Aug. 7, 2017
Urban Meyer: Thanks for coming. I’ll answer any questions for you.
Q. During camp how many true freshmen do you think might play —
Urban Meyer: All of them.
Q. Seems like every year it’s a little less than what you predict. Last year it was close, I think you had nine. How many true freshmen do you anticipate playing this year?
Urban Meyer: I think we had practiced nine, and — just caught me off guard a little bit. I hate to throw numbers out, but this is one of the better classes we’ve ever had. Yeah, I’d be throwing out an arbitrary number.
Q. Mike Hill, there’s been some talk he might miss the start of the season.
Urban Meyer: Yeah, he’s suspended for a few games. I’ve not determined exactly what it is right now, so he won’t play in the opener.
Q. Do you know the length of the suspension?
Urban Meyer: Not yet.
Q. Mike Weber as we watched the other day is kind of on the side, perhaps with a hamstring issue. Did he practice today?
Urban Meyer: He practiced today. He didn’t open it up yet today, but we’ll be ready for game 1. We’re just being cautious. Hamstrings are really just something you’ve got to watch closely.
Q. His absence, has that allowed J.K. or somebody else to really —
Urban Meyer: Antonio Williams has had a good camp, J.K., Demario. Demario is going a little bit of hybrid on us right now, so we’re using him a little bit all-purpose. But I kind of like where we’re at at tailback. Every one of them made really nice strides this summer, and they’re playing pretty well.
Q. How has J.K. sort of taken — with Weber out, he’s getting more carries?
Urban Meyer: He graded a champion in the scrimmage. We had a scrimmage, when was it, Saturday, and we had champions. He graded a champion, had his black stripe off. Still early to anoint anybody, but he’s one of the freshmen that will play this year.
Q. A little bit of buzz about Martell the other day. Is he legitimately in the fight to back up J.T.?
Urban Meyer: He’s in the fight. How legitimate, it’s still early. He did do very well in the scrimmage the other day. Guys like that have to fight for those reps, and the terms we use around here are game reps and mental reps, and he’s really matured. He was not very mature in the spring. He took some maturity pills or something, and he has grown up here in the last two months. Really the two weeks have been really impressive, just his professionalism as opposed to don’t worry, just play, and he’s doing a nice job.
Q. Is there a pecking order there?
Urban Meyer: Not yet.
Q. Can you talk about that scrimmage on Saturday? What was your biggest takeaway that you liked coming out of that?
Urban Meyer: There were some big plays. You know, that’s a negative for the defense, positive for the offense. I liked the coaching going on across the field, but particularly on offense right now. That tempo and those kind of things. But once again, first scrimmage, it’s only practice six or seven. That’s about it.
Q. That buzz word has been enhancing the offense for you all season and in training camp. Is there anything you’ve seen that tells you it’s working or that you like —
Urban Meyer: Still too early, but I’m pleased with where we’re at. I just like the chemistry in the offensive staff room, which we all know how important those type of things are. But I think the one area that’s really improved is the offensive line play, too. Obviously that’s where this whole thing starts.
Q. Following up on that, if you had to start an offensive line tomorrow, who would be in that right guard spot?
Urban Meyer: It’s slash right now. It’s Malcolm, Burrell, Knox. It’s still slashed. There’s one other guy. The other guy that’s playing pretty well is Bowen, and I don’t know if we’ll move him to guard, but he’s earning some time.
Q. In the situation with Michael Hill, what’s sort of the depth situation there? Who kind of steps in for him? Obviously he was a regular last year. You got Tracy back.
Urban Meyer: You’ve got Tracy back and then you’ve got Davon Hamilton, you’ve got B.B., you’ve got Jashon. Those are guys that have stepped up.
Q. Is Haskell Garrett one of those —
Urban Meyer: Haskell Garrett. He’s another one, without anointing any guy, but right now he’s on course to play. That’s unusual for an interior D-lineman, but he’s really impressive right now.
Q. Johnnie Dixon went through the spring. Is Johnnie Dixon continuing to keep on keeping on?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, we make a big deal around here about calling the family and saying, go buy your tickets or go plan on — not buy your game tickets but buy an airline ticket to come watch your son play at Ohio State, and he’s within probably a week of getting that phone call. It’s really cool to see. He had a really good day today, by the way.
Q. You guys have actually been — obviously been recruiting at a very high level, but it seemed like if there was one position group that might have lagged behind the rest, it might have been offensive line recruiting and the last few commits you guys have had, I know you can’t talk about them specifically, but has your approach changed to recruiting that position, and why are you guys having so much success now at that position?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, I think it’s obvious. I think we’ve had a few that didn’t work, and that’s a shame. That’s not the way — evaluation, work ethic, development, dog ate my homework. You’ve heard that before, right? But the bottom line is it’s not, you’re right. It’s just keeping a much closer eye on who we’re taking and maybe not the low-hanging fruit or one who has a hand up all the time, we just want to make sure you come to Ohio State and be a better player by your second year. We’ve got to ask what’s going on, or at least be in the rotation, and I’ve asked that question, and very observant by you. Yeah, you’ve damned right we’ve — that’s a problem, and we’ve got to get that fixed.
Q. Different topic, but you mentioned when we were at the job fair that Rashod Berry was going to move over to tight end when you lost AJ Alexander; seems like he’s actually in the mix to maybe play. What have you seen out of Rashod?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, he’s another nice guy that’s going to be a nice phone call because he’s been pounding it around a little bit around here. He’s done a very nice job maturing. His family should be proud of him academically, just the professionalism. I would anticipate he’s going to play for us at tight end.
Q. Urban, we know you rotate on the defensive line, you rotated a receiver, rotated a corner last year. Is there any position that you couldn’t rotate if you have enough guys where you philosophically say no, it doesn’t work?
Urban Meyer: Well, receiver absolutely, corner, the way Coach Coombs, that’s one of the first times I’ve seen three people start at corner. But offensive line, that’s a tough one, back to the Paul Brown days, messenger guards. Do you guys remember that? Those are the ones that called the plays. But the offensive line because it’s such a chemistry position that you don’t want to change that chemistry throughout a game. That’s my personal opinion.
Q. Booker, everything from getting the starting job last year, everything that happened, not playing then, what he did in the spring, where is he now and how has he handled it?
Urban Meyer: He’s doing great. He’s one of my favorite players. He’s just a good guy that works his tail off, and it’s not been easy for him, and he’s had a very good camp so far. He’s for sure — he’s in the top three, four.
Q. Urban, I assume that you guys go into every single recruiting calendar year with an idea of how many players you want at specific positions just based on what’s on your current roster, but I think there are times where it seems like you guys are getting commitments from really good players early on in the process and then later on you guys might have a shot at a major, major stud somewhere else that’s further away or anticipated you might not have a shot at.
Urban Meyer: That’s a dilemma.
Q. When that dilemma happens, how do you sort through what to do or how to proceed with the people that are already in your class?
Urban Meyer: It’s a great question. Myself and Mark Pantoni, who’s our director of player personnel here, is that we have a little overage, and there’s certain positions you say — you take them no matter what. When you start talking about linemen, offensive and defensive linemen, they’re a great player, you’re taking them. So we take — because the hardest thing we deal with, too, is who won’t be here in January. That drives me insane, where — it’s a good problem to have where you guys play well and then they leave after their junior year. We had a couple this year that we just didn’t plan for, so we’re building in overage in certain positions. Now, do you take them, those are the things that — that’s the calculated risk that you have to take.
Q. How does that impact somebody who might already be committed, though? Do you have to reevaluate who’s committed ever? Do you have to have tough conversations with people?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, one thing that — when a commitment at Ohio State, as most places, I mean, that doesn’t mean you shut her down and all of a sudden you quit going to class. We’ve had that — we never make that kind of stuff public, but we’ve had people that all of a sudden they miss 29 classes in high school, they miss — they get a bad report from an academic report. They get a bad report football wise, and those are conversations you have, obviously not in the media because that’s not fair, but it is what it is. When you commit, we expect your acceleration to do this, and it starts doing this, those are — I would imagine that’s everywhere.
Q. When you started here at Ohio State, having come from the SEC the previous year, I’m sure that you looked at what this program was and then you looked at some of the programs in the SEC that were at the highest level and you probably compared. Going into the sixth year now at Ohio State and considering the fact that Alabama is arguably one of the best programs in this country, where do you think Ohio State is in that race? Is this built the way that you envisioned it would be when you started, and do you feel like the point this program is at where it’s going to be competing for a playoff spot regardless of how many people you lose, you’ve gotten to the point where you’re rolling in the way you would have envisioned when you started?
Urban Meyer: You really want a headline here, don’t you?
Q. I want to know your honest opinion of what you’ve built.
Urban Meyer: I’m very pleased — when you start with Alabama, what I admire about Alabama is consistency in their program. I think every school in the country would say that. It’s very consistent model. I’d like to think after five years we’re one of those programs that people look at for consistency. We haven’t won enough championships, et cetera, but we’re consistently in the conversation, in the hunt in November. That’s our goal. Ohio State should be.
What I think has happened here is when 15 juniors leave and you still can field a decent team in two years, that means that — that’s a hats off to Coach Marotti and his support staff. To me that’s the hardest thing that we’re dealing with is plugging holes and maybe playing guys before they’re ready, and that’s a sign to me of a good program. When you say good program, you’re not talking about just recruiting, you’re talking about development behind the scenes of Jeff Uhlenhake, of Quinn, of the strength staff, getting these cats ready to go. That’s when you say — I’m sure most coaches would say a good program is you don’t just recruit good players but they start to play, maybe sometimes a little bit earlier than they should because of the transition of the NFL juniors.
Q. As a collective staff, the résumés of your assistant coaches is probably as strong or stronger than you’ve ever had before. Can you address how good you feel about the staff and what the challenge is having guys with head coaching experience coach?
Urban Meyer: If they were ego guys or if I didn’t really know them — Kevin I knew but I didn’t know. I knew Greg would be — I thought Greg would be great. He’s better than that. I thought Kevin Wilson would add something. He’s better than that. And that’s a credit to those guys.
But it’s also very clear here. It’s not — we don’t make a phone call and say, hey, do you want to come to Ohio State, it’s, hey, here’s how we do things and here’s your job, do you want to be part of this, and they’ve been outstanding. If you would have asked me maybe 10 years if I would have took former head coaches on my coaching staff, that’s a little bit on me, too, maybe I would have been intimidated — maybe intimidated is not the word, but — and I’m at the point where they get we’re going to do it a certain way, and my hats off to them, to go in there and dive in, to be a position coach and to be a coordinator has been outstanding.
Q. You addressed the right guard situation, Isaiah Prince at right tackle, struggling obviously last year at times. How has his progress been? How good do you feel about the right side of the line in general?
Urban Meyer: He’s one of the most improved players on the team right now, and that’s A to Z. That’s not just out there in practice, but with Coach Mick, with the bend and all the things he’s struggled with. He’s a very serious player right now.