Dec. 4, 2016
COACH MEYER: Last night we were just going to have dinner and she was going to come over. We got a phone call. Shelley and Nicki had their whatever talk they have about that, which I’m not a part of. She said, Looks like things are going.
I said, Like moving?
She said, Yup.
And she went to the hospital. They kept her over.
I said, Does that mean?
She said, Yes.
We got a little bit of sleep. Shelley went at 4:00. The baby was born at 5:30. I grabbed my son at about 5:45. We got down there about 6:15. Got to meet the baby. Make sure my daughter is fine, which she is. And dad is fine.
We watched the selection show from the maternity ward.
Q. Can you describe your feelings on this day and also the matchup with Clemson?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I’m just one of those guys, I understand these are all gifts and you’re just very grateful that God blessed my daughter with a healthy baby and a great husband. So that’s the first thoughts.
Second of all, there’s so many teams. I never really watched it this close because I guess we’ve had time. The amount of teams that were worthy of this — I just said, I’m going to send a text out to my players and staff right now that we receive this opportunity with incredible humility and class because I can name six, seven teams right now that are that quality of teams.
We’re going to do the best we can to represent.
Q. It was such an odd year where not making the Big Ten championship game, you could argue it helped you guys. You didn’t have to play in another game. Your players didn’t have to risk injury. You were able to go all in on recruiting. Can you just discuss your thoughts on how maybe not playing in the championship game helped.
COACH MEYER: I remember the other end of it when you lose that week. I first experienced that in the SEC. There’s only one more week of recruiting. That’s obviously a huge deal. Those are all things that I think continue to need to be discussed, the calendar, those type of things.
It was a bizarre year. It’s a year that I don’t really question anything. We just got to do our jobs every day. We won the rivalry game in that fashion. We had a recruiting dinner that night. The next morning we’re all on planes, I mean before dawn, and you’re going. No wonder half our coaching staff got sick and everything else, because it was a lot of work that week.
Q. What was the confidence level around here? Did you feel like you were definitely in?
COACH MEYER: I wasn’t around here.
Q. Even through text messages.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I was with our team Friday. We had a practice Friday.
I think it started back in ’06 when you just don’t know until you know. I remember I found out with Gene Smith and my family in 2014 when America found out, when they flashed our sign on ESPN. I found out today when they flashed our sign on ESPN.
A lot of anxiety, a lot of hope. I think we certainly are one of the best teams in the country, but I think there’s some great teams out there.
Q. You’ve prepared for a lot of bowl games, been through the playoff once before. Where do you go from here? What does the month look like for Ohio State, training camp or whatever you want to do?
COACH MEYER: I started it already. But as we speak, Brian Voltolini, my ops guy, we’re going to meet right after this with the practice schedules, exactly the way we did in ’14. That was the uncharted waters. All focus, obviously, is on this one. When I first heard about the playoff, I thought we’d split up our staff have guys work on the other games in case. When you get into it, you don’t have time. So it’s going to be all hands on deck.
We have a big recruiting weekend this weekend, and finals week. Those are all the things we’ll are discussing right now.
Q. Any part of this, for those of us that don’t watch practice, is it like in August? Do you do some fundamentals and then shift to game prep?
COACH MEYER: In a way, it is. It will be full fundamentals this next week. We have two or three practices this week, full fundamentals. Then the next week will be preliminary game plan, and then as we get around Christmastime, game plan goes in, then you’re in game week.
The last thing you want to do is give guys things to work on that we’re not going to do. So it’s going to be hard, hard fundamentals, which we have a lot of work to do in certain areas. Then preliminary game plan, then game plan.
Q. When you look at the Clemson program, do you see maybe a little bit of yourself? Seems like ever since 2013 when you played at the Orange Bowl, you, them and Alabama were in it every year.
COACH MEYER: I know their team very well because I know their coach. I know most of their coaches, too. Excellent staff, excellent head coach, and they’re loaded. I know exactly the players because I bet on both of our rosters, Clemson and Ohio State were in that conversation, and Alabama.
We know them, have a lot of respect for them. We lost that game. It was a great game, if I remember. Brain cells are gone, too. We know exactly what we’re getting into. I watched it last night.
Q. Specifically with Deshaun Watson, it seemed like you guys were in that recruitment for a while. What do you recall about that?
COACH MEYER: It was over. We tried to get involved. He committed early, early, early. I want to say sophomore year, out of Gainesville, Georgia. Not a good player, great player. Not a good person, but a great person. I know his coach, high school program. We tried to get involved. They did a good job locking him down, I want to say, his sophomore year in high school.
Q. If you had gone before that committee this morning, before they made their final call, what would you say is the reason why your team should be and is included in this College Football Playoff?
COACH MEYER: First of all, I wouldn’t do that.
Second of all, I don’t know if I want to go there. I have too much respect. I never had a chance to watch games like that. I watched the games. I’m always about, especially the older I get, the players. I mean, you talk about some great football last night, guys going as hard as they possibly can.
All due respect, I’m not going to go and make an appeal. I don’t have to. I will make an appeal for how hard kids are playing right now. This is the golden years of college football, man. What I watched last night, it doesn’t get any better. What I’ve seen this season as far as our conference that we’re in, we’ve gone from — in 2012, I remember, I was actually shocked at the disrespect. I never looked at it that way. But how lousy everybody said our conference was. I don’t think we were lousy, but we weren’t great.
Now to say, I hear every person, it’s the best conference in college football. You tell me that’s not just a great reward for administrations and coaching staffs and players that have made that drastic change.
Q. Specifically, your team, you guys were the youngest team in major college football going into this season. How far has this team come in four months?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think it was a year early. I think as we went through two-a-days, I knew we had to stay healthy. We’re fortunate we stayed fairly healthy. We had to develop and we did. Whoever thought Malike Hooker and those guys would develop, Marshaun would stay healthy. He’s never been healthy for a season. You develop Chris Worley and a guy named Jerome Baker, and the D-line would end up being a strength. Mike Weber, a thousand-yard rusher as a freshmen. I could go on and on.
You don’t really think that far ahead because you don’t really have time, but now I could reflect upon the season. Very proud of their progress. That game in Norman, Oklahoma, turned out to be kind of the difference in this whole situation.
Q. For you as a head coach, how much do you value conference championships and how much do you think they are important in evaluating any team out there?
COACH MEYER: That’s a great question.
I value them as much — that’s why you go to work every day. You see the Big Ten championships right there. I think when they put together this College Football Playoff, I think you — do you play a light schedule and put everything into your conference championship? That’s not what I’m feeling across the country. They want to make every game important, which they have.
So to answer your question, we value it. What’s my opinion of the value for?
Q. Just how anyone should evaluate it.
COACH MEYER: I think it’s extremely important.
Q. Then I know the playoff is tough, four great teams, physical grind. It’s hard to prepare for. But having been through it, is it fun? You get the four best teams together? It hasn’t always been this way. You were in the old system.
COACH MEYER: Fun?
Q. Is it great for college football?
COACH MEYER: It is great. It is great. It’s great for the players. I mean, it’s hard now. What our guys are getting ready to go through is really hard. Those four teams, all the teams, are getting ready to go play big-time bowl games.
I think one thing that’s interesting, Billy Donovan, my old neighbor down at Florida, I used to give him a hard time. He said, Do you realize how hard March Madness is?
I looked at him and said, Do you realize 365 days a year you have March Madness? You can’t lose.
I don’t use that word ‘fun’ very often. It’s very rewarding. It’s why you come to Ohio State. The greatest fun of all is when you jog off the feel victorious. We’re going to do everything we can to have that feeling again.
Q. When you look at the last few games y’all played in indoor stadiums, like this one will be, the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin, is there something about this team and offense that’s more conducive to playing indoors?
COACH MEYER: Well, I’ve never really looked at it that way. I think when you start getting near the end of the season, there are some conversations about when you’re dealing with the elements and you want to throw the ball. A big part of our game is horizontal, as well.
I haven’t really thought much about it.
Q. Knowing what you know about this Clemson team, being as familiar with them as you are, maybe you don’t know everything about them yet until you watch a lot of tape, but as of last night after watching the ACC championship game, what kind of jumps out to you as far as them as a team and what it’s going to take to win the game?
COACH MEYER: The skill set on offense is over the top. They’re all NFL players. They have one of the top, maybe the top or top two or three players in America in Deshaun Watson. They go fast. They’re creative on offense.
I think they got one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. They’re very multiple on defense, not just one defense.
But it all starts with personnel. I haven’t seen it, but I’m going to find out the next few days. I would imagine them and Alabama would be the No. 1 team as far as NFL prospects in the country right now.
Q. You talked about working on fundamentals and things when you go through this month because you’re going to have more than a month between when you play games. You’ve been through this before in the old system.
COACH MEYER: 27 days.
Q. I was just wondering, even in the old system, when this kind of gap was normal, could you see a transformation in your team? You want to be at the apex of where you are right now, but in a month of training, can you take the next step forward?
COACH MEYER: I think with a very young team you can. I think I get your question. But if it’s a mature team, you try to get them to the dance as prepared as you can.
We’re so young. There’s so much improvement. Everybody in this room knows what it is, too. We have to get much better.
The challenge has already been laid across the table last week with the players and coaches, that for us to compete at this level, we have to be nine strong. At times we’re not nine strong. That has to happen.
So we have 27 days, a couple days ago it was 29 days, to get to be nine strong.
Q. 2014 and going into it, you knew about the battle playing in the Big Ten championship, then winning two playoff games on the road. How big of a difference do you think it is for this team to not have to have gone through that battle? Does that change anything?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, because I’ve been in that situation a couple times at Florida and here now, too. I’d much rather play in that championship game and win it because your team gets another chance to prepare and get better at their skill sets.
That just means we have to catch up that much. You have to somehow simulate that game here in the next couple weeks to get them ready to play in that final game. I think that’s a big deal.
I remember we played Ohio State in ’06. I think a big part of our success was we had to play a rugged SEC Championship game, and Ohio State was off. We were still going. So I have to somehow create that in practice.
Q. Asking about the system as it is. You mentioned winning the Oklahoma game, that that obviously was important. The committee members have said that was a separator, a game all the way back in September. Did you think coming off the field, Man. I know you had a whole lot of season to go. You schedule a difficult game like that. But Oklahoma had a really good year, but they didn’t get close to getting it.
COACH MEYER: When I first saw the schedule, I wasn’t all jacked up about taking our team, a young team, on the road to Oklahoma. I like competition and all that. If you have a veteran team that’s been — that was our first road trip. For half that team, they got on a plane, they’d never done that before. To go to a place where they never lose.
I never got involved in scheduling. I just let my boss do it. I want to have a conversation with Gene and listen. Not that I’m going to give my input, but I just think as we go forward, that’s critical on who you’re playing early in the season. Obviously it benefited us.
I think Oklahoma, you watch them play the other day, they’re as fine a team as there is in college football. If they didn’t lose that game, they’d be in the playoff. There’s a lot of conversations. It’s razor thin, the difference between being in and being out.
Q. When you were watching Penn State-Wisconsin, were you wishing, God, I wish I was there?
COACH MEYER: Of course. You do. The value of a conference championship, and I think Kirk Herbstreit said yesterday, I talked to him yesterday, it was everything to get to the Rose Bowl. I grew up with that. I don’t want to say it’s sad. I don’t want to say it’s disappointing. I remember when I was at Florida, we lost one game, went to the Sugar Bowl, everybody was upset. That used to be a big part of everything.
I hope we don’t lose too much of that. That’s still the Rose Bowl. Still a conference championship. College football is as strong as it’s ever been.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How nervous were you whether you guys would make it? What are your thoughts on playing Clemson?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I had a good idea about it. You don’t really know. I mean, there’s a lot of uncertainty to it because it’s not in your hands. It’s up to the committee to decide the best four teams.
All along I believed we were one of the best four teams in the country.
Q. Who were you with? What did you do? What was your reaction?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I was with my roommate. We was just hyped in the room together. Then we went down the hall Raekwon’s room. Everybody came over, was just enjoying the moment.
Q. You have been through this once before with the playoff, month of preparation. What is it like? How much can you accomplish with this much time to get ready for a game?
TYQUAN LEWIS: We have the best strength staff, best coaches in America. They have a plan in place to get us where we need to be. Lately just been doing conditioning and things like that until we found out our opponent. The plan is already set in stone. We already have a clear idea of how things are going to go. Just got to put the work together now, put everything together.
Q. How much did you do last week as you waited?
TYQUAN LEWIS: Last week, I mean, we did, like, a lot of conditioning. Not a lot, but we did moderate conditioning, I mean, just to keep our blood flowing, keep moving, stay active.
Q. Did you watch any of the games last night? If so, were you comparing how you view your team to the teams in the playoff race?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I watched some of the games. I didn’t really, like, compare or anything like that. I was just looking at it from a fan’s perspective, just looking at different things that were going on throughout the game.
Q. You’re from an area that’s not too far from where Clemson is. Do you have any connections to that team, any guys you know that play for Clemson?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I mean, I actually considered going to Clemson when I was really young. I know a lot about Clemson. I went there a lot when I was in high school.
I mean, I was there almost every weekend, but…
Q. What do you know about Clemson? What stands out about them?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I mean, I think they’re a good all-around team. They run the ball, they throw the ball, good on defense. I mean, that’s why they’re in the top four. Great team. One of the better teams in America.
Q. Deshaun Watson, what jumps out about him?
TYQUAN LEWIS: Great composure. Very good quarterback. Can run on the ground, throw the ball, get in the air, tight ends and stuff like that. That’s just from what I saw last night.
Q. You’re an older guy on this team, but you’re still sort of young, are you surprised to be standing here at this moment in the College Football Playoff? This was such a young team at the beginning of the year, what has come right for this team? Why do you think you deserve this shot?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I mean, we were clearly one of the better teams in America. We work just as hard as anyone if not harder than everyone. This is one of the hardest places to play at ’cause everything that we go through during the off-season, training camp, like, every week it’s a battle. Everyone wants to give us their best shot. We have to step up to the plate.
This team, we battled through some things. We know what it’s like to overcome challenges. Now we’re just excited to get an opportunity. We’re just going to keep pushing forward.
Q. How much is the championship in 2014 propelling you right now? How much are you using that as the template for success?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I wouldn’t be able to say that we use that guideline or anything. This is a whole ‘nother team. That team, it was young as well. We lost some starters the year before that.
As you could see, the next year we came back and we put pieces together. We were rolling. We were clicking. We lost two quarterbacks. I mean, it just goes to show, like, this team is well invested. Everything we do here, people, they acclimate to the culture of what it is here. That’s just the main thing.
Q. About the youth of your team. When you go to Oklahoma, all those young guys, was everybody overwhelmed? That was obviously a big reason you were picked? Was there anything about that you remember, the youth of the guys with you?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I remember that week very vivid. Guys came out and they practiced hard. You could just tell, like, young guys, they were ready. That was their opportunity to, like, shine, showcase their talents on a big stage like that.
I think Oklahoma was No. 3 at the time or something like that. I mean, playing on a stage like that, it’s an away game, hostile environment. None of them were nervous. We had a rain delay. Everything looked bad, but none of them were nervous. They stayed composed, went out there and played hard.
Q. Do you wish Ohio State had played in the Big Ten championship or are you glad to have the weekend off?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I mean, I wish we would have played. There’s nothing like winning, especially winning the outright championship.
I mean, having a weekend off has its benefits. You get extra time to rest. Other than that, I like winning more than resting.
Q. Having been through the playoff before, just that setup to get the four best teams, you have to beat two great teams to win the whole thing, it’s physically taxing, tough to go through, but is it fun? Do you like that setup of this is what we have to do to prove ourselves to win this thing?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I think it’s a great idea because that way when you pick the four best teams, no one’s left out. You go head-to-head against the other two opponents that you have to face.
I mean, that’s how you, like, sort everything out. It’s just like a boxing match or something. You just figure out who is the best. Like Muhammad Ali is the best.
Q. Is Ohio State Muhammad Ali?
TYQUAN LEWIS: Yes.
Q. You said you were at Clemson almost every weekend. How did you wind up at Columbus, Ohio?
TYQUAN LEWIS: I wanted to be the best. There’s no other place like this. I respect Clemson. I respect everything else that goes on there. But coming here is different. It’s a lot different here. The culture, everything, the tradition. What everything means to me, this university, like, it’s much deeper than that. That’s why I love it here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. What was your vibe this week? Did you feel like you were definitely in the College Football Playoff or were you a little bit nervous?
J.T. BARRETT: Actually, I mean, me, myself, I felt like we were at a pretty good spot. I mean, when you think about our games, the competition we played, I thought as far as our whole season, I thought that said a lot for us. So I wasn’t really nervous, just excited where we was going to be placed.
Q. Who were you watching with the selection show? Did you erupt? We knew it anyway? What was the reaction?
J.T. BARRETT: I was at the house by myself because I live by myself watching on my couch, eating some chicken wings, actually.
Yeah, it wasn’t one of those things when I saw it, you know, obviously excited. I was telling Adam, our media guy, I’m actually a healthy body. As you see, I’m not on a scooter or anything.
No, I think it’s a blessing just to be healthy throughout the long season, just to be able to play, man, it’s crazy. I’m thankful for that.
Q. What is your relationship with Deshaun Watson? I assume you are good friends. Did you talk after you saw you were selected to play in the Fiesta Bowl?
J.T. BARRETT: Yeah, he’s one of the good friends of mine. Quarterbacks, we oftentimes are a tight circle of us.
No, I texted him. I said, I’ll see you in Arizona, brother.
He’s like, All right, let’s get it.
It’s going to be exciting. We’re both competitors. Love our teams. We’re going to fight to the end in order to get that victory. So it’s going to be good.
Q. When you look at the last few games y’all have played indoors, is that a function of the offense playing better indoors, it being easier, or something else?
J.T. BARRETT: No, I never even thought of that. I think one of the things is preparation. Our coaches do a great job of having us prepared in order to play in big games. I think in that case it just so happens that the big games were indoors.
It’s more of our preparation, even being locked in on their assignments and going out and playing well.
Q. You had success in Glendale last year. It’s also a place where you already have been there and done that, know where you need to be at certain times, already have an schedule. Is there an advantage to that?
J.T. BARRETT: I think that plays a part in that. If anything, coaches make sure as a team we’re all together. That has something to do with it.
When you think about it, our team is so young. Some of those guys, I mean, a lot of them, as far as like the freshmen in 2015, but the 2016 guys that are playing a lot of football for us, they weren’t there.
With the older guys, we’ve been there. We need to make sure everybody is on the same page in order for what we need to do to play our best.
Q. Two years ago you said after Ohio State won it all, it was not bittersweet, but you were happy to be a part of it. Now you are going to be the quarterback in the post-season. What does that mean to you? How excited are you for that opportunity, especially when there are a lot of questions about the passing game?
J.T. BARRETT: Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s truly a blessing. It’s one of the things when I first came here, wrote down my goals. One of them was to win a national championship. We won one, but I didn’t get to play in it because I broke my ankle.
I mean, now that we’re in the mix for it all, I’m a healthy body, just thankful for the blessing God has gave me.
As far as like the passing game questions, I don’t — you hit me with it again. We was there in the season. I don’t have questions in it. I mean, I think we’re going to do what we do best, and that’s run the ball, play-action pass, score points.
So I don’t know.
Q. We’ve asked you a lot this season about the record books, where you stood amongst some other guys. You always talk about wins and losses. Does that mean that month some sort of legacy conversation will be in your mind, what two wins could mean for your place?
J.T. BARRETT: I mean, when I think about that stuff, I think that’s something I want to talk about when I’m probably, I don’t know, retired from playing ball and sitting at the house somewhere in the South. That’s what I’m going to think about.
Right now the main thing is to win this game against Clemson. I think that’s what I’m about. I think at the end of the day that’s all that really matters, is are you able to win football games. I feel like, you know, there’s players that may have put up a lot of points, but at the end of the day, the team, they don’t win.
That’s what we talk about at the end of the day, is are you a winner or did your team lose. I feel like I’m a winner. I’m worried about winning this game against Clemson and making sure we get everybody on the same page, go out there and play our best.
Q. Coach talked about how he’s excited to see how great the Big Ten is this year, how far it’s come. Do you think the three teams in the top 16, the challenges you face every week against these teams, that’s going to help you with the next battles?
J.T. BARRETT: Yeah, so I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re becoming a really good team, is ’cause when the going gets rough, we tend to get better. I mean, you think about we played in overtime games I think it was twice this year. I don’t know how many times it was. We played in some tight ballgames. With that, I think that helps you when it comes to games like this. We really all know it’s not a blowout game, everybody is going to fight still the bitter end. You have to play well till the end of the game.
Being in the Big Ten, I feel it was the best conference this year. I think that makes us all the better when it comes to playing against Clemson.
Q. Being named first team all Big Ten, quarterback of the year in the conference, congratulations.
J.T. BARRETT: Appreciate that.
Q. Is that something you feel you’re going to carry on your shoulders going into your game prep taking on Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl?
J.T. BARRETT: I guess I don’t really think about it like that. I think my main thing is to go out there and play my best. I think my best is pretty good. Puts us in a place to win games.
With that, yeah, I don’t really think about that necessarily. But just go out there, make sure I play at my best. I think when I do that, our offense is going to be playing very well. We oftentimes will win that game.
Q. You had the best seat in the house for the playoff last time around. This way of deciding a champion, four best teams, semifinals, championship, I know it’s a grind for the players, but what did you think of it? Is it fun? Is it a cool way to decide a champion? What did you think of the playoff?
J.T. BARRETT: I think it is. One thing, it’s exciting week-to-week for college football fans. As far as players, I think, I don’t know, it’s one of those things when the first rankings come out, it’s like do they really hold much meaning. It’s only been the third year of it. You sit there and try to focus on each game. As a player, you don’t try to get wrapped up in the College Football Playoff like college football fans are able to do just because it takes away from each game.
Understand those come out in November. That’s when you definitely need to make sure you’re winning ballgames. As a player, I know we definitely didn’t talk about it. There was nothing to talk about really. So with that, I think it’s exciting for college football and the fans, the great fans of college football. As far as a player, at times you get kind of bogged down because that’s all that’s being talked about. That’s all you see running across ESPN.
Just make sure you stay focused on each game.
Q. This bowl practice season coming up, how much better can this team get and how much better do you think this team needs to get for this playoff?
J.T. BARRETT: Win or lose, you always find things to get better at. There’s numerous things we can get better at. I think one of the main things that Coach Meyer, we talk about, is being nine unit strong, make sure if you’re playing at a championship level in your unit, then that’s all you can do. That’s all we need to do in order to win a game. That’s what’s going to be needed in order to beat Clemson, make sure we’re nine unit strong.
With this time we have, 27 days, we’re going to be at a good place as far as being nine unit strong. Our coach is going to do a good job of getting us ready for that.
Q. You don’t necessarily like this question, but I’ll ask it. Where do you need to get better in the passing game? What needs to get better in the realm of the nine units aspect of things?
J.T. BARRETT: I think watching games oftentimes I would probably say myself, just helping the receivers out. When you get in these tight ballgames, going against great DBs, they’re going to be open, but it’s going to be not by much. I think I can do a better job of having ball placement to make it easier on them. They’re getting open, but it’s not, you know what I’m saying, breakaway. I have to do a great job of getting them the ball.
Two, just helping out our O-line. O-line is young. We’re going to be in big-time games. Knowing they’re going to pressure us. I think being able to help our O-line slide into protections, blitzes, I can help out on that. I think those are probably the main things.
I think, like I said, we do that, or if I do that, we’ll be good.
Q. You and Curtis are two of the four finalists for the Silver Football Award. What does that say? What kind of honor is it to be a finalist?
J.T. BARRETT: Yeah, it’s a tremendous honor. Curt, he’s been balling out for us this whole year. Obviously a big part of our offense, what we do.
It’s one of the things you don’t take time out to think about it during the course of the season. You go out there to win games, play your best. I think it says a lot saying the Big Ten Conference was the best this year, being up for that award, it’s a humbling type of thing because you really don’t, you know what I’m saying, put your goals out before the season trying to get those things. When they come, or if they do, you’re grateful for that.