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Football: Performance reviews highlight Ohio State coaching staff’s 2017 success

Urban Meyer raises the Cotton Bowl trophy following the end of game against the University of Southern California on Dec. 29 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 24-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Fresh off a Big Ten championship-winning season that ended with a Cotton Bowl victory, Ohio State football coaches were met with largely positive reviews in their performance evaluations, according to records obtained by The Lantern through a public records request.

All evaluations contained both self-evaluations and reviews from the supervisor. For the assistant coaches, head coach Urban Meyer provided comments. For Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith wrote up the evaluation.

Coaches evaluated themselves on a scale of one to five, with one being unsatisfactory, two being needs improvement expectations, three being marginally meets expectations, four being meets expectations and five being exceeds expectations.

Former wide receivers coach Kerry Coombs did not receive an evaluation because he departed the team before it would have taken place. Former wide receivers coach Zach Smith still received an evaluation, with the signatures appearing on June 26. He was fired on July 23.

Urban Meyer

Meyer received a “performance exceeds expectations” under competitive program, a higher rating than he received last year when the Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff.

Athletic director Gene Smith gave Meyer an overall “exceeds expectations” rating, earning top ratings in Commitment to Compliance, Student Athlete Welfare, Leadership and Public Relations/Donor Relations.

“The culture of the football program continued to improve under Urban’s leadership,” Smith said in his evaluation.

Smith said Meyer continued to improve the overall academic performance of the team, calling the team’s 982 Academic Progress Rating a “tremendous accomplishment.” The NCAA uses APR to account for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete from each academic term.

Of things Meyer needs to improve on, Smith said the head coach needs to help coaches and players align with the expectation of the team and “continue to manage risk areas” specifically in personnel management. Smith also called Meyer to assist with other head coaches in other programs, saying it would “strengthen his leadership presence in the department.”

In his personal evaluation, Meyer said two of the challenges he faced last season had to do with opioids and Title IX, something he said in his 2018 goals to “educate all players” in.

An Ohio State spokesperson told The Lantern that “Meyer self-evaluated that his performance exceeds expectations in student-athlete welfare including graduating players, internships, shadowing opportunities and addressing issues such as opioids and Title IX, and Gene Smith rated Meyer as exceeding expectations in areas that included commitment to compliance, student-athlete welfare and leadership.”

Meyer backed this up in his first press conference since returning from his three-game suspension to start the 2018 season, calling opioids and Title IX two of the four pillars that the coaching staff needs constant awareness in with the players.

Zach Smith

Smith was fired from his position on July 23 after domestic violence allegations were made against him by his now-ex-wife Courtney Smith and a protective order was made against the assistant coach.

In his staff evaluation prior to his termination, Meyer said Smith did a good job in developing leaders within the wide receiver unit, saying it brought momentum as a group. Also, Meyer highlighted his recruiting ability, also praising Smith’s “loyalty.”

In his personal self-evaluation, Smith said on-field production in the wide receiver room improved in the spring and the summer and calls for himself to be more creative in play calling. Smith also said it was a “good year” in recruiting, saying his goal was to become nationally elite.  

Meyer said Smith needed to work on the enhancement of the offense and to “take the next step” in the offense during the upcoming season.

Ryan Day

In his first season at Ohio State, quarterbacks coach Ryan Day viewed his first season as a successm giving himself a five on his self-evaluation, while Meyer praised him for his work on developing the offense.

Day was described as “Buying into Culture” in his evaluation, saying he brought a creative offensive strategy and a professional approach to the coaching staff. Meyer also credited Day to having “Recruiting relentlessness” and did a good job at connecting to the unit with his work ethic.

Ohio State acting head coach Ryan Day prepares to lead the Buckeyes onto the field prior to the game against Oregon State game on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 77-31. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Meyer gave Day high expectations for the upcoming season, saying he should work on leading a “Top Offense in Country” and “Recruit best QB in Country.”

In his first season, Day said he saw “solid production” from the offense, saying he was proud of how his players improved over the course of the season. Day also highlighted that he helped sign two of the top three recruits in the country in the 2019 class.

Day has high expectations for himself going into the 2018 season, saying he wants to “continue to enhance our offense and the quarterback position as we forge a new identity after replacing some veterans.” Day said, with that, he has a “laser focus” on the offense and winning a national championship.

Greg Schiano

After being called “the best coach I ever worked with” by Meyer after last season, defensive coordinator and associate head coach Greg Schiano continued much of the same successes from 2017.

He was highly rated by Meyer as a leader on the defensive staff, complimenting his unit strength and development of the unit. He also said Schiano made a “staff impact” and assists Meyer in all areas of coaching.

Meyer gave Schiano high marks for his recruiting skills, with the defensive coordinator marking himself highly for being thorough in recruitment and his productivity in the recruiting process. However, Schiano gave himself a three-star rating for his ability to turn in recruiting paperwork “on time and complete.”

Schiano viewed himself as a good motivator for his position group, giving him a five-star rating for on-field development of his players, but also for the off-field involvement in players’ lives.

Like Day, Meyer gave Schiano high expectations, calling him to “Become Top Defense in Country” as well as “developing recruiting creativity” and developing younger players.  

Schiano’s goals for the 2018 season include “mentor young men in every area of their life” and “contribute in every way possible to make our program 9 strong.”

Kevin Wilson

In his first season with Ohio State, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was described by Meyer as “buying into culture” and having confidence in enhancing both the tight end and offensive line position.

Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson prepares for practice in fall camp on Aug. 5. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Former Sports Editor

Meyer credited the offensive coordinator with helping lead Ohio State to enhance its offensive line and tight end position, leading to what Wilson called the “best balance in the nation.” While Wilson praised himself for the development of young players at tight end and the offensive line, Meyer called for him to work on his development, organization and efficiency,

Off the field, Wilson said he “needs to be better,” calling for “zero off the field issues.” Meyer called for Wilson to work on “listening intently” and working on player relationships.

In recruiting, Wilson said he did a good job in recruiting freshman Jeremy Ruckert and other local players, but failed to get tight ends from the Dallas area or North Carolina. Meyer listed recruiting tight ends as an area needed for improvement.

Overall, Wilson said he looks forward to “striving for next step” with Ohio State next season.

Larry Johnson

As the position coach for one of the most dominant defensive lines in the nation in 2017, Larry Johnson was met with high marks for most aspects of his coaching, though the record does not appear to say what rating he gave for himself in his self-evaluation.

Meyer listed recruiting, player development, unit performance, loyalty, getting players to next level, unit strength, expertise at your trade and motivation of team as positives for Johnson. The only areas for improvement were “Continued Development of Young Players” and “Enhancement of Defensive Game Planning.”

Johnson rated himself highly throughout the self-evaluation portion of the record, providing either a four or five for every category. He rated himself as a four across the board for public relations, as well as productivity and development of players off the field. He also gave himself a four-rating on three of the four subcategories of “STUDENT ATHLETE RELATIONSHIP,” with “Maintains a coach/player relationship” receiving the only five.

He rated his football coaching at a five for seven of the nine categories with “On field demeanor” and “Research and Development: active interest in professional growth” being the only fours.

Johnson listed his goals for the year as continuing to “develop my unit so that are the best in the Country,” “Continue to improve the academics of my players” and “Continue to enhance myself as a Coach, Teacher, Mentor and Role Model for my players.”

Greg Studrawa

Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa led his unit to another successful season, with center Billy Price being named the coach’s second straight Rimington Award winner for the best center of the year. For that, and for other aspects of his coaching, Studrawa was met with largely positive comments from Meyer.

The Buckeyes’ head coach praised Studrawa for his passion, productivity, relationships with recruiting, as well as recruiting overall. Studrawa also received positive marks for his offensive knowledge, family involvement, “caring for players” and “Back to back Rimington Winners.” For his second year of coaching, Studrawa was told by Meyer he needs to improve on “OL Culture (Toughness),” “OL Fundamentals (Best in Country),” “Unit Pride” and “Recruiting creativity.”

In his self-evaluation, Studrawa provided himself mostly with four ratings, largely for the off-field performance of his athletes and for the relationship between himself and his players. He said that he wanted to do a better job communicating with his “inner circle” of offensive linemen. He also said he wanted to boost the GPA of his players and help them land internships.

Studrawa also said he wanted to improve his letter writing, “especially to parents,” which he emphasized with an underline.

He did not list any specific goals, but said for his overall comments that there is “Always room to improve!”

“I am never satisfied with where I am. Evaluate and improve,” Studrawa wrote.

Tony Alford

After leading a running back room with a freshman 1,000-yard rusher and a veteran co-starter, running backs coach Tony Alford led his group for the first season with what Day referred to as a “two-headed monster” with then-freshman J.K. Dobbins and then-redshirt-sophomore Mike Weber.

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford prepares for practice at fall camp on Aug. 5. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Former Sports Editor

Meyer gave Alford high ranks for his unit’s strength and production, saying the running back coach did a good job developing the running back room in 2017. Meyer also said Alford did a good job recruiting, even though Alford, in his self-evaluation, said he lost five-star running back Zamir White to Georgia, calling him “the one that got away.”

Meyer described Alford as a “father figure” to the running back room, highlighting his loyalty to Ohio State and his ability to preach the culture that Meyer sets.

Alford was told by Meyer he needed to improve in establishing a special teams value in his room, developing an ability to speak in front of the team and challenging him to become the “Best RB coach in Country!”

Alford, in his self-evaluation, said “there is always room for improvement,” saying his overall goal is to become a head coach and run his own program in the future, rating himself a four overall rating as a coach.

Bill Davis

After his first season as linebackers coach of the Buckeyes since leaving the Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Davis was met with mixed reviews by his head coach.

Meyer praised Davis’ defensive knowledge, staff cohesion, recruiting, NFL experience and lineage, professional teaching, “Buying into Culture” and “Demanding accountability.” However, Meyer wrote that Davis needed to improve in unit strength, development of players, recruiting creativity, “Overall Energy/Urgency” and “Own Special Teams – Expert.”

Davis provided himself with either a five or four on all sections, largely writing in fours for student athlete relationship and football coaching. He also gave himself a four rating for two of three in the public relations section, and wrote three fives and two fours for general. He said he is “Always working to improve and grow!”

Davis added that his goals are for “Daily focus and commitment to grow and improve as a coach, teacher and mentor for all the OSU students.”

Read the full performance reviews here: Urban Meyer, Zach Smith, Greg Schiano, Kevin Wilson, Ryan Day, Larry Johnson, Greg Studrawa, Tony Alford, Bill Davis

*Updated at 10:58 a.m. with the rest of Bill Davis’ performance evaluation

*Updated at 2:26 p.m. to include the statement from Ohio State

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