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ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL: OHIO STATE v ALABAMA


December 30, 2014


Urban Meyer


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Q.  How has the week gone down here for you and the guys.  Treated Sunday like a normal Tuesday, I believe.  How you went through the week and how it's gone.
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† Sunday is like a Tuesday, Monday is‑‑ I lost track.¬† All I know is today is Thursday and very mature team and it's unusual to say that when they're as young as they are, but they handle their business and the Sugar Bowl has been fantastic.
So it's been a great week.¬† And I think we're pretty close to game‑ready.

Q.  What are your thoughts just on facing Coach Saban again?  I know you guys have a relationship, obviously played three times, two classic games.  Just what are your thoughts about going against him again?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  I think it's just a great opportunity.  I think the players, the one thing sometimes we'll talk more about coaches than players and that's not the case in this game.  Alabama's recruited and they develop their players very well.
So has the full attention of our players, which is most important.¬† But there's a history between Coach Saban and myself and I made the point to our players‑‑ I hope they say it about us, too‑‑ that every phase is on point.
It's not one of those things, boy, it's a great offensive machine and very little defense.  And it's probably what people say, I hope.  We're very well balanced, as are they.  I think we're one of the top offenses in the country.  Certainly they are.
We're much better than we have been on defense.  We're getting better.  On special teams we're very good.  So those are two teams that are pretty well rounded.  And that's the first thing you think about when you face an Alabama team.

Q.  We hear a lot about SEC speed and SEC talent level.  Your game with Ohio State back in the desert went a long way toward establishing that imprint on the rest of the country.  Now you're at Ohio State playing an SEC team.  Is there a difference between SEC speed?  Is there a difference between SEC level talent or is that something that we just made up all along?
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† No, I think there is.¬† I think the gap's closing a little bit.¬† I think when I was a head coach at Bowling Green, I believed speed wins.¬† Obviously the other intangibles of toughness and character and perseverance and the time‑tested qualities of a good football team, good football player, will never change.
However, the game is getting faster.  That was I'd say back in 2001 when I first became a head coach that that was the days of playing in a box, that's normally not what an offensive football gives the defenses trouble.  So we wanted to spread the field and try to recruit as much speed as possible.
And we did that at Florida.  Made the comment that Florida being the fastest team in the country.  And I'm not sure there's a way to measure that, but we were pretty fast.
We're doing that here.  We're getting faster.  Are we SEC speed in certain positions?  We certainly are.  But that's all relative.  We'll find out.  But there's no question that speed is maybe a defining point or in the conversation of SEC, when you hear the front seven on defense, I've heard that for years, that there's a lot of truth to that.
The front seven in the SEC, now is that‑‑ our front seven is pretty good, too.¬† They're faster than we have been when we first got here.¬† And that's certainly‑‑ when we go out recruiting, the days of having a slow defensive lineman or linebackers that can't play in space, those days are gone.
We're getting faster and that process never ends.

Q.  How well has Cardale handled this week and then how well do you anticipate him handling the moment Thursday night?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Cardale's an interesting character.  He's a guy that three years ago was not equipped to handle this kind of situation.  A year ago he wasn't equipped.
I started to see a gradual change.  Tom Herman has done an excellent job with him.  Spring practice, one day we walked off the field, I was like, my God, he acts like a quarterback now, he's not acting like a child that's never been in a big arena.
And that's really a credit‑‑ we've all gone through it.¬† Some go through it at age 55.¬† Some go at it at age 15.¬† And he's really matured.¬† He's had an excellent week.¬† When I say excellent, he had a beautiful day yesterday, throwing and catching and taking charge, and really proud of him.

Q.  You spoke about the changes, the culture change you've been able to bring to football at Ohio State has been credited for what they're doing at Michigan today.  How much of a sense of accomplishment do you take in being able to affect not just your school but looks like the entire league in the Big Ten, saying we've gotta do what Coach Meyer is doing at Ohio State?
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† I don't know‑‑ kind of caught me off guard with that one.¬† I don't really know what's going on at other places.¬† I know it's a very competitive environment right now in all leagues.
And this playoff is just a perfect example‑‑ I can't imagine the interest level being any greater in any sport than college football.¬† Obviously this is all I really pay attention to.¬† So I think every school‑‑ there's a premium placed on getting your school to the playoff.
And I'm not sure we had anything to do with that.  We've got to worry about Ohio State.

Q.  Can you talk about just Michigan hiring Harbaugh and what it means to the Big Ten, what he brings to the Big Ten having a caliber of coach like that?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  I know his brother.  And I actually met his father at the Super Bowl.  Very good football family.  When I became special teams coordinator at Notre Dame years ago, one of the first persons I was in contact with was John Harbaugh.  Spent some time with him at the Eagles and became good friends.  We stayed in contact.
I don't know Jim.¬† But your question about‑‑ anytime you add a quality coach to the Big Ten or college football, obviously it's good for college football and great for the Big Ten.

Q.  In the Wisconsin game, seemed like you guys passed the ball early to set up the run.  Hit a couple of early pass plays and maybe opened some things up that way.  How important will it be for him to have that kind of great start so that things will be a little easier perhaps for Elliott?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Very good question.  And that's absolutely true.  A lot of that was dictated by the style of defense we faced and we could tell early in the game.
The first 10 to 15 plays of every game is a little bit of a chess match because you can usually tell how they're going to defend you.  And that was what happened in the Big Ten championship.  I think they were No. 2 in America in total defense, rush defense they were very good, pass defense they're good as well.  But we felt we matched up decent on the other side.  They played a single coverage.  That's why we did that.

Q.  Going back to your three matchups with Coach Saban, what are the biggest challenges for facing one of his teams?
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† I think what I said earlier, you always try to‑‑ part of the game plan and preparation expose a weakness, find a weakness and expose it.¬† And that's difficult whether it be punt rush, whether it be kickoff coverage, and then obviously offense/defense.
But once again really comparing it to the Ohio State Buckeyes, where is the weakness?  It's pretty salty against the run, pretty salty against the pass and on offense we're a balanced run/pass.  So that's the biggest challenge is trying to find that weakness, and every coach tries to do that.
The minute you find out who your opponent is you come in on Sunday and if it's a game week and find out, watch a lot of film that's when you hear about coaches watching film, it's not just watching film you're trying to find that player or part of that defense or offense that's not very good and you go after it.
Alabama is the kind of team it's hard to find that.

Q.  When you reflect back on your playing career, the college football playing career, how do you describe yourself as a player and what do you take away from that playing experience into your coaching?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Playing experience, I was a professional baseball player, which doesn't really help much in this arena.  And I went and played college football, and had a very mediocre to below career.  So not a lot.
I think it started when I became a graduate assistant at Ohio State, worked for Earle Bruce and got a taste for major college football.  And the biggest thing that I've had the experience that not many coaches have, I've worked for incredible mentors.  I've worked for Earle Bruce and Sonny Lubick and Lou Holtz and Bob Davie and they're all tremendous friends.  But there's bits and pieces of our program that I've taken from those great leaders.
And that's been more important for my career is who I've been able to work with and for.

Q.  Between yourself and Nick Saban, you've won six national titles in your career.  How would you describe your relationship with Coach Saban over the years?
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† Good.¬† I can't say we're that close.¬† We've known each other.¬† I'm trying to think, we spent some time together television‑‑ I can't remember what it was‑‑ I think a national championship game.¬† Both of us.¬† Might have been the year I took off and he wasn't in it.¬† We spent some time together.¬† Our families‑‑ got a wonderful wife Terry.¬† Her and Shelley get along great.
The one thing we have done is we've always‑‑ whether it be the SEC meetings or just conversations‑‑ that whether it be agent/player issue that you have to deal with, the fact that players‑‑ we're both very player‑oriented coaches about the welfare of our players and the welfare of the game.
So that's more our conversations, very professional.  But I think there's a lot of mutual respect there.

Q.  Can you talk about what Ezekiel Elliott has done or given you this season?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Ezekiel Elliott is a great player.  He's a guy that highly recruited guy that comes from a wonderful family.  And just probably as good a work ethic tailback as we've ever had.
And that's contagious throughout our program.¬† There's a young man, Curtis Samuel, also has developed the same work ethic because he watches Ezekiel every day.¬† Tough, rugged guy that has the break‑away speed.¬† He's an extremely valuable member of our team and he's a great back.
I don't know if he's gotten the recognition because of whatever, but he's I think a 1300‑yard rusher and the first two games, Virginia Tech, we didn't play well.¬† And maybe he didn't get the yards for some reason.
But he's a 1500‑yard back and he's real valuable.¬† And Tom Herman said it, and it's true, he's the best back I've ever seen without the ball, as far as effort, down the field, making cuts, making blocks, pass protection.
Takes great pride in being a great player.¬† He's also‑‑ backed off special teams a little bit, but he was a very valuable member of our kickoff team and punt team in the past, too.

Q.  I think you've got 12 or 13 people who have coached under you, and of being head coaches, how much pride do you take in that, how would you describe your evolution as a head coach yourself and the things that you try to do?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Real proud of them.  Still real close with all of them.  Dan Mullen, I think, has done a fabulous job at Mississippi State.  Coach Strong at Texas.  Gary Andersen and Kyle Whittingham and Tim Beckman and Dan McCarney at North Texas and Doc Holliday who had a brilliant year at Marshall.
So very proud of them.¬† We stay in contact, and I just think it's great that‑‑ I've never had an offensive coordinator stay more than two years, two or three years, and the fifth one is now a head coach, and he's going to‑‑ Tom Herman is ready to go be a head coach and ‑‑ last night we had a little toast to him and his wife.¬† And we're very proud‑‑ he'll do a great job down there.

Q.¬† Coach Saban was re‑telling the story about you calling and talking to his wife I guess in'89 or'90.
COACH URBAN MEYER:  Calling his wife?

Q.  When you were a graduate assistant.  (Laughter)?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  That didn't sound right.

Q.  Let me try that again.
COACH URBAN MEYER:¬† You mean like back‑‑

Q.  When he got the job at Toledo, do you remember that at all?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  I was at Illinois State making $6,000 a year making a decision either to stay in or out.  I was actually born in Toledo, Ohio.  I made a run and somehow I either called his home and I talked to Terry.
And that was a long time ago.  Had to be like 21 years old or something like that.  Had a great conversation.  Nothing obviously materialized with it.

Q.¬† How might history have been changed if‑‑ he said he regrets now not calling you back and considering you for his staff.
COACH URBAN MEYER:  He said he regrets it.  I'm sure he does.

Q.  Big mistake?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  I'm sure that's on his mind right now.

Q.¬† The way Lane's used Amari the last month, very specifically the same way Sammy Watkins was used at Clemson and obviously in a bowl game, sense of deja vu and what do you see the way that Kiffin is using him compared to the way‑‑
COACH URBAN MEYER:  We had one of those, his name was Percy Harvin and move him around, because if you keep a guy stationary there's ways to put two people on him and I think he's done a great job with that.
You get a checker or a puzzle piece like that you gotta take full advantage.¬† He's a great player.¬† I understand he's a great young man, too.¬† So you just gotta know where he's at.¬† And we've done‑‑ our coach‑‑ you're not going to stop a guy like that, you have to know where he's at and get him on the ground but they do a good job because it would be a mistake to put him at boundary one or field two at all the time because you can stop the guy if you know where he's at.¬† Not stop him but at least contain him.
That's probably challenge number one.  And the other thing that they have those two good backs.  When you take two players to stop one, that's leaving something else open.  And that's what every offense is looking for.  When you have that checker and you know you can take two out and now you have nine left, that's that whole part of the game, that chess match between the two coordinators.

Q.  Can you learn anything in the Watkins experience a year ago?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  No, don't do what we did.  We're better.  We're more equipped.  Chris Ash has done a very nice job and obviously it's the players, but we're very systematic on the back end right now and that's going to be key to where he's at.

Q.  Obviously Thursday's game is big for your program and what you're building, but how important is it also for the Big Ten, which has been fighting the perception issue all season, for a win, and just moving forward?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  First my reaction is that's none of our business, but it is our business.  And it is big.  But that doesn't change if we're going to practice a little harder today for the Big Ten.  We're responsible for Ohio State.  But it is important as is every bowl game.
There's one way to change perception, not talk about it, go play very well.¬† Recruit very well, play very well and perception's changed.¬† And I go back to'06 when the Big Ten was king‑‑ top of the‑‑ you know, the Pac‑12 is great football.¬† Big 12, ACC won a championship and there's a team, Florida State hasn't lost a game in two years.¬† So I think it's great conversation.¬† I think there's a lot of truth to it.
But the Big Ten, this is a great opportunity not just for Ohio State but all the bowl teams to do very well.

Q.  You mentioned when you first got here how this bowl trip has had a completely different feel because it's the playoff.  And now that you've been here a few days, what has that been like managing bowl week activities and obviously preparing for the playoffs semifinal?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  The good thing about the Sugar Bowl they don't wear you out.  There's certain bowls that you just get your tail kicked in because go do this, go do this.  The Sugar Bowl, this is the second time we've been here and they're great.  It's a different feel.
We had a nice dinner with the Sugar Bowl people last night.  We actually toasted them and I did because this is the Sugar Bowl T traditionally as good a bowl there is in college football history.  I want the players, yes, it is the playoff but I'm glad that there's still the feel of the Sugar Bowl and the staff and I have tried to do a good job making sure that our players appreciate the Sugar Bowl.  But it is a much different feel than, This is it, because it's not it.  Everybody knows there's something left.

Q.  How would you rate Curtis Samuel's freshman year, for a true freshman from Brooklyn?
COACH URBAN MEYER:  What a future he's got.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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