For this week’s SI, senior writer Pete Thamel had the rare chance to sit in the Ohio State coaches’ box and put on a headset for the Buckeyes’ 40-20 season-opening victory over Buffalo on Aug. 31. “Listening in is like eavesdropping on a program’s family dinner—spoken in mostly undecipherable jargon—complete with cursing, elation and the relentless tension of coach Urban Meyer asking for more,” writes Thamel. “It’s not a fun three hours,” says director of football operations Brian Voltolini, who shadows Meyer on the field. “You can’t take anything personal that happens on game day. If you do, you’re done.” (PAGE 40)
With Buffalo facing a third-and-eight on its second drive, Meyer flips over from the defensive headset channel to the offensive one and says to offensive coordinator Tom Herman, “Tom, I want to be real aggressive on this drive.” (PAGE 40) Herman plans to “jet to inferno,” meaning they will run the no-huddle (jet). After four hurry-up passes in five plays, Ohio State scores on a wheel route from Braxton Miller to Chris Fields. “Hey 5,” Herman says to Miller when he returns to the sideline and puts on a headset. “Good drive, bud. Great job being patient.” (PAGE 40)
After a Miller interception leads to a pick-six for Buffalo (and a third straight unsuccessful drive), Meyer shouts in the headset, “That’s three in a row boys. Let’s go. We need to start blocking these guys.” (PAGE 41) As the quarter progresses and Ohio State continues to struggle, Meyer comes on the headset: “I’ve never got my face kicked in by drop eight like this.” (PAGE 42)
Thamel discovers that there are two types of conversations on the offensive headsets. When Ohio State has the ball only Herman and Meyer can speak. When they don’t have the ball, all of the coaches can chime in. That’s why Thamel hears Herman say, “Can everyone shut up?!” (PAGE 42) The coach was trying to speak with his quarterback but couldn’t hear through all the coaches on the headset.
With the game too close for comfort, Meyer turns away from the high-tempo attack. “Where’s your best back?” Meyer asks Herman. “Let’s pound ’em. It’s Buffalo.” (PAGE 43)
With the play slowing down, Thamel notices the hardest working part of the play-calling operation—the signalers, who stand on the sideline in purple, orange and green shirts. When Herman calls a play into the headset, it doesn’t go directly to the quarterback’s helmet. Rather, the three signalers relay signs to the huddle, with only one of them being the live signaler.
As OSU winds down the clock of a 40-20 win, Meyer adds one final piece of commentary into the headset. “Well, we got outcoached today.” (PAGE 43)
Powering the Buckeyes’ turnaround from undisciplined to unbeaten is first-year Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s concept of juice: Who’s bringing the juice today? Who’s got the juice? Meyer uses juice to represent the relationship between hard work and production. Senior writer Pete Thamel looks at how Urban Meyer challenges his team, which cannot compete in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, to not only maintain its surprising success, but also act as a catalyst for the Big Ten’s revival.
College Football Preview on the Tablets: Exclusive Mini-Documentary of Urban Meyer and Video Previews of SI’s Top 10Posted: August 17, 2011
The Florida Gators are No. 25 in SI’s preseason rankings after six straight years of cracking the Top 10. In each of those previous six seasons, Urban Meyer was at the helm, guiding the Gators to two national championships while building a case as the best college football coach in America. What type of coach—and what type of person—is Florida trying to replace? In a four-part mini-documentary series titled The Private World of Urban Meyer, readers on the tablet get an inside look at the former Utah and Florida coach’s life through a series of extensive interviews and exclusive footage, including family home movies.