Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann delivered Urban Meyer-like debut season for Buckeyes

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Maybe the only thing that could slow down Chris Holtmann’s bid for political office is if he had to run against Urban Meyer, probably the only other person currently rolling with a higher statewide approval rating. And it’s absolutely a tribute to the job Holtmann has done in his debut season on the hardwood that he’s put himself in any sort of conversation with a three-time national champion such as Meyer. Which begs the question: Which wildly successful, expectation-shattering first year with the Buckeyes was better?

OK, it’s hard to top an undefeated record. And considering the disappointment of the previous season and the scandal that ultimately led to Meyer’s arrival, the importance of what he did so quickly to restore Ohio State as a national powerhouse in 2012 is almost impossible to quantify. But even if Meyer gets the nod, there are some similarities with what both coaches had to deal with on the way to surprising seasons that make at least for an entertaining discussion.

Keita Bates Diop-Ohio State-Buckeyes-basketball-Big Ten tournament-player of the year
Keita Bates-Diop has emerged as one of the nation’s best players under Chris Holtmann. (Ryan Ginn/Land of 10)

The roster Meyer inherited had some NFL talent on it, but the depth was perilously thin in several spots ― including at linebacker, where Ohio State had to get creative and move Zach Boren from fullback in the middle of the year. That’s indicative not only of a coaching staff open to unique ideas, but a roster that had completely bought in to what Meyer was selling. There’s no easy comparison for Holtmann’s personnel, although there was again almost no depth to speak of when he arrived and he has been forced to scramble a bit for answers in the back court to manage his way through the season.

Meyer long has been considered one of the best motivators in college football, and his ability to get through so quickly with the Buckeyes really laid the foundation for the program’s success down the road. Holtmann appears to be setting up the same sort of future for his Buckeyes, earning the trust of his new team despite a compressed timetable in the offseason and helping maximize the potential of leaders such as Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate along the way. Now, just as Meyer has been able to do, Holtmann can point to his first-year success on the recruiting trail and potentially accelerate the growth curve to get the Buckeyes in annual contention for hardware.

Of course, the situations aren’t entirely the same since Meyer couldn’t compete for a national championship that first year. After a two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament, Holtmann is going to get his crack at one with what should be a relatively strong seed ― particularly for a team that wasn’t even supposed to sniff the postseason. First the Buckeyes have a Big Ten tournament to deal with this week in New York, and three wins there might earn Holtmann even more political capital.

One thing, though, is already clear: The Meyer-Holtmann ticket is a major winner for Ohio State.

Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here

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