When Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer makes his way back to Ohio on Thursday to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals, he will do so with plenty of familiar faces in attendance, but perhaps the most notable will be Bengals QB Joe Burrow, the man Meyer recruited and brought in to Ohio State in 2015.
For the first-year head coach, his relationship with Burrow has never wavered, even after the eventual Heisman Trophy winner took his talents to LSU, transferring from the Buckeyes after being beaten out by QB Dwayne Haskins prior to the 2018 season.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Meyer detailed his relationship with the young signal-caller, describing his mindsets as one of the best he’s “ever seen in an athlete,” high praise from one of the most decorated former college football coaches of all time. Meyer says the relationship the two have is “fantastic.”
“He’ll tell you he was highly recruited, he wasn’t,” Meyer said with a smile.
“He comes from an incredible family. It’s just a very, very close family, football family. But his mindset, even when he struggled early in his career, the thing you can count on is that guy’s tough as nails, [is a] competitor, refused to lose at anything in the offseason.”
Meyer saw what Burrow was capable of during his time at Ohio State. The growth, Meyer says, that Burrow had over three years was stunning. Just when he was slated to play, Burrow would break his hand, missing valuable in-game time as the primary backup being then-Buckeyes starting QB J.T. Barrett.
No, instead, it would be Dwayne Haskins who’d reap the benefits of Burrow’s absence, coming in to face off against Nevada-Las Vegas, and then again later in the season against the Buckeyes rival, Michigan. Haskins would perform well and the momentum would eventually carry him into the following season as the team’s starting QB.
Of course, the rest is history and Burrow would go on to win a National Championship with the Tigers in 2019, facing off against Jaguars rookie QB Trevor Lawrence in the process.
Now, Meyer is heading up a team led by Lawrence, but prior to selecting the young signal-caller, the head coach would talk to his former player in Burrow to get some advice on ushering in a first-overall pick. Burrow, of course, was selected first overall by the Bengals just a year ago.
“Well, we run into each other on the circuit when we have to do charity events. I ran into him a couple times, Joe [Burrow],” Meyer mentioned.
“When I decided to come here and then I knew we were heading in the direction, regardless we were going to take a quarterback number one, I just wanted to talk to a guy that was in that position in recent history.
“I talked to [veteran NFL quarterback] Alex Smith quite a bit about it and then I talked to Joe. Joe was great. We talked several times throughout the spring just about what I could do to help, what we could do to help a rookie quarterback.”
The primary advice that Burrow - and others - could give to Meyer? Create a balanced offense, and not putting your player in harm’s way constantly.
So far, so-so, the Jaguars did a much better job of keeping up a good balance on offense during the team’s loss against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, running the football 29 times, while passing it 34 times.
The balance isn’t quite where Meyer wants it to be, but it’s getting there. As for Lawrence himself, while he’s struggled with turnovers over the first three weeks of the season, he’s shown plenty of flashes as to why he was perhaps the most sought-after college QB in a decade.
“We’re not where we need to be, but we were better. That was closer to what we envision.”
As far as Lawrence’s protection is concerned, the Jaguars have done well in that area, allowing just four sacks on the young QB through three games. One of the sacks would occur on the final play of the game.
Returning to Ohio, and playing against his favorite teams, one that featured safety Tommy Casanova, who played for the Bengals from 1972-77, and was also the player Meyer idolized growing up, playing safety himself during his football years, will be exciting for Meyer.
“I was a Bengals fan growing up, so I could act like I’m not [excited], but it’s going to be great to go home,” Meyer said, but ultimately, “all that matters is a win.”