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Urban Meyer has his Ten Commandments, and if they're not from the Bible, if they're family mandated rather than heavenly inspired, that doesn't mean they have any less impact.
Even as Meyer braces for his Ohio State football coaching debut, even if his renowned intensity shows no sign of weakening, he has promises to keep. The No. 1 rule is that his family “will always come first.” Others include that he must take care of himself, sleep with his cellphone on silent, watch his daughters play volleyball and eat three meals a day.
Yes, the 48-year-old perfectionist who won big at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida (a 104-23 record, two national titles), but at such a cost that he had to quit his dream Florida job, not once, but twice, then took a year off because of health problems and stress, has found moderation.
Or has he?
“He's so competitive and wants to win so badly,” fullback Zach Boren said. “When he's off the field he's joking around, laughing. He'll ask about your family and your social life. But when he gets on the field, he has a football player's mentality. It's an intensity you can't explain.
“When he turns on that switch you want to do so well for him and compete so hard for him. He expects so much out of you.”
Meyer expects a lot even though Ohio State is banned from postseason competition this season because of violations committed under former coach Jim Tressel.
“There's no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State and certainly not with myself, our staff and our players,” he said.
Meyer spent his off year as a broadcaster and he used it visit other programs, something he never did when he was at Florida.
“I got in a little bit of a cocoon. I don't know if it was paranoia, but I wouldn't let anybody in. We certainly didn't let anybody out.
“To go study other programs and take ideas and discuss them with your peers, I did that on a very open basis. I feel I'm a better coach.”
The quality of his players will determine that. Meyer needs a big-time quarterback to run his version of the spread attack and he thinks he has one in Braxton Miller, who as a true freshman last season threw for 1,159 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 715 yards and seven TDs.
“He has a virtue that's relatively non-existent these days, especially at quarterback at a top-10 program, and that's humility,” Meyer said. “He's a humble guy. He's not a guy looking out for himself. It's refreshing to see that.
“He's extremely competitive. He tries to find a way to win. That's our No. 1 target when we recruit a quarterback.
“If you don't have a quarterback who can play, you're dead in the water. He can play.”
Meyer wants a strong running game. He has three key veterans in Rod Smith, the former Harding standout, Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde.
The 6-3, 230-pound Smith rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown last year as a redshirt freshman. He averaged 4.0 yards a carry. Hyde had 566 yards and six touchdowns. Hall, who is expected to miss the first two games because of a foot injury, had 408 yards and two TDs.
Hall is set to have the hybrid receiver/tailback role Meyer used so well at Florida with Percy Harvin. Smith, Hyde and freshmen Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball will provide the power.
“Carlos, Rod and Dunn have been great, but Warren Ball has surprised me,” Boren said. “He's competing like no other. He's winning every race. Those four guys are competing and pushing one another.
“They're all interchangeable parts, all the same back, except for Jordan. They are big, powerful backs. That takes its toll on a defense. They're hard to game plan against when you have four backs that can bruise you and wear down the defense.”
Meyer said the biggest difference between coaching in the SEC (as he did at Florida) and the Big Ten is the SEC's abundance of speed in the defensive front seven, and overall team speed. He said it's a point of emphasis at Ohio State.
“Overall athleticism right now, we're a little bit behind. We're recruiting with that motive, with that intention, and it's going very well.”
Some publications have Ohio State as the second-best team in the Big Ten's Leaders Division after Wisconsin. Last year's 6-7 record, Boren said, is a motivator.
“I can tell we're hungry because of the off-season we had and how hard the guys have worked. We're hungry from what happened last season. I wouldn't say we're angry, but we're very determined.”
Meyer has done angry, coaching from rage until his body rebelled. But this is a new dream job, a new chance to show that perspective, if not imperfection, has its place. That, perhaps, is the ultimate commandment.