March 6, 2018

Urban Meyer Press Conference 3/6/18

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March 6, 2018

Q. When we were out there, looked like Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins were rotating back and forth. Can you give an assessment of where the quarterbacks are as far as the pecking order?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think it’s what you would expect is what I expected. I think we all know Dwayne kind of finished the season and finished it strong against the team up north.

Joe before his injury was neck and neck. So this is going to be trying to do the best we can to make sure that we have equal opportunity to compete. And I’m going to throw Tate Martell’s name in there as well. He’s earned the right to compete as well. So we’ll do the best job we can to make sure we — you know, playing quarterback, that’s everyone’s dream, to be a starting quarterback at Ohio State. We’ll make sure we’re doing it right.

Q. It’s interesting because I’m sure you want a guy to emerge as the guy, but if it’s really close that battle could be pushed into the fall. That could be a good thing, too.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we’ll discuss that as we go. Just day to day with those guys.

Q. What was it like going out there and not seeing J.T. Barrett. (Lost audio).
COACH MEYER: I think it’s what you expect is what I expected. We all know Dwayne kind of finished the season and finished strong against the team up north.

Joe, before his injury, was neck and neck. So this — we’re trying to do the best we can to make sure that they have equal opportunity to compete. And I’m going to throw Tate Martell’s name in there as well. He’s earned the right to compete as well.

So we’re going to do the best job we can to make sure we play the quarterback — it’s everybody’s dream to be the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Just want to make sure we’re doing it right.

Q. It’s interesting, because I’m sure you want a guy to emerge as the guy. But if it’s really close, that battle could be pushed into fall. That could end up being a good thing too.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we’ll discuss that as we go just day to day with those guys.

Q. What was it like going out there and not seeing J.T. Barrett?
COACH MEYER: I saw him. He was off to the side, standing off to the side. Miss him dearly but life moves on. He’s not the first player, won’t be the last.

He’s unique, especially at the position he plays and how close we were, and how much time we spent together. But I saw Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis, and I don’t know if you know, it’s called good standing — something we have around here; when you leave this place better than when you came in, that’s something else.

Tell our coaches, make sure you leave the place better than when you go somewhere, whether it’s your position group. And I just see Josh Perry gets treated like he owns this place because he does. And Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan. Who else? Denzel Ward. Just see good people that have really built this program. J.T.’s obviously one of them.

Q. I know you will take it day-by-day with the quarterbacks, but Joe is in a position where he’s on pace to graduate and could play immediately elsewhere next year. Is there any sense that you owe him an answer by the end of spring so that he knows where he stands and can explore all his options?
COACH MEYER: Without getting too deep, we’ve had conversations with his family, but we try to be as transparent with you guys without getting too nose deep into our meetings but the answer is probably yes. My first obligation is Ohio State. But not far below that is the player and the family. And so, yeah.

Q. And does that expedite the process maybe more than you would like to have it, because —
COACH MEYER: Sure, I’d love to have them both in the fall and let them keep battling it out. I’d like that. We’ve had that before, and I think it keeps people on pins and needles and performance, it’s science, the performance is better when you have someone, young comfort of — discomfort of competition at times, that’s when you’re on point. If it’s you by yourself, sometimes you have a tendency to be complacent. That’s something that we’ve got to watch very closely.

Q. What is Matthew Baldwin’s status this spring?
COACH MEYER: He’s not going to play. Has an ACL. Had surgery. Doing a good job. Gained a bunch of weight back. He’s here. He was out there today. But they’re very, very cautious with him.

Q. Right now you guys are three scholarships over, I think, or two scholarships over the limit. Do you have any roster changes or any players that aren’t going to be returning or anything that’s going to get you guys under or to 85?
COACH MEYER: You kind of caught me off guard right now. I don’t know. Anybody that’s medical or something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Not that hasn’t been out there at this point.

Q. I know that you’re going to be asked a bunch of questions about the quarterbacks, but is there a perfect plan in place? Is there like a way that you would like to see it play out, in terms of timing and how it’s going to — would you like to go into the summer with a guy, because I know that usually you say in the fall you’re trying to get ready for a game? Is it better at the quarterback position to have a guy in the summer?
COACH MEYER: I’d say perfect scenario, I’d say yes. But we don’t live in those kind of scenarios usually. And I told you I had it several times where you’re nip and tuck with two guys going after each other with that spot or backup spot. I just love the competition.

So who is our tailback (indiscernible)? You ask Mike Weber, he thinks he is. J.K. thinks he is. To me, it’s a coach’s dream to have two people with that quality swinging. And Antonio, a change of demeanor, too.

Antonio walks around like he wants to be — he wants to be the tailback. That’s the perfect scenario for a coach. I wish I had two guys that were leaving spring (indiscernible) quarterback. But I don’t want to — we only practiced once. We’ll find out.

Q. To clarify for people, when you look for a starting quarterback, what is it that will make one guy better than the other in your mind?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think in recruiting and also you’ve heard this before, but I like talking about this stuff because that’s true. And competitiveness is number one, toughness number two, leadership is number three, and talent is number four.

Those are the things — at that position. Then you start breaking off in positions like extend the play, the ability to make something out of nothing. So that’s how we determine who we recruit and that’s how we determine who is going to start.

Q. Do you try to put those guys in those kind of like positions throughout the spring? Is that —
COACH MEYER: Throughout the winter and spring. We’ve been doing it since January. And we keep score.

Q. I know you’re paying attention to this. One of the bailiwicks of this team the last several years has been trying to pin guys into the corner on kickoffs. You’ve all been very successful for that at the most part. There’s a move now in the NCAA —
COACH MEYER: For the most part.

Q. We remember one. But there’s a move now in the NCAA to do away with that if you fair catch inside the 25 yard line, the ball will be set at the 25-yard line. What’s your take on that kind of move?
COACH MEYER: Haven’t given it a lot of thought. It’s the toughest play probably in sport and in football. I haven’t given it enough thought because I think it just came out. I haven’t really thought about it. And I’ll have an opinion at some point. I know Coach Schiano and I have already talked briefly about it.

But kickoff, the history lesson around here, kickoff has been dynamic. I know we’ve had a couple of bad ones, but when you start talking about the accumulation of yardage gained by pinning the team down around the 10-yard line, we did it five-year, six year study of it, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. So that’s a weapon we’re having taken away from us.

Q. Right now would you be for or against it.
COACH MEYER: Haven’t been asked about it.

Q. You talked about how much you love competition, you want to continue. At a spot that’s as critical at quarterback, for you as a coach, do you enjoy watching that race? Is it stressful? You’ve been through this a lot of times before. What is it like for you to manage that?
COACH MEYER: I think I’m more stressed about center. I think when you have quality players going at it there’s no stress at all. That’s part of the — when you worry about who is going to be your center, that’s my focus — I think we’ll be fine at quarterback. Who is it going to be, I don’t know. But I know they work really hard and I see not two but three guys that think they should be the quarterback.

So I spend more time at the positions that — I don’t know who is going to be our center. I know we have some people that are going to go after it. But there’s not — Brady Taylor, Josh Myers, Matt Burrell. I just talked to Josh Alabi. Look at that kid walking around here. Great-looking player at that spot. So there’s zero stress, minimal stress when you have great players that are competing.

It’s a lot of stress when — center is every bit important as quarterback. I don’t know if they’re great players or not.

Q. Is that true for the rest of the offensive line, that this spring that might be more important for that unit than quarterbacks, because Isaiah is moving?
COACH MEYER: That position, that’s the apex as we used to call it with Corey Linsley. There’s a lot of pressure on that one.

Q. I know when you’re out there you’re not differentiating guys by what recruiting class they were, but in 2014 when you won the national title, you had a lot of really good second-year players, that group that emerged. This 2017 recruiting class was highly rated, when you think about Browning and Okudah and Chase Young. Brendon White is out there and Myers and Davis. And we all know what J.K. did, and I don’t know, there’s even Jaylen Harris and Haskell Garrett. There’s a lot of guys that are out there now that look like maybe they are ready to do something this year. Do you think there are going to be a lot of guys, those second-year guys that are ready to do something?
COACH MEYER: I do. I think the names you just mentioned without going back through them, I do. Plus they’re A-1A people. I made a big deal about the ’15 class because we had a lot of non-A1 people. A lot of them have changed; that’s a positive. Some are out of here; that’s a negative.

Last year, was it ’17 you said? ’17, every young man you just mentioned, they’re performing very well in all the areas of our program. So that’s usually an indication that something good’s coming.

Q. And we know Demario McCall last year had whatever was nagging him, and you have two really good tailbacks. You mentioned Antonio at 3. You have a lot of veteran guys at H. Where is Demario right now and how does he fit into all the offense?
COACH MEYER: We challenged him. He had a very good day, by the way. He had a tight hamstring near the end.

But he had a very good day. I want him to be our returner, kick and punt returner. He’s already been — not given; that’s his spot. And he’s training as if that’s the position. So he’s watching videotape. He’s training. He’s doing it no different than if he’s starting corner or starting receiver.

He’s been a full-time H. That’s going to be able to move him around, be more of the Curtis Samuel H. And it’s on him. The job description is very clear.

When you start to get — the first two years it’s kind of on us. Once you start getting to be in year three, that’s on you. And you either need to perform or you’re not going to perform. And it’s on him. And the good thing is he’s responding very well.

Q. What is the status of Dante Booker right now?
COACH MEYER: Dante Booker, yes, there was some kind of article or something where sources — let me say this quickly about sources. If there’s a source you’re going to, realize it’s immediate termination from our program.

So when you work hard to get sources, we ask you to not talk to our players. And I understand everybody’s got jobs to do. I do too. It’s instant termination if I hear that’s going on.

And that’s going to be real — when I first got here, it was ridiculous what was going on. I’d have a team meeting and two minutes later it would be out and about.

I’m watching that closely. When I hear things like that and a mom calls me darn near in tears, saying where is that coming from? First of all, what’s what coming from where? Then someone gave it to me and I said where was this?

So I met with Dante. I asked the mom — no, she called me. And he plans on being a Buckeye. He’s in a very difficult situation. He’s gone through two shoulder surgeries. Just finished the second one. One was a rotator, a very hard surgery. The other one was a labrum surgery, just had it a week ago, maybe a week ago.

JERRY: A little bit longer than that.

COACH MEYER: Just had it. He’s in a fight. He does graduate. His plan is to — if his plan is anything other than focus on rehab then — and his plan is to be a Ohio State Buckeye. And I’d rather people leave him alone, let him go be an Ohio State Buckeye, work as hard as he can.

Q. Last year and things happen. If he’s healthy, where does he fit?
COACH MEYER: Hopefully he’s a starting linebacker at Ohio State.

Q. As far as the defensive line goes, just three guys are there, and Tracy Sprinkle is gone. What do you think of what that unit is going to be this year?
COACH MEYER: The “D” line? I think exceptional. You see them walking around out there, Tyquan and Jalin. Obviously Hub is not back yet, but those three guys.

You’ve got some elite players behind him. Cooper looks fantastic. You’ve got Chase Young, and you’ve got obviously that Bosa guy, he’s pretty good. And Larry did a great job recruiting inside guys. I think the standard’s been set. We just can’t drop below that.

Q. Mentioned center and offensive line. But are there position battles obviously at quarterback, but for you that you’re really looking at this spring that we have to get this figured out by —
COACH MEYER: Receiver we’ve been good. We’ve not been elite. I’ve challenged our coach. I’ve challenged Ryan Day who is going to be working directly with them as well.

I think we’ve been really good. We were elite in ’14. We were elite. We looked at much more than just catches. We’ve been good. Last year very good group. Maybe not the first-rounder that was making the ridiculous catches all the time, but we look at the blocking. We look at more than just that.

So that’s the position I want to see those guys develop into being. There’s some elite people that are potential in that group. The positions you mentioned, center. And the field safety is a concern right now. You lost Damon Webb. Had a great year for us.

Jordan Fuller, I know you were out there watching him earlier, the first half of practice he looked fantastic and he’s starting to move around better and from his injury.

But the field safety position is a concern.

Q. Also how are the newcomers to the program, how do they (inaudible)?
COACH MEYER: They’re good. I think I put them in category of like the 2017 group. I go with: Are they good people? Do they behave? Am I having constant conversations with their parents about acting like a fool. No. They’re great kids that do things the right way, getting good grades. I know that’s coming up here pretty soon. But the correlation between that and performing well on the field is very high. And so far looks like a good group.

Q. Isaiah Prince looked like he was at left tackle today. Do you feel he’s your guy out there, or is that still competition?
COACH MEYER: I do. There’s always competition but he’s earned that right to at least get that first shot at it. The other guy that had an excellent offseason, penciled in at right tackle, is Thayer Munford. We had our champions dinner yesterday. And Coach Mickey gave a lot of awards to Thayer Munford. Great story. Talented guy. But that’s the way it started today.

Q. And Jashon Cornell looked like he was at defensive end. Is that a full-time move for him?
COACH MEYER: Larry is still evaluating that. We gave him a shot to do that. That’s what he was originally brought here as.

Q. Can we check on some injuries? Michael Jordan, K.J. Hill and Jeffrey Okudah, all looked on the side.
COACH MEYER: Shoulders.

Q. Are they okay sometime this spring? Are they out for the —
COACH MEYER: Michael Jordan, no. Jeffrey Okudah, no. Dante Booker, no. K.J. Hill, no. Out all spring. And Branden Bowen, a little bit slower than we thought but tough injury. Remember Maryland last year, broken leg. These guys are all going to play next fall.

Q. Nick Conner is —
COACH MEYER: Nick Conner, that was last year. Someone asked me about that.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.