CANTON: Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer used an appearance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club to advocate for modernization of out-of-season coaching access for high school football players.
For Meyer, who won two national championships at the University of Florida, the issue is now personal as his son Nathan prepares to play football.
Meyer struck a passionate tone when talking about change that’s been slow to come to the Ohio high school athletics programs — especially football.
But how much access should coaches have to players during what is supposed to be the offseason?
The Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted a rule in February 2013 that allowed out-of-season individual instruction on a limited basis.
“There will be a limit of [four] individuals in all combined facilities where the instruction is taking place. There is no designation of whether any of the four played for the school team or not. In other words, there is a limit of four individuals whether they played the sport the previous season or not,” the rule states.
In states such as Texas, which along with Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania is considered a haven for high school football, spring football practice is the norm with student-athletes allowed 18 practices in a 30-day period.
“We have to do something to keep giving our coaches access in the state of Ohio. Right now, our coaches don’t have a lot of that,” Meyer said. “When you go down to Texas and you have 85 guys down there working back and forth.”
Meyer’s support of more access might sound as if it could benefit his football program by developing better, disciplined players, but he argues that it provides a sense of continuity.
Players who have dreams of getting that college scholarship often turn to outside programs to work on their skills. That is something Meyer doesn’t advocate.
Meyer said he’s enlisted the support of Browns coach Mike Pettine, but his prime motivator is a son who will be playing the sport.
“I’m not just going over there to talk. I’m going over there as a parent,” he said, “because my son will be coached, I promise you. He’s going to get coached, but I don’t want to have to send him somewhere else to get coached. Does that make sense? In Ohio, he deserves to be coached by Ohio high school coaches.”
Several local student-athletes merited a mention as Meyer’s talk morphed into one about the Buckeyes.
Buchtel High School product Corey Smith, a wide receiver who caught five passes for 72 yards in last Saturday’s spring game, and Massillon’s Devin Smith, another wide receiver, got notice.
On Corey Smith: “Probably our most talented, but as you have to deal with sometimes with a [junior college] transfer, he has to figure the way we do our business and if he does, he will be a guy who can really help us.”
On Devin Smith: “He’s a home run hitter, but he has to be more consistent in his game. He disappears when they play bump-and-run coverage. We’ve been working so hard on that. [He’s] one of the best deep ball guys I’ve ever had.”
Meyer said he’s also looking to Devin Smith and cornerback Doran Grant, who played for St. Vincent-St. Mary, to step into leadership roles in the coming season.