As Grant showed us with his conversation with Josh Harris yesterday, Urban Meyer is in a class of his own when it comes to molding and coaching dual threat quarterbacks. In every situation that he has been placed, Meyer has taken what was given to him and succeeded. Only once has Urban had the chance to recruit, sign, and coach a quarterback of his own choosing, and we are all keenly aware of how that turned out.
Over the course of this column, we’ll take a look at the four QBs Meyer has coached and how they fared both during his tenure and just before. We’ll show that Urban has had success at every station he’s been with his signal callers, and predict the successes that he will have at Ohio State with another highly talented dual threat QB in Braxton Miller.
While the rings and record speak for themselves, how Urban gets to that point is just as important to explore. Given the expectations that he has had foisted upon him not only by the University, but by fans as well, we’ll try and predict if he’ll live up to them.
Let’s start with Urban’s first head coaching gig, Bowling Green State University…
Josh Harris: 2000 – 2003
Urban Meyer came in to coach the Falcons during a time of great recession for the program. He inherited a dual threat QB by the name of Josh Harris, a wide receiver convert. Yet what Urban did with this young man is nothing short of extraordinary.
In 2000, Harris didn’t see the field much, logging only 48 pass attempts (0 TDs, 2 INTs) and 69 carries for 292 and two scores. Those numbers exploded once Meyer stepped onto campus. Harris threw for over 1000 yards on 132 attempts with 9 TDs to 3 INTs to add to his 600 yards and 8 scores on the ground. But it wasn’t until Meyer had a full year to work with Josh that he really blossomed.
In 2002, what would be Meyer’s second and last season at BGSU, Harris progressed even farther as he took on the sole starter role. Harris then took the teachings of Meyer and had his contract Senior year, throwing for over 3800 yards and rushing for another 830, while posting a combined 40 touchdowns and joining Antwan Randle-El as the only two QBs at the time to have thrown for 40 touchdowns and rushed for 40 more.
Harris, as Grant wrote, saw Meyer as a huge influence on his passing game simply by raising his expectations to match those that his Coach already had for him. The expectations of Urban Meyer only intensified when he left Northwest Ohio for the chilly confines of Salt Lake City.
Alex was fortunate enough to have Urban Meyer as his coach from the time that he was officially the prohibitive starter for the Utes. Another dual threat, Smith showed what being coached by one of the best can do. In 2002, his Freshman year, Smith did almost nothing at all. But in the next two consecutive years, Smith bought into the Meyer Philosophy, and had monster seasons. While Alex may not have had the numbers of Harris on the ground, what he could do with his arm in the power spread offense of Meyer was nothing short of magical, especially in 2004 when Urban led his Utes to the Fiesta Bowl as the first “BCS Buster.”
It was in 2004, the Utes undefeated season, that Smith threw for almost 3000 yards on just 317 attempts, averaging almost a first down every time he threw the pigskin. But don’t get me wrong, he was no slouch with the ball tucked in his elbow, either. Smith capped his career under Meyer with a Fiesta Bowl for the ages, stomping the Pitt Panthers by 28 points en route to being selected as the number one overall draft pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
Chris Leak: 2003 – 2006
We finish off our look back at Meyer’s previous inherited QBs with one that won him his first National Championship (apologies to our readers for bringing this up). Leak was named the starter by Ron Zook in his freshman year, just before the game against the Kentucky Wildcats, and never relinquished that position. Chris had two years under the Zooker before Meyer came to Gainesville, and they were productive ones.
However, when Urban stepped on campus, Leak’s feet started moving. In 2003, Chris rushed for negative yards and posted his worst passing yards total of his four years at Florida. In 2005, Urban got his QB moving, nearly doubling his carries, which in turn upped his yardage and scoring opportunities. While Leak passed just as much under Urban as he did under Zook, the production was much better.
In his first two years, Leak posted 45 TDs to 23 INTs, and when coached by Urban, put up 43 touchdowns to 19 interceptions. The numbers are similar, but where the difference lies is on the ground. Leak tucked the ball over 180 times from 2005-2006, amassing 9 TDs in his Junior and Senior years. Had another wunderkind not been on campus at the time, with his massive frame and ability to run over linebackers to get to the endzone, there is no telling what these rushing numbers could have been. Suffice it to say, it is likely that Leak would have met or surpassed Tim Tebow in those two years.
We finish off our article with Meyer’s current QB and future Heisman Trophy contender, Braxton Miller.
Braxton Miller: 2011 – ????
Some will call it unfair to compare Braxton’s freshman season with anything he might accomplish from here on out. Walrusball has tainted our exposure to the young man, but we can all rest assured that, given his record and history of coaching up quarterbacks (all four of his starters have been on NFL rosters) that Miller will shine under Meyer. Given the statistics, here is what I feel comfortable predicting for Braxton in 2012.
300 pass attempts, 2500 yards. 150 carries, 1000 yards. Combined 35 touchdowns. One Heisman Trophy, Two National Championships, Two Big Ten Championships, One Davey O’Brien Award.
Now prove me right, Mr. Miller.