Nov. 21, 2016
COACH MEYER: The pass protection wasn’t — Nebraska, Maryland, Northwestern, and last week there’s — I think they’re a very good defensive line, but it’s not —
Q. So many times when J.T. had to get out of trouble, when protection would break down, and he had to get out of there quite a bit this past week —
COACH MEYER: If the question is — anybody that asks a question, is there a concern, I’ll help you. Yes, that’s all I do is concern. So we can save a lot of time probably today. Is there concern with us protecting our quarterback? Yes. Are they getting better and they’ve been pretty good? Yes.
Q. When you and Tim are having those conversations during a game, even like last weekend where J.T. carried it 20-plus times, are you fighting that to look for something else to get away from it, or do you just want so badly to keep it in his hands?
COACH MEYER: Well, it’s kind of a weather — you know, one of those things where we don’t normally do it like that. There’s been times. A lot of it’s flow of the game. You certainly don’t go into a game and say, let’s do this, but you have to create plus numbers somehow because it’s tough. You see that with every team that plays in weather. It’s just tough.
Q. Are you guys aware of the number as you go through a game? Does that factor into your thoughts at all?
COACH MEYER: A little bit.
Q. Coach, how much does it factor into your thoughts this week that Michigan has injured five different quarterbacks this year? Does it affect your play calling, the reps you give in practice, the speech you have with the officials before the game? Does it affect anything?
COACH MEYER: I didn’t know that. No, I mean, it’s — they’re a good defense.
Q. Beating a couple teams 62-3, it looked as if this team was peaking at just when you needed to peak. Do you still feel like it’s peaking?
COACH MEYER: We’re getting ready for a good game this week. I think we played okay. We ran for 200-some yards and two rushers over 100 yards and had trouble throwing the ball. So, yeah, they’re fine.
Q. Urban, recruiting is the life blood of this program — you’ve said it a hundred times — to be able to inherently get talented players from the beginning. I was wondering, is talent a predetermined thing, or can a team become more talented based on experience and coaching for a few years? Or is talent just you’re as talented as you are from the beginning?
COACH MEYER: Deep question there. So is talent — can you develop talent?
Q. Can a player become more talented through coaching and experience?
COACH MEYER: Well, yeah, yeah. That’s called development, yeah, sure. That’s something that I think, of all the things I’m very proud of nine coaches and a support staff that’s over the top is — yeah, because everyone has good recruiting classes — not everybody. And then some go on and get guys drafted and great performances, and that’s because of what goes on behind the scenes with Coach Marotti. So absolutely.
Q. Last year you guys came into the Michigan game, I think, generally viewed as even or on even footing, and I think as the season played on, your recruiting and kind of your roster, there was a talent gap. From what you’ve seen of Michigan on film this year, have they been able to close that gap — granted, you guys lost some guys through the draft — through one recruiting class, or do you feel like their talent has become a little bit more —
COACH MEYER: Oh, no, I always — the one thing you can always count on is that team having really, really good players. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them — I’ve been involved watching from afar and there also. There are always great players.
The difference is there’s 47 seniors or something, some crazy number of experience. These guys have been there for a while. They’re grown men that have been playing for a while. So very, very good team, very talented. Has the gap closed? I don’t know if I’ve ever considered a gap. I always looked at these two teams, and if there is, it doesn’t matter
Q. What was your earliest recollection of this game, this rivalry?
COACH MEYER: In the ’70s, Bo, Woody. My mother, for some reason I still to this day don’t know why, grabbed me and said we have to go run an errand. What the hell we talking about? You don’t leave that game. In Ashtabula, Ohio, outdoor mall walking down, and over the loud speakers I just kept stopping and listening to the game. In the ’70s, the ten-year war. I remember that.
Q. Was there ever any question as to who you would side with?
COACH MEYER: None.
Q. This is the first time — this is the biggest game in the rivalry in ten years. Michigan finally is more or less on equal footing with you guys. How different is the feel for this game this year given all that’s passed?
COACH MEYER: I’ve never looked at them — every time we played them — last year there was a lot at stake, our first year undefeated season. Second year, it was a chance to play for the National title. We didn’t follow through on the Championship Game. Third year, we got to the national — right? Or fourth year? Third year, yeah. It’s always big.
Q. Can I ask one question about Pat Elflein? I know you’ve talked about how important he is. Just how crucial is he on and off the field for you?
COACH MEYER: I can’t give an adjective to over emphasize his value to our program, and I’ve done this 29 years. He’s as good a player, person, leader as I’ve ever been around. We have senior tackle on Thursday. That will be a tough one.
Q. Urban, I know you’re not really a social media follower yourself, but there may not be a guy on your roster that’s more polarizing among the Ohio State fan base than J.T. Barrett. There’s a segment of the fan base that thinks he’s kind of average and another segment that thinks he’s one of the best quarterbacks in Ohio State history. What’s your take, after four years of J.T., your legacy with quarterbacks, how do you stack him up? Do you think he’s appreciated enough considering this could be his final game at Ohio Stadium?
COACH MEYER: I think we’re in a very evaluation-friendly profession, and he’s in a very evaluation-friendly position. You look at wins, number one, and then you look at statistical, touchdown, interception, passing efficiency, and that easily makes him one of the greatest quarterbacks probably to play the game. I’m not just — you know, does he throw the best curl route or whatever? I don’t know that, but I don’t care.
Won-lost record, TD to interception ratio, and passing efficiency are things I always look at. But number one, without question, the won-lost. Do you win games? Because that’s a tough position.
Q. When you stack him up with guys like Joshua Harris and Tim, how do you —
COACH MEYER: Here we go. We have a big game this week, man, and I love J.T. Barrett.
Q. Urban, we talked about your corners, Marshon, Gareon, Denzel, how well they played. Michigan has a pretty good pair of big ones too. How difficult do you think throwing the ball is going to be to in this game?
COACH MEYER: It’s going to be man coverage. There’s no secret. It’s what they play, and they’re very good players.
Q. Urban, 1986, you were a graduate assistant here at Ohio State, and the Monday of the game, Jim Harbaugh guaranteed Michigan was going to win that game. I know you had to be aware of it because I think you all put signs up and things like that. What do you remember about that, and what do you remember about the motivating factor it brought maybe for you guys for the game?
COACH MEYER: I actually remember it very well. I remember we won the game. We started the season bad, lost two games, Alabama and Washington, got smoked at Washington, and went on a nice run, I think nine straight or something like that. And they lost to Minnesota, and then we had the — Vince Workman had a touchdown, and we missed a field goal right at the end and went to the Cotton Bowl and won that. So I remember it very well.
Q. Do you remember the reaction in the building when he made that comment?
COACH MEYER: Not really. I remember it was typical if someone says that.
Q. You got a triumvirate right now with J.T., Mike Weber over 1,000 yards now, Curtis Samuel, the only player in the nation with 600-plus rushing and receiving. What do you feel about that trio going into this game? Does it give you a balance?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, we have to utilize all the weapons because what you said is true. We also have some other receivers playing pretty good. Tight ends are getting more involved. So there are — statistically the offense is pretty good. I think we’re number one in the Big Ten if I remember right. I haven’t checked it this week.
But you’re going to need it. Against a defense like this, you’ll need every one of them playing their best.
Q. Can I ask one more thing? Saturday, we talked about the wind before the game and after the game, 20, 25 miles an hour, sometimes gusts of 40 or more. Do you just throw that game away from the standpoint of a passing game? Just from what you had going the previous two games.
COACH MEYER: Throw it away?
Q. Yeah, just from a — yeah, I think J.T. was 10 out of 22 or whatever it was. Is that just a throwaway situation?
COACH MEYER: No. It’s thrown away the minute the game — we don’t spend much time on that. I know other people do. We’re giving all focus to this one. Do we sit and talk about it like we do in here now? Of course not. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Q. The vast majority of your production this year have been guys that still have eligibility left, but how do you — these seniors have been with you for most of your time here. How do you ultimately remember this class?
COACH MEYER: It’s, unfortunately, a very small class because a bunch of those cats left on us last year, who I love dearly.
But I’m thinking off the top of my head, you’ve got a punter who, we don’t talk about him much, but I love him dearly, and he’s a guy like you talk about a leap of faith — big leap, like across continents — and is a wonderful guy. We’ve got a kicker that I love to death, Tyler Durbin, surprising that I know his name, but he’s fantastic. Pat Elflein, one of the best football players I’ve been around. Dontre Wilson, has been an injury-prone career, but a wonderful guy who’s all in with the team. Corey Smith, nicknamed the JC Guy, was instrumental in our National Championship year. He’s also dealt with an injury as a junior and this year also with a broken hand. And that’s about it.
Q. Burger, Fada.
COACH MEYER: Oh, gosh, Burger, Fada. People joke around, or I joke around, if I have any more children, I’m going to name him Burger Fada. That’s how much I love those guys. Two of the most selfless guys I’ve ever been around, and I’m so proud to be able to put them on scholarship. They’ll be Buckeyes the rest of their life.
Q. You mentioned Michigan has 40-some kids that are seniors. Have you ever been part of a team that has this small of a senior class?
COACH MEYER: I think the smallest. Somebody told me that. Or at least contributors, yeah.
Q. Gareon Conley used to be a commit to the Team Up North, and you were able to pry him away. What did you see in him back then, and how much of an impact has he made on the team?
COACH MEYER: He’s another one who’s a brilliant player for us. I do remember that very well. Mike Vrabel recruits that area. It was an early commit. We thought highly of him, not to the point — and I remember he played his tail off senior year. I went and watched him actually practice basketball. That’s when I was like this is a crazy athlete. Then you get to meet him and his family. Major impact. He’s not just a great player, but a great leader as well.
Q. Urban, we know how good your run game was the last couple of years with Carlos and Ezekiel. The way the run game has developed this year, where you stand now, you have two guys over 100 at Michigan State. What have you thought of the whole thing with J.T. and Mike and Curtis working in there?
COACH MEYER: Pretty good. I think someone told me statistically we’re about where we were with Zeke, only Zeke would carry the load more than — I think. Someone told me that. If you’re looking at me to say, boy, I love where we’re at, I don’t ever love where we’re at until we’re in February and I see how it went.
But I think we’ll need all three weapons. When you face an elite defense like this, you need everything you got.
Q. When you looked — earlier in the year, Mike and Curtis shared more of the carries. Like the last half of the year, Curtis has obviously been used more in the passing game, less in the run game. Was that a conscious decision, or did it just evolve that way? Is it Mike developing?
COACH MEYER: No, it’s also defenses are — yeah, they’re forcing something — I don’t want to get too detailed, but, no, it’s not by design.
Q. When you were away for a year from coaching, all the things about Rivalry Week, all the things you love as a football coach, begin with the guys, that kind of stuff, this kind of week, going against your rival — the tradition, the history, all that stuff — like I know you do this for a lot of reasons, but how much do you like rivalries? You’ve had so much success every stop you’ve been at.
COACH MEYER: I appreciate rivalries probably more than most. That’s just the way I’ve always been. When I was at Notre Dame, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry, Florida-Florida State, BYU-Utah, Bowling Green-Toledo.
I think that came from Coach Hayes and Bo Schembechler. I just think that was the classiest — both programs had a tremendous respect for each other, both coaches did, and they played so damn hard. So I just remember that. So I have a great appreciation for rivalries.
Q. Urban, you said a few years ago that you ran Alex Smith like 25 times in the snow in a rivalry game. How much does the weather (indiscernible) affect that? It seems like J.T. carries a lot.
COACH MEYER: It’s our style. I can’t speak to other people. It depends who that guy is. I do remember we won 3-0 in a blizzard at Provo, and he ran the ball a bunch. Those kinds of things, ball security is a premium. You trust whoever touches that ball. You got to be very cautious. And at times do equate numbers.
Q. (Indiscernible) once told me that at the end of the regular season, the media informed me he was both the national champions and he wasn’t even aware of it. College football is totally different this day and age with an emphasis on the National Championship. I’m just curious, would you rather be in the Big Ten Championship game or make it to the four-team playoff as an at large team knowing it gave you a week off to rest?
COACH MEYER: I hope that our two tackles’ ankles are completely healed for Tuesday’s practice, and we’re going to have our scout team get their tip sheets sometime today so they can take them home and look at them. We have to have a great Tuesday practice.
Q. When you and your mother ran that unfortunate errand, did you and she use that word then, or did you already not use that word?
COACH MEYER: Wow, I can lie to you and say I never used it, but I don’t remember. Probably make a better story if I said I never used it.
Q. Should I go with that?
COACH MEYER: No.
Q. Urban, back when you were here — well, before you were here, Woody would never, of course, refer to University of Michigan as University of Michigan, it was always the School Up North. It spoke to a kind of primitive warfare. Has this evolved, though, socially at all where we can be a little more fraternal, you and Jim, the mention of the rival, et cetera? Is there a more sophisticated term?
COACH MEYER: That’s a great question. Here’s my memory of that rivalry. This is where I think it’s the greatest rivalry in all of sport. You’re darn right it was tough, but I know very well that there are two coaches who never respected each other more, and that’s the head coach of our rival, Bo Schembechler, because I talked to him about it. I had great conversations with Coach Schembechler.
And Woody Hayes, unfortunately, I never had those great conversations. I met him a few times. He was here in ’86, and we lost him, and I never — I look back, and I wish I would have been able to sit down and talk to him about it.
But I think that’s the standard to what rivalries are all about, and, yes, that’s what I remember. They go so frickin’ hard against it, but there is a mutual respect.
I didn’t say like, but there’s a mutual respect. And I learned it from those two — two of the greatest coaches of all time. They handled themselves with incredible class, toughness, demanded of their players, and you got to see that every time those two teams played. So that’s my memory, and that’s how we go about our business here.