DALLAS - Kerry Coombs now pays attention to the hydration level of his players, how many hours they slept, and what percentage of practice their heart rate is elevated above 85 percent. The Ohio State cornerbacks/special teams coach does not pretend to know the science behind the data, but he studies the daily printout as part of the Buckeyes' increased sports science initiative.
The emphasis traces back to the Eagles. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer spent a few days at the NovaCare Complex last offseason, visiting with Eagles coach Chip Kelly. The trip had a major effect on Meyer, who could win his third national championship if Ohio State beats Oregon on Monday.
The Buckeyes wanted to become "the Philadelphia Eagles of college football," Sports Illustrated wrote in August. So, music blares at practice, hydration is monitored, and each step is tracked at practice.
The Eagles "took a next step as far as player welfare, as far as the hydration, nutrition . . . They do GPS tracking," Meyer said Saturday. "They do a phenomenal job on nutrition [in] teaching them and educating them.
"It used to be, 'Don't do this because, don't put bad stuff in your body because,' " Meyer said. "We still do that, because you're modifying behavior, but as long as a player knows if you have any dream of becoming an elite athlete and you [don't take care of your body], there's a great chance that's not going to happen for you. So, we really took all that and brought it back to our program this spring and summer."
It was not just seeing what the Eagles did that resonated with Meyer. It was also realizing the effect it had on wide receiver Riley Cooper, who played for Meyer at Florida. When the two met in Philadelphia, Meyer was convinced.
"What he was and what he is now are two different [things] because of how he's taking care of his body," said Mickey Marotti, Ohio State's assistant athletic director for football sports performance. "It was kind of the icing on the cake."
They have also learned from Kelly's communication. Coombs said Meyer came back with ideas about running special-teams meetings from how the Eagles do it. Buckeyes cornerback Eli Apple, a Voorhees native, said Meyer is always explaining the "why" - a Kelly hallmark.
Meyer and Kelly have a long relationship. As an assistant coach at New Hampshire, Kelly visited Meyer at Utah. When they went on Nike trips together, Kelly and Meyer would go off on their own to discuss ideas.
When Meyer sat out a year of coaching in 2011, he visited Kelly at Oregon. Meyer had heard much about the culture Kelly had created, and he wanted to see it firsthand. He learned more about tempo and assembling support staff.
Sports science was the big takeaway during Meyer's offseason visit to Philadelphia. The improvements that resulted from his time with Kelly have helped the Buckeyes play an up-tempo system, and that will be imperative when trying to beat the offense that Kelly installed at Oregon.
"Probably as important as what defense you call," Meyer said. "Not probably. As important as what defense you're going to call."