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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 23, 2015
COACH MEYER: Well, obviously, we've got to move past a very, very tough loss, and big game this week, so the rivalry games, on the horizon, one that we all take extremely serious around here, and one that we cherish to be a part of. I know I'm speaking on behalf of our players and coaches. It's a sign of a team that can move past a very difficult Saturday and move forward. So, yesterday, I had a team meeting, and as you can imagine, the knot in everyone's stomach was there, and, I would be really disappointed if it wasn't there. Today, you like to assess most of the guys. A lost the guys already, the real guys that play a lot. They are moving on. And it's always good. How do you deal with -- how do you deal with disappointment the way we're created and I don't want to be overly dramatic here, but get around family and people you care about. That's a sleepless night Saturday night and them you start to feel better when you see your guys show up again. So that's what -- just personally speaking, and the guys I've spoken to, so, move forward. I know I'm going to get a bunch of questions about Zeke. Zeke has always been extremely loyal person, a great competitor. He had an infection in his leg early in the week, and just a very emotional week. Obviously, his last time -- he's a very well-thought of junior, and he gets a microphone stuck in his face, and obviously, we do not condone that and encourage that. Our rule is always talk about your teammates and move on. And he came to see me. We had a very long discussion -- he's great -- and he apologized and he said, you know, they didn't have the whole interview in there. Regardless I'm not going listen to the whole interview and that doesn't mean a whole lot to me. It does mean a lot that it's causing attention. So, we squashed it as a team. We squashed it as Zeke. But there's -- I just want to make clear, there's never been, Zeke has been a good student student, very loyal, incredible football player. Most selfless player -- one of the most selfless players I've ever coached and been around. So, I imagine we'll get hit with that a little big. So got to move forward and get ready to play a very good team.
Q. To pick up on that, how concerned were you that that came out? I think you just kind of answered it, but how do you gauge the culture of trust. Usually those things don't happen in a vacuum. Maybe this was an isolated incident. I don't know.
COACH MEYER: Very isolated incident. We have a three-year bank on Zeke, you know, plus Zeke is a very honest guy. Frustration, anger, all of that, probably mounted up a lot like -- I couldn't disagree with him, his comments, that he should have got the ball a little bit more. But that's not the place to do it. He knows that. But I've seen it. I don't know. Unless this is your first rodeo, have you ever seen an emotional athlete ever go -- or coach? I mean, that's -- for those of you who ever played or coached that happens. That's why I always like to decompress for at least a few minutes, because I've said some things I'm not very proud of, and I'm not saying that it's not true, I'm just saying that's not the forum to have those conversations. Zeke got, like I said, a three-year bank. I know I'm probably going to get another 64 questions on it, but it's done. We've got a really good team coming up that we're playing and we've got to move forward.
Q. Does that force you to look at the culture, where it's a trust culture or whatever is going on, or is that -- how do you gauge the --
COACH MEYER: I just told you. It's -- we're going to go try to do the best -- the guy's had a lot of -- I mean, I don't want to, once again, undervalue a loss. It's been okay. We've got to find a way to get another win now. When you start talking about culture, that kind of stung a little bit. Yeah, I've always gauged in culture. I gauge it on how they practice, how did they show up, did they play hard in the game, is there a good chemistry in the units and those kind of things so I'm always gauging that.
Q. When you look at the team, I'm sure it was pretty painful to do that, but you said on Saturday, that you were not play calling. But when you watched the play calling again and analyzed how you guys called the game, what did you think?
COACH MEYER: Not very good. I have to do better.
Q. And, at some point, obviously, you're the head coach and you could have said, I want you to do this, I want you to do that. Do you regret not having done that?
COACH MEYER: Yes.
Q. Can you expound on that at all?
COACH MEYER: No.
Q. Coach, you mentioned that you don't disagree with Ezekiel's post-game comments about the 12 carries, only 12 carries, did the low amount of carries, is that because of the infection he had in his leg, missing practice?
COACH MEYER: No. No. I mean, the carries he did have, if you notice the defense, it seemed like the whole freaking game, we had the wind in our face, too. I mean, it was -- when he was being -- the ball was given to him there was a lot of people right there. And that was all I kept thinking about. It was rather obvious. You're hoping to get the wind at your back and be able to get out of your -- we were backed up and wind on your back, and they were keying on the best player on the field, Zeke Elliott. But hindsight, feed him. He has a way of making yards.
Q. You're involved in play calling as we all know, as you said after the game. Will you be even more involved play calling forward this season?
COACH MEYER: Yeah.
Q. Could you expound on that, just --
COACH MEYER: Not really, still going through it.
Q. Urban, just a thought on Michigan. As you watched them throughout th year, maybe on cross tape, or your study yesterday, were you surprised, or just what is your reaction to the way they've grown throughout the season in the first year with the new coach?
COACH MEYER: Oh, I'm not surprised at all. I think they have excellent players. They are well coached. I have always you know, checked the recruiting. I remember hearing well. They just don't have the personnel. I am thinking, wait a minute, they have great personnel. They always have great personnel. Whether they are always playing great or whatever, that's a different answer, and obviously, they are playing very well right now.
Q. Yeah, Urban. As you look at -- was Saturday sort of a microcosm of you guys trying to figure out what you wanted to do this year offensively? I mean, with all of these weapons available to you, trying to spread the ball, get guys involved, did it kind of catch up with you guys you think Saturday?
COACH MEYER: A little bit. I think the -- you know, the elements were also -- we wanted to throw the ball in that game, you know we wanted to. We had success against Michigan State last year throwing the ball for 300 yards. That was kind of, going into it, that was the -- because they're very good defensive front, very good. And how do you get them off you? And you come out there in pre-game warm-up and you're like, oh, no. And it just kind of -- we tried to. We just missed -- we're not hitting them, dropping them. And it was a tough situation. So, you kind of have to take that part out of it, to a point. Because you still have to be able to function in the elements a little bit. And, so, yes and no. I mean, yes, that -- to answer your question, yes. But that wasn't the only thing.
Q. The other thing, Joey obviously had those moments where he jumped, and they jumped. What -- just defensively, you were sitting there a week ago, very high on your defense and stuff. What did you see? It looked like they hammered away in the middle and finally got some things done. What did you see -- what is the challenge for your defense this week?
COACH MEYER: Well, yeah, their quarterback was out and they put a runner in there and that hurt us, quarterback run game. I felt like fatigue set in in the fourth quarter a little bit. A lot of it was because of lack of offensive production and possession time was so high. And, we could have done better. But overall, I'm -- you know, our defense, I think, we had a bad punt, where the wind blew the ball right as he was getting ready to hit the punt, and, they stopped him. You know, so there's been some very -- I'm -- I'm pleased with our defense, and I hope they play as well as we continue the season.
Q. Urban, I know a big part of your program and culture is honesty. How does that work with a player -- let's say he wasn't in a press conference. Is that something that Zeke could have come said --
COACH MEYER: Sure.
Q. Is that okay that.
COACH MEYER: Team? No. Me, or, yeah. Yeah. It's -- I've been in situations where you've hearing a lot of that. If I'm a wide receiver right now, there's a lot of trust built up over years. And, absolutely. When you say honesty, it is just the forum, it's not -- and our guys have been pretty good. You know, I'm trying to think over the last few years, our guys have been -- and there could have been situations every game. If you find it, you can -- if you want to find it, you have to find a disgruntled, or someone -- "disgruntled" is probably not the appropriate word, but just someone that has emotional -- especially just guys that earn their keep around here. Absolutely there's conversation. It's called very respectful conversation.
Q. One of the things that came out of it, it was the first it we heard him say that he wouldn't be returning next year. Last week, Joey kind of hinted that that was the way he was leaning. Cardale has posted some things saying the same thing. It seems like these guys have that on their mind. It might be a possible threat to not be in consideration. How are you managing it with them? It's starting to get to the end of the year and three of them are already tipping their hand a little bit?
COACH MEYER: Oh, for one, one way, don't let them meet, take their phones away, they are off limits. That's one way. I thought about that. That's probably not fair. I trust those guys, you know, Zeke -- once again, now, the people you have me talking about are very emotional, very -- guys that are -- one thing, a loss is a loss. It happens, I guess, you know, your -- the emotions seep out sometimes. So, I'm not -- I want to play really hard Saturday to get ready to get this team ready to go. The names you just mentioned are wonderful, loyal kids to this program, have done probably about -- you know, there's some great historians of this program that could tell you more, but I can't imagine those names that you just mentioned have done much more. One won a national championship as quarterback, 11-0 as a starter, and the others are two of the best players ever to wear scarlet and gray, and they are good students and good guys. So, I think -- I got to make sure we're doing this so we can get the laser lights that's on our preparation.
Q. To make it clear, I mean, Zeke faces no jeopardy with you going into the game, from the standpoint of not starting, or something like that?
COACH MEYER: No, not at all.
Q. Urban, a little off topic. I know you only spent a couple months there, but being born obviously in Toledo, about the front lines of this rivalry. Your first house address is actually less than a mile from the Michigan the border. You grew up in Ashtabula, but how do you identify with Toledo? I mean, obviously, it's your birthplace.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, that was a drive-by, though, I guess. I don't -- I asked that question, too. And I got this, "well, we weren't there very long." You got my address, huh?
Q. I got your birth certificate.
COACH MEYER: Wow. Oh. Credit card number, too? I got to watch out.
I'd love to -- you know, I spent time at Bowling Green. That's possibly the closest I've ever got to Toledo and understand Northwest Ohio. I do understand the value of the players, the prospects, the Heisman Trophy winners that have come out of that area, and the great players, you know, Toledo, Sandusky, that whole area, so, I'm not sure of the question but --
Q. Your parents never took you to your old house or told you anything about the time there?
COACH MEYER: No.
Q. Urban, I'm curious, Nick Saban made some comments after you guys beat him last year talking about the difficulty keeping guys who could go early to the NFL focused. I'm wondering again, what is that like to manage when you're running program with so many guys who could --
COACH MEYER: One year in '09, we had 12 guys send in their paperwork, 12. That causes a little anxiety issues for the coaching staff, not because -- first of all, if you have 12, that means really well done recruiting and prepping guys. What it is, especially with the new era of recruiting, how everybody is a lot of them, committed already, so the two areas of concern are staying focused on the task at hand and that's playing a very good team, and the second one is just the whole recruiting. It's a nightmare. It's a nightmare just as far as -- not as bad as the nightmare of having zero. There's no players ever getting drafted. That's, I imagine, a much more significant nightmare. But it is, it's not easy. I can see it. I can -- it wasn't just last year. I mean, this year seems to be more. And I have to just make sure we're staying focused. The good thing is, they're really good guys. You know, I don't -- but there's human nature out there, too.
Q. When you look at the job that they've done at Michigan this year, you've gone to three programs that had pretty distinct turnarounds in your first year in your history. How impressed are you with how they change and do things on the field and competitive spirit?
COACH MEYER: Oh, very, very impressed. Not surprised because I think they're very good coaches, and I think -- I've always, you know, I just recruit against that. They are very good recruiters. The previous staff was excellent recruiters, and they are very good players up there. When someone says are you surprised they have very good players up there, not at all. For those of you who have been covering this game, just check out the last few games we've played them. I mean, it is just swinging as hard as you possibly can against very good players.
Q. Coach, you've worked with at least two of the coaches at Michigan, Greg Mattison and D.J. Durkin. What can you tell us about them? Anything --
COACH MEYER: Good guys, good friends. D.J. was a graduate assistant for me at Bowling Green. We hired him at Florida, so we know him and his family very well. Greg is a life-long friend and good coaches.
Q. What do you recall about '86, Harbaugh at quarterback? Would you welcome a guarantee from up north this week?
COACH MEYER: I do remember that. And I remember us missing a wide left right at the end as the clock ticked zero. He won't want me to name his name, but I remember the kicker's name. A great kid. I'm certainly not going to say that.
Q. Urban, I know in the receiving room, you have a ton of great athletes with Braxton, Jaley, Dontre, and Curtis. Those are all guys who are also making a transition or have made a transition from different position. How do you see their development this season and how might that affect the passing game?
COACH MEYER: We've had some injuries, but their development is fine. We just got to do a better job of getting them the ball.
Q. I think Saturday was the fourth time you guys have been shut out in the first quarter, five times you haven't had a touchdown in the first quarter. As you assess everything, the slow starts, is there anything you can attribute that to? Is that concerning to you?
COACH MEYER: It's concerning, and it's part of the whole evaluation I'm going through right now after the season in great detail, just disappointing, and that's not our history, and we've got to evaluate why and just don't have that much time to do that right now.
Q. Urban, you talked fairly recently about the game in 2011 when everything was -- so many players have been suspended here, and still was a 40-35, I think was the score, and how it could have been 42-41. How hard is it going to be to strike the matchup Saturday night?
COACH MEYER: I have a lot of confidence in our guys. This is very invested -- they had something happen that hadn't happened in, I think Jerry said, 400-some days. He got hit right in the gut. So I'm going to -- that's my job and our coaching staff's job, and leaders' job, to make sure there is focus and attention to detail. The good thing is you're playing a very good team.
Q. Coach, last year, you guys at a Virginia Tech game had a very large recruiting weekend, that first game that didn't go real well again this year. Michigan State, you guys had a lot of people in town, a lot of recruits, the weather, the way the game went, a lot of things didn't go your way. Could you explain how yesterday went from a tactical standpoint and how do you deal at the end, especially now that you're closer to Saturday than you were at Virginia Tech, having such an influence --
COACH MEYER: We only have a few spots left. A lot of these are get-to-know guys. Some guys we didn't know very well, and obviously with the rain and loss, it's not ideal, like the other games we've had. So, it's tough, but it's not the first time we've all been down that road. Ohio State is a wonderful place. You know, you win, whatever you want, 23, 24 games. You lose one and get going. The hard thing is just trying to have a good day meeting, when you're meeting. That's the hardest thing, to come in and put on the recruiting face at 9:00 the next morning, that's a challenge.
Q. When you have that pre-breakfast, like you said and all of that stuff, do you have a lot of -- there's probably an element of gambling to this, where you have to pick a big game and atmosphere and stuff. When things don't go the right way, is it a setback for you?
COACH MEYER: Surprisingly, because I've studied that. I started that down when I was in Florida. We lost to Auburn one time. It was the biggest weekend of the year. We've had others where we beat a rival or something. It's very little. A lot of times that won't make the decision. I'm not saying it doesn't. Sometimes. But there was no statistical data to say, don't be so -- only bring them in games that you really should win. So, we err more on the side of atmosphere.
Q. Was it a good day, yesterday, on Sunday, when you -- I mean, how did it go?
COACH MEYER: I don't think I want to talk about recruiting. It was fine. Breakfasts were fine.
Q. Urban, whether it's looking at Michigan State game and looking ahead to Michigan and what the offense needs to do against a good defense -- I know every year is different -- but there's a lot of guys in this offense that have had success, successful offensive players. 11 games in, just what is it that just isn't quite there that, in a game like that, you only score 14 points and everything? Are you still wondering?
COACH MEYER: Yeah. Wondering is probably not the correct word if you're the head coach. You should probably have a more firm answer. If it was something that firm or singular, you would fix it immediately. There's a variety of things. We're just not -- we're not operating at maximum capacity, is the key word, and there -- we're still 10-1. So, what I'm doing right now, is every ounce of ability, every ounce of energy and focus is going on trying to win this game. There will be a time where we didn't score in the first quarter five times. Don't worry, that will be flipped over upside-down, inside out. Not now, as our focus is on this. And it's not as simple as one thing or two things, or we'd fix it.
Q. Obviously, again, you're only worried about winning this game. But you understand the big picture, you were around media for a year when you weren't coaching. When something like what happened with Zeke happens, that's what people are talking about today out in the world. I know you can't control it, you worry about your guys, but in your past experience, does something like that have an affect on the program?
COACH MEYER: Sure.
Q. How people view it or think about Ohio State now?
COACH MEYER: This is just in the locker room. This will be an old story. If we find a way to win this game, I imagine we won't be talking about this much longer. If it was a person that had a history, or if there was some underlying -- you are talking about the third leading rusher. So there's been some very good stuff going on in that. I knew I'd get it today. But it's a closed, sealed and -- it's sealed, as far as our team and the team room is concerned in the locker room. The only time we'll hear that, I'm sure. Because I trust our guys. I have always trusted our guys. I don't usually say it like that. I think you get a feel when I have a true love and respect for a group of guys, and that group we do.
That kid you're talking about, he's one of my favorite of all times. The Elliott-Meyer family, that's a 30-year relationship, especially with his mom and dad, too, and two sisters. So, it's sealed. He's good to go. And we're going to do our best to get ready to play this week.
Q. Coach, thanks.
COACH MEYER: Thank you, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports