The No. 10 Buckeyes and Spartans meet up in East Lansing in a B1G East clash.
Ohio State University Football Media Conference
COACH MEYER: As we do, we will review the champions. On defense Dre’Mont Jones, John Cooper and Jashon Cornell, Tuf Borland and Damon Arnette. Player of the game was Brendon White, who ended up with 10 tackles, three assists, two tackles for loss.
On offense, you have J.K. Dobbins ended up with 185 yards, three touchdowns. Luke Farrell played very well, arguably his best game. Wide receiver, you had Johnnie Dixon with 96 yards receiving and a touchdown, Parris Campbell. And then offensive line, we gave it to all five. They were actually player of the game. We gave it to the offensive line, with Mike Weber getting an honorable mention. If he didn’t lay it on the ground, he played really hard.
And then special teams was very solid Saturday. We had two kickoff returns against us for 25 told yards and Spielman was heck of a returner. He had one return for minus-2 yards. And we had a blocked punt that was obviously a big part of the game.
A big one this week against Michigan State. Very strong rivalry that we have a lot of respect for that team and they’re playing as good a defense as there is any in the country.
Q. What are you seeing from your linebackers this year, not just this past game, but what have you seen from your linebackers?
COACH MEYER: I see improvement. I see a group that was all four — three new starters. Tuf was a returning guy but Baron playing and Malik full-time starter, and Pete Werner a first-time starter. So I’m seeing improvement, but we still have far too many missed tackles. We had six or seven tackles for losses that we missed. So that’s what I’ve seen.
Q. When Dwayne Haskins takes off and scrambles, it seems like sometimes he’s sliding too early. What do you see from him — I know it’s not his forte when he scrambles, what do you see from him and what are you teaching?
COACH MEYER: You like to see him get all he can and then get down. I know the one you’re talking about. It wasn’t the most graceful. But you’re asking what we want: Get as much as you can and get down.
Q. Along those lines, we all kind of remember Dwayne against Michigan, that run he had. Were we just fooled there, or has he been discouraged from running? Has he been coached to go down? Which one is it, I guess?
COACH MEYER: No, I think — not that I’m aware of. We’ve always wanted our quarterbacks — that’s a big part of the game. He made a nice play on the scramble to the right and completed a pass, keeping his eyes downfield to Luke. But you always want to get all you can and then get down.
Q. You thought he would be more of a runner a little bit, or what’s your analysis of that?
COACH MEYER: I knew he’s not obviously not a J.T. But I’d have to go back. You’re catching me off guard a little bit. Those are always, those yards that you see, you have to get them somewhere else if we’re not getting them from the quarterback.
Q. Then on the other side of the ball, I don’t think we’ve heard from you, in your words, how much is losing Nick Bosa affected this defense? Not just him, but how he affects things, can you talk about that?
COACH MEYER: Well, yeah. Whenever arguably — well not arguably, one of the probably top five players in America is not playing. He’s an inspiration, was a captain, was this, that. But that happened quite a while ago. So, what’s the impact? Obviously big. But you’ve got to move on.
Q. You talked a lot about last week you guys during the bye week trying to figure out what to do especially in the red zone and you worked on that so much. When you come up with something like that, that jumbo package you had a wide at tight end, could you just take us through a little bit? Are you watching loads of film? Are you looking at things you tried at Florida? Are you looking at other teams? Is there almost — not a fight, but like a healthy debate — someone thinks this, someone thinks that? What’s it like to really come up with that?
COACH MEYER: That’s exactly what goes on. First of all, it’s our offense. And so we’ll go back in time and say, what did we have, what did we do when we didn’t have the J.T. or the Tebow, even Alex is a runner, enough. The guys that weren’t big runners were Chris Leak, Cardale Jones at times, but Cardale would slam it in there.
When teams are loading the box on you, they’re playing — especially last week and defense a lot of teams are playing down there is called Bear zero, which is just two extra hats wherever you go, so you have to throw it. And we want to run the ball.
So it’s all of the above, what you said: Go back, look at what you’ve done. And you have Ryan Day, Kevin Wilson others from other styles of offenses, that we have that conversation and we go back and see the best red-zone offenses in the country, you’re talking about probably 40 hours of time into that.
It was great to see J.K. dive into the end zone twice and then Parris on the little push pass to them. We were three of four, and the one was an ill-advised throw, an interception.
Q. And you were asked about leadership I think a couple weeks ago with this team. We know the guys last year, J.T. and all those other seniors. Right now, maybe after a bad play, after a turnover or if you’re losing at halftime in the game or whatever, who are the guys in the game, on the sideline do you see players walking around telling guys to keep their heads up? Or are you maybe missing some of that a little bit?
COACH MEYER: I think it’s growing as a team. You mentioned some outstanding leaders from a year ago. On offense you can see those receivers picking up the slack, and you can see Isaiah Prince is a vocal leader. Michael Jordan his own degree. And Dwayne’s trying to get there.
And that’s something he’s improved greatly. Still has a ways to go.
On defense, right now it’s the confidence factor. You’ve got three starters out of the secondary again Saturday. And we’re hoping, I think we’re going to be, finally we’re going to have them all healthy. It’s been like that. It’s been a deck of cards shuffling in and out of the back end of our defense.
So I think we’ve got them all healthy. It’s hard to lead when guys are out of the game and you just don’t have the consistency.
Q. Haskins, in comparison to how he’s been all season, that wasn’t one of his best showings. Do you feel like the emphasis on the running game played a role in that?
COACH MEYER: We talked about that. You get what you emphasized and we spent a lot of time on some other facets of our offense. But, yes, I would agree with that.
Q. And also Brendon White, you talked about it as well. He had a great game. Have you thought about starting him and Fuller together on Saturday?
COACH MEYER: Those decisions will be made in the next couple of days.
Q. Following up with Brendon. You guys obviously have kind of been in flux in that position throughout the year. I know you said after of the game he needs to prove to the coaches and whatnot, but what did you see from him that made him the next guy in? And do you think this is something he can consistently do or is that just a one-game, he’s-excited-to-be-in type of thing?
COACH MEYER: We’re going to find out. He’s certainly going to play. He’s earned that right. He’s practiced. That was coming. That was — his practices have been very good the last couple of weeks and Coach Grinch made that clear in front of the team after the game. But he’s certainly earned the right to be on the field.
Q. Given some other question marks and you talked about guys that are close and whatnot, does senior performance like that coming off the bench make you think any more about some of the other guys you mentioned being close, getting them in the game more?
COACH MEYER: It certainly has and we haven’t had those opportunities like we’ve had in the past to get guys in the game. And — but the best opportunity to get is at practice to come show yourself and get going. You can see on special teams, Josh Proctor did a heck of a job for us on the opening kickoff or the second kickoff. And other guys coming on Teradja Mitchell and some other guys are doing very good for us in special teams. Practice, special teams and an opportunity to play on defense.
Q. Do you feel the running game now is in a place where you can replicate the success you had against Nebraska the rest of the season?
COACH MEYER: That’s what we’re working on right now. Obviously you’re facing the number one rush defense in the country coming up this next week.
But our offensive line played very well and our backs, that was their best pad level game as far as dropping their pads and getting through those holes.
Mike Weber and Isaiah Prince both said after the game that you guys really didn’t call any RPOs on Saturday, but it was more traditional runs. What kind of made this past week the time that you guys decided to change to the more traditional running scheme?
COACH MEYER: That was part of the hours and hours and hours of how do we get those two guys involved in the game and let them drop their pads and go do what they do best, and that’s run the ball. I don’t know if that’s exactly true. But the majority of them were direct hand-offs, like you just said.
Q. Do you think what worked against Nebraska is sustainable going into a game like this with such a tough rough defense?
COACH MEYER: It has to be. A lot of what you see schematically will change because a completely different defense. That was a Bear zero, 3-4 look, and this is going to be a 4-3 look. Schematically, it’s different. But the mentality has to be the same.
Q. To go back to what Doug was asking about, that red zone package, what do you call that sort of jumbo look there? And where did this one specifically come from?
COACH MEYER: Well, Wyatt Davis is a guy that’s been — he’s practicing — I mention his name and we’ve got to get that guy in the game. Have to get him in the game. We’ve done that before with Bowen, remember, in the past we put him at tight end. And other people have done that. And Wyatt Davis earned that right, and it worked.
Q. Have you been a fan of the continued rotation with Mike Weber and J.K.? Some people say running backs need to get a rhythm and going back and forth on the drives maybe, is that a part of the problem for the running game, in your mind? Or have you been okay with how that’s played out this season?
COACH MEYER: I’ve been okay with it. I don’t micromanage that too much, but if I have to I’ll get involved in that. But I think a fresh back that goes a good series and then the next guy gets the next series. And obviously near the end J.K. got a couple of extra series just he was so tight with the football, we have to make sure Mike takes care of the ball.
Q. Did you notice something coming out of that game, and maybe yesterday, is there a little more bounce in the step of your offensive line and your running backs? I would think Dalberg [phonetic] is part of what you want to see coming along this late in the season, what did you just notice about them coming off a game like that?
COACH MEYER: Well, they’re very healthy now. They’re. Farrell is healthy. Wyatt Davis, getting a little bit of depth. Bowen is practicing with the team again. They had two excellent weeks of practice. And they were confident going into that game. And we stuck with it.
Q. When you put something like that, in other words, a full house backfield, do you literally have to have other things out of it? Is that part of your — the way you look at it?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we did a couple of things out of it. Yeah, we ran the Parris play. And then we tried to throw a couple times. I’m not sure we hit one, if I remember right. But, yeah, you have to do other things out of it.
Q. And the other thing, when you say Michigan State’s really coming on defensively, they had some problems really early in the year, but they’ve gotten them straightened out looks like, what stands out about their defense more than anything else as you watch them on video?
COACH MEYER: Their front — excellent corner, boundary corner is an excellent player, and that frees them up to do what they do. Their defense hasn’t changed that much. They’re doing a little bit different things this year. Well-coached defense, tough guys, defensive front is outstanding and their backers are outstanding.
Q. Brendon White, as you’re sitting there watching him Saturday, was it refreshing to you to see a guy that literally stepped up into the limelight and delivered? I mean, he was making plays; he wasn’t just running around. What did that do for you? Because you all have had problems with getting another safety going.
COACH MEYER: It was — I’m not sure the term “refreshing.” I’m not sure I’ve ever used that in my life. (Laughter) But those who know me know that —
Q. Did you find somebody, I guess?
COACH MEYER: It felt good for him. So you’re right, going back to springtime, safety was not a solidified position. We have to play much better at that spot. You had some injuries this week. And obviously the targeting call. And there he is, he’s in the game. And looked out there, you had Shaun Wade at one safety and Brendon White at the other.
Q. Seems like normally by this point in the year we’ve asked you about having a state-of-the-team address. Is that something you’ve done, or is that something that for some reason hasn’t been an issue this year?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we at times we’ll talk about that. We’re not now. We’re just trying to, first of all, find out who is healthy. Second of all, emphasis on the strengths of our enhancing them and fixing these issues that are glaring mistakes that we’ve got to get right.
Q. Is there something about this team that they are better at focusing on those, ignoring that outside noise, than maybe other teams?
COACH MEYER: A lot of it has to do with just who is playing, who is — certain positions. You’ve got Austin Mack is down. Who is going to go in at that spot? You’ve got some issues on defense. We find out that Jeffrey Okudah is not going to be able to play mid-week. And then it’s just a different situation this year.
Q. When a guy like Brendon White comes in and hasn’t played really significantly on defense all year and has that kind of game, arguably the best game we’ve had from a safety, do you wonder why he hadn’t been part of the mix earlier? I know you talk about sometimes your position coaches handle personnel. Do you ask yourself, well, if he’s this good, why hasn’t he been in the mix — COACH MEYER: I watch that closely. And it’s a matter of practice. You have to do it. You don’t just throw a guy in a game. And if he’s practicing and earns the trust of his coaches, like he did Saturday, you’ll see more playing time.
Q. And how involved is that process for a young guy? People look at what you guys have recruited the last two years, two of the best recruiting classes you ever had, and wonder why more of those guys aren’t playing? How much of an uphill climb is it for a young guy to get on the field here, and is it, perhaps, too difficult for a young guy to get on the field?
COACH MEYER: Shouldn’t be. That’s development. I think that’s a great question. That’s one I ask quite often in staff meetings. And why is this guy not playing? Why is he not ready to play?
Q.You talked about how essential it is for your assistants to be able to recruit. Wondering through the first few months, your assessment of the way Brian Hartline has done in that realm of his job?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, pretty good. I’m just trying to think who we have that he’s — for this class we have a handful of receiver commits, and he’s doing a very good job.
Q.Specifically coming in and never recruiting before, this is the first time as a coach and whatnot, what’s an honest assessment of how difficult the position he’s been put in to replace somebody who has been fired to have to answer questions about uncomfortable topics and not only that he’s gotten a few commitments, can you maybe put yourself in his position, a young recruiter? How difficult would it be coming out of the gate, not only learning how to recruit, but to have to overcome some of those obstacles?
COACH MEYER: Just very, very observant. That’s true. He was thrust into a situation. And I think one of the great things he had, he had a veteran group to coach, and he has very good recruiters around here to see how it’s done. He’s been here a couple of years. That’s a positive.
Q.You have to assess that and move forward and decide, because he feels like he’s trying to prove that he belongs on the staff for the future, almost like a tryout. How big of an assessment of whether or not you keep him next year is involved in how he’s done in that realm?
COACH MEYER: He’s done very good. He’s done very good. And we’ll address it at the right time. And he’s done very good.
Q.The passing game has been good all year. The run game, you’ve got it going. On defense, how close are you to being the kind of defense you need to be if you want to get where you want to be?
COACH MEYER: I think we’re getting closer. I think we’ve got to quit shuffling lineups and we’ve got to obviously — even though we gave up three big plays, one was just a long pass. Another was a throw-back, pretty well good, schemed-up play. And then our longest run, other than — I think the quarterback scramble was 24 yards, the other one was 12 yards. It’s getting closer, but it’s nowhere near the standard we want.
Q.I get this question a lot, so I’ll ask it. The linebackers have come under a lot of criticism. You have players who played here before. Certainly potential Dante Booker, Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning, others. Has there been any thought to personnel changes there, and why are you sticking with the guys you’ve stuck with?
COACH MEYER: That’s constant conversation. When you have — missed tackles was the alarming thing this weekend. We’ll put the best players out there that we think can help us win the game.
Q.We talked to Terry McLaurin last week about Chris Olave, and he said they saw back in camp that he could play. And he mentioned that maybe the reason he hadn’t played until this point is because you didn’t get to see him in camp and you needed to be shown he was tough enough to handle being thrust out there. I’m wondering, do you feel like you were maybe slower or disadvantaged in terms of learning the new players, because you didn’t get to see them in August?
COACH MEYER: Sure. I think, especially the freshmen and also the improvement of others. But Chris, doesn’t take long to see that he’s a very good player. He made a great player for us on the kicking game Saturday, and you can see he’s got an incredible skill set, great person. The problem before Austin Mack was there were two guys at each position. We certainly weren’t holding him back. And he’s earned that right to be in the rotation.
Q.Do you think that’s had a sizable impact on you not being able to see the players — has that had a sizable impact on the young players maybe not getting into the game?
COACH MEYER: I don’t think so. Because once again, I don’t micromanage too closely. I’ll have my opinions because I get to watch practice and all that, but I don’t think so.