Urban Meyer has his share of detractors within the college football world, but no one ever doubted the man’s football knowledge. This is a guy who, I really can’t repeat this enough, coached 17 seasons at four different schools and finished inside the AP Top 5 more times (9) than not (8) — and that doesn’t include the 2016 season, when he finished No. 6.
Meyer took a job as a studio analyst with FOX Sports ahead of the 2019 season either as a way to kill time and stay connected to the game as he eased his way into retirement, or to remain top-of-mind and do some image rehab as he rebooted for his next job, or a little of both.
Either way, it’s working. Meyer has quickly become the best studio analyst working in college football today.
Urban obviously has unmatched credibility as not only future Hall of Fame coach and a claim as one of the very best to ever wear a whistle, but a Hall of Fame coach one year removed from a 13-1, Big Ten championship season.
But simple football knowledge only carries you so far in the TV game. That knowledge must be conveyed to the viewer in a clear, compelling and articulate way, and Meyer has mastered that from the start.
FOX’s weekly “Urban’s Playbook” segments have become must-watch, as he coaches viewers through the major schematic developments in college football.
Doug did a piece on this yesterday, but here he is explaining how he changed his thinking over time in how he teaches tackling and how, from a coaching perspective, the change in schematics in college football necessitated a change in tackling technique.
This breakdown of the birth and evolution of the RPO is probably the single best segment on a college football studio show all season.
Meyer hopped over to BTN (FOX owns 49 percent of Big Ten Network) with former Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo to break out the clicker. Listen to Urban’s passion and excitement as he talks about Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan firing the ball as soon as his right foot hits the ground. “As you can tell, I love this stuff,” Meyer says.
The tidbit here about how Meyer determined the practice schedule for each week is fascinating.
This is all stuff Meyer’s been doing for 35 years, the only difference is he’s got a mic on his shirt and a camera in the room. To be a good television analyst, you’ve got to sit behind the desk and you’ve got to tell the truth. Viewers can tell when an analyst is pulling punches, particularly a coach who has one eye on the television monitor and the other on his next job.
Meyer, so far, has been willing to call balls and strikes like a real big league ump — at least, when it comes to That Team Up North.
Is this finally Michigan's year?
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) August 24, 2019
None of this is truly revolutionary stuff. FOX producers have used Urban the Analyst the way Urban the Coach used Percy Harvin and Ezekiel Elliott — they give him the ball in space and let him do what only he can do.
The end result is that, for the first time, FOX’s college football unit has an asset ESPN does not: a recent, Hall of Fame coach who makes viewers put the clicker down every time he opens his mouth. For their sake, they better hope he really is done coaching.