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December 18, 2014

Urban Meyer

COACH MEYER:  Thanks for coming.  I'll answer any questions for you.

Q.  Now that you've had a chance to study Alabama a little bit, what do you think of the match‑up?  How do you think you match up?  There was a lot of talk when you came here.  You wanted to build an SEC‑caliber kind of team.  How close are you to that?
COACH MEYER:  The only thing you just wish you're 100% healthy whenever you go into a title match like this.  You just wish that for everybody, but we don't.  Dontre's going to be a close call.  I'd say 50‑50 at best.  It's all about healing and that bone healing:  Obviously, you lose J.T., so that is the biggest thing is making sure that we're on point mentally and physically, but also just got to keep these guys healthy.  We can't lose another player.
It's amazing the amount of season‑ending, the Marshon Lattimores of the world, the Evan Lisles of the world, there are just a bunch.  I think there are ten season‑ending injuries of our young players.  But at special teams, that's depth at corner, depth at the offensive line.  Those are all areas that we have to keep pushing.
They're a great team.  Obviously, No. 1 team in America.  When you watch video, there is not much difference than the other Alabama teams that we've studied, very physical.  They have the depth.  They roll about eight to ten guys on the defensive line, and it's hard to tell one from the other.  They're well‑coached, hand placement, just obviously big guys, big run stoppers up front, and obviously very good defense.  Little bit of difference, but it's really not.  They used to have Julio Jones when we played them before, and they have No. 9, Cooper, and he's tremendous.  When you focus on him, there are two other ones that are really good.  One that's got our defense really concerned.
Special teams, an extremely solid group.  So I think it's going to be an excellent opportunity for us.

Q.  Do you feel like this is a team that can compete with them?
COACH MEYER:  Absolutely.  After week three, probably not.  I thought at some point we're building one.  I made the comment I thought it was a year away.  We need to start watching these young players and say, boy, I can't wait to get a year in the weight room with them and get their bodies.  Darron Lee I thought was still a year away, and there is a multitude of other players.  Our two safeties and sophomores will be back.  Future is bright.
We have six or seven freshmen All‑Americans, I think, Jeremy told me, and I'm not sure if any other team has close to that?  So it's a good team.

Q.  How has he managed his time (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER:  Looks like someone hit him with a bat when he's walking around here.  A good bat though.  There are bad bats and a lot to go on with college football with bad bats.  He's a pro.  I really admire the way ‑‑ we had a good conversation this morning.  He didn't initiate it; I did.  How can I help you?  Where are you at?  I've got a team meeting tomorrow, and had that frazzled look that we've all seen.  So he's really handling it well.
He loves Ohio State.  He's appreciative of Ohio State.  It's all good.  It's all good.  Took a chance on Tom.  Some people don't realize that.  I'm sure some of you remember.  Tom Herman, we're bringing Ohio State's offense to Ohio State, and what his recommendation and what people told me about him was correct.  It started with Chip Kelly and some close friends said look at this guy.  I talked to him several times.  His interview was off the charts.  He's been a really instrumental member of our staff.

Q.  Does it help you that you've actually been in this situation before?
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, with Coach Mullen and Coach Strong, a bunch of them.  Trying to think of who else.  I think Mike Sanford.  I think there are some other ones.  The whole key is be a pro.  Dan Mullen is a pro.  We won the National Championship partially because of his efforts.  We'll be ready to go.  I'm not concerned about Tom at all.

Q.  Urban, this is a little off beat, but I think you and Coach Saban have had to share the anecdote and you called him at University of Toledo for an opening.  What do you remember about talking to him?
COACH MEYER:  I didn't get it.  That's what I remember.  His wife was tremendous.  I thought I had.  I'm a recruiter so I find out the decision maker.  What am I?  50.  That was 27, 28 years ago.  He was at Toledo and it didn't work out.

Q.  Did you think you had it?
COACH MEYER:  I have a hard time remembering.  I can't remember.  I'm from Ohio, so I thought I had my foot in the door, I guess.

Q.  Haven't had a whole lot of chance to ask you about Cardale.  And really our only knowledge of him because we haven't had much interaction with him is based on that ill‑advised tweet that he sent out.  What's he like in terms of his game preparation?  He seemed like 180° opposite of that tweet.
COACH MEYER:  It's been a process.  He's changed.  I can give you a list of 20 guys.  But that's the job of Ohio State and job of our coaching staff and job of educators to help develop, and sometimes you miss, and sometimes you hit it.  We had a couple examples of guys that didn't make it and didn't do very well.  Cardale is a great story.  It's still in process now.  He's not the grown man that he needs to be, but he's getting close.
You know, the thing that really struck me is when he made a mistake during the course of the game, and I gave him one of these and was ready to dive right in.  He looked me right in the eye and said, "I made a mistake, coach.  It won't happen again."  I said, "Go back and tell the offensive line that."
That's a good sign of maturity.  Where that kid would have heard every excuse possible.  But he's in a culture in this room where if I hear an excuse, we can't have that.  So he's really matured.  But we're one of the most difference‑‑ what am I trying to say?  What you said, the whole 180, I'm not sure I've experienced one like that.

Q.  What is your message to this team?  You mentioned about earlier in the season maybe thinking that this group was a year away.  How do you frame this whole playoff?  What is your message to them?
COACH MEYER:  We're not to that point.  I think we're to the point that we made it through finals.  That ended two days ago, and that was hard here.  Once again, Ohio State's not getting any easier, so our kids, Taylor Decker looked like a zombie out there.  He's in zoology.
So we haven't had a lot of conversation about it.  I talked about it.  We're in increments about how to win a game like this.  Every day you've got to do‑‑ your percentage goes up to compete and win this game if you have a good Tuesday, and listen.  We hit a hook when I was talking about that.  Have a really good Tuesday, have a good Wednesday, and your percentage just went up to compete in this game.  That is kind of the mythology we've been using up until we get to New Orleans.  Every day is another chance to get close to win that game.  If you don't have a good day, your chances of winning this game are probably zero, and they buy into that.

Q.  Everybody on the roster who is not injured, you haven't lost anybody to academics or suspensions or anything like that?
COACH MEYER:  I don't believe we have.  Kyle Dodson is not going to be with us.  I mean, he's part of our program.  It was from high school, actually, that injury, so our doctors are phenomenal here.  They caught it.  So he's not going to play.  The suspensions, no.
Was it injuries?  Armani got dinged, so his demeanor's great.  We're hoping to get a Saturday‑Sunday out of him in two days, Saturday, Sunday.  He should be ready to go.  Dontre is the 50‑50 guy.  Academics you said, we don't have finals, but what they tell me is we don't anticipate that problem.

Q.  Can you get a feel for what your players think of Alabama?
COACH MEYER:  I've used Alabama.  I've used any time the top of the mountain, I've used them.  I've respectfully used them because they played very well.  Every year they're in a championship hunt and I've used them.  So there is a lot of respect for the University of Alabama and their athletes.

Q.  This group of second‑year guys and the 2013 recruiting class, we talked last year as freshmen how they helped that team.  When you look at Bosa, Zeke and (Indiscernible), and Darron, that group that you have this core group of some pretty young guys who are playing at a pretty high level.  I don't know.  When you got that class in here, did you have an idea?
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, we felt really, really good about that class.  Now that you say those names, those are all program‑changer guys.  I'd have to look at the class to see it, which I'll probably do now that you have me thinking.  That's a heck of a class.

Q.  You're the first really number four team in college football ever that has a chance to win a national title.  Just the idea that if this was a year ago you guys would not have a chance to win the national title.  I don't know.  Do you feel‑‑
COACH MEYER:  We had a Utah team that finished fourth.  That Utah game on any given day, it's more inclusion.  When I think about it, I would love to have this in 2004 and take that swing of players and swing as hard as you can, and who knows what happens.  The more I think about it, it's ridiculously tough on our players and players families.  Everybody's going to get tired of saying it until someone does something about it, because that is real as real.
When you take them to a championship game, which is great for our conference and great for coaches and great for everybody, but the family's still got to get into cars and hotel rooms and all of that.  Then we go from there to a playoff and if you're' fortunate enough to win the second one, people tell me it's average on a normal sized family, $5,000, where are they going to come up with that?  I just worry about bad things happening because families can't go see it.
But I think it's good.  I just go back.  I was thinking about that the other day, and we're the number four team in America, so is Utah.  Imagine that?  At a school like that with a great school and a great team that should have had a chance to go do it.  Auburn that year didn't have a chance.  That was a great football team.  So I think it's all good.

Q.  We've heard the stories over the years when you were in that championship game that you were the underdog.
COACH MEYER:  We're not there yet.  We'll see what kind of team we have.  That was over the top.

Q.  Is there anything unique about playing in the college football playoff rather than a bowl game?
COACH MEYER:  It's completely different.  That is one of the negatives of it.  You don't even think about the Bowl.  The Sugar Bowl is one of the great bowls in college football history and football playoffs.  So it will be interesting how that evolves over the years here, but it's real.  I love Bowl games.  It's a playoff game.

Q.  Have you consulted with anyone with playoff experience either at the FCS?
COACH MEYER:  No, just trying to get guys ready to go.

Q.  In terms of finding a replacement for Tom Herman, you'll hear athletic directors say they have a short list of candidate physician they need to look for a head coach.  Do you keep a short list of candidates for an offensive coordinator?  That's probably a bridge you'll cross after the playoffs?
COACH MEYER:  I'm crossing it now.  You don't want to lose someone because there is a lot of activity right now.  That is the unfortunate thing.  But this is a big hire.  This is huge.  The good thing I've had Coach Warriner.  I'm not going to release any, but I've got plans.  I want to keep evaluating the next couple of weeks, but there is a short list all over the place with each position and strength coaches and everybody.

Q.  There is another whole different game.  How do you feel at preparing and GAs watching film?
COACH MEYER:  That's a good question, and I thought I would in the summer because I was asked a question, how are you going to do this?  Every available hand in this facility is working for this one, and we'll worry about the next one.  I talked to our coordinators a little bit about it.  I've done it before where during the course of the season you maybe send a GA to start getting ready for Michigan State coming down the road or something like that.  But this one it would be a tactical error on my part to have anyone in this facility working on something other than Alabama.

Q.  How do you explain stockpiling?  All these quarterbacks that get used right away?
COACH MEYER:  I didn't know.  I think we're a quarterback friendly offense.  I don't want to take anything away from there.  We have a very systematic approach to football here.  If you sit in those meetings, you should know where and what to do, and we recruited really well in some skill spots.  But I go back to the development.
You want to see a bad quarterback?  Put a bad offensive line in front of him.  I'm not taking a shot at anybody, but we don't look very good against Virginia Tech and Navy because we had a bad offensive line.  Go look at the film against Wisconsin, and that was a good offensive line.  There are a lot of common denominators, and if you had told me that Cardale would be able to manage that, I would have said there is no chance.  Even said last year in spring practice, I remember Tom and I walking off the field, d you think Cardale will ever be an Ohio State quarterback?  He said, absolutely.  I saw it too.
It's player development, surround him with good players because sometimes you get caught and these offenses are changing coordinators, changing this, changing this.  We're not changing anything.  I've had five coordinators go on to be head football coaches.  Next year there is not going to be new terminology.  Those kids are going to continue to learn a system.
So I get a little upset when I hear he's a sytem quarterback.  Damn right he is.  He's not a grab bag quarterback, I can promise you that.  That's why I like the way we do our business.

Q.  I was going to ask you basically the same question.  The success that you've had with quarterbacks filling in for each other, so a little more specifically about quarterback development here that you've seen in all three guys.
COACH MEYER:  You have four.  You have Kenny Guiton, Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton, J.T. Barrett, and Cardale Jones.  That's kind of charted waters.  We had Brett Elliott go down to Utah, and skinny kid did very good.  You had Chris Leak followed up by Tim Tebow.  There's been a nice pattern.
I don't want to take away from the quarterback coach because that's where it all starts.  But like I said, there is no variance as far as the kids are not going to come in here or change in spring ball.  By the way, we're scratching everything we're doing.  That's where I think you see a slow development of a quarterback when you start seeing offense of the day or offense of the season.  In the spring we're going to change our offense, and I think that's when quarterbacks really go backwards.

Q.  You've known Nick Saban for a while or watched him for a while, and he's 13 years older than you or whatever.  What is it about him that you admire the way he goes about his business and things that you've emulated a little bit as you've watched him?
COACH MEYER:  He's tough.  He's not a whole lot of nonsense.  We have a lot of conversations and people probably say that about me.  There is not a whole lot of wee‑‑ we're not talking about the 1992 Chicago Bulls or something like that.  He's a very player oriented coach, which I like to think we are, and very fundamental guy.  It's been that way for years.
We have mutual friends like Bill Belichick.  And I just admire guys like that, and he wins.

Q.  You guys seem to approach recruiting the same way, sort of like a Bulldog.  Did you take that from him too?  I mean, you're as involved in recruiting as any head coach out there.
COACH MEYER:  I believe that came from a long time ago.  I love recruiting.  I love recruiting good players, good guys, I love it.  Can't get enough of it when they're good guys and you're selling something you love.  So that's been that way.  I had chances to go into the pros years back and all of that.  To take that, where some guys I can't wait to get away from recruiting.  I never looked at it that way.

Q.  Tim Tebow, your next quarterback coach, what did you want your team to get out of his?
COACH MEYER:  He came here from ESPN.  I love Tim.  Tim's a two‑time national champion.  Of two players that have that same bizarre work ethic and toughness, and it's John Simon and Tim.  And that's not being demeaning to Zach Boren or some of these other great players; it's just different.  The players know that it's different.
I had very few jerseys hanging in my office, and his is one of them because of the relentless pursuit of excellence and the way he treats people.  It was great, great conversation with our players.  Kind of on the spot.  ESPN brought him in just for a conversation, and I said do you mind and he was great.

Q.  Do you think he'll continue to stay in TV?
COACH MEYER:  He wants another shot at playing.

Q.  He does.
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, I hope he gets it.  If not, I think he's going to continue what he's doing.

Q.  Speaking of loving recruiting, you obviously want to find a quarterback coach and coordinator that can replace Tom.  But as you're well aware he had a lot of success in Texas.
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, big part of the thought.

Q.  When you look at the short list that you talked about, how important is it to get somebody who recruits that area, or are you comfortable redoing your recruiting territory?
COACH MEYER:  No, I'm playing with that a little bit.  Texas is Texas now.  I'm trying to think of the players, David Nelson and (Indiscernible) at Florida, and I'm sure I'm going to miss someone.  But Texas guys, I don't want to stereotype them, but they're usually very well‑coached.  They love football.  They've been raised a lot like Ohio.  A kid in Ohio, you're going to play football normally.  Kid in Texas you're probably going to play.  I've always loved to go down there.  I love the high school coaches.  So we need to, and that's part of the job description is to be able to go get a kid out of Texas.

Q.  So that's like something that‑‑
COACH MEYER:  Right now it is, unless like you said, I rejiggle and move things around, but I'd rather not.  I'd rather get a guy that has a footprint if I can.  But one thing about recruiting, if you're a great recruiter, we have some great recruiters on staff, and I'll take them into Texas and they'll get some players.

Q.  Just wondering, what is the key to‑‑ you deal with this every year.  There is a Bowl game.  You have three more practices here and then the guys go home and it's go time.  What is the key when you're preparing a team for a game like this that they're ready 8:30 New Year's night?
COACH MEYER:  Good question.  I asked that question to Coach Holtz in 2006.  That was my first time as a head football coach.  The extended time for a Bowl.  It was like 40 days.  He kept saying, you don't have to play that game.  So for us, there is not a lot of rah‑rah going on right now.
It's all about taking care of business, and we break it into three phases.  Phase one are fundamentals and conditioning.  Phase two, game plan, installation and phase three is game week.  The way a young mind and even an old mind works, hey, if we got 18 or whatever practices we are, I don't know how many practices we are, we're in phase two, and we have two left because I'm going to give them tomorrow off.  We're going to meet, but we're not going to practice.
So I want to make sure the nine coaches, our strength coach, and most importantly our players enter that mentality, because you can't handle that.  There is too much going on.  It's very compartmentalized, and that came from Lou Holtz back in 2006.  Do not play the game.  They don't have to play the game today.  Don't even think about the game yet.  There will be the right time, and that's going to be once we hit New Orleans.

Q.  What is your message to them when they have those five days at home?
COACH MEYER:  Well, it's four and a half days that we're going to give them because we're going to come in and practice.  They'll go home.  It will be a hard practice.  There will be a pro.  You're playing for the championship of college football.  If I'm worried about curfew.  Well, what is the curfew.  If I have to worry about that, we're not going to win.  There is too much investment around here.

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