to get just to be functional. So we attacked it as hard as we could and it all came together.

What do you like about the three big defensive linemen in this class -- Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Vonn Pittman?

UM: Well, number one is they're competitors. They're very high-character guys. To have three guys like that with high character who are very good people, I hate to say that's hard to come across, but it is. And they're all different body types. You've got Noah Spence, who's the pure speed guy coming off the edge, relentless effort. Then you've got Adolphus Washington, who's very thick, lower body and more power. And then you've got Se'Von Pittman, who's a little bit of both. So they all complement each other.

In your experience, and understanding every player is different, how long does it take players with that talent level to make an impact on the field?

UM: We're going to rotate them right away. We don't redshirt here at Ohio State. We're changing that up. We're going to have the culture out here that there's no redshirting. If you don't play here, it's because you're not good enough. It's not because we're holding you back. We're going to recruit the kind of player where we want them on the field right now. That's the approach we took at Florida, and it's the approach we're going to take here.

Is the same thing true with offensive linemen? People say that's the position where it takes guys longer to develop.

UM: Well, Maurkice Pouncey jumped right into it [at Florida], started every game, and in three years he went to the NFL. So if you're recruiting, you lay it out there for them. Usually, linemen take a little longer, but we've played with some young players before.

You mentioned Wednesday that you're not happy with the speed at the offensive skill positions. You're not necessarily done with this class, but was that just not out there for you this year, or is it more of a priority going forward?

UM: Yeah, we're not happy where we're at with our speed and skill on offense. I don't know what we have. I saw on film and looked at the stats, and you would say from statistical analysis and just evaluation that we're not very good at all. But I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see what happens in spring practice and evaluate them in the offseason, which starts Monday. But we're not where we need to be, by a long shot.

When you learned about the bowl ban, was there a time when you thought this class wouldn't come together nearly as well as it did?

UM: Oh yeah. Devastated. I would say, panic button in December. Absolutely.

What does it tell you about the players who decided to sign with you anyway?

UM: It tells you about the power of this program, too. I mean, Ohio State is Ohio State. It's the most powerful alumni base in the country. It's one of the great stadiums in the history of college football. A great tradition and a great city. So there are so many strengths about it that obviously overcame the negative hit we took.

Is recruiting in the Midwest and primarily vs. Big Ten schools different than recruiting in the SEC? The SEC has a reputation of being more ruthless.

UM: A little bit, but it's hard for me to articulate that. It was a little bit different, but there is still a lot of intense recruiting that goes on up north, as well.

There were a couple of coaches who criticized you for recruiting players who had committed to their schools. I liked the way you answered that question on Wednesday. Is there ever such a thing as a gentleman's agreement in recruiting, or is that a phony thing?

UM: Actually, Will Muschamp and I talked about that, about if a guy is previously committed. Up here, I was hired, and we covered our state and said to players, "Would you be interested?" We had one or two that said they would be interested, and others recruited us. Se'Von Pittman and Taylor Decker came after us.

Coming in as a new head coach at a program, would you even be doing your job if you didn't check in on those recruits?

UM: You've got a responsibility to your home state. Absolutely. There's not a coach in America who's not going to do that, not going to check his own state. You take a job, you're going to check your in-state players to see if they're interested. And if they are, then come on now, let's talk about it. And if they're not ... The young man up at St. Edward [offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, who signed with Michigan] we asked. He said, "I'm solid, I'm good." We said, "Good luck," and we moved on. I didn't call him again.

Could you get a sense of how much just having a coach in place and some stability at Ohio State, as well as your background, helped recruits change their mind?

UM: I think any time there's instability, that causes anxiety for a recruit. So I know with Se'Von Pittman, his comment to me was, "I always wanted to be a Buckeye. I just wanted it to be stable."

There are going to be lingering questions about your health, energy level, etc. Recruiting takes a lot of energy and time. How did you feel out there recruiting again, with all the time and travel it required?

UM: Oh, it was great. Great. No issue at all.

Jamal Marcus was a signing-day addition for you, and you talked about how he blew you away on tape. You really didn't know anything about him before that?

UM: That was one of those Christmas presents I unwrapped when they showed me the highlight video. I mean, he's as good as I've seen on a highlight video. Then you meet the kid and he's a beautiful kid, great family. Everett Withers identified him and brought him up. It's almost a shame to say this, but the first time I shook his hand and even talked to him was when he got on campus. And he blew us away.

He's been listed some places as a linebacker, others as a defensive end ...

UM: Oh, he's a linebacker. Linebacker all the way.

What are the priorities now for you over the next month or so before spring practice begins?

UM: We have a bunch of new coaches, a completely new offensive scheme. So the next month, the priority is to get around our players, get to know them with the new coaches. And No. 2 is to install an offense and defense, and make sure everybody is on the same page, so when we hit March we're up and running.

I talked with offensive coordinator Tom Herman recently, and he said he'd be blending the offense with your philosophies. How is that going on right now?

UM: That's all we're doing. I've hired some very good coaches, very successful coaches. We have a system I have great belief in, but I use the term enhance. If we can enhance our system, we will. And so far we have. It's going very well.

What kind of reports have you gotten from strength coach Mickey Marotti on how offseason workouts are going?

UM: Good. But we haven't really hit it hard yet. We've been kind of introduced to our offseason program. I meet with Mickey nonstop. Constant evaluation. But so far, it's mostly just been indoctrination. On Monday, it starts for real.

How much help has Luke Fickell been in this entire transition process?

UM: Well, there's no agenda with him. He has a true passion and love for Ohio State, and he's a very quality football coach and family man. It's a perfect fit, and his stability and relationships really helped us.

How much are you working on the 2013 class right now?

UM: Oh, we're killing it. We're all over it.
The Big Ten had three head-coaching changes in recent weeks, and new leading men have stepped in at Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State. We will be sharing our thoughts on the three new coaching staffs as they become complete. We already looked at Illinois' new staff, and Ohio State is next up on the rundown.

Here's the new Ohio State staff:

Urban Meyer -- head coach
Everett Withers -- assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties
Luke Fickell -- defensive coordinator/linebackers
Tom Herman -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Ed Warinner -- co-offensive coordinator/offensive line
Stan Drayton -- running backs
Tim Hinton -- tight ends
Zach Smith -- wide receivers
Mike Vrabel -- defensive line
Bill Sheridan -- defensive backs

So Today's Take Two topic is: How did Meyer fare in putting together his staff at Ohio State?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

Meyer set the bar high at his introductory news conference in November, saying he planned to "try to assemble the best coaching staff in college football." While I expected a little more star power in Meyer's hires, I like the cross-section of coaches joining Meyer in Columbus. He ended up retaining three assistants -- Fickell, Vrabel and Drayton -- and would have kept a fourth had Taver Johnson not left for a co-defensive coordinator spot at Arkansas. That number surprises me a bit, although keeping Fickell is huge, particularly from a recruiting standpoint. Withers is a veteran defensive coach who can take over the coordinator duties if and when Fickell leaves for a head-coaching position. Warinner seems like an excellent addition, and Meyer is close with Hinton, who also comes over from Notre Dame. The most intriguing hire by far is Herman, considered a rising star in the profession. Will he and Meyer revitalize the Ohio State offense? The unit certainly needs a shake-up, and it'll be interesting to see how Herman fares in a big-time, high-pressure job. This isn't Iowa State. The other big hire not on this list is strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, who Meyer brought from Florida. Overall, this might not be a star-studded staff, but it's a very solid one.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Several members of Meyer's staff at Florida went on to become head coaches. His first Ohio State staff included two guys who have already been head coaches, if only for one season each, in Fickell and Withers. They bring some real star power to the defensive side, and the only concern there is how two men who called all the shots themselves last year will react to working as co-coordinators. They'll have to check their egos at the door, but I think their respect for Meyer will allow them to do that. Vrabel moving to defensive line is interesting, and he'll have a wealth of talent to work with in returning guys like John Simon and Jonathan Hankins and the blue-chip recruits that are coming in, led by Noah Spence. Sheridan also brings a wealth of experience, including time as an NFL defensive coordinator. I agree with Adam that Herman is the wild card of the bunch. Meyer identified an up-and-comer rather than shooting for an established name, and Herman will be working with a higher caliber of athlete while also trying to blend his philosophy with the offensive-minded head coach. Best staff in America? Probably not, though that's a highly subjective description anyway. The important thing is that Meyer found a solid blend of veterans and young guns, program insiders and those with outside perspectives. This staff should help the Buckeyes emerge as a national powerhouse again in the very near future.
Urban Meyer's first coaching staff at Ohio State is complete, and the final hire has strong Michigan ties.

Veteran assistant Bill Sheridan has been tapped to become Meyer's defensive backs coach, according to reports. He replaces Taver Johnson, who left to go to Arkansas.

Sheridan has coached linebackers for the Miami Doplphins the past two years and was the New York Giants defensive coordinator in 2009.

The 53-year-old's last college coaching gig was at Michigan, where he served as linebackers and defensive line coach as well as recruiting coordinator for the Wolverines. His son, Nick, played quarterback for former coach Rich Rodriguez.

Sheridan has also coached at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Army and Maine during his career.
Urban Meyer's approach to discipline will be closely monitored at Ohio State after off-field problems piled up under his watch at Florida.

Meyer's first actions took place Sunday as the team confirmed he dismissed defensive backs Dominic Clarke and DerJuan Gambrell.

Clarke, a backup cornerback who started three games last season, has had several legal issues in recent months. He was charged with misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and two other misdemeanors following a Jan. 7 traffic stop. He was arrested Oct. 9 for allegedly discharging a BB gun at an on-campus restaurant, which resulted in a one game suspension. Clarke had been ticketed for speeding near campus.

In other words, he had plenty of chances and kept squandering them.

Gambrell, a freshman, was dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules.

In other Ohio State news, cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is leaving to become co-defensive coordinator at Arkansas alongside former Buckeyes colleague Paul Haynes. Johnson's departure leaves Meyer one staff vacancy to fill.
Ohio State has officially announced the hiring of Everett Withers as co-defensive coordinator, and Urban Meyer will also keep first-year linebackers coach Mike Vrabel on staff.

Vrabel joined the Buckeyes this summer after a 14-year standout career in the NFL.

“I had heard such great things about Mike Vrabel as a player, but the key thing for me was I wanted to talk football with him,” Meyer said in a release from the school. “I wanted to see him recruit, and I wanted to meet his family. I have since spent a lot of time with him, and he has a wonderful family.

“I also spoke to a number of people I know well, who also know Mike very well, including Bill Belichick. Coach Belichick and I had a really good discussion about Mike. While Mike is young, we both agreed that the unique experiences he has had as a player, coupled with the things he has already accomplished as a coach and recruiter for Ohio State, has prepared Mike for this opportunity. I am very pleased he will be on the staff.”

Meyer has now filled six positions on his first Ohio State staff. Taver Johnson joins Luke Fickell and Vrabel as holdovers on the defensive side, while receivers coach Stan Drayton will stay on to coach the running backs under Meyer. Tom Herman came over from Iowa State to work as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Urban Meyer talks staff, offense

December, 19, 2011
New Ohio State coach Urban Meyer met with a small group of reporters today in Columbus. Some highlights from what Meyer had to say:

  • Meyer said current assistant coaches Stan Drayton and Taver Johnson will remain on the staff, along with Luke Fickell. He hasn't yet decided on linebackers coach Mike Vrabel. Meyer said he would announce his full staff on Jan. 3, one day after the Gator Bowl.
  • Meyer said he didn't understand some of the consternation about Ohio State being granted a waiver so it could have extra coaches on staff during the transition. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was among those who voiced his displeasure about it. Meyer said he received the same waiver when he was hired at Florida.
  • The Buckeyes will run Meyer's spread offense, but it won't just be a spread. Meyer said attacking the perimeter of a defense is key, but that's not all you have to do in the Big Ten. "Ohio State's still Ohio State," he said. "We're going to turn around and smack (people) ... That will be a part of who we are, probably more than we've done, because of who we have." Meyer said he would incorporate the I-formation in his offense and that he likes new offensive coordinator Tom Herman because Herman is open to ideas instead of married to his own system.
  • Meyer has told recruits not to expect heavy sanctions from the NCAA, which could issue its ruling on the Ohio State infractions case sometime this week. Though Meyer doesn't know for sure what's coming down, he said he has spoken to friends in the NCAA and feels secure that there won't be a bowl ban or other heavy penalties. Meyer said he would work to prevent future rules violations. "If you see something that doesn't look right, you go like a torpedo and go blow the whole thing up and then go put it back together," he said. "We had that approach in Florida."
  • Meyer doesn't plan to go to Jacksonville to watch the Gator Bowl. He said he might not even watch it on TV because he is so close to both Florida and Ohio State.