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December 1, 2017

Urban Meyer

Indianapolis, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: We'll welcome Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Q. Can you address the status of J.T. Barrett? And he had the surgery I guess on Sunday. How much has he practiced this week?
COACH MEYER: Practiced Wednesday throwing and practiced full yesterday or Thursday. And he's cleared to play.

Q. Did he have some sort of procedure on Sunday? Is there anything you can shed light on that report?
COACH MEYER: He had a procedure. I don't want to get into too much detail of it but he had a procedure done.

Q. Not something that could hinder him or keep him out of the game? Seems like --
COACH MEYER: Certain people probably could. But J.T.'s a little different.

Q. With Dwayne Haskins, Jr. getting more reps maybe than ever before this week, maybe not, I'm not sure, but where have you seen progress in him just from last week to now?
COACH MEYER: Incredible amount of progress. And I think throughout the year he's grown up; he's matured. I think the Illinois game, if you look back -- obviously the weather was terrible -- but after the fumble, he came back and played with energy, emotion, which we expect out of our quarterback, and it carried over and practiced well the following week.

And when his number was called, he played high-level football for us. So a lot of confidence in him right now amongst our players and the staff.

Q. Speaking of Haskins, is there any possible way that he's in the game plan as somebody you could rely on regardless of J.T.'s health?
COACH MEYER: Oh, sure, absolutely.

Q. You just touched on it, how J.T.'s different. Just expand on that a little bit more. How is he different? What makes him so tough?
COACH MEYER: He's just one of the toughest human beings I've ever come across in my career. And a guy that's all in. And just a very unique individual.

Q. J.T.'s running is obviously a huge part of what he does. If he isn't fully himself tomorrow, how closely do you have to watch that?
COACH MEYER: I can barely hear you.

Q. J.T.'s running is a huge part of what he does. If he can't run like he normally does, how delicate is that situation for you?
COACH MEYER: It's very delicate. That's something we're going to watch during the course of the game. And some game-time decisions will be made.

Q. Do you feel like your offense is much more diverse than maybe in some years? You feel like you have a lot of options this year, running, passing, different running backs, et cetera, et cetera?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think I related back to the 2014 year when we were very balanced. Our goal was to be 250/250, and we're close to that.

The last couple of years we were not. And so that's just something I've always wanted to be and strive to be. And put a lot of pressure on our staff to make sure that we're always -- you can't be one dimensional. And I like where we're at.

Q. Talk about your receiving corp and how they have emerged?
COACH MEYER: We're in a very good situation. We're six strong at receiver. And that's rare. And the six guys I can't say enough good things about them because they're selfless. Johnnie Dixon, I don't believe, had a ball caught last week but he graded a champion because we needed him in certain situations, and he performed.

And then Terry McLaurin is one of our aces on special teams. And Austin Mack does everything for us. So I can't say enough about those guys.

Q. I know it's a health issue with a player and that can be delicate sometimes. But for those of us who aren't medical experts, the idea that someone could have an arthroscopic procedure on a Sunday and play a football game on a Saturday maybe is hard to wrap your head around. Did you guys know when he was having it Sunday that, yes, he can do this and definitely still be good to go on Saturday? How was all that decision made?
COACH MEYER: I guess -- I don't want to get into too much detail because it's J.T.'s business, but so much of it has to do with how he does during the course of the week. And the trainers and doctors are very involved. And it's not finished. He's still 24 hours out.

So I've had a player do it before, that was scoped earlier in the week and played. And then I've had others that can't. And the body has to react a certain way. And his has been very positive.

Q. You had cold against Penn State, a monsoon against Illinois, wind in Michigan. How important is it to be inside the dome, especially with J.T.'s knee and to maximize your passing that you struggled with sometimes?
COACH MEYER: I think this is -- everybody's strives to get to Indianapolis. We're here. We love it here. Have great memories coming back here. And to answer your question, I just think -- I don't think too much of it because both teams have to play in it.

Yet, under the circumstances, because we want to -- this is a very good defense we're facing. You have to be balanced against them as well. And having no weather issues is obviously, I think, a positive for both teams.

Q. Both teams styles are different, but both teams obviously have big, physical offensive lines and really good front sevens. Is this game as simple as who wins the line of scrimmage tomorrow?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I think any big game -- that you can just research it -- and I tend to do that myself. But every big game it will come down to who can control the line of scrimmage, especially their style of play is real physical.

And even though we operate from a spread set, ours is very physical as well. So the line of scrimmage is going to be the key to the game tomorrow.

Q. Over the course of the year you guys have played different types of games, good games, bad games. What's your curiosity level in terms of which Ohio State team is going to show up for now the biggest game of the season?
COACH MEYER: I don't know if it's curiosity. I'm more worried about the task at hand and how it went this week. And we practiced outstanding.

We have a lot of respect for our opponent. And the greatest way to show respect is to go out and perform well and practice well. And that's what they did.

Q. With the awards this week, Nick Bosa gave you another defensive lineman of the year. Joey won that a couple of years ago as a sophomore. If you could only pick one, Nick Bosa as a sophomore or Joey as a sophomore, which one would you take?
COACH MEYER: I think you know my answer, and that's we're playing a very good Wisconsin team and keep the eye on the target.

Q. Obviously with J.T.'s health status, major question right now with the running, how important and how much preparation has -- with J.T. Barrett's running ability still a question mark, how prepared are J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to handle the running tomorrow?
COACH MEYER: They're full go, ready to go. And they complement each other very well. And they'll be used quite often.

Q. Obviously I'm asking about J.T. in this situation. But with any player dealing with an injury trying to play through it, just the idea of pain tolerance and being able to play well when you're not 100 percent physically, is that a skill? Do most players at this level have that? Are there some guys who are just better at that than others in fighting through something like this?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. I would say that's not normal. It takes a rare individual to be able to -- because there is a pain threshold. There is also, when you start talking about 15 hours a day of treatment, which is what he did, I can't say that's normal. Because it's not.

I've had players have similar type things happen, they're out two, three weeks. But he's not normal.

Q. You said that J.T. is cleared, but what is your level of confidence that he will both start and be able to play like J.T. Barrett does?
COACH MEYER: Those are all decisions I'm going to make tomorrow. I want to see where -- we're going to have a walk-through here in a little bit. Still having conversations with Coach Day and Coach Wilson about it.

Q. You had three of your offensive linemen named to the first team, at least one of the two teams, All-Big Ten, and Isaiah Prince made the third team. I'm just wondering, that group especially and Isaiah Prince in particular, is it amazing the progress he's made this season?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, Isaiah is, I can't say enough about him. My trust in him, my confidence and respect I have for him. I've always liked Isaiah, but to say I respected him the way I do now, he's really grown up, and I just can't say enough about him. He's also actually developed a lot of leadership skills, too.

And I think Billy Price is the common denominator of that group. He's the focal point. He's the guy that has kept them -- and we've had a little bit of a dip in offensive line play here the last couple of years. And it's back to what we expect. And obviously tomorrow's going to be a great test for us.

Q. A lot is being made of J.T. and his ability to run the football and his health. I'm wondering, Dwayne came in last week, and he obviously played pretty well and helped you guys win a football game on the road in a tough environment. How different is the offense, or do you need to call the offense when Dwayne's in? Can he run it to the same ability? I know he might be a step down in terms of the zone read and stuff, but does the offense have to change if Dwayne is needed and called on?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we've had a lot of conversations about it. Conceptually it doesn't change at all. Frequency of play calls is something that will be taken into consideration. Because they're different. One has a greater skill and we just have -- not tremendously different skill sets, but different skill sets.

Q. There's been a lot of distractions I guess around the program with J.T.'s health and coaching things with Coach Schiano. I'm just wondering how have you seen your team handle the distractions this week and the preparation for this one?
COACH MEYER: Laser focus, man. They've been fantastic. A lot of credit to those players and our group of coaches. I mean, we've had a good week. Now we have to play like it. But we've had a good week.

Q. Urban, will you stick with the same linebacker lineup you've had, the starting linebacker lineup you've had for the past few weeks with (Chris) Borland in the middle and (Chris) Worley and (Jerome) Baker?
COACH MEYER: Yes. Yes. I think the other ones are -- Booker is ready to go now. And Malik Harrison will play as well. We've got some depth, much-needed depth at those spots.

Q. Between J.K. and Jonathan Taylor for Wisconsin, two freshmen running backs that have come in and made a impact right away, do you think that's the future of college football that those guys can do that; are these guys just rare? What do you make of these guys that are able to play that position so quickly?
COACH MEYER: No it's not normal. We've looked at the great running backs we've had. Carlos Hyde was certainly not ready to play as a young player. Zeke Elliott was not -- he got pretty good real fast. But his freshman year was nothing compared to these two guys you're talking about.

And Mike Weber took a minute to get to where he's had to get and he's fantastic right now. So I think that's a credit to ours and Wisconsin's running back to be able to do that. A lot of maturity to be able to handle that position as a freshman.

Q. You mentioned several times that you have a tough task tomorrow. What do you expect from a Paul Chryst-coached team?
COACH MEYER: I know a Paul Chryst team and I know Wisconsin football. And I have a lot of respect for just the way they do their business. I go back to my good friend Barry Alvarez. I think he's put a template together and has hired remarkable coaches to follow that template.

And this might be the best of all of them. Coach Chryst does an amazing job. And his staff. And they just keep plugging. They recruit and develop players as good as anybody.

Q. You and J.T. have been together for so long now. Could you describe in a situation like this when you have a coach and quarterback who have worked together for so long and when you're dealing with a week like this, just what the relationship does that you know him, he knows you? Just what's it been like this week and does it make it a better situation to deal with because you know each other so well?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I think I've got my sons here with me and J.T. is in that same -- I feel like I spend so much time with him over the last few years. We've had our ups, downs and tough situations, and you get to really learn about people and respect people and I can't tell you -- everybody knows my feelings for him.

But you asked the question. And it certainly does play. It's been five years we've been together. It's been an incredible five years.

Q. Other than J.T., how is the health of your team? Any other injuries in practice this week?
COACH MEYER: I think we're good to go.

Q. What stands out most about this Wisconsin defense from maybe others that you've faced?
COACH MEYER: Once again, I'm not being disrespectful. I want to be perfectly clear about it. I don't want to just say it's Wisconsin, because it's not. It's great football players, and they base out of a 3-4 most of the time. And the linebackers are outstanding. And just when you saw the Watt kid and some of these other kids go to the NFL, they pump them back in there and you've got them again.

And I think a common theme is they're tough and they play so darned hard and they understand their defense. They don't do a lot. You'll face defenses that do a lot and sometimes they'll blow coverages, et cetera, because they're doing too much.

But these guys are -- you know, you're going to get what you think you're going to get. But they're so well schooled and they understand their defense so well.

Q. Harping on J.T. again and his toughness was it the Penn State game that still sticks out in your mind where he proved to you, and then since then I guess what level has he had in your mind about playing with pain, so to speak, et cetera?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think so many times you don't see because it's not public knowledge about playing -- playing as many games as he's played, playing the position that's a violent position. But I do recall that's when I remember, that caught me off guard when he had a second-degree MCL sprain and finished the game. Not only finished the game, but helped us win that thing in overtime. And that stands out, that game.

Q. There was no secret that the last at Iowa, the defense had some problems picking up tight ends, et cetera. Obviously last week there were some problems at least early. (Troy) Fumagalli is considered, I think, one of the more talented tight ends in the league, maybe in the nation. What do you think your defense has gotten straightened out just about that little aspect of things?
COACH MEYER: Well, the offenses that are a hard-core, downhill runs and then have the play action off of it, that's what's hard to defend. And there's one way to improve on that, that's work at it. But also that's a very effective tool for them. And that's something we've worked hard all week on.

Q. This week you guys have had to prepare for a big football game, and you're here now. This is obviously a big week, too, with early signing period for recruiting. A lot of other coaches who aren't playing in games this weekend are out there recruiting while you guys can't. How tough is that to overcome later on? Do you have to overcompensate by doing anything else? And is it kind of a tough situation and a bad byproduct of making it to this game?
COACH MEYER: I wish there was an easier way, but I'm not sure what it is, especially with the early signing. I don't believe it's fair. But I'd much rather be here. But that's something that I have a whole recruiting staff that, what's the answer? Work that much harder. And when this game's over, get on a plane and go do the best you can to keep going. But the best recruiting tool out there is for us to play well tomorrow.

Q. Do you expect Mike Weber to continue at kickoff return or is that something that Parris Campbell can get back in the mix?
COACH MEYER: Mike's going to start tomorrow.

Q. You've been in this game a number of times. You've been in the SEC championship. Are there any comparisons between those two games since you've been in both?
COACH MEYER: Sure is. I know this sold out pretty quickly, with everything I've heard. The fans are fantastic. I commend Atlanta because that's where the SEC is and just the way they treat the players and the hospitality in Indianapolis is on par with that.

I even told our players today, for those that were with me before when we came, and there's a handful, the stadium takes your breath away a little bit, the way you're treated. So enjoy it. But best way to enjoy is prepare the best you can and go play well.

Q. At a place like Ohio State it's awfully hard for a player to carve their own legacy, because there's so much history, so much winning tradition there. But these players, in talking to them this week, really -- they sense to want to grasp that part of it, winning a championship, just the idea of being a champion. Can you explain the element of that in your program, just having those guys have their picture up on the wall and those sorts of things that are so important to the program overall, having this group of players get their shot at that?
COACH MEYER: I think that's been -- hard to imagine another program that has a history that Ohio State has dating all the way back, I believe, to 1919, early 1900s when the first championship. And it's all over the walls and deservedly so. I refer to those walls quite often.

And how do you measure a quarterback? Championships. How do you measure a great tailback? Championships. And great teams? Championships. And we haven't been here in two years. So it's a great opportunity, and they want to be a part of that.

Q. Was the decision for J.T. to have the procedure his or was that more of a team doctor decision? And when that happened, when you found out he was going to have that, what did you think the chances of him playing in this game would be?
COACH MEYER: I don't think it's ever -- well, I wasn't part of that decision, so I imagine it was the player and the doctor that decided, had an MRI, and what was the best way to get this thing going.

And I never -- just don't put anything past J.T. He said, Coach, I'll be fine. Okay. And then we went about our business and watched him rehab. Every time I walked by the training room when I got in at 6.00 a.m., he's there. And when I go home at 6:00 at night he's there.

Q. We know that your offenses have had an effective quarterback run game your entire career. And you've had different styles of quarterbacks. Just the way J.T. runs it, whether it's the called runs or the scrambles, why is he good at it? What is the best part of his game as a running threat?
COACH MEYER: He's deceptively fast. He's a very good athlete. And he's very rarely a minus-yardage guy. There's nothing worse than a quarterback -- and I was so proud to see Dwayne Haskins, (indiscernible) pressured the one -- and the things that drive you nuts is when the quarterback starts going that way, and that's holding penalties and something's not there, it's not always going to be perfect; put your foot in the ground and get positive yardage.

I thought Dwayne did a hell of a job against our rivals last week. And J.T. is probably the best I've had at that, as far as just positive yardage when the play breaks down.


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