An Interview With Head Coach Urban Meyer
COACH MEYER:It was a good win for us. We have to fix, obviously, a lot of things, but we had victory meal last night, which I think it’s a new tradition we are starting here, and it’s mandatory for all players and coaches to be out and enjoy that win. I read one of our comments by one of our players about the difficulty of winning a major college football game and we never want to take that for granted. We have too much respect for the game and too much respect for our opponents to ever do that.
Also want to thank our great fans and students that we never want to fail to show our appreciation for them turning out. Obviously one of the great stadiums in college football.
Our plan to win, we did not play great defense, we did not want turnovers. Red zone we were for three for four with three touchdowns, but still not where we need to be. We are okay in the kicking game but really one of the few times that I can remember in the last, years and years, is that it really didn’t have much of an impact.
The one area of our team that is playing very, very well, but they had a penalty, as well, is our kickoff team, three times against a good kickoff return team, we hit them inside the 20 yard line. Field position, stat, was nothing significant and third down, Ohio State was fairly productive at 50, but our opponent was also very productive so we didn’t win the third downs.
Champions efforts, on defense, John Simon, although they were doing some things to kind of take him out of the game, he was a champion. John Hankins also played very well, very disruptive in there. We actually started him in there at defensive end; because of the size of the tight end, we thought there would be more power than the week before. They changed their entire game plan from the week before, and that’s the reason we started Tommy Schutt inside and John Hankins on the defensive end. He was also defensive player of the game, so obviously, not what we were looking for on defense as far as champion efforts.
On offense. Andrew Norwell played like a champion. Evan Spencer, a guy that we think is starting to earn the right to get more involved in the offense. He’s very consistent. Devin Smith, very good to see; Doup (ph), a couple yards, 22 yards after a catch, had six catches for 57 yards. And Philly Brown was the offensive player of the game, graded out 95 percent which is extremely high for a wide receiver and he’s right now our best playmaker on offense.
Special teams player of the game was Jamal Marcus, a true freshman out of North Carolina, and is kind of making a little name for himself on his effort.
Areas of concern. Offense, obvious, No. 1 is turnovers. We had three turnovers which are inexcusable. One, our offensive lineman went the wrong way, got hit in the back and our ball is on the ground; one, our tailback was down the line, and that was no excuse, we need to work on that mesh. And the third one was interception that we just made a bad play. So those can’t happen.
On defense, our tailback position is a concern right now. We are down to preseason 3 4. We have three tailbacks out. I know you asked about Jordan Hall. I don’t know, he’s going to run today, and I’ll know more. He was out there working a little bit yesterday, so there’s a chance. And our tight end and our offensive line group, both those positions, need to play much better than they did.
Have high expectations for our offensive line. On defense we need to stop giving up big plays. That has to stop now. That’s two weeks in a row we are giving up some big plays for a variety of reasons. We need to identify our pass rushers and get some more pressure on the quarterback, which correlates perfectly with pass defense. We are just not very productive in those areas right now.
Kicking game, like I said, we have three penalties. I don’t know if we ever had three kicking penalties in the kicking game. One, the kid’s helmet came off, one a delay game and the third one I can’t remember what the third one was. But kickoff team was the one unit that I’m kind of jacked about coaching and I like to be around those guys. The other ones, we didn’t punt very well. We had a bad punt. We expect four second hang time, four and a half second; was under three. So obviously we pride ourselves on forcing correct catches and that didn’t happen.
Our opponent, Cal, Pac 12 team with Pac 12 players and coaches. Very unusual defense. They run like a bear, which is a 46, where they play the nose and then two, three tight ends it’s a very unusual defense. Very good players. They led the Pac 12 a year ago on defense. Offense, they have a very accurate quarterback, 64 percent completion rate and a very athletic team. So I’ll answer any questions for you.
Q. In spite of the uncertainty at running back what do you do?
COACH MEYER:Get ready to go. Rod Smith has been around talent is not an issue at running back at Ohio State. Just have to coach them better and get them ready to go.
COACH MEYER:If he has a good Tuesday and Wednesday, very comfortable. Good runner, true freshman, playing in the stadium, he had some glaring missed assignments which we’ve got to coach him through that.
Q. How ready is Bri’onte (ph) for this stage
COACH MEYER:No, he doesn’t have to play. He’s going to have a very good Tuesday and Wednesday where he won’t play. That’s the only way I’m gaming it.
It’s one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup for third string tailback for a game. It’s another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that’s going to jog out there with the first offense. There’s no just go play. He’s got Tuesday, and Wednesday is going to be very critical whoever has the best Tuesday and Wednesday is going to line up at tailback.
Q. Is there something about him that gives you pause to put him out there as a full time power running back? What would you need to keep from turning to him?
COACH MEYER:If someone is better than him. I’ve said that since spring. I think he’s got good feet. I think he’ll pound you. I don’t know how many times he’s carried the ball but he’s been fairly productive. Just have a good week at practice.
Q. Can you talk about Braxton’s mechanics, how is he coming along in that respect, upper and lower body mechanism?
COACH MEYER:He gets good, really, really good and then he does something, what was that. But it’s the normal maturation of a quarterback. He knows it. He sees it. Everybody can see it. We kind of did a play action pass; boom, he threw it into the ground. He’s got great release. He’s got great release, good arm strength.
So we are just trying to push that maturation as fast as we can. And other times, he’s just beautiful in the pockets. It’s back there, nice, and pops the ball out there. We have a lot of quick release stuff. We don’t hold the ball very long for a lot of reasons. But he’s really very good at what we do. We just have to probably do more of it.
Now that we are developing our receivers, I can see a little bit more of that. Those guys, there are some guys making a few plays for us.
Q. A couple things status on Nathan Williams, and you talked about Corey Brown, how do you get him the ball more?
COACH MEYER:Nathan Williams, it’s the first time I’ve dealt with this type of injury. I don’t know Nate as well as the guys that have been around here a long time. The one thing is he loves football, loves Ohio State. So it’s just a tough injury.
From everything I hear, he’s actually on schedule, you know, so it just takes time. I’m hoping we have him for this week but I can’t it’s going to be I think for the next ten weeks, it’s going to be, how is Nathan Williams doing, it’s going to be probably the same response: I don’t know. We’ll see how he goes up this week.
And the second, Philly Brown, yes. Yeah, already notice we did that last week. That was a sideline adjustment, threw a little swing pass to him when Carlos went down. So yeah, we are thinking outside the box a little bit to get him more involved.
Q. You said you wanted to touch base with your defensive coaches and get a sense for where the pass rush wasn’t quite there. What did you come away from that discussion with?
COACH MEYER:We do a lot of times, a drop eight which means there’s only three pass rushers, and teams made a decision when they drop back to pass on quick game, they are getting guys out, on a non quick game, they are max protecting, which is not usual.
So teams are doing a good job of defending us and defending our best pass rusher. I think Nate Williams would help on the other side. Right now we are counting on a true freshman to be on the other side of Simon.
I could list a multitude of reasons and excuses and so on and so forth; we have to get better at quarterback or it’s going to be a long year. There’s two ways of doing it. One is defeating a man on a pass rush, so I’m going to go beat him and rush the quarterback; or, I’m going to blitz and try to confuse you. And the answer is, we need to do both. I’m not sure, we don’t have four guys right now that can just beat their man. Hankins played well. John was getting a lot of double teaming on him, but we just need to get better at the other spots.
Q. You once said that after training camp, it’s tough to improve because you’re really only practicing two days a week. But is that necessarily the case that the things that you’re hoping to improve on are such things as schemes, communication and the defensive backfield maybe reading on offense?
COACH MEYER:Very impressed that you remembered I said that, because Tuesday and Wednesday is all you’ve got. We go out there on a Sunday, and Sunday, you’re just trying to get their body to recover from the game. Monday, they are off, completely. Then Tuesday, Wednesday, go out and work, and you can’t beat them up because a lot of times guys don’t even practice that are hurt.
The amount of improvement that happens during the course of the season is not that much. I mean, you’ll see it, but there’s not that much. Certainly not the individual improvement and fundamentals; that’s so hard to find time to do that. That’s why we have such a great emphasis on that in spring and training camp.
But that’s a wonderful question and it’s a question that I sit and stare in front of my board and trying to put our practice schedule together and saying, we are not very good at this; how do we take time away from practice to get that done. That’s the essence of what I probably spend 20, 25 percent of my job doing.
Q. Three or four times, you had broken plays during the course of the game on offense. Was there a theme, did the running back take a wrong step, the quarterback turn the wrong way Braxton turned a negative into a positive a couple of times but not what you want.
COACH MEYER:We had a lineman go the wrong way. There’s one I think you guys know me well enough, I would tell you. I’m not trying to save someone’s feelings. Just going to tell you and be as honest as we can. There was a multitude of reasons. Yes, the running back went the wrong way; glaring. It was a potentially big hit. We had the offensive lineman go the wrong way. We had a quarterback I don’t think Braxton went the wrong way, but we had some glaring errors that occurred that didn’t occur, didn’t surface the first game. One time we got a misalignment on receiving, and he’s running across and all kinds of nonsense going on. So it was not a very clean game for whatever reason.
Q. Is it the up tempo nature of it
COACH MEYER:If there was one thing, it would be fixed tomorrow. You’re down here, a tailback, why did he go the wrong way? He has actually not had a lot of reps at that in practice, and he’s probably locked up a little bit because he’s not played in that many key situations like that. How does the receiver line up the wrong way you know, those are all things we are addressing, and it was a tough meeting with our coaches, too. I expect more.
Q. Can you give us an update about Carlos, how he got through it? And second question, kicking game, do you feel like you found something with kicking it a bit short?
COACH MEYER:Carlos, positive on Carlos. It’s an MCL sprain. It actually did not swell, which I guess I know things, because I’ve dealt with so many MCLs. He’s a tough guy, so I don’t it’s fairly positive, as you can be, for a serious MCL sprain. So there’s a chance he won’t play this week.
Michael Bennett had that groin injury was more significant. We MRI’d it and there was some damage there, so it’s going to be a couple more weeks. I don’t believe he’ll be ready for this week.
COACH MEYER:Yeah, I kind of like I just like those guys. They are all going to be in here today and they are getting a little MoJo about what they do. We have a saying around here: Be the best in the country at what you do and they are trying to be the best at what they do. Jamal Marcus, Najee Murray. David Perkins did a nice job; that will be the last time you see him stand up and do his little deal (Laughter).
Our kicker does a very nice job. He puts it where I ask him to put it. Jamie Woods, a very selfless player; Adam Griffin; and who else we got oh, Devan Bogard coming off the edge; and Taylor Rice. Some really cool guys around there, that’s my favorite ten minutes of the day right now, being with those guys.
Q. Maybe touchbacks would be a secondary choice?
COACH MEYER:That’s week to week. I have not studied these guys yet. But I tell you what, I got confidence in doing what we are doing right now. Three times inside the 20 against a good return unit.
Q. Jake Stoneburner, take us through whatever, when he gained your trust again and do you see a guy really maturing and coming on and what he brings out there at wide; the ability to block is one of them but he’s been pretty key on big plays.
COACH MEYER:Yeah, he’s a good player. He’s a guy that we are still trying to find out, exactly, does he have the separation to run a deep pass especially as many plays as he’s playing. He’s a big man to be out there running 30 yard routes. The best point of attack blocker we have at tight end; he does some other very good things for us.
So I think we are still growing together. I wish I had him for more than one year because we are still trying to figure out exactly his strengths. But I was very upset with him, but to say I lost my trust in him or I wouldn’t say that. Extremely upset, like you would with one of your kids. But to say I don’t trust Jake Stoneburner, that’s not appropriate. Anger and those type of things, yes, but not lack of trust.
Q. Curious about the offensive line after the game, short yard situations, trying to get them off the ball; in tape study, is it individual issues or maybe scheme things that they are seeing from a defense?
COACH MEYER:On the two short yardages that we missed, it was not scheme. It was error. It was personnel error by an offense by really one or two guys that should not make those errors again, but it was not like they overloaded a scheme or something, and that will happen. I have to be smart, and that’s why we changed we ran the off tackle power to our right side the two times we didn’t get it. We ran inside zone the one we did hit it.
So I think we are also adapting, and we are going to do what we can do to get them behind the best players as well. Does that make sense?
Q. So confidence in that first group their ability to get that done?
COACH MEYER:They have to show me. We are 0 for 2. You tell me. I mean, does it mean we are not going to go for it? I don’t know that. But yeah, I’m a little stung right now. They have to start showing it. You don’t get confidence by failing at something. So to say I have a lot of confidence in them doing that play right now, no.
Q. You mentioned big plays on defense being a problem, this week, going to a player like Keenan Allen, big players from Cal, what do you look at from your secondary to do better to avoid giving up those big plays.
COACH MEYER:Well, I should probably have a breakdown for you; I don’t. But what they are is lack of discipline in the undernet drop (ph), for example, that third down at 21, I think it was 21, and they completed a pass we had a good coverage call on. We just didn’t sink deep enough; so lack of discipline on coverage. Missed tackles are another result.
We had another play down the sideline for about a 45 , 50 yard run, was a missed tackle. So missed tackles and coverage areas are the two right now that are giving up big plays.
Q. If you do end up playing a young tailback this week, as you go through the game plan to get things ready during the week, how much does it change how you think about things? Is that a big deal if the guy is out of position or doesn’t have as many routes, or is that a position where it does not affect too much when you want to overall do as an offense?
COACH MEYER:No, it affects the way we’ll approach it. We are just now starting. We are still finalizing on who we are playing and trying to get their defensive schematics together. That is certainly a topic of conversation that will impact how we game plan. Those kids are talented, so it’s not like we have a bad player back there. We just need to I have got to look in those guys’ eyes. The psychological approach to coaching now, with those two young players, who can handle it; you’re the starting tailback, let’s go see how you do.
Then you have to move them off to the side and Philly Brown has to help us out and something else. So we’ll know more Tuesday and Wednesday because that will be addressed, in a big way. We are not going to wait till Saturday to find out if they are going to step back at you.
Q. Again with the game plan, talking for two week, the number of carries for Braxton, as you sit down and talk about that this week, how do you think he’ll approach that? Do you feel like you guys have to do something a lot different to reduce the number of carries, or is it not that big
COACH MEYER:I think part of it, we have to some of the carries are a result of errors at other positions. For example, someone goes wrong way, what does he do, he runs for seven yards and gets whacked. One guy, we have a design play and we miss two blocks, and instead of pitching a ball, he gets whacked.
So that position is going to have to do a lot of things. We have to play better around him to eliminate some of those carries. And hopefully once again, the job description is to win that game; and also player safety and being smart is a big part of that.
So he’s just my, gosh, is he a good runner and we all see that. So we just have to be a little smarter. We are not saying, okay, we are running the ball 27 times. You block him, you block him, you block him; Brax’s not going to run that. He’s going to throw it or hand it off. So we just have to play better around him. It’s not 27 runs, if that makes sense. It’s not 27, here, Braxton, run.
Q. Hall of Fame weekend, Mike Vrabel going in, as is Bob Knight. Can you talk about both of those guys, did you rub shoulders much with Knight ever, and did you take anything from his philosophies?
COACH MEYER:Absolutely. I love Coach Knight. Coach Knight and I are friends. I invited him down to speak to my football team when I was at Florida. We keep in touch. Just a coach that everybody has opinions of; I have my own. I think he’s a master motivator. He does it the right way. He doesn’t cheat. Maybe goes about things a little different but that’s not my job to judge. I like to judge the character of the guy, and I know one thing: He does it the right way as far as following the rules, and I’ve always been impressed with that, and he graduated players.
And obviously my man, Mike Vrabel, before I was fortunate enough to hire him on my staff, I was a fan of his. And that’s not just because he’s from Walsh Jesuit and I knew all about him, and Gerry Rardin, one of my good friends, is his coach; watching him here as I watched the Buckeyes from afar.
And then really, really admired Mike when I got to know him when I used to go visit New England, and my friend Coach Belichick and I would watch the way he worked and train and the way Coach Belichick talked about him. So it will be a great weekend for all those guys.
Q. With Braxton, you talked about him at the end of the last game and you said he was blown out a little bit; do you worry about his durability or the mental mistakes you make when you do run the ball that much, the interception, the mechanics?
COACH MEYER:I do. I don’t just worry, that’s true. An athlete that gets fatigued often, you give in a little bit in certain areas. We have to have enough plays where he can hand the ball off a little bit and compose himself, and those are conversations but when you hand it off, you have to hand it off to someone and you have to throw it to someone. The good thing is we are improving in a lot of areas, so we just have got to do that.
Q. Is it tough in the heat of battle, because you do want to win the game, and he is the best guy to carry the ball; is it a little tougher when it gets to that point?
COACH MEYER:That’s what we do. That’s what we get every morning and try to do, win that damn game, but take care of your guys. He is a hell of a football player now. If you really studied the game with the copies we have, he delivers punishment; he goes hard. He’s a hell of a football player. I mean, I think a hell of a football player. Better than even everybody in this country thinks right now. That’s how good I think Braxton Miller is.
But we have got to be, you know, we have got to be smart, and he got tattooed a little bit. But we’ve all got to take care of him. That’s kind of the message I’m giving in the team meeting to the offense here tomorrow, take care of him. Now, he’s made some mistakes, too, now, but great problem to have. Hell of a football player behind center. It’s a good problem to have.
Q. In a perfect world for you, what would your non conference schedule be like, all stacked at the beginning or spread?
COACH MEYER:Gene and I have talked about that quite often. We share a very similar we want to play I think a national team, upper middle, and then maybe a couple other ones. That’s kind of I think where we are at. But you’re kind of catching me off guard I know Cal is a national game. We have to go travel out there next year, and they have got national players.
Q. You mentioned Cal is going to bring in a unique defense; what kind of challenges do they present for what you’re trying to do with the on the ground game?
COACH MEYER:It’s a very, it’s not unsound at all. But it’s just not normal what’s unorthodox style of defense. Our guys right now were put in a new system. We made errors against a very traditional defense last week, very traditional.
That’s my concern is making sure we have a tight enough package because sometimes there’s a lot of rule breakers, so we have to really tighten it down. If you have a big veteran group that’s done this for three or four years, go. But this is not that kind of group.
Q. I think Jock said last week, kind of scouted out some Florida talent. Has he scouted Cal?
Q. And what are you looking at terms of talent compared to central Florida?
COACH MEYER:I think every senior, their corner I have it right on a sheet of paper, he just gave it to me. What do you call birddog, my scout, Coach Coop (ph). He came in, and seven is a high rating, high first round. They got some six and fives, which means they are very draftable players.
And the one because I just was watching them, is their corner, is a projected high guy. Their defensive tackle is projected fairly high in the NFL Draft. That’s what we are doing right now but yes to answer your question, Coop does do that, and you’ll see some Cal Bears going to the Draft next year.
Q. Florida can you do that?
COACH MEYER:More overall, but the top end of Central Florida can play anywhere in the country. Problem with Central Florida, because they don’t recruit the Pac 10 guys or Pac 12 guys. I know they struggled in a couple games but it’s not because whatever is going on, there’s talent all over the damn field.
Q. Have you ever considered letting a coach go midseason during your 11 years as a head coach or firing a coach during the season?
COACH MEYER:I was going to say, where is he going to go (Laughter) no.
Q. Any reaction to what’s going on at Wisconsin? They let their offensive line coach go.
COACH MEYER:Jerry just told me that. I have no reaction.
Q. You referenced that you guys might need to blitz a little or get better pressure. How much of the package in what you guys want to do is predicated on getting in with just four guys; how substantial would the changes be
COACH MEYER:Not much. Luke’s very familiar with that. So is Coach Withers. We actually met this morning at 7:00 and went through that. Michael Bennett is a guy we counted on, Bennett, Simon and Hank, and then you have Goebel. Those are kind of our four guys. And now you’re playing with freshmen and some other guys are getting better out there, but just we were kind of counting on that.
So as all teams deal with injuries throughout the course of the year, that’s kind of set us back a little bit. It’s not discomfort, but traditionally, are we a huge blitz team, as the Buckeyes have been for the last decade? No. But that’s certainly in our package and that might happen this week.
Q. Speaking of that, the three freshmen it looks like Washington, Spence and Schutt, looks like they may play a lot now. Are you reluctant at all there? What have they shown you that piqued your interest about them in particular?
COACH MEYER:First of all, they are great, great guys. They work their tails off and then they are talented. There’s no issue as far as want to, and there’s no issue as far as try hard. It’s just freshmen playing defensive line.
So it’s going to get better and better and better and as a result, you’re going to get many learning issues or production issues. We had some just flat misalignments and that’s usually one of those kids that just lined up wrong.
So as they continue, those are three good names that the Buckeye fans are going to like to watch for the next several years. We just have to get them ready sooner.
Q. Cal’s defense, had a lot of trouble pistol, they run a lot of inside stuff you know, all that stuff.
COACH MEYER:What stuff? I want to hear it. (Laughter). If I give you a board, can you diagram it?
Q. Some similar stuff that you guys (Laughter). I’ll get up there.
COACH MEYER:I’m sure you will.
Q. Do you expect a big was that a big learning moment for them, as far as getting ready for you guys?
COACH MEYER:I think so. Nevada, really well coached team, good players, but they do run similar schemes and so we are learning from that. We also studied Oregon the last few years. One year they defended really good, I think it was 15 13, something like that, they won, so really studying that.
But all that is correct. When you see a team have success running similar type plays, now you have to kind of get ahead of their defensive coach and say, what adjustments will they make. Nevada did execute a very high level, and with a little lesser personnel than Cal had.
Q. You mentioned coverage errors on defense, what is that coming down to? Do guys know the defense that they are supposed to be in and are just screwing it up, or is there a miscommunication like one guy thinks they are in one thing or another? And how do you is that a communication thing with coaches? How do you address that?
COACH MEYER:I think, and our coaches believe it, as well, it’s lazy. Sometimes you’ll quit looking at the whole entire call. When you get beat on a big play, sometimes it’s because that guy ran by you and it beat you. Off the top of my head, I don’t think we’ve had that; it’s been because of either early in the season, Travis thought we were in a different coverage and they ran, because he didn’t finish the coverage call. That’s just lazy, lack of discipline, and that’s unlike him now, because he’s been playing with great discipline.
And then not getting the proper depth, I call that a coverage error, for example, on third down and 21, the guy, they throw it over your head, that’s just lack of discipline and maybe lack of game reps. That’s our staff’s job to get that corrected.
So it’s not guys getting beat. It’s lack of discipline and maybe lack of toughness. Make it’s lack of reps. It’s one of those three things. If it’s a tough guy doing it, then it’s lack of reps. If it’s undisciplined player, then it’s a player that doesn’t have the discipline and we have to make sure he understands how important it is. So it’s one of those three areas.
COACH MEYER:I think so. He’s moving around pretty good. Just stingers, had a couple of them, though. He’s sore.
COACH MEYER:It is a concern. In hindsight, I think we took a couple shots, I can’t remember, but we have to because they are forcing us. Right now, teams are saying, we are going to stop. And I imagine this week, I’ve seen it on film. They play a coverage we call zero mouse, which means there’s zero safeties, and six, seven yards within the line of scrimmage and they are going to force you to go over the top.
The problem is the guys they have playing man coverage are really good players, so it’s going to be a lot of one on one matchups and we have to take that shot, understanding that you might have a couple foul balls, but you hit one of them, then that risk it goes back to the risk reward.
Here is what goes through a coach’s mind: 1st and 10, you take that shot. At 2nd and 10, 2nd and 10, it’s hard to recover cover from, as opposed to 2nd and 6, 2nd and 5; now you’re back on schedule. So you’ll hear me say throughout my time here is that we want to stay on schedule as much as we can.
So you have to roll those dice once in a while and take that shot, but then you’re off schedule if you don’t hit it. Does that make sense?
Q. Receiver with the quarterback
COACH MEYER:Getting closer. I did not feel that way in spring. I did not feel that way through beginning of training camp. I’m getting real close. And I know our coaches are getting real close to having that trust that we all with Philly and Devin are the two off the top of my head that I trust.
Q. Coach Tedford at Cal is probably the best coach that program has had in the last 20, 30, 40 years, whatever it is; your exposure to him, have you ever talked with him? What do you know of him?
COACH MEYER:He’s one of my great friends. I’ve known Jeff for a long time. Studied football with him back when I was at Bowling Green and still to this day utilize some of his pass concepts. We were at the St. Louis Rams together for three or four days just studying football and we spent a lot of time together. And he’s part of that Nike group. So every year we spend a lot of time together; a great man, great wife, great family, and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach.