Bowling Green State University coach Mike Jinks, shown speaking with an official last season, took a different approach to spring practice in his second year at the helm of the Falcons. BLADE
BOWLING GREEN — The Ohio State football team opened its spring game last weekend playing two-hand touch, surely causing many in a packed Ohio Stadium to ponder the great existential question of our time.
Why are we here?
A little up the road, Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks enjoyed no such luxury.
He decided the objective of the Falcons’ spring exhibition would feature no area of gray — only black and blue. The first rattling hit on a day filled with them came not on the first pass over the middle but during the ... coin toss. Rather than flipping a quarter, Jinks pitted two of his players in the Oklahoma Drill, the game’s timeless one-on-one trial of wills.
“I wanted to make sure,” Jinks said, “the team knew this wasn’t just a ‘let’s go out and wave at our mom and dad’ day.”
A year after his ill-fated debut, Jinks is intent on translating a series of painful lessons into a sequel his players can write home about.
On a recent afternoon in his two-room office overlooking Doyt Perry Stadium, he made clear he would detonate his first-year blueprint if given the do over.
That includes the schemes. Jinks was stubborn on offense, forcing the pass-happy Air Raid he ran as an assistant at Texas Tech on a team that was not built for heights, and nearly as obstinate on defense. Beating their heads into a concrete wall, the Falcons regularly left their cornerbacks on an island to get burned over the top. Three yards and a cloud of dust? Try 50 yards and see you later.
“I’m the first one to say schematically there were some things we screwed up,” Jinks said. “We stuck a square peg into a round hole.”
More than anything, however, he wishes he would have cultivated a tougher team. The Falcons too often missed tackles on one end, then labored to run through a breeze on the other.
“A lot of times, we’d knock it, and I’d be like, ‘He’s gone [for a touchdown].’ Then it’s, “Damn, 8-yard gain.’ A lot of that was a false sense of who we were and our abilities with the way that we were practicing. We were tagging [the runner], touching ... ”
Pretty much everything but tackling. That changed this spring. “It was like game day every other day,” Jinks said. “We went out and banged.”
That’s just one more reason it is easier to keep an open mind. The boss has shown he can evolve.
No doubt we questioned the hire of Jinks and a staff that counts seven first-time Division I assistants — none with Ohio ties — both before and after the reigning MAC champs opened 1-8 last year. But to their credit, they never lost the team. “The players never knew how mad I was in the morning meetings,” Jinks said.
Rather than pack it in amid the mounting gloom — one national columnist suggested Jinks could be one-and-done at BG — BGSU reimagined the offense behind a veteran offensive line and won its last three games. The momentum carried into signing day, landing the second-ranked class in the MAC.
In other words, it feels like the sky in town is slowly rising again.
“You mean are people talking to me,” Jinks said, smiling, “instead of just whispering in each others’ ears?”