BOWLING GREEN - Urban Meyer has spent part of the past month tinkering.
He's like the guy who has always wanted a certain car - like a '57 Chevy - and when he finally gets his hands on it, he pops the hood and starts adjusting and tuning the engine. He even revs it up a few times, just to see how it reacts.
Tomorrow, the first-year Bowling Green State University football coach finally gets to see how that vehicle runs when his Falcons play their spring game at 1 p.m. at Perry Stadium.
“I'm anxious to see them compete, and see how they react,” Meyer said. “What I want to see is how they perform in a game situation, in the stadium. I want to see them play as hard as they can.”
Meyer, the former Notre Dame assistant who was hired in December to replace Gary Blackney, has been preparing himself for this test drive for more than a decade. When he was on the staffs at Cincinnati, Ohio State, Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame, Meyer was warehousing football knowledge as he observed some of the most successful coaches in the country.
“Since 14 years ago when I decided to become a coach, I've watched the Earle Bruces, the Sonny Lubicks, the Lou Holtzes, the Bob Davies,” Meyer said. “I've watched every step they take and every move they have made. Then I'd say if I ever get in that situation I would do this. If you are going to be successful, you have to analyze those kinds of things, and this spring I've done that.”
Meyer said the spring game will give him and his staff a chance to see how far the Falcons, 2-9 last season, have come since he put his stamp on the program early this year. Meyer indicated from the start that he did not feel that many of the players realized the commitment required of them in Division I football, but that they would quickly understand that, however painful the process.
“We're trying everything. We're not holding anything back. We're not thinking about how fragile the program is because they haven't won here in a while, or anything like that. We're trying every possible motivational tool. We're not waiting for them to become less fragile. We've had seven kids quit, and there will probably be more, but that's a non-issue.”
Meyer made no guarantees at any position on the field, regardless of seniority or who had started or played in the past, and he said that sorting-out process will continue. The expectation level will be a moving target - constantly on the rise.
“That's the essence of coaching, and I think that consumes my mind or my life right now more than anything - how far can you push them, because we're pushing them extremely hard and extremely far,” Meyer said.
“But they will never doubt the fact that we're with them, because if you don't have relationships with kids and they really don't feel like you care about them, that's when you're going to have problems with kids. Our whole approach as a coaching staff is developing relationships with kids, not as friends but as more of a love-hate kind of thing, doing whatever they've got to do to get him to play. But also sitting down next to him in the locker room after the game, talking to them. We're developing a trust.”
Meyer said bringing in former players who have won championships at Bowling Green and coaches like Bruce and former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, who also played and coached at BG, to speak to the current players has helped reinforce the message he has been delivering to the team.
“This is a great place with a great history and I think we treat the kids right, and all of that is critically important to having success at Bowling Green,” Meyer said.
“I can't tell you how important the tradition here is to me. I think people set the table for what we have, people like Don Nehlen.
“I'm not a part of this yet, but it was nice to have Earle Bruce and Don Nehlen here to speak to the kids, talking about the love of the game and what it means to be teammates, and just everything football stands for.
“They reaffirmed everything I've done with this program, and it wasn't orchestrated. Former players were here, and I don't think coach Nehlen stopped smiling all day. Our players saw that, and that kind of stuff is priceless.”