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July 24, 2017

Urban Meyer

Chicago, Illinois

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

URBAN MEYER: It's great to be here. Thank you for being here. It's our sixth season. Hard to imagine how time flies. And last year we were the most -- we were the youngest team in college football. And this year we're not.

We lost six juniors to the NFL draft, nine the previous year. So there are obviously some shoes to fill. But I was thinking about we have three fifth-year seniors here representing Ohio State at Media Day, and I don't know if I've had that before. Nowadays, fifth-year seniors at Ohio State are hard to find.

I feel extremely strong about the top tier leadership of our team, and history shows that usually indicates a good, solid team.

So very anxious. We get going on Thursday. Without the two-day rule, we're going to start early, practice Thursday, Friday, give them the weekend off, and get going again the following week.

Q. Your resumé clearly speaks for itself. But several people have noticed since Kevin Wilson came to work for you that you're really letting him take an ownership of the offense. Now, is that maybe they're just seeing something different, it hasn't changed from the past, or is that something that is actually accurate, sir?
URBAN MEYER: Kevin Wilson is the first established offensive coordinator I've ever hired -- if you go through the history, either guys promoted on my staff or a young up-and-comer like a Tom Herman. But this is a veteran coach that's led some of the top offenses in America, very well respected in our profession.

So he's had a lot of input in our offense. The other guy that came with him, Ryan Day, is another guy that was with me at Florida, and he's a starring coach, and his relationship with J.T. and the rest of the quarterbacks is very strong.

So it's still going to be the Ohio State offense. However, we had some weaknesses a year ago, and I'd like to see some improvement. And I think Kevin will have a major impact.

Q. Is the right guard position going to be maybe the best battle of camp for you guys, and who do you anticipate winning that job?
URBAN MEYER: I actually counted seven names. We had this discussion. We just had our coach's retreat yesterday and had some conversation.

You have Matt Burrell, and Malcolm Pridgeon and you have even Bowen we'll look at at this spot. You have Demetrius Knox and you have some talented young players, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, and I know I'm forgetting someone, but we have -- this kid named Thayer Munford has come in and had a really great 30 days of training with us.

It's wide open as we speak, and obviously right guard is as critical a position as there is. So it's going to be a great training camp.

Q. How much does that playoff loss still affect you guys? Have you put it behind you? And how much motivation is that going into this year?
URBAN MEYER: I've been asked that a lot. And we kind of let that one go. We've been known in the past to use different forms of motivation, a loss here or there or whatever have you.

That ship has sailed. It's gone. And we've not addressed it. We've not talked about it. Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense and we're moving forward.

So it's in the back of everyone's mind, and whether I'll use that during training camp or not is to be determined. But where we're at as a team, I like where we're at. So we're just pushing forward.

Q. As you go into training camp, besides right guard we just talked about, what is a couple of other positions that are definitely on your mind that have to get settled?
URBAN MEYER: Tight end is wide open. It was a position of not one of our strengths a year ago. And Marcus Baugh, I know someone said he was in a walking boot. He has inflammation of the toe. But he's going to be fine.

He played with a shoulder injury a year ago. He had surgery right after the season. And A.J. Alexander being out for the fall. You have Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann competing for that spot as well.

The boundary safety, Malik Hooker spot, is also wide open. And you have Jordan, (indiscernible) Erick Smith, that's going to be a battle for that spot.

And you have Kendall Sheffield that's going to push Damon Arnette along with a couple of young freshmen corners are going to push for playing time.

And to me, the wide receiver position is wide open. We were not where we needed to be a year ago. And we have some talent. More than that, we have as high character a group as we've ever had in that room as far as work ethic, doing things right. Those are just a few examples, or a few spots.

Q. I'm assuming Mickey Marotti has kind of given that passed-the-baton-to-you speech. What was his message to you and how good do you feel about the team as a whole going into this training camp?
URBAN MEYER: We're actually going to do that next Wednesday. One of the concerns I know I share and a lot of my colleagues, that without two-a-days you've extended the season it could be potentially close to five weeks of training camp, which is way too much.

So we're very leery about starting -- we're not officially starting camp this Thursday, it's just a practice. I don't want the players to feel like it's a camp yet. So we won't do that until the following Wednesday.

And Mick is a very positive guy. Like I said, how often -- this time last year, I don't want to say zero, but very minimal leadership in our program. You just didn't have a strong upper end of our team. And this is the strongest we've had since we've been here.

Q. When you stood up there six years ago you talked about outlining some things the Big Ten had to do to catch the SEC, having come from the SEC. What changes have you seen, if any, and do you think that gap's closed by now?
URBAN MEYER: I don't think there's a gap at all. And that's no disrespect to other conferences. To give my opinion to other conferences or when I hear that, I have no idea. But I've coached in the SEC East when that was one of the strongest in the country. And I think the Big Ten East right now is every bit as strong as I can remember the SEC East.

I thought recruiting, I was shocked at the disrespect to Big Ten had in 2012. I don't feel that at all anymore. I feel a great amount of respect nationally about the Big Ten. You sit and look at the national recruiting rankings and you see the Big Ten everywhere, all over the place, and that's the way it should be.

So there's a lot of credit to be given, obviously to the administrations that invest in their programs and to the coaching staffs that are out there doing the work. And this is as tough a conference as there is.

Q. Question about the scheduling. I know there's a lot of buzz about Indiana and Oklahoma right off the bat. But I see they have thrown Army in there for you in game three, and that's about as big a change in styles between the Sooners and Army as you could get. Will you do anything extra to prepare for that option stuff the first couple of weeks before you face Army?
URBAN MEYER: Sure. We've already had some of it in spring practice. Yeah, you can't prepare for that in two days, Tuesday/Wednesday practice, before you play them.

So we'll be doing that throughout training camp as well. We played Navy in 2014 in the first game and we devoted a lot of time to it. So it's a fine line, like you said. It's a challenge Coach Schiano and our defensive staff have.

But in those type of situations, the one thing you have to have running is that scout team. And that's the hardest thing you have to do to get ready for a game like that. So we're working -- that's going to start on Thursday, getting the scout team ready to perform like the Army offense.

Q. Drawing a Saquon Barkley to Ezekiel Elliott comparison has seemed to be more popular in the past couple months. How fair do you think that comparison is in your mind?
URBAN MEYER: Probably pretty fair. I think he's that quality of a back, that quality of a worker, from everything I hear and read. So I think that's very fair.

Q. Now that you've been about a half decade into this, wanted to get your sense -- how does the intensity of your rivalry with Michigan stack up compared to others that you've been involved in at different stops in your career, whether that's Florida/LSU, BYU/Utah or any of them?
URBAN MEYER: Very biased on this opinion of this rivalry because I grew up in it. Know it as well as any rivalry. I think it's the greatest rivalry not just in college football, but all of sport. Again, it's a very biased opinion. I'll be the first to admit that.

I think it gets tremendous respect, not a lot of like between the two universities, and the game's incredible. So I was fortunate to grow up in a ten-year war between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, and it was incredible. I grew up in northeast Ohio where the town shut down that week. I have great respect for it.

In fact, in my journey we try to do the best we can to create that kind of rivalry situation. You mentioned Bowling Green. We call Toledo the team up north. We went out to Utah and called BYU the team down south and made it a huge game, which it already was.

And then Florida/Florida State was the team out west. So trying to do the very best we can -- I think it's really good for players, great for fan bases and student bodies to get involved.

And I hear some people say it's just another game of faceless opponents. Never an approach we've had to a rivalry game. And I just think that's what separates college football from a lot of other sports.

Q. In today's day and age of spread offenses, the Big Ten has a lot of really good tight ends this year. Troy Fumagalli had a good game against you last year. How tough is it to prepare for a really good tight end in today's spread offense football game?
URBAN MEYER: It depends on, when you say "really good tight end," a really good tight end to me is a dual threat tight end, a guy that can really run, a little bit like Curtis Samuel.

There's two positions, just the way we look at it. If you can find a tight end that can flex out and also knock someone off the ball, I've had a few in my career, and those are very hard to defend.

And the same with that H-back position, where the guy can come in the backfield, run with the ball and catch it. Those hybrid-type players are hard to defend. We're doing the best we can to develop one of those guys at that position that's what we want. One-dimensional tight ends, in our opinion, aren't very hard -- it is what it is. It's the ones that can do both.

Q. You've been picked as an overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten again by a couple of pretty good polls, number one. Number two, how tough is it to stay at the top or near the top in this day and age?
URBAN MEYER: Obviously we weren't at the top a year ago. We were near the top. And Ohio State is always going to be there. I mean, it should be one of the top schools in our conference. And other than that, I think that's just respect for our players, respect that we recruited some good players and means no consequence at all in how we do our business.


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