(Left) Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor, (Right) photo courtesy of MCT
As Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer went through the process of filling out his coaching staff last month, a common theme developed: almost all coaches had some direct connection to the Buckeyes or the state of Ohio.
Co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Everett Withers was an exception. Through 24 years of coaching — 17 at the collegiate level and seven in the NFL — Withers never coached in Ohio nor did he grow up in the Buckeye state. He also never coached alongside Meyer.
In his fourth season at UNC and his first as its head coach, Withers led the team to a 7-6 overall record in 2011 including an appearance in the Dec. 26 Independence Bowl against Missouri, which the Tar Heels lost, 41-24.
Despite the lack of a past OSU connection on his resume, Withers said the allure of Meyer and the Buckeyes helped draw him to Columbus.
“The opportunity to work with coach Meyer was a big reason (for me coming to OSU),” Withers said at the introductory press conference for the coaching staff on Jan. 12. “It’s the Ohio State University, another huge reason … this is an unbelievable staff.”
Withers might understand the unusual circumstances the OSU football program went through this past season better than any of the new coaches. He served as interim head coach for North Carolina last season after the school fired coach Butch Davis in July after the program became involved in improper benefits and academic misconduct scandals.
Withers acknowledged some resemblance between UNC’s and OSU’s scandal-marred seasons.
“I think there are some similarities but you know, each circumstance is different,” Withers said. “I think those (OSU) kids that have gone through what they went through this past year have some common bond with those kids from North Carolina just because of the things, the uphill battle, the media scrutiny and all the other things that went on. So it’s a good conversation piece, that’s for sure.”
If anything, it should help Withers connect with defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who remains on staff after leading the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record last season. Withers said he and Fickell will mesh well together as co-defensive coordinators.
“I have a lot of respect for what coach Fickell has done here at Ohio State with the defense, how hard and how passionate they play,” Withers said. “I think it’s always good when you have a chance to be around somebody else that’s done it, is doing it, that you can put ideas together. I’ve always thought that two heads are better than one.”
Meyer shared a similar sentiment at the time of Withers’ hiring.
“(Withers) is extremely well-respected across the country,” Meyer said. “I’ve known about him for a number of years and followed his progress as a college and NFL assistant coach. He will be a great fit for this staff and I think he and (Fickell) are going to work well together as the co-coordinators of our defense.”
Withers, who will also serve as safeties coach, will make $450,000 this season. Fickell will make $750,000, a $25,000 cut from his 2011 salary.
Read The Lantern on Thursday for the next profile in the “Meyer’s New Men” coaching staff profile series.