Aug. 31, 2015
Urban Meyer: Hi, guys. Thanks for coming. Obviously, we are preparing for game week. Mock game today, we’re one week out, so we’re going to go at night and try to give our guys a pre-game experience. One of the big emphases that we’ve always had is making sure, especially with two new coaches, is making sure players are not concerned about routine once they prepare to play, and we probably give an inordinate amount of effort and thought to making sure that when the foot hits the ball our guys are ready to go and not worried about silly things about tickets, what you wear, how you get dressed, how you get taped, what you eat. So we’re going to do the best we can to eliminate all of that.
The good thing is they’re a mature team coming back, it is what it is. The young guys we just want to make sure they’re right. The quarterback situation we’ll announce the starter when the first guy takes the snap. It’s still very close. Both guys are performing very well.
Braxton has really the last two days has been outstanding. He’s the whole idea of his body getting used to basically a track practice every day is taking root, so he had a really good two days. I’ll answer any questions for you.
Q. I’m sorry that I’ve asked this question for nine months about the quarterbacks, but at what point do you need to know to start committing a game plan, even if you don’t plan to announce it until Monday?
Urban Meyer: If it was different skill sets probably, but they’re not. If you look at J.T.’s game plan when he was our quarterback and Cardale, it’s very similar. There is a chance they’ll both play as well, so that hasn’t really — in our mindset we’re game planning our offense and they’re both executing very well.
Q. Do you think there is value to keeping that information in house just from Virginia Tech’s perspective to have them prepare for both of them?
Urban Meyer: Not really because, once again, I think they’re very similar. I’ve heard people say, oh, he’s a much better down- field thrower, and he is pretty — if you’re talking about Cardale, he’s a very good down-field thrower, but I don’t know. I imagined if one of them was way ahead I probably would announce it, but they’re not, and it’s more for our team than who we’re playing.
Q. You touched a little bit on Braxton. What were your expectations when he made the transition? Has he exceeded expectations up to this point? I know it’s early. Is he not quite where you want him to be?
Urban Meyer: Early on I don’t want to say exceeded because I knew there would be growing pains. It’s rather comical when I heard just play him at receiver or go put him at corner. It usually takes a year-and-a-half to play receiver to do it correctly.
Now the one thing Braxton can do, you snap him the ball and he’s done that enough to go and there is potential of that as well. So he’s, as of the last three days, he’s, I don’t want to say exceeded my expectation, but he’s darn near ready to go.
Q. You’ve obviously had a lot of championship teams, et cetera. I’m just wondering, everybody always talks about all of the accolades this team is getting and all of that ever since the beginning of last season. How have they handled kind of the trappings of success compared to other teams you’ve had? Have you seen anything?
Urban Meyer: I think really well. I made this comment probably a month ago or maybe two months ago that there are indicators. The first indicator is your academics, and our guys have done well. There is no ineligibility issues. Our graduation rate I was told is the highest it’s ever been at Ohio State, so those indicators have been fine. We had a couple other indicators where we did take a speed bump where four guys won’t play. That set up the red flag to what’s going on here, but we found out they’re very isolated.
Work ethic in the weight room and on the field, and that’s not touchable. Those guys have done great. So-so far, so good.
Q. That’s obviously something that you monitor really closely, I assume with everything.
Urban Meyer: Yeah, probably more so because I experienced it and witnessed it and it’s real, and not just — how many Super Bowl teams have a great year after they win the Super Bowl? How many national champions have a great year after a National Championship year? And it’s tough because there are so many outside influences that can get in and saturate your program and cause damage. But we’ve watched it very closely, and to answer your question, I don’t feel it at all.
Q. In your mind when do you think you’ll decide who the quarterback will be, and if you don’t share that with everyone?
Urban Meyer: We start practice game week, tomorrow they’re off, and all I know is it’s a Monday. It’s not really a Monday, but it’s whatever day of the week it is, and in the coaches’ minds it’s Monday, and I’ll have a good idea.
So two days from now whatever day that is, in my mind it’s Monday. Does that make sense? Because Mondays is a Tuesday is a Wednesday, if you’re playing on Thursday, it’s a Monday.
Q. How have those guys continued to handle it? You said they’ve handled it very well?
Urban Meyer: The quarterbacks?
Urban Meyer: Great, great. They’re pros, man. I thought J.T. has always been a pro. I’m amazed at Cardale’s maturity, the way he’s handling his business. It’s really good to see a young guy grow up. I saw it last year and that’s continued.
Q. (Indiscernible) a guy that’s not starting, now starting?
Urban Meyer: I don’t think it’s going to be hard because they handle it. I’ve had a couple conversations with them already. I think it’s going to be a matter of fact. If you’re not going to play early, get ready because I’d like to see both guys involved.
Q. Just wondering, depth-wise at receiver going into the first game with injury and the situation that you’re at, how do you feel? How many you have in that rotation, how do you feel?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, Noah’s, by the way, he’s doing fine. I think he’s still in the hospital; is that right? As of last night he was. So maybe today or tomorrow we’re hoping to get him out. Surgery was successful. We’re expecting a full recovery.
Depth at receiver is a concern for this game. Talent isn’t. Depth is a concern. Mike Thomas, you have Curtis Samuel, you have Braxton Miller, you have Johnnie Dixon, you have Parris Campbell, you have Terry McLaurin, I might be forgetting one. Those are all guys that can play at this level and potentially some of them at the next level, so those are good.
Then I think Nick Vannett and obviously Zeke is a big part of this game plan as well.
Q. Johnnie Dixon health-wise good?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, we’ve just got to monitor him. He’s got those darn knee issues. They’re not major, it’s just tendonitis, and I expect him to be full-speed today. He’s had a very good camp.
Q. In that regard what are you looking for from those receivers? What are you looking for this week in terms of what would impress you about stepping up and being that guy or those guys?
Urban Meyer: Great question. Attention to detail and taking care of themselves. We really watch closely their body weights, their hydration, how you handle yourself as a pro and how Parris Campbell handles himself. Right now I have Parris and Terry starting at special teams, and obviously you know how we feel at those positions. How they handle themselves in practice and Coach Mick, he’s in charge of all of these sports performance. Are they at the body weights? Are they fully hydrated? Are they maximizing their time?
Those kind of kids are great kids, so I think they’re going to be ready to go.
Q. Another thing with Braxton, you talked last week or so about the routine of playing back or going to a place other than behind the guy that has the ball for the snap and stuff. Do you see a more fluid guy now when he takes the field? What just jumps out at you about him?
Urban Meyer: The last three days have been really fluid, and I think a lot of it is just his body’s feeling good again after going through the “what the heck is this,” and that is the constant running that his body wasn’t used to. So he looks like an H-back now.
Q. Is it fair to say that this might be the only game where your team would definitely have the motivational edge having this is the only team you’ve lost to. And how much of an advantage would that be referring to the days when you had the SEC grind and you’d play somebody who had beaten you?
Urban Meyer: Well, I think there is some truth to that. That there is a little nudge around here because they beat us, and really the way they beat us. Offensively right now there is a lot of distaste for the way that thing happened, and that’s not taking away from their personnel, because I think they have excellent personnel, especially on defense. But the way that happened, it was not — a lot of it was lack of preparation. Good players that are doing a scheme that our guys were not prepared for, so there is a big edge around here.
Q. In the SEC days you had a meat grinder every week. Was it a big edge to have the team that you had beaten the year before, especially coming into your place maybe?
Urban Meyer: I can’t remember. Those brain cells have been chewed up and spit out a long time ago. It’s a meat grinder — don’t fool yourself. It’s a meat grinder every week.
Q. When you do go into a game and use two quarterbacks, how much of that do you hope to be scripted, and how much of that is done by feel on game day?
Urban Meyer: I don’t know yet. We did it in 2006 is the only time we’ve really done it, and it was both. We had scripted plays, but they were two different skill sets, so we say we get to this part of the field, and we need this kind of momentum push.
And Tim Tebow had the personality that everything got picked up. When you were kind of stagnant, he had the personality. I don’t see that this way at all. So to answer your question, I don’t know yet. We’ve still got time to decide. I think a lot of it is going to be in-game, how’s it going, and do we need a change.
Q. You talk about Tim Tebow’s leadership. J.T. was voted captain by his peers. What does that say about the quarterback competition, if anything?
Urban Meyer: The actual quarterback, it’s a factor, but it’s not thee factor. The guy that’s going to give us the best chance to move down the field is going to be the guy taking the snap. I’m not surprised. Josh Perry, I think, got the most votes, Taylor Decker got the second, and J.T. got the third. Braxton got the fourth, and it was either Tyvis or — who was the other one I’m missing? Jacoby.
But J.T., I got asked that question by some friends. That means he’s a captain. Not necessarily going to take the first snap.
Q. Are you open to the idea of playing two quarterbacks more than you were a couple months ago?
Urban Meyer: I’m not sure yet. We’re still debating that.
Q. Is the only thing what gives this team the best chance to win or is there something in there of guys deserving a chance to play, earning a chance to play even if, you know —
Urban Meyer: No, at this point it’s at that moment who can — because they both won. I don’t know J.T.’s record, but it’s pretty good. Cardale, I believe, is 3-0. So who gives us at that moment a chance to win.
Q. If the skill sets are similar, right, what would it be about giving both a chance?
Urban Meyer: Performance at practice, accuracy, leadership, toughness, all the things that you look for in the quarterback.
Q. Would that change within a game though?
Urban Meyer: Sure, absolutely.
Q. A guy’s not looking so sharp, let’s put somebody else in?
Urban Meyer: Absolutely, it could be weekly too. If he had a bad Tuesday practice and Tuesday’s our first of normal, and third down is on Wednesday, and they have a bad Wednesday, absolutely. That’s not uncommon. That is the same with the other positions as well. You have to show up every day and compete.
Q. Is there any part of that, doing that at quarterback that could be not a great thing for the team? Or do you think that would just push it?
Urban Meyer: Oh you mean about naming the quarterback?
Q. Do you want — people talk about if someone’s looking over their shoulder and they have a bad start to a game or a tough day at practice?
Urban Meyer: Those are all things that we have to hit on the road. I’m not very experienced in this. If you look, check the annals of college football history, I’m not sure that’s happened. So I think I have to do what’s best for the team at that moment. That is you have two very good players that are very invested. What is the best chance of moving this team down the field and putting them in the end zone? That is kind of the mindset I’ve had right now.
But I think those things I’m constantly thinking about because I don’t want players — and we try not to do that here. That’s why we talk about 4 to 6, A to B, don’t worry about mistakes, go as hard as you can, and we’ll fix it. Mistakes are fixed by great effort.
Offensive Coordinator Ed Warinner
COACH WARINNER: How are we doing today, guys.
Q. I know in 99 percent of the cases the quarterback’s skill set will determine what the offense will do, but because you have two great options at QB, could the reverse be a little bit true this year with your team, What the skill players do well may determine what quarterback fits best?
COACH WARINNER: I don’t think necessarily we’re looking at it that way, based on how the skill players are performing, more just the level of the execution of the quarterback, the moving the team, the leadership, the ability to command the offense. So that entire picture you need at quarterback to do, who’s doing better at it? Both are really good at it. Both have been good at it in games, and that competition is still going on.
Q. Can you give an idea just how much you guys studied last year’s Virginia Tech game in the off season?
COACH WARINNER: Quite a bit. Quite a bit. We took a close look at what we did. We took a close look at what they did and evaluated and learned and have tried to be prepared for what they might do because they may not do the same thing.
Q. How painful was that to relive that?
COACH WARINNER: It’s painful. At the end of the day, though, it helped us, in some ways, evaluate our offensive philosophy, our offensive game planning, preparation, practice habits, and it allowed us to grow quickly and understand that we weren’t maybe as good as we thought we were or weren’t where we needed to be. So we expedited and changed kind of our teaching and how we prepared, and it helped us grow in the long run.
Q. Ed, could you give us an update sort of on the pecking order, et cetera, at that wide receiver spot now with Noah Brown, he’s gone for the year and stuff. Who are you guys who’s in the running? Who are you looking at? Who has kind of caught your eye in the last couple of days?
COACH WARINNER: Former Big Ten Player of the Year is doing well out there. We like him.
Q. Is he playing out wide? He’s hybrid back, right?
COACH WARINNER: He’s all over the place. He’s just an athlete out there. No, Braxton has looked good and is growing into that position and had a great attitude about learning it. Michael Thomas is a go to guy, a guy we like a lot who’s had a productive career here so far and expecting big things from him. Curtis Samuel out there. You’ve got, for this game, a variety of other guys we can look to, and then we have our big tight end, Nick Vannett.
Q. Specifically, a wide receiver like Johnnie Dixon and some of those guys.
COACH WARINNER: There’s a whole group of those guys with Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin that are all going to have roles early on in the season and roles in this game. We’re trying to work through that. We have a little mock game tonight, mock scrimmage, that we’ll do just to kind of evaluate and continue that process. All those guys have been getting reps out there at practice.
Q. We haven’t talked to you since Noah got hurt, but just how stunning was that for you personally and stuff? I mean, he had been having, I guess, a really good camp and stuff.
COACH WARINNER: For our team, it was tough because everybody watched his growth over the last year, very talented individual. Somebody that was going to weigh heavily into what we were going to do this year. Personally, it hurt because I recruited him. I kind of knew his family and been to his home, been to his school many times. Very close to his high school coach. So when a guy that you bring here and you have to tell his mom that he went down, that’s hard. But they’re great people, great family, and we’ll look forward to having Noah back with us when he heals up. That will be next year, obviously.
Q. When you’re putting together a game plan and you look on the other side and see Virginia Tech has an All American corner, a guy that’s going to be probably a first round pick, how does that change things at all in how you approach the Tech defense when there’s a lockdown corner on the other side?
COACH WARINNER: They have a very good defense in general, and he’s one of their high level players. They have many good players, high level players. I think you just always look for matchups. You look for how do you match up in all areas at wide receiver. How do you match up up front? And find your match ups and try to evaluate what you can do in those match up situations. But, yeah, we just have to be smart and prudent about what we do. Again, look at how much do we want to attack him? How much do we not want to attack him? And how do we want to progress with our players? And you can’t always control. They get to decide where they put him. We can’t know for sure where he’s going to be, who he’s going to cover in each formation, where he’s going to be. Some of that has to be as the game progresses.
Q. In a situation where they decide to have him follow Mike Thomas around the field, are you confident in the other guys who haven’t played much that they’ll be able to
COACH WARINNER: We’re very confident in our team and very confident in the other players, and we’re confident in Mike Thomas. Mike Thomas will be pretty highly last I checked, he’s a pretty good player too. So he’ll go out there and battle. We aren’t worried about Mike Thomas and him playing a great game and being productive although we know the quality of player that, if that’s the guy that covers him, we know how good he is too. That’s one of those big time matchups.
Q. Ed, can you just put into words your offensive line, where it is right now compared to where it was last year going into the Virginia Tech game as we evaluate this matchup again.
COACH WARINNER: About 12 months more experienced, 12 months more of being together. Obviously, they’re a mature group, very close group, a very veteran, weathered group that’s gone through a season like we had last year finishing strong, playing well at the end of the year. We have two guys who were voted captain in that group. So they’re kind of the leaders, I would say, in how we do business and our mentality. But we’re way further ahead because at this point now we’re trying to make each one of them better in little details. Last year we were teaching them how to play, how to practice, how to get lined up, executing assignments. We’re in more detail now of how to take it to the next level. They’re great kids. It’s great to have it. That’s one thing I don’t worry about is if Taylor Decker is going to show up or not. I don’t have to worry if Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein are going to be there for us. They’ll be there.
Q. In this quarterback situation, we asked Urban a lot of questions about this, if the quarterbacks have similar skill sets, what would be the benefit of having both of them play? How would that help the team?
COACH WARINNER: Not sure the question really. I don’t have a great answer.
Q. Sometimes maybe this guy does one thing well. Urban brings up what happened at Florida with Leak and Tebow. This guy does something else. But Urban has emphasized they’re very similar. So I’m curious, if the decision is made to play both, what would be the benefit of that?
COACH WARINNER: I would say the number one benefit is they’re both great people that work extremely hard and have led this team to big wins and played very hard for us. The benefit would be that they both what they’ve given to this team is they get some reward because the reward for our guys is they work 12 months a year to go play 12 games, hopefully a 13th, if you have a good season. So the benefit is that, like having two really good wide receivers instead of one, having two really good quarterbacks, it’s kind of unusual because there’s only one on the field at a time, but I would say the benefit is just having two high level players on the field at the same time and rewarding them for what they’ve given to this team and program and their work ethic and their entire body of work, I guess.
Q. Two questions. The first one, back on the quarterbacks, you had one guy that was All Big Ten, and one guy that led you to the National Championship, and they were playing at a very high level as the season ended. This last game with Michigan, he was playing at a high level. Are these guys ahead of that spot, or are they back up to that level to start the new season? How would you kind of equate? Are you happy with the level that they’re playing at right now?
COACH WARINNER: Yeah, we’re very happy with them. I think that’s a tough question because I don’t think that you can start out a season being where you were when you played game 15 or game 14. There’s something to be said about playing in games and playing at the speed of those games and not playing against your own team every day. So to say that our team or any team starts out Game 1 where they ended up at the end of the season, it’s hard to say, or any player. But at this point in time, yeah, I think they’re both performing very well. That’s why it’s so close, and that’s why we’ll continue to evaluate that. Yeah, we’re pretty happy with both and where they’re at.
Q. The other thing is Taylor Decker talked about how everybody came down on the offensive line for the way that that game unfolded last year, but you made the point, it was 11 guys, the entire offensive unit that was breaking down that created those issues in the Virginia Tech game. As you went back and looked at it, was that how you viewed it as well? It wasn’t just the five on the offensive line unit, it was on they were stressing you in every position across that line, and that’s what led to what happened.
COACH WARINNER: Yeah, our entire team and coaching staff didn’t perform very well. “Team” meaning offensive team. I’m not speaking about special teams or defense. Our entire offensive unit did not perform well. We left plays on the field at every position. There were things the offensive line obviously needed to do better. There were things at quarterback that we could have executed better. There were things at wide receiver we could have done better. So we didn’t execute at a high level there, and that’s on us as coaches to get our players ready to do that, and we did not get that done, and the players were not able to execute at a high enough level. So across the board, there’s a lot of blame. A lot of times, though, different things happen, and you don’t want to publicly point out individuals. So you just collectively kind of go with you know, a lot of that is statistical. So you say tackles for lowest rushing total in so many years. So it’s got to be the O line’s fault. Most sacks, it’s got to be the O line’s fault. Not every sack or every negative yardage play is the O line’s fault, but that’s inherently what happens when you guys write about that, or for those who don’t really understand what’s going on. It’s hard to block eight guys with six people. So there are usually going to be two people that are free. So sometimes it’s we didn’t get them ready and we didn’t have good schemes for them as coaches or our answers weren’t executed well.
Q. Along those same lines, Coach, Bud Foster, came out last week and said they’re planning on playing you guys the same way they did last year, man press corners. I’m curious to get your response to that.
COACH WARINNER: Well, they did a great job last year. So I would anticipate that they would be very similar. We try not to read too much about what the other team does. We worry about ourselves and getting our team ready and getting our players ready. I wasn’t aware of too many of his comments or any of that. If you got something good you think you’re doing well, you’re going to continue to do it, the same as we are. And what you don’t like about what you did, you’ll probably correct them and fix them. So our plan will be the same as theirs. What we like, we’ll keep doing. What we don’t like, we’ll get better at or change it. That’s the beauty of these first games is no one knows for sure what we’re going to do, and we don’t know for sure what they’re going to do, but it will be exciting to find out.
Q. Do you think that’s somewhat gamesmanship on his part? They’re obviously going to have some new wrinkles and things like that. Do you think that’s a little bit of gamesmanship on his part?
COACH WARINNER: Absolutely. I think there’s gamesmanship all together. Like I said, we’re focused more on ourselves and focused more on what we need to do and how we need to prepare and get our team ready. I think that their philosophy of what they want to do will play out as the game starts, and we’ll have to figure that out quickly.
Q. Coach, you said the quarterbacks are close. In your mind, is one trending higher than the other?
COACH WARINNER: No, not right now. They both trend really high to me.
Q. Will you at some point pound the table for one of the others? I’m sure Urban will ask you who do we go with?
COACH WARINNER: Well, Coach is prepared to make that decision. Obviously, the position I’m in, I’ll have a part of that say, and he’ll ask me my opinion. The good news is I’ve been here going on four years with Coach Meyer, and if we’ve had a hundred discussions that have been about opinions, we’re very closely aligned in our philosophical approach. We’re not opposites. We’re very similar, which is scary, and in that, you know, when he thinks something, I’m usually thinking the same thing, and that’s why I think it’s worked well. So I doubt that I’ll have a strong opposition to whichever way we go, but we’re professionals. We do everything the right way, and we’ll have discussion about why is it that this is the guy we need to go with and what does he bring to the table a little bit more that’s going to help this team win more games. I would anticipate that decision coming here towards the end of the week. Yeah, obviously, I’ll be involved in that, but Coach will get the final say there.
Q. But will you say the final answer will be a better or best guy as opposed to a good or bad guy?
COACH WARINNER: We’re not deciding between average and good. We’re deciding between good and good. We’re pretty good at both spots. So we’re trying to decide because, obviously, they’ve executed in games, big games, at a high level. So that’s the thing that makes it tough and makes it the most intriguing story going.
Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell
Q. Luke, in your career, as is the case with Virginia Tech, you’ve had to prepare for a team that you didn’t know which quarterback is going to start, what’s the challenge for a defensive coordinator getting ready for that game?
COACH FICKELL: Usually the first game is sometimes the toughest because you’re watching everything. I think that’s a tough situation. You look at every game last year as opposed to maybe a four or five game breakdown because you have the time. You spend a lot of time in the summer. Again, it makes you jump through a lot of hoops, makes you think about a lot of what ifs. It makes some things difficult.
Q. Luke, can you give us some insights on depth at corner. Looks like you have a very good top three. But who’s going to round out the two deep at corner? I know Marshon Lattimore is still
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, we’ve got to get some of those guys healthy. This will be a big week to see what those guys can do, some of those freshmen. You’ve got the two guys, Gareon and Eli. Damon Webb is a guy that’s played a lot in there, or played last year for us. So he’ll be the next guy. Marshawn, we’ve got to see how he can do this week, and a couple of those young freshmen guys. We’ve got some different plans based on whatever would happen, but we’ll have to kind of wait and see throughout the next seven, eight days just to see who we think is ready and what plan we’ll be able to go with.
Q. If you need one of those true freshmen, who will it be, guys like Denzel Ward or Eric Glover Williams?
COACH FICKELL: I think off the bat maybe Denzel. Speed wise, straight speed wise, he’s a guy you can stick out there and feel comfortable with. But we’ll have a couple of different plans based on who that could be. If we have to move guys around, we could. These next eight days just finding out how Marshon will be and Damon and things like that, we’ll have to kind of wrestle through as a staff the next few weeks.
Q. When you face a tight end like 6’5″ Bucky Hodges, who does that put pressure on on your defense? Is it the D line because they need to get enough pressure to keep him in blocking? Is it your linebackers? Just what is the challenge of facing a tight end like Bucky Hodges?
COACH FICKELL: I think any time you’ve got a guy with versatility, it makes it difficult. I think you’re seeing it all over the NFL. That’s one of those unique positions that those guys have they’re not just protection guys, they’re not just block guys, they’re not just pass guys, they’re guys that can kind of do it all. He’s one of those guys. They’re a little bit of a matchup nightmare at times. You’ve got to know where they are, him being a little bit more in particular as one of those big go to guys. So they pose some problems in the matchup category. But that’s just kind of par for the course. They’ll do a good job of mixing up their personnels and leaving them in the game where there’s a wideout, where there’s a tight end, where there’s a fullback. Just gives you different things you have to prepare for and know where he’s at.
Q. We asked Ed Warinner how far his offensive line was ahead of where you guys were last year. For you, how far is your defense ahead of where you were last time you faced Virginia Tech?
COACH FICKELL: You’ve got to wait until you actually can be evaluated. That’s one of those tough things. I think we feel, at least through camp, we’ve had an ability to work on our scheme and the things that we’re going to do throughout the entire year as opposed to having to prepare for Navy. So I think we feel like we’re ahead of where we were with the ability to not just prepare for Virginia Tech, but prepare ourselves for the entire season for the body of work that we’ll have to do. But obviously, the test will be Monday night.
Q. I’ll ask you the same question I asked Ed. How much did you watch tape of last year’s Virginia Tech game in light of the fact that you guys obviously didn’t play very well?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, it’s definitely something. Again, you learn from that stuff, and you learn from the history. You’re not just watching to harp on the negative things to show our guys how well we did not play, but also to watch what it is that they did. Obviously, they had a game plan, and they executed their game plan better than we did. So it’s something that we spend a lot of time evaluating, but, again, we’re not going to sit there and harp on the negative stuff. We’re going to make sure our guys are ready to play, promote the positives and those kinds of things, but make sure we learn from the history of what happened.
Q. On the defensive line, is Sam Hubbard still ahead? What’s the status?
COACH FICKELL: That’s one of those things, we’ve got eight days left. We’re talking about two young kids, and every day is important. It’s a constant battle. Every day we’re trying to evaluate exactly what it is we see from both of them. Both of them are going to play. Both of them have to play. We need them to play, and we need them to play well. So it’s going to be a bit of a committee kind of guy. And who will get the nod? I think we’ve still got a few days to figure it out for ourselves.
Q. Coach, two springs ago, Chris Worley and Darron Lee were kind of neck and neck to try to get on the field, and then Darron Lee had the progression he did now and is a potential first round draft pick for next year. How does Chris Worley handle maybe being the guy in the middle between some pretty fantastic freshmen and somebody he was neck and neck with? Is Chris Worley somebody that’s really good but just not quite as good as Darron Lee?
COACH FICKELL: I think, again, if you’re going to talk about a specific person, Chris has had as good a camp as anybody has had on the defensive side of the ball, to be honest with you. Not just me as a linebacker coach, but everybody has noticed his ability to play football and do the things we ask a guy in his position to do. We’ve got to find different ways to get guys like Chris on the field, and there will be opportunities for him, not just subbing Darren, but really, truly opportunities to find ways in some other packages to get him on the field and show some of his talents. He’s the kind of guy that understands the game of football. He can make plays, but he has to be put in those situations. Sometimes that is tough when you’re playing behind a guy who’s as talented as what Darron has and what Darron has done for us on the field. As coaches, we put a little pressure on ourselves to find ways to get guys like that on the field to give them opportunities to make plays.
Q. You noticed that he’s been a sport about being in this situation, and do you think he kind of understands the reality of, hey, maybe in a few years he is going to have
COACH FICKELL: I think they all do. That’s one thing that Coach does an unbelievable job every single day, talking about competition and how you make yourself better, and that’s competing with one another. I know in our room we’re always talking about how we’re going to push each other and have the ability there’s nothing greater than competition. Whether a guy’s a great player or not, for his ability, to have that knowing that someone’s right on his heels and someone could go in there and do the job that they’re doing and, if they have the opportunity, they might do it better. So that competition has been created. We saw it last year with Curtis Grant. It increased his productivity and his playability, just having Raekwon McMillan right behind him. And always that not the fear of somebody else going in, but the ability that you know there’s someone else behind you who’s going to push you every single day.
Q. Luke, you played on some pretty good teams here with really high expectations. Obviously, the expectations are sky high this year. Have you drawn on your experience as a player here and maybe shared that with some of our units or your assistant coaches as you get ready to climb this mountain?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, we do. We’re always trying to look for things that we can compare to. Sometimes you look back at I try to bring it up. I haven’t done it a whole bunch just yet with our guys, but as a staff, we’ve talked about it, the transition from 2002 to 2003 with having a lot of guys coming back and maybe a more talented team coming back than you did the year before when the same kind of things happened, where you had obviously great success and a National Championship. But learning from those kinds of things, you know what it’s really about. It’s not about talent. Every single year, sitting in these seats, there’s going to be enough talent, as Coach always tells you. It’s the ability for those guys to gel together, for those guys to come together, to find out how they’re going to handle those adverse situations. Last year, hindsight looking back at it, might have been one of the greatest things that happened to us, to have something like what happened last year at that time, have those guys’ ability to pull themselves together and to grow from that and to build from that. That’s not what we’re asking for again, but the reality is Coach has done a great job in camp at trying to find those situations where he can put their backs against the wall to see how those guys will gel and grow together as a unit, as a team, as a defense, and as an offense. So the expectations are always big, but really people think it’s about scheme and different things like that, but the reality is it’s really how those guys all come together. It’s what they truly believe deep down in their hearts, how they handle those adverse situations, and can they stay together and handle the human elements that all the hype and things bring to the forefront?
Q. Would you guess that, because of what you went through personally as a player, that you might have a little edge on picking that up before it gets to be a problem?
COACH FICKELL: Well, we’re always looking for it. I think the unique thing is having the ability to play here and be here for so long, you know a little bit more of what’s out there. I mean, obviously, the attention that those guys get. I tell them all the time, it’s harder to handle praise than it is criticism. And we’ve got to make sure we’re handling those things the right way, watching those things, and not allowing us to have those things affect us in a negative way. When we say negative way, we mean in ways where all of a sudden show up in little things and little things add up. If there’s anything that Coach Meyer does and Coach Mick does, they’re watching those things very, very close because sometimes we get a little bit clouded with the things that we’re doing on an everyday basis. So they’re brought to our attention pretty much every day.
Q. Luke, as you all move into a game week, Joey Bosa can’t play in the first game. I remember a couple years ago when Carlos Hyde couldn’t play in a couple of a games, and you all actually used him on the scout team, from what I’ve heard. Will you use Joey in the same way? Ho do you keep him involved, et cetera, this week?
COACH FICKELL: It’s a unique situation because he’s out for one game. It’s not like something where you can completely take him out of the mix because obviously we’re preparing for the entire season. It’s a journey. This is where the next eight days really become important to us. You asked about the development of Sam and Jalyn, and that’s one of those big things. Hey, now it’s game week, and we have to have the ability to put those guys in, take Joey out of the mix. Whether he goes down to the scout team or not, that’s going to be a little bit of what Coach and them need down there from the scout units, taking him off on the side and make sure we’re preparing him and keeping him in shape and those kinds of things for the rest of the season, yeah. But now it’s kind of a little bit more of a focus for us as coaches, the guys that are going to go with us down to Blacksburg, and focus on those guys, making sure we know who it is, what it is, and what’s the plan we got for those guys.
Q. What have you seen from Joey specifically on the field from the standpoint of keeping his focus? There was a report last week or so about someone seeing him being detained by the police and whatever. I don’t know if that obviously, you all would know about that and stuff, but nothing happened from that. What have you told him? What have you seen from him from a focus standpoint?
COACH FICKELL: It’s been a little bit humbling, and you can see. Again, whether it’s what has happened or another year of maturity, I can seriously sit here and tell you that Joey Bosa is a different kid, a different player than he was last year. In what ways, it’s the ways you see him on the field, the way he goes about practice, the way he went about camp. He has definitely matured. Again, you’re talking about a guy who’s 20 years old. Every year you’re going to see some things in that growth, and that’s really what you’re looking for. Do you continue obviously, his play speaks for itself. But us as coaches that are around him every single day Larry Johnson is with him every single day. He can tell you the maturity process that he has had. Obviously, he’s in an accelerated program for one of those guys that has the levels and the ability and who knows how many years they’re here. You have to accelerate their process, and it’s really, I can tell you that he’s definitely a different practice player than he was a year ago, the way he goes about his business and studies the game.
Q. One other quick one. Virginia Tech has professed to be a little more wide open, a little more spread, whatever you want to call it, through the off season. Who knows how much it’s smoke and mirrors. What do you guys kind of expect from them from an offensive standpoint in general?
COACH FICKELL: That’s one of the things of a first game. I think, even when you watch some of those I said to one of the coaches the other day, do you think they’ll ever come up with a preseason game for colleges? You know, you go home and see some of these preseason NFL games, and guys legitimately get to go out there and play and play against somebody besides their own players, and you actually get to see what you got. So it’s a little bit difficult for us. Just like preparing for the first game, you can hear a lot, you can see a lot, and you can talk about what they did in the spring, but the reality is I’m sure they’re kind of searching and trying to find different ways that they can improve what it is they did, enhance what it is they did. You kind of prepare for everything, like we talked about, whether it’s a two quarterback system or not. You’re watching not only 12 or 13 games from last year, even peeking back at what guys did in the past based on their personnels. So it’s a lot of that chasing and finding those hidden things, those ghosts you might be chasing, but you’re prepared for about everything in that first week. You’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to play.