OHIO STATE FOOTBALL COACH URBAN MEYER PRESS CONFERENCE
Urban Meyer: Champions for the Illinois game. On defense, Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Cooper — Cooper had two sacks. Linebacker Jerome Baker, good to have him back. Denzel Ward and Kendall Sheffield played well. Damon Webb and Erick Smith, who got his first start of the year and that was — he played very well. Player of the game was Chris Worley. That’s defense.
On offense, you had J.T. Barrett, you had five wide receivers. You had K.J., Johnnie Dixon, Parris, Austin Mack and Terry. Obviously didn’t throw it a bunch but they blocked very well. Running backs are playing outstanding — J.K. and Mike Weber and Antonio Williams had 74 yards on 19 carries.
And kicking, the guys that excelled were — player of the game was Jeff Okudah, he’s playing fantastic. He had 27 plays of kicking game, 27 plays. And 41 protection points was the most we’ve had in quite a while. Elijaah Goins forced a fumble. Jeff Okudah, fumble recovery. Justin Hilliardwas awesome, 16-yard-line tackle. Pete Werner was awesome, 9-yard-line tackle. And Okudah had another one on the 13-yard line. Some real positives in the kicking game. And I’ll be glad to answer any questions.
Q. The up-tempo offense has seemed to work well for you all season. I imagine like a baseball pitcher you want to mix up your pitches; you don’t want to use it all the time. Generally speaking, do you think the up-tempo offense works best for you guys?
Urban Meyer: I think so. I think our quarterback likes it. That’s the world that Kevin and Ryan Dayare in. And so the play callers have got to be able to spit those plays out fast and know what they’re doing. It’s been very good.
Q. We always talk about maybe the wrinkles that show up for the Michigan game, either from that team or your team. Is that a real thing? Are the wrinkles that you save for this game, have you seen things that you don’t see over the last five years in this game, have you seen things in this game you don’t see throughout the season from them?
Urban Meyer: I’m not sure. I don’t know — I have always said about the wrinkles in this game?
Q. We talk about wrinkles. Do you save stuff for this game?
Urban Meyer: You can’t now. This conference — we’re in the East side of arguably the toughest conference in America. So just go play the game, try to go win. I don’t think — I heard days in the past where you saved the little 8 and the big 2. Those days are done.
Q. Michigan has at times come into this game with a struggling offense. They seem to, especially I think it was 13 played very well. Do you expect them even though they’ve struggled on offense and obviously they have a quarterback question, do you expect their offense to play their best game of the year?
Urban Meyer: Absolutely.
Q. Just because of the game?
Urban Meyer: That’s the history of this game. Both teams play their best.
Q. And for you, this is your sixth game. Can you just describe how different this game, this week is for you?
Urban Meyer: I think everybody knows that. It’s a big week.
Q. Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst, their defensive linemen, are a couple guys who get a lot of attention. From starting your film study for the week and just watching over the course of the season, are they guys that stand out?
Urban Meyer: We haven’t just been starting our film study for the week. It’s been going on for a long time. They’re very good players. Both very highly draftable NFL players, too.
Q. Donovan Peoples-Jones, a freshman, I believe he had four catches this week. Is he a guy you’re starting to see come along for him?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, we recruited him. A lot of respect. Talented guy. Great size, great speed and is really starting to play well.
Q. You mentioned after the game that your offensive line is maybe the most improved or one of the most improved units on the team. What’s different? I know last year you guys were young there. What’s the growth you’ve seen from that through the season?
Urban Meyer: Maturity, Jamarco Jones and Billy Price have stabilized that, and Isaiah is a year older. And there’s mistakes made in recruiting; guys are forced into playing time before their time. Michael Jordan shouldn’t have played as a true freshman. That wasn’t recruit a guy to come start as a true freshman. It’s because some other guys were not performing well enough and he got forced into it.
So that happens at other positions, and sometimes you deal with early entry in the NFL draft. Other times you deal with guys that are not developed and aren’t what we thought they would be by this time. So that’s what happens.
Q. Mike Jordan, player of the game. You remarked how Demetrius Knox is playing well. For this offense in particular, when the guards are rolling, how important is that, what does that do for your offense?
Urban Meyer: Base play is a zone scheme. And we want the big wide-ass, probably shouldn’t say that, but to move defensive line you need to have the big guards in this offense. And zone schemes, that’s a prerequisite — be powerful coming off the board and those two are good at it.
Q. I’m sorry to keep asking about sort of like the J.T. stuff, but we know who J.T. is, what he’s done with his career here. When you got here, all the things that you do as a coach when you come to a new program, to identify and go get the quarterback that you think is sort of going to — we’ve got to go recruit our first quarterback that we think is going to be the guy here. All the things you’ve got to do, that’s an obvious question but how important is that when you went out and found J.T. to be that guy?
Urban Meyer: I’d like to take credit, but I gotta give credit to Tom Herman on that. We got — it was bizarre. You had Mitch Trubisky, you had Malik Zaire in state here that we were very, very interested in. And I mean I was just here a couple of weeks and then we started going and let’s get them down here and meet them, get them in camp. And all of a sudden, I’m not going to come to camp, I’m going to commit to somewhere else. I was just shocked by the whole scenario. Obviously those are two very good players.
And then I’m thinking, holy cow, this is going fast. So Tom Herman found J.T. and came to me and said there was a lot of trust in Tom. I didn’t know Tom very well. And obviously he did a very good job finding him.
Q. And does J.T., when we talked to him after the day the other day about the Michigan game, he’s a Texas kid but obviously by now he gets this game so much. Does everybody get it, like once they get here — I know we’ve asked about it a lot over the years, but once you get them for a couple of weeks once they get through it the first time and play it, does everybody get it?
Urban Meyer: This rivalry is not a one-week deal. It’s, hey, let’s get this thing going — and I learned that from Woody Hayes, from Earle Bruce, from Jim Tressel. I just think it’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA.
And to say everyone understands that right now, I don’t think so. Say Wyatt Davis or another out-of-state young player, Ellijah Gardiner — probably not yet but they will. I would say the ones that are playing have a pretty good indication.
Q. What does it do for a team, for an offense to have the running game going the way you guys have it going right now, the offensive line coming to maturity and stuff, what does it do for the group?
Urban Meyer: That’s the foundation of any good offense, the offensive line. We were blessed for three or four years having the best in the Big Ten and then we did it. And it was hard. It’s hard to create plays where that group is not the strength of your team. Right now they are one of the strengths of our team.
And this one will be — this “D” line is the real deal — but knowing that you have very stable and very strong group up front, that’s going to be here long before us, and long after us. That’s the foundation of a great offense.
Q. But obviously — obviously coming out of the Iowa game, you guys decided to lean on that group, against Michigan State and then last week, right? Do you remember y’all having conversations about it or is that just the way it evolved, I’m talking about the running game.
Urban Meyer: About the way it evolved. And we have two very good tailbacks, get the ball in their hands a little bit, and done a good job.
Q. I think four of your captains, maybe five, are from out of state. Yet they get this game. How much is it indoctrinated through the year? Can you explain to the people how much you emphasize it?
Urban Meyer: Just throughout the facility. And I would say darned near every day you’re here you get reminded of the game, from Coach Mick in the offseason to myself in spring ball and training camp, we have periods devoted to this game during practice. And I mean you would have to be, something wrong with you not to figure this one out.
Q. I don’t know if you heard the news, Terry Glenn —
Urban Meyer: I just heard that, minutes ago.
Q. Did you know of him?
Urban Meyer: Sure. I knew him. I can’t say I knew him well. And I don’t know anything other than somebody said something. I don’t want to be disrespectful. I just don’t know everything that happened, just my God. I don’t know what happened.
Q. You talked about how important this game is it to you and the players and the program. What is it — once the switch flips and the Michigan rivalry week starts, what are you like to be around? How would you describe yourself and your focus for these seven days?
Urban Meyer: Just extremely focused and I can’t imagine many more having more respect for this rivalry and I say myself — our staff is myself, too. And you talk about laser focus now. Everything you’ve got going. Not that it doesn’t in other games, but laser focus.
Q. You’ve coached at other places and you’ve had very good record against other rivals. What makes this one to you different than some of the others you’ve been a part of?
Urban Meyer: I just don’t want to — headlines in other papers. This is just very personal. This is one I didn’t have to get educated. And when I first went to Bowling Green, people had to educate me on that rivalry. We absorbed it and dove into it and they were the team up north.
And then went out to BYU and I always heard of the rivalry but I had to be educated on that. That was a team down south. And then went down to Florida and you had three of them but we made the school out west the rival and that was Florida State. And there was no education on this one necessary.
Q. You said this rivalry is in your blood and has always been, but is there something you didn’t understand that maybe you appreciate about it until you were in it?
Urban Meyer: I think that’s always the case. As a fan, you sit back and you think it’s one of the coolest things in the world, and you never miss it. I remember I was coaching at Colorado State and we were playing Hawai’i. Mike Trgovac was our defensive line coach, was a great player, went to school up north. And we had to get up at some ridiculous hour to watch the game, 5.00 a.m. or something to watch it. So it’s always been, as long as I can remember, it’s always been there.
Q. You talked in the past about how this rivalry actually comes up on the recruiting trail. Are you always the one bringing it up or are there people who ask you about the chance to be a part of this week?
Urban Meyer: I think especially when you come here on visits and you start seeing them, once again something’s not right if you’re walking through the hallways and you don’t recognize this rivalry and the respect we have for it. So it comes up quite often.
Q. You talked about a lot of your players being from out of state and having to educate themselves on it. But a lot of the players who were in state who have grown up on this rivalry, kids on your team now, weren’t even alive the last time Michigan was ruining seasons for Ohio State at the end of the year, in the ’90s, and how it was pretty balanced there on the Michigan side and before that. I was wondering, to the kids that are from Ohio and have an inherent understanding of this rivalry also need an education in this day and age about what that was back, because I think older people maybe in their 20s, 30s, 40s might have a different understanding of what it was like when Michigan was doing to Ohio State what Ohio State —
Urban Meyer: I think it’s all these quick memories. They were here last year. And that was a great football team we played. And we anticipate — they’re watching film with their defense. I don’t know how much that really goes into it. I think when you get older, and when you’re 17, 18, 19 years old, it’s about what’s important now. And the videotape verifies what is about to happen here.
So I think the rivalry is really important. However, film study and preparation is more important.
Q. A few of Michigan’s best players were guys that you recruited pretty closely and at one point maybe you thought you had a good chance at landing. Can you put it in perspective at times if there’s extra pressure or extra, just extra pressure for you guys to sign kids or to get kids that maybe Michigan has heavily recruited?
Urban Meyer: Ridiculous pressure.
Q. Because this is the time where it kind of shows up; can you give me some insight about what it’s like?
Urban Meyer: No I can’t, but it’s ridiculous pressure.
Q. Has your approach to the game changed since 2012 or since it’s worked, just the —
Urban Meyer: Every team is different. We had five starters on our offensive line who were from the state of Ohio in 2012, ’13 and I believe ’14. It’s not the case right now. I just watch that very closely. I wish they were.
I’m not saying that you didn’t have to worry about those things, but I do. I want to make sure when you do recruit a young man out of Texas — Baron Browning, Jeff Okudah are going to be very important guys — Kendall Sheffield in this game that they understand the magnitude. But that’s not so much my job as it is the leaders of our team.
Q. Their quarterback thing has been unsettled. Because they seem to do the same things, is that helpful, regardless of who have they play?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, they’re going to be a downhill rushing team. That’s pretty much been their MO. You’d have to talk to Greg. Today is, what, Monday. We still haven’t heard what’s going on. And I’m sure they’re following it very closely.
Q. Earle, it’s been 30 years since that. We know how important Earle is to you overall. I wanted to make sure we talked about Earle this week, what he means for this game, this week and maybe your understanding of this game and this week and what he’s meant to you?
Urban Meyer: He was very important in my understanding of the game. I was a fan until 1986 when I walked through the doors, and it was every day. And I learned that from him. I mean every day there’s conversation about that team.
And it was back when Bo Schembechler was coaching for them and Coach, I think he was 5-4, only winning record against Coach Schembechler. And he taught me the intensity and the incredible respect — there’s no one that respected the rivalry more than he did either. I learned that from him.
Q. You also learned the emotion that a team can summon. In ’87 when you guys go up there, he’s been fired five days before. What do you remember just about that team, that game that still resonates?
Urban Meyer: I’m in my office where I am now and Rick Bay called us in at about 2:00, maybe 1:30 and said, this will be Coach’s last game. And Coach had his face down on his arm. And I was, like, oh, my God, is this really happening?
Then we went out and had a practice. It was a circus, planes flying overhead and people showing up and the band went out to his house that night. And they were a very good team, obviously and we were struggling and went up there and Carlos Snow had a big play on a 70- or 80-yarder. Everett Ross caught a pick, a touchdown, ran a little pick route on them and found a way to win that game.
And it was a very emotional to see him win that game. If I remember right, Bo Schembechler went over and congratulated him as well.