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Dec. 15, 2016

FIESTA BOWL MEDIA DAY COVERAGE

PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS

J.T. Barrett | Urban Meyer

Head Coach Urban Meyer
On Torrance Gibson
“He came to see me. I love Torrance; it’s very unfortunate, the whole situation. I don’t think there has been anything finalized. I can assure you, as we always do, we’ll do what’s in the best interest of the student-athlete. It’s very unfortunate.”

On Luke Fickell and the challenges he’ll face in the coming weeks
“I would say for Luke, it’s not unlike Dan Mullen and Tom Herman and others who have done that. I did it too, I was an assistant at Notre Dame and they were good enough to let me finish the job before moving on the Bowling Green. As long as you’re professional about it. We put together a calendar where a certain amount of time is committed to the most important people and that’s our players who got us to the Playoff. Obviously he has a very big job ahead of him. The good thing is that the recruiting calendar is very user-friendly right now for what’s going on. And it’s only an hour and a half away, it’d be a different thing if it was in San Diego or something. Luke’s a pro.”

On how his relationship with Fickell has evolved over the years after potentially starting out
“I’d like to hear Luke on that one. I’ll give you my perspective that I did not want to keep him when I got here. I met him a few times and he was a good gentleman, very nice guy. Our meeting went over the top and I had a lot of respect for him and his beautiful family. We weren’t very good on defense for a couple years and that stressed things out just a touch around here. But one of the greatest things I’ve ever done was keep Luke Fickell. He’s a loyal, good man and a very good friend of mine. We’ll be very close for a long time.”

On kicker Tyler Durbin and whether the team had to lift his spirits after the Michigan game
“I’m not the best `lifting up’ guy there is. I do love him, he will be our kicker in the playoff game and he’s got all the talent in the world. He did miss two of them [against Michigan] but he came back and hit the one that got us there. He’ll be fine, we just have to, in our own way, lift him up.”

On whether it was nerves or something else that caused Durbin miss to kicks against Michigan
“Yeah. The ball was down and everything, but we didn’t get much into it. I learned a long time ago that if I trust the guys who are doing their job, I don’t over-manage or micromanage that operation, and you’re dealing with Cam Johnston who’s the boss of that group. They’ll be fine.” On coaching staff changes due to Fickell’s departure “I’m not finalized with all that yet. I can tell you that Kerry Coombs will have an expanded role in the pass defense department. He’s earned that right. Also an even more expanded role for Greg [Schiano], he needs that. As far as what’s going to happen down the road I haven’t made any decisions yet.”

On junior offensive lineman Malcolm Pridgeon and removing his black helmet stripe
“He’s going to be a very good player here. He’s not prepared to play, he’s practicing with us just as an individual, no scout work yet. He’s a guy that we all love the death. He’s gone above and beyond what we’ve asked of him so that’s why we did that. He has two years left though so he’ll play for us.”

On giving the ball to J.T. Barrett when the game is on the line
“There’s a couple reasons why. Number one you equate numbers a lot of times with the QB run. I’ve always been that guy who gives it to my best player in those situations. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Braxton Miller was that guy, Tim Tebow was that guy, Ezekiel Elliott was that guy, Mike Weber, on a fourth down we gave it to him. So there’s two reasons, not just the fact that it’s [Barrett] but because QB runs are hard to defend. We’re facing that as we’re getting ready for [Clemson quarterback Deshaun] Watson. There’s two reasons: number one is the most important: I know one thing about J.T. and that’s if there’s a chance, he’ll get it. And number two is just how the numbers work out in offensive football.”

On Clemson’s defense
“There’s three different defenses we’re going to face. They’re very game plan-specific. Usually in the first two series of the game you’ll see what you’re going to get. They’re very multiple, and they’re very unorthodox about what it’s called. For example, on first down it’s normally run defense and then as you get to second-and-long and third down you see more nickel and more spacing in the back end of the defense. This group, out of the blue, they’ll play three cloud strong which means that’s a very strong pass defense on first down. I’m glad we have this much time so we can spend a lot of time on those multiple defensive looks.”

On expanding the College Football Playoff to eight teams and whether or not 15 games is the limit for college football
“Yeah that’s about it. I don’t know, I always hear the minute that comes up about money. I always come back with the student-athletes, class schedules, recruiting, NFL and when these kids make those decisions. So there are all those other conversations that other people have because I guess that’s their job. I know after doing it and going 14-1 that if they said we had one more, that’d be a tough one. Especially when you start playing who you’re playing at the end. That year it was a Big Ten Championship game, Sugar Bowl, and National Championship game. That’d be tough to tack one on the end and say `go one more.’ So I think the whole college model would have to change. The schedule, the scholarship limits, and certainly the calendar. Classes start on championship day, I think. I remember a couple of our kids got unexcused absences when we beat Oregon. I was confused about it but we worked it out.”

On balancing fun and work while on a bowl trip with a team
“We have a pretty good system. We do have fun, the difference is what’s everyone’s definition of fun? If that means go act like a fool and drink and do stupid things, that’s not our fun. We have fun in practice and lighten things up once in a while, but the best fun is to go find a way to win a game. The culture here is very strong. J.T. Barrett’s best way to have fun is to be prepared for that game. Same with Raekwon McMillan, same with Tyquan Lewis, same with Noah Brown. Here’s what I’ve learned about bowl games: get them great gifts, as much money as you can legally give them, and that includes all the food and snacks and all that stuff. Make sure you have fantastic food for them. And put as much money in their pocket as possible. It’s worked out pretty well, that’s fun for 19 year olds.”

On if there are any openings for young players to emerge during bowl practices
“Most of our young guys are playing, it’s a little different team. The 2014 team, or even last year’s team, there were opportunities because there were a lot of veterans. This time the young guys are playing. I usually take 15 minutes after practice and keep the young guys out, I wasn’t going to do that because most of our young guys are playing and the other ones are in very valuable scout team roles. So we’re not doing a whole lot of that right now.”

On Curtis Samuel’s role in the passing game
“We have to change that. In the offseason we’re going to become a good throwing team and spend some time on it. We’re good now efficiency-wise, but we’re going to really start expanding that and work hard at it. I think Curtis is an exceptional receiver.”

On Raekwon McMillan’s career so far
“Probably one of the top two or three I’ve ever been around, from the day he walked in. And that’s a credit to his family. He’s a grown man, he handles his business, he’s an excellent student, he’s a prominent member of a fraternity on campus who’s community presence is strong, he’s made Ohio State a better place. His reputation here is solid as gold. He’s exceeded every expectation, I’ve had very few like that: from day one when he walked on campus he was a grown man.”

On Ohio State being ready a year early
“I think that’s a good point. My friend Roger Goodell, we’re going to repeal the third year thing, so they have to come back, so next year is the real year. I don’t know. I know exactly what you’re saying, and I’m the same way. My closest confidant, my wife, is `how are we going to be this year?’ I don’t know, I think next year is the year. Then all of sudden that darn junior thing comes up.”

On Ohio State throwing the ball better next year
“Oh yeah. I thought we would be better throwing the ball. Whether it be protection, whether it be separation by wide outs, it’s not one thing. It’s just who we are. It’s just a focus that we are going to work on, and we will get there.”

On shortening regular season
“I don’t know. Clemson. I don’t know. I’m not being disrespectful. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. If I do say something, then it’ll be on the front…I haven’t given that any thought.”

On giving Isaiah Prince some help
“Well we’re working on that. Number one is to improve the player. Which I’ve never seen a guy work harder in the last two weeks since that last game. Ridiculous. Even on days off he is coming in here and getting extra work. And we are. It’s not as easy as it sounds because it really limits your other options. But those are daily conversations and we’re going to try and do the best we can to help him. At the end of the day, an offensive lineman has got to go block that defensive end too.”

On two All-American offensive lineman (Billy Price, Pat Elflein)
“So neat. One of the great traditions here, they get a tree. Buckeye Grove will be blessed to have those two names on it. When I’m an old guy, I’ll come back and see my two guys because I love them and they are great. They are the backbone of who we are and what we do. Zero probability that Ohio State’s where we are without them. On top of that, they’re as good of people as you’ll ever find. Great students, great people, and exceptional leaders.”

On Craig Fada and Joe Burger
“I’m kind of disappointed in those two guys. They’re just typical losers. They think med school is more important than coaching. I don’t understand that. I’m trying to talk them into coaching and this darn med school keeps getting in the way. Because that’s how much I feel they can impact other people’s lives. Of course I’m kidding about med school, but whatever they choose to do they are going to have our support. That’s a tough one to say goodbye to those guys.”

On Clemson’s defense
“The truism is that they are gigantic. They are real big at the defensive end, 310 pounds, inside they are 310, 315, they are big, highly recruited athletes, you can see that. I think they play a lot of defense and sometimes that gets them out of whack, but it also causes, I think they are number one, at least in the big games they’ve played, they are number one in the country, we did all the stats against the teams they are supposed to beat and then the big games, and they are number one in interceptions and tackles for loss. So those kind of defenses create major issues, but every once in a while one will be given up. It’s a little bit like our defense, we’re very, very into deny every pass, every pass, deny, deny, every run. When that happens, every once in a while, one goes over the top. But the risk reward that we, and I can tell Clemson, they just have a little different style than we do. Because their multiplicity is unbelievable, how many different defenses they run.”

On Clemson’s defense being unpredictable
“Yeah, it’s all about their front and coverages. Whenever you see an evaluation or you do your statistical analysis, you do all percentages. You say okay, on first down they are 60 percent this, their four percent, six percent, eight percent this, because it’s just so much. There’s very little tendencies.”

On other three programs in playoffs
“I compare programs all the time. For example, Clemson was the program that we really studied because I thought their social media approach to recruiting was number one in the country. Our guys tell me we’re number one now, we hired a guy just for that reason. I look at what Nick Saban does, he’s a friend, and I see what he does and we certainly evaluate how they go about their business. Chris Petersen has been a friend for a long time. I don’t, it’s not ourselves, but it’s the program. I like to study winners. The three guys in the playoffs are winners, we certainly know what they do.”

On defensive line coach Larry Johnson
“Larry and I are extremely close now. He’s a guy that is hard to get close to. He lives his life in such a private manner, he’s got a wonderful family and his players love him to death. I see our defensive line get better and recruiting. He is a very valuable member. The whole thing about language, I admire him. I’ve improved, but still slip.”

On stressing protecting the ball
“I think that’s a blessing and a curse that you are sometimes a little late with a throw. The one thing you’ll never hear about our quarterbacks is that they are gunslingers, kind of risk takers. We just don’t do that. That’s not the plan to win and that’s not how we operate. So he (J.T. Barrett) does, but that also makes him one of the most efficient passers in college football. His touchdown to interception ratio will go down in history as one of the great ones. Does that mean every once in a while he’ll be a little late with the ball? I see it as well, and all you do is try to coach through that.”

On getting Noah Brown involved more
“We have to target him a little bit more, he has to separate a little bit better, and we have to protect the quarterback. It’s not one thing or we would fix the one thing. Noah’s about back full speed from his injury now. It was a tough injury.”

On these young guys developing so quick
“We actually put that on the board. Where do we think they’ll, for example, a kid from a St. Xavier, a kid from Dayton Wayne, St. Thomas down in Florida, John Bosco out in California, you know the Jersey schools. Sometimes you’re getting that kid that is darn near ready to play because he is so well coached in high school. The other kids take two years, so obviously if you have a chance to take a guy from an elite program versus an average program, you’ll probably take the guy from the elite because he will play faster. The other opposite of that is true. You take a young man from maybe a place that he is out of position, his ceiling might be higher. So those are all conversations that we have, and we kind of hit it right cause a lot of these kids were ready to play when we got them.”

On Tom Herman
“He’s great. He’s a guy that likes to have fun, he’s a guy that works very hard at his job. He’s going to surround himself with elite people and he’s got a very good plan in place. I talk to him still quite often, and the biggest message I always give him and we always talk about is make sure from A to Z, everyone is on the same page and that’s something he’s going to be exceptional at.”

 

J.T. Barrett, junior quarterback
On the balance between getting the ball to open receivers and not forcing anything
“I think I’m good at making good decisions, making sure I’m not hurting the team as far as field position, and that’s on me to take care of the football and not turn the ball over. There is a fine balance with that, I think it’s situational as well in addition to trusting our receivers.”

On the offensive line
“We keep getting better as a whole on offense, we’ve really been trying to work on our fundamentals during the first phase of bowl practice. Not just the o-line, I think we’re all getting better. We’ve been going one-on-one and our defensive line is one of the best, so I think the o-line has been getting in some great work.”

On settling into a rhythm as a passer
“One thing that helps me to get a little rhythm is to run the ball and get hit one time and also to complete that first pass. Seeing the ball leave my hands and get to the receiver. Either one of those can help get me going.”

On Curtis Samuel and when he became the player he is today
“All-purpose. He can do whatever you ask of him as far as getting the ball in his hands. Kickoff return, punt return, receiver, line up in the backfield, he catches snaps at quarterback. During the 2015 season he came in behind Zeke and people weren’t really talking about him. He had been playing running back and he made the transition to play H-back in the spring of 2015. That spring you could really see what he was capable of doing and he was starting to get the reps. He’d jump back into the backfield and run the ball then he’d get out there and line up one-on-one with a corner. Not everybody can do that.”