COLUMBUS — Corey Dennis is a quarterbacks coach who has been forced to be defensive at times.
As the son-in-law of Urban Meyer, he has heard some people suggest his rapid advancement to quarterbacks coach at Ohio State was facilitated by doors that swung wide open because of the Meyer name.
Family ties are not unheard of in Big Ten football. Brian Ferentz, son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, is the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator. Jay Harbaugh, Michigan’s running backs coach, has been hired by two people since he got out of college — his dad, Jim Harbaugh, and his uncle, John Harbaugh.
But it is something new at Ohio State. So, there could be an added layer of scrutiny for Dennis this season even though by all appearances he has earned the promotion regardless of the family connection.
The 28-year-old Dennis and Nicki Meyer met when they were athletes at Georgia Tech. He was wide receiver on the football team who got most of his playing time on special teams. She was a volleyball player who led the team in digs as a junior and as a senior.
His dad, Steve Dennis, is a former assistant football coach at Auburn and Georgia and was athletic director at Troy University from 2005-2012. Urban Meyer, of course, coached three national championship teams, including Ohio State’s 2014 team.
Dennis was hired as an Ohio State football program intern in 2015. He was a graduate assistant in 2016 and 2017 and was promoted to quality control coach in 2018. He worked mostly with quarterbacks under the direction of current head coach Ryan Day in 2017 and 2018 when Day was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
“I think more than anything maybe family ties gave me the opportunity,” Dennis said. “But Coach Day wouldn’t have hired me if he didn’t think I was ready. I think I’m ready. Coach Day thinks I’m ready.”
Day wasn’t alone. Colorado State coach Steve Addazio, a former Meyer assistant at Florida, asked Dennis if he was interested in the quarterbacks coach’s job at CSU. But when quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich left Ohio State to go to Texas, Dennis made the easy decision to stay in Columbus.
Day said, “Since I’ve been here he’s kind of been my right-hand man. We’ve spent a lot of time together in that meeting room. He knows how we teach things. He’s had a tremendous relationship with the quarterbacks here. He’s done a good job recruiting.
“Corey is a young coach who has a really bright future. I know what Corey’s capable of and he’s got a great feel for those guys (OSU’s quarterbacks). I think it’s going to be a great fit.”
Ohio State has Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields and last year’s No. 3 quarterback, Gunnar Hoak, back from last season’s 13-1 team. It also has a pair of 4-star recruits in Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, who both enrolled in January.
For now, Dennis is like a first-year teacher who had a year’s worth of lesson plans ready to go but only got to work with his students for a week.
Ohio State had completed only three days of spring practice when the coronavirus shut down college sports. And no schedule has been established for when football will return at something close to normal, if it does return at all this season.
“I’ve tried to be a sponge in the sense that whatever Coach Day taught and whatever he did, I tried to take that to myself. But with coaching, you can’t be someone else. You have to be yourself,” Dennis said.
And even though he will try to be himself, it’s not hard to imagine a certain coach with a strong belief in his way of doing things and three national championships offering that advice.