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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 14, 2015
COACH MEYER: A couple of comments. First of all, I don't think we played particularly well, but I'll never let that get in the way because it kind of bothers me when you take away from the effort of the other team. I thought the other team played really, really hard, especially on defense. And they did a nice job of scheming up against us.
But on champions on defense, we played very well. Our secondary is playing at a very, very high level. Eli Apple, graded champion. Gareon Conley, both those corners are playing great. Tyvis Powell graded a champion. Raekwon, Josh Perry, and Tyquan Lewis all graded out.
The defensive co-players of the game were Vonn Bell played about as good as you can. He's playing at a very, very high level, and Darron Lee. So players of the game were Vonn Bell and Darron Lee.
On the other side, not many, not many. Didn't play as well on offense, and you had offensive champions were Curtis Samuel, and then the player of the game played outstanding, especially ran hard, but then also he's the best back in the country without the ball in his hand. Pretty damn good with it in his hand too. But Ezekiel Elliot graded out a champion.
Special teams, player of the game, co -- and this is outstanding to see, is Terry McLaurin. He downed a punt at the 2 yard line with incredible effort. Had a tackle on punt, a great tackle, and then punt block with tremendous effort as well. It's good to see a young guy like him that does everything right.
Gareon Conley was the other co-special teams player of the week, and he's involved in three phases, and that's in addition, obviously, to playing every snap on defense.
Special teams was -- I don't have the stats in front of me, but as far as field position and coverage units, we're on our game. Still -- I don't know if we tried a field goal or not. We're still not settled. Jack is -- we had two penalties on kickoff, and that's got to be addressed and got to get fixed. There we go.
With that, I'll answer any questions for you.
Q. You just mentioned Gareon a couple times. Where do you think he was a year ago until now? How far has he come? Where does he rank among the most improved players you talk about?
COACH MEYER: We all saw it coming. He was just a little undersized when he first got here. He's a guy, it's interesting, I made a point to our team probably about a thousand times, but every guy I called up that's playing well does things right on and off the field, academically. Gareon Conley is just -- "Hey, how's it going?" "It's going great, coach." It's a credit to the people who raised him.
And Terry McLaurin, and another guy who's coming on like wildfire is Parris Campbell, another guy who just does things right.
I like to think, when people say Ohio State doesn't just recruit good players, we develop them, and Gareon has been playing great.
Q. When did you guys first see him turn the corner?
COACH MEYER: Special teams a year ago. He became the Devin Smith as far as the gunner. Remember some of the great efforts he had on kickoff and punt. Yeah, he's outstanding. He's one of our fastest players too. Nice long corner, 6 foot tall, 6'1", whatever he is.
Q. Only three true freshmen have played so far. I know you guys had two close games obviously. How many do you anticipate will play? I know you have 25 true freshmen. How many do you think will play?
COACH MEYER: I always get upset -- not upset. You wish you could get them in faster. Nick Conner is so close and Baker. Justin Hilliard had a good week. Offensive line, Isaiah got in. I'd say the next one, Mike Weber should be coming back this week. He'll be a guy that will probably play. Wide receiver.
K.J., he certainly has earned a right to mix in there a little bit, but we're not sure we're going to do that yet. He had a little injury too, but he's fine now. You wish you'd play more, but right now we've got a little bit of depth.
Q. Kyle Berger is a redshirt freshman. What's his status? Is there a chance he might not play again?
COACH MEYER: I don't know. He retweaked his knee. I'm going to know more, but now I just don't know. He hasn't been practicing.
Q. Urban, when you go to a camp like Sound Mind, Sound Body in Detroit, there's 1,000, 1,200 kids there, and there might be 15 or 20 you guys are looking at specifically. Can you go back to your time at Bowling Green, and what were the challenges when you were the head coach of a MAC team where there might be 300 or 400 prospects at an event like that. How difficult is it for a MAC team to differentiate themselves in terms of talent on the roster when you guys are going after those same types of kids?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. It's almost like you let the big boys go through and snag who they're going to snag and keep hanging in there. It's completely different when you go from Bowling Green to Utah to a top five place. Each one -- I actually enjoyed Bowling Green recruiting as much as anything because you find those kids that you project a lot of times. Very typical.
This team we're playing, I haven't researched -- I would imagine they probably redshirt most of their linemen and let them develop because they're a really big, physical team. That's kind of what we did at Bowling Green. You redshirt your linemen. You go places and try to find kids that he's an inch too short but has great speed.
They have No. 29, their corner, is electric. Their punt returner, I'm not sure he's going to play, but he's electric and maybe is an inch or two shorter, so people overlook guys like that. Shoot, they're every bit as good as any punt returner we've got. That's kind of the way you go about your business.
Q. The challenges you faced here at Ohio State are obvious, going against top kids in top programs, but are there certain aspects to recruiting in a place like the MAC that might be more difficult in terms of roster building than it is here at Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: There's advantages. They're going to recruit against Toledo, I would imagine. Northern Ohio is a top MAC school, Western Michigan. It was always historically, Western Michigan. Back when I was in there, it was Marshall.
But you're going to recruit against those guys. It's just the identification process is so completely different. You're looking at 250 names. Each coach has 50 names. Each coach here has 4. There's a huge difference.
Q. Coach, we've discussed quite a bit the difficult decisions you face on game days regarding your quarterbacks. What about during the week? How hard has it been to divvy up the practice snaps in a way that meets your satisfaction?
COACH MEYER: Not hard. Both of them get reps. Both of them will continue to get reps. The approach I've taken is Cardale started. He's the starting quarterback. I met with him yesterday. J.T. has not beat him out yet. He's going to continue to have opportunities to do that because J.T. is a very good player and Cardale's got to perform.
Neither played that well Saturday, but a lot of it was extenuating circumstances about protection. We just weren't -- we didn't play very well. So it's not that difficult.
Q. There have been some wild swings in the way people perceive conferences already early in the season. Could you just evaluate where you think the Big Ten stands in relation --
COACH MEYER: I don't have any idea. I don't know where people have time to do all that. I don't know anyone else's schedule. I don't care. I'm going to work on punt when I'm done here in a minute, and we'd better -- we have enough issues. I've been asked that question, did you hear what this guy said? I'm like, how did they say that? I don't know.
This time a year ago, we were a really bad team, and we got to better. Probably because our focus is on getting better and better and better. I don't ever want to hear that -- if I ever hear one of our coaches talk about another conference, that's a problem because I don't want to go check what they're doing during the day.
Q. Just wondering how you react to a game like Saturday. Like in our world, we deal with fans who are wringing their hands over this wasn't great and that wasn't great.
COACH MEYER: Your world?
Q. The media world, you know what I mean. In your world, when you look at the game, I mean, there were teams around the country that didn't play great but won, there's teams that lost. How do you -- what's your message, I guess, going forward?
COACH MEYER: We've got to get much better in certain areas. We reward the champions, spend a bunch of time on that, make sure we appreciate the great efforts, and then we've got to get better.
I will say this. It's good to be in a routine. We're glad to be back in our routine now. That's where I think I've grown -- I don't care about any -- all this conversation around the country. I think I've finally learned, maybe it comes with age and maturity, I don't care, all due respect, to everybody's opinions. We have a job to do, and we take it real serious, period. What about this? What about that? Done, over.
It's my job to make sure the most important group, these guys, the players -- not you guys, the players, are staying locked in. If I'm not locked in or one of their position coaches are not locked in, that's not fair.
So I don't -- I'm sure everybody's got opinions. You won 38-0. What the heck happened? We didn't play very well, but on defense we played outstanding. Kicking game was pretty good. We had two penalties on kickoffs. So what do you do? We work at it.
The biggest concern is the offensive line gets a lot of credit around here. We are an offensive line driven -- absolute offensive line driven program. Our success over the last three years and two games is because of our offensive line, and with that comes a lot of responsibility. We expect them to play much better.
Is that putting it all on them? No. But when we play well, I put it all on them too. So we've just got to play better. And the great thing is I have an excellent line coach and excellent players, and I imagine they're going to have a great week.
Q. You've had a lot of players like Braxton before. Maybe not as good as Braxton, but some of them. Where does your philosophy come from, from sort of this position list? He's a guy that does a lot of different things and using players that maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago weren't traditional ways of using a wide receiver and running back and sort of melding that. Where does that come from?
COACH MEYER: I think I told the story it happened -- it changed my philosophy on offense and the approach to the game when we lost to Nebraska when I was at Notre Dame in overtime. They were No. 1, and we were in the top ten and lost that game, and I walked in, and David Givens was our best player on offense. He was a wide receiver. I walked in. He's an emotional guy, great kid, great football player. Went on to play in the NFL for a while. He was really emotional.
I said, it's going to be okay, man. We'll bounce back. He said, you don't understand, Coach. I didn't touch the ball. He wasn't saying it like some kids, like I need the damn ball, not like that. Just he didn't feel he helped the team win.
And I remember walking in the locker room, and I was very upset with myself that we did not get him the ball. It's hard to get receivers the ball. If they roll up on you or double you, you can't get them the ball. It's not real hard -- if you want to really give them the ball, put them behind center five yards and snap it to them. That's kind of where -- if you look over the years, we've done that with Jalin, we've done it with Percy Harvin, done it with Braxton Miller, done it with Dontre Wilson, done it with these really good athletes that need the ball in their hand.
The next part of that is how do you create space for them? That's a little more complicated when people know you're not going to throw. The good thing is Braxton can throw and will throw. So that gives you a little bit more.
Q. I imagine, even when Braxton was playing quarterback, you knew he could play this role probably?
COACH MEYER: Absolutely. That was our offense 2012. Snap at them and go right, and we're going to change up and go left a couple times.
Q. Urban, number one, Malik Zaire is a quarterback at Notre Dame and went down with a broken ankle and is out for the year. You watched J.T. do that last year. Does that ever give you pause about running your quarterbacks?
COACH MEYER: Sure. We didn't run them yesterday, I think, at all, or Saturday. It definitely does. You just keep track of how many. A lot of times, the injuries we've had at quarterback are from the pocket. J.T.'s was last year, and Braxton's was the year -- the one he hurt his shoulder. So the pocket is the most dangerous area, in my mind, but obviously that's not going to change.
But we do. We actually move the pocket quite a bit too nowadays more than ever. You expose them in the pocket more so than when you break the pocket. Those are all a lot of thoughts we have.
Q. Guys you're playing Saturday, they won 11 or more games the last five years and won the MAC last year.
COACH MEYER: I just saw that.
Q. How are you presenting this to your team? They're also from the same division -- not just the league, the same division as Toledo, which went down and upset Arkansas on Saturday?
COACH MEYER: They're off today, but they come in and get their iPads loaded up. Their video is very good. They're a very good teem. Offensively, their quarterback is setting all kinds of records. They're 305 pounds on the defensive tackles. I'll watch, and it depends what kind of team we have. If we have an immature team, I'd have to go berserk and make sure -- not go berserk, but just have to make a really huge deal out of it.
When you have a team that's really good on video, it's all about preparation. Our players will respect them. I don't anticipate a problem with that. Because they're good. That's the thing, they're 11-win teams. They've beaten Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota, and they beat -- I wouldn't call those upsets. I think these guys are very good.
Q. Urban, you talked about how well the defense played against Hawaii. Is there ever like a little -- I don't know if competition is the right word -- but between your offense and your defense on your team to sort of be the standout unit, or if the offense is playing really well, then the defense is playing great too?
COACH MEYER: I hope there is. I hope there's competition among the units. I hope there's competition -- you know, I made a big deal of that in the meeting yesterday. There's been times around here when the offense kind of hung in there and kind of held it together, but that's part of being a good team. There's no -- and you have to watch if there's any finger pointing. I can assure you there's none of that. If there is, that's when you have to kill it, but just healthy competition about we have to play better, and defense, it's more appreciation for what they do.
We come in here, and Coach Fickell will show five to six plays of extraordinary effort on defense because a lot of times our players don't get to see that. And I'll have the same, Coach Warinner will come up and show five to six plays, and we show a bunch of kicking team plays, number one, to reward the efforts, and number two, because a lot of times they don't see that. I think appreciation for how hard the other side or the other phase goes is critical.
Q. And I don't know how specific you can get, but just whatever with the offensive execution that you weren't as happy with it. Was it missed assignments? Bad technique?
COACH MEYER: Every time we got to the second level -- and usually we're a very good perimeter run team, I would put our outside perimeter run blocking last year the best out of the country, the best I have ever witnessed, and we were not very good. We had a speed option down there on the 1 yard line, and Jalin missed his block, and it was minus four yards.
We had a couple of those push sweeps and some perimeter runs where we missed a block, and instead of out the gate, it was an eight-yard gain. When we're cooking, those are the ones that come out.
Then we have protection problems and missed assignments up front, and that's the reason.
Q. Urban, were you at all disappointed with the performance of J.T.? He led you guys to a touchdown initially, but was he inaccurate? He threw late across the field one time and almost had it intercepted. You put him in the game for a spark. Were you at all disappointed that he didn't really live up and --
COACH MEYER: I don't think disappointed is the right word. I think we have two excellent quarterbacks, and I expect them to play very well. Neither of them played very well Saturday. Disappointment, I don't like that word. We've just got to better prepare them.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports