COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The sales pitch about developing players for the next level has long been a staple of the Urban Meyer playbook. It appears to work just as well on coaches.
On both fronts, the Ohio State coach has plenty of evidence that supports his claims he can develop anybody on the football field to get them ready for the next step. And if that wasn't already clear with the players on the turf and in pads, his recent run of molding the guys on the sideline and in caps is making the Buckeyes every bit as appealing for aspiring assistants as Meyer keeps his machine humming along.
Now three seasons into his tenure with the program, Meyer has sent two coordinators off to run their own programs and groomed two assistants for jobs in the NFL, and his track record and rapidly expanding coaching tree seemingly helped make up the mind of yet another highly regarded position coach and recruiter over the weekend. And with Tony Alford already working at a prestigious program like Notre Dame, the fact he would leave that post to take over the running backs for Meyer speaks volumes about just how much momentum the Buckeyes have in virtually every aspect coming off their national title.
“This isn’t a move for today, this is a move where I’ve tried to calculate five years out,” Alford told Irish Illustrated. “There’s forward thinking here, where it could potentially propel me to.”
Maybe Alford still could have reached that level with the Irish, and there were certainly other factors at play with his decision, starting with his familiarity with Meyer dating back to his playing days at Colorado State.
But it's not hard to see the trend emerging with Meyer's staff at Ohio State -- which is following a pattern he established at Florida and to some extent Utah before that -- of making sure his coaches develop professionally for their next jobs, just like turning college players into NFL draft picks.
Tom Herman parlayed his three years under Meyer into the top job at Houston, following in the footsteps of former co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who took over at James Madison last year. After two seasons with Meyer , Mike Vrabel made the jump from a position coach at his alma mater to the Houston Texans. Last week, Drayton made a similar move, working down to the wire to recruit running back Mike Weber and then taking a job with the Chicago Bears.
Alford may have some fences to mend with Weber given the unfortunate timing of Drayton's departure, but thanks to his role as the recruiting coordinator for the Irish, a previous relationship with the touted tailback should work in his favor as he settles into his new job. And given how quickly Ohio State was able to hire Alford, the opportunity to work with Weber and a preseason Heisman contender like Ezekiel Elliott probably was every bit as enticing as working under Meyer.
But regardless of his motivations, Alford's willingness to join the Buckeyes is yet another indication of just how hot their brand is at the moment, and not just with recruits. Meyer has been increasingly fond of highlighting the difference between theory and testimony, and the number of assistants that can vouch for the latter with his approach to grooming coaches continues to grow.
"When you recruit these players you’re telling them it’s not a four-year decision, it’s a 40-year decision," Alford told Irish Illustrated. "But what you’re really talking about is the concept in life that you have to get out of your comfort zone to grow.
"This is a leap of faith, one I feel I need to make for my professional development."
Typically that first leap to Meyer leads to another down the road to a higher level, and coaches appear to have noticed that just as much as players.