Urban Meyer was not talking about Vanderbilt.
The Commodores, in fact, likely were among the farthest things from his mind, much as they have been since he walked away from the University of Florida. Not that he often dwelled on them when he was the man in charge of the Gators either.
Still, what he had to say last week in a national publication as he looked toward his first season as Ohio State’s coach seemed particularly pertinent to Vanderbilt’s current situation.
“Momentum is such a key in recruiting and your program,” he said. “If you lose it, it’s hard to get it back. You don’t have four years to go build a program. You’ve got to go win some games right away.
“Year two is kind of a definitive year.”
Lest anyone has forgotten, this is the latest Year Two for Vanderbilt football. Typically they come somewhat frequently on West End, but it actually has been a while since the last one, given that Bobby Johnson’s extended stay was followed by Robbie Caldwell’s one-and-done.
Typically, Year Two is not much different from Year One. And it’s pretty much been the same as Year Three and Year Four — for those who actually make it that far, that is.
That’s the way it’s been ever since 1976, when the program won just two games in Year Two under Fred Pancoast. The Commodores won seven in 1975. They also won seven — and went to a bowl game — in 1974, which was Year Two under Steve Sloan.
Talk about “kind of a definitive year,” 1976 was it.
There have been six Year Twos since. George MacIntyre won two games in his. Watson Brown won four. Gerry DiNardo won four, which actually was a one-game drop from his Year One. Rod Dowhower, Woody Widenhofer and Johnson all won two.
Outside of DiNardo, no one accomplished enough of anything in Year One that gave them traction for Year Two. DiNardo failed to build on his first effort, though, and the program fell stagnant once again.
Johnson did get the Commodores to a bowl game, which they won. That was in Year Seven, though, and we know now that was too late to provide any kind of lasting impact.
This time is different, though.
The Commodores have come out of Year One with some actual momentum. It was not a legendary performance by any stretch, but they won half their games in the regular season. They made it to a bowl game. They got people talking about them, both in the community and on the recruiting trail.
Assuming Meyer is right — and there is ample evidence to suggest his is a voice of authority — if Vanderbilt ever is going to get the football program moving in the right direction, this is the best opportunity that has existed in decades.
Keep in mind, Meyer made Bowling Green a top 20 team in Year Two. He led Utah to a perfect 12-0 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory in Year Two. He also led Florida to the first of two BCS championships in — you guessed it — Year Two.
It’s not going to be easy for Vanderbilt to do the same thing.
After all, Year Two opens Thursday at home with a nationally televised game against a top 10 opponent (South Carolina). It includes visits from Florida and Auburn (a BCS champion in Year Two under current coach Gene Chizik) and a trip to Georgia.
There are games along the way that are plenty winnable as well, though. Win a couple more than they did a year ago and the Commodores know they are actually building something. Win a bunch more, and they
just might create a real foothold in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Fall back, though, and it easily could be a return to the same old, same old.
One year is all it takes to define, or redefine, a program. Year Two — this year — is that year for Vanderbilt.