Penn State players had heard the name like they had a dozen others last winter. Urban Meyer as their next head coach?
‚??There always will be rumors with things like that,‚?Ě quarterback Matt McGloin said. ‚??You hear stuff. I‚??m a believer that you don‚??t believe anything ‚??til it‚??s official. There were a ton of different coaches you heard and that was definitely a name thrown into the mix.‚?Ě
After taking a year off from the profession to calm his high stress level, Meyer, an Ohio native, ultimately took the job at Ohio State.
But in just that one season spent in the TV booth after stepping down at Florida, Meyer‚??s name came up for every high-profile school. His name was also reportedly on a list thought up by Joe Paterno himself as a potential successor.
Meyer will be back in State College Saturday for the first time since doing color commentary for ESPN on a Penn State game last fall. Now he leads an undefeated Buckeyes team into what figures to be a hostile environment.
But it won‚??t be the first time that a few Nittany Lions will cross paths with him.
One in particular, star linebacker Michael Mauti, was heavily recruited by Meyer and the Gators coming out of high school in Louisiana.
‚??Great kid,‚?Ě Meyer said this week.
Meyer even got to sit down with Mauti last season to tape an interview for ESPN.
‚??I recruited him hard at Florida,‚?Ě Meyer said. ‚??Loved him as a high school athlete. ‚?Ľ He‚??s a tough guy. He‚??s a leader. Love his family. And he‚??s playing his tail off after his (season-ending ACL injury in 2011).‚?Ě
For his part, Mauti said he has great respect for Meyer and was strongly considering playing for him at Florida before he took a visit to Penn State and committing to Paterno practically on the spot.
‚??I thought hard about going to Florida. ‚?Ľ They were just coming off a national championship, so it wasn‚??t hard to pitch,‚?Ě Mauti said. ‚??But I kept up with (Meyer‚??s career) and then we played him in the Outback Bowl. I know he‚??s one of the better coaches in the country.‚?Ě
Headed into Saturday‚??s game, Meyer and Penn State‚??s Bill O‚??Brien have been two of the most talked-about coaches in college football.
‚??We have coach O‚??Brien and we‚??re very happy with him as our coach,‚?Ě senior Michael Zordich said. ‚??I don‚??t think too much about it beyond that. There‚??s no point in thinking about last year.‚?Ě
Iowa‚??s linebackers were as good as Penn State had seen all season. The Lions went right after them.
One of the surest signs that Bill O‚??Brien‚??s offense is well in place is the success of his tight ends, who haunted Iowa‚??s linebackers with 11 total catches for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Those 151 yards were more than Penn State‚??s tight ends accumulated in the entire 2011 season ‚?? 13 games.
Kyle Carter, Jesse James, Matt Lehman and Garry Gilliam all figured in against the Hawkeyes and they will likely have a similar role against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are missing their best linebacker in Etienne Sabino because of an injury. Depth is shaky enough that they have used a true freshman in Josh Perry and even fullback Zach Boren at linebacker.
The NCAA released its annual Graduation Success Rate for specific sports on Thursday and Penn State football posted its highest mark ever. The Lions graduated 91 percent of their players who first arrived on campus between the 2002-03 through the 2005-06 academic years.
That mark was good for seventh among FBS teams in the nation and second in the Big Ten, behind only Northwestern.
Ohio State Penn State
TV: 5:30 p.m., Saturday. ESPN.
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College
Last Meeting: PSU defeated Ohio State 20-14 on Nov. 19, 2011.