Nov. 14, 2016
COACH MEYER: Pretty good this time of year. Linebackers, you’ve got Jerome Baker, Craig Fada, great to see that, and Chris Worley. On the back end of the defense, you had Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, and Malik Hooker. And the player of the game, who played very well, was our captain Raekwon McMillan, two assists, two tackles for loss, eight tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. So playing a very high level of defense right now.
On offense, we had receivers back-to-back their best games. We gave them a game ball and called them — what’s that stuff called again? Zone 6 or something like that. So zone 6. That’s what it’s called, right? All right, zone 6. So zone 6, we gave them the — I did because their blocking two weeks in a row were outstanding. A lot of those big hits, you can see are — the guys, off the top of my head, were — where are they? Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel, just selfless play. As good as Curtis is with the ball, he’s like Zeke, without the ball he’s a very good blocker. Noah Brown had hit city and playing very well.
Tight ends, Marcus Baugh played well. He’s about healthy finally. He’s been up and down throughout the season with the shoulder and ankle injuries.
Offensive line, all five graded at Champion — Billy Price, Pat Elflein, Michael Jordan, Jamarco Jones, and Isaiah. And the co-players of the game were Curtis Samuel — nine touches, 112 yards, three touchdowns — the zone 6 blocking, and then J.T. Barrett, our quarterback, played very well.
All focus and laser lights are on a team that we know very well, a lot of respect for, excellent players, great coaches, and we’re going to do our very best to perform well on the road.
Q. I think this is probably a predictable answer we’re going to get from you, Michigan State is probably going to be something you see a lot today, but there’s so much speculation outside of here about what happened with the upsets and the Big Ten Championship and CFP. How do you keep your players from becoming immersed in that?
COACH MEYER: Well, I’m debating right now what to do with that. I did not cover that yesterday. I have not covered it all throughout the year. Normally in the past, I have. I don’t know yet. But the focus is obviously Michigan State.
Q. One of the interesting questions now is you could — because Michigan lost, Penn State wins a tiebreaker with you — not get to the Big Ten Championship and maybe in a way make it an easier path to get to the College Football Playoff. How much does a Big Ten Championship mean to you to be able to play for that Championship?
COACH MEYER: Just want to beat Michigan State, man. It means a lot.
Q. Urban, your teams seem to get stronger from a physical standpoint the deeper you get in the season. It seems like that every year. I know Coach Mick pushes the guys hard during the off-season. My question is during the season how much can he push physically? I’m sure you have to walk that line of wanting to push them but not getting them to where they’re not fresh for game day. During the season, how much does he push those guys?
COACH MEYER: It’s not a cookie cutter recipe. It depends who you’re talking about. There’s some guys that can run for days. Parris Campbell just can go, go, go. Marshawn Lattimore has some hamstring issues. The thing, I think, that separates Mick, Stu, our trainer, and our training staff, is that it’s not chapter 3. It’s not here’s how we handle during season, it’s how do each of these individuals on our sports performance team, which is — I would say Gene’s here too — is we have the best. I would be shocked if someone says, you know what, we’ve got a little better sports performance team than you guys do.
Hydration, nutrition, and once again, a credit to our boss that the answer’s yes. If it’s for student-athlete welfare, absolutely. And Mickey takes that to the — Coach Mick and his team meet once a week. I’m just so proud of that. They take it to the nth degree. But I think it’s important to say there’s not, well, this is the way we did it last year. Well, who are we talking about? Every player’s different, and no one knows them better than our training staff.
Q. Real quick on Denzel Ward. He left the game, street clothes in the second half.
COACH MEYER: He’s okay.
Q. What’s the injury?
COACH MEYER: Just precautionary.
Q. I know you like to go see some recruits play different sports. When you were recruiting Sam Hubbard, did you watch him play lacrosse?
COACH MEYER: No, I watched him play dodgeball.
Q. Dodgeball? What do you learn from watching somebody play dodgeball?
COACH MEYER: Big good looking kid — well, we got him to camp after that. I was with John Rodenberg at Moeller in the gymnasium with Kerry Coombs, and we started just talking about their players. You see I got this kid going to Notre Dame to play lacrosse. Where is he? Right over there. Ooh, I was watching him, pretty good dodgeball player. I said, let’s get him to camp.
I got to know him and his family, and it was a no brainer. We didn’t know what he was going to play. It was either tight end or defensive end. He was actually a safety in high school.
Q. How long did it take to figure out that the dodgeball player —
COACH MEYER: Camp. He was really — his issue was not effort. He’s always been a four-to-six guy, but it’s strength. He just didn’t lift like a football player, and obviously he’s doing very well now.
Q. Coach, you’ve been saying and the players have been saying all year, we control our own destiny. Kind of getting back to the Big Ten, you do somewhat, but not all the way. Is there some —
COACH MEYER: I hope we’re not — if you ask players, I guess they’ll say that because that’s good player speak or coach speak, but we just find a way — ever since the loss, we’ve just been all schedule boards are covered up and just focus on one and let’s not worry about big picture. Let’s just — kind of you never know what you’re going to get. Every team’s different, just like every player’s different, and they’re kind of buying into and holding on to the thought about all our focus is on that Tuesday practice.
Q. What other efforts — when you say you covered up the schedule boards, what other efforts are made to really get that laser focus for each game?
COACH MEYER: I just count on our players. We have really good guys here. We have good leaders. That’s a great question. I wish I had more of a detailed answer for you because, when they leave here, they’re not here all day long or it would be easy. Just lock them in the locker room and feed them once in a while, but it’s not that simple.
Q. Coach, in the past couple weeks, we’ve learned that apparently it’s okay with the NCAA to bring back former players who aren’t in the NFL to use on scout teams. Is that something that you have done or would consider doing?
COACH MEYER: Say that again.
Q. The NCAA says it’s okay for, for instance, Alabama to use Trent Richardson as a scout team player.
COACH MEYER: In practice?
COACH MEYER: I did not know that. Like padded practice, he’s running plays?
Q. We don’t have all the details on it. We just know that he’s at practice.
COACH MEYER: Padded practice, NFL players?
Q. Well, Alabama.
Q. Orlando Pace.
Q. Joey Galloway.
COACH MEYER: I’ll be right back.
I apologize. I did not know that. It’s got me thinking. Who we got?
Q. Is it hard to get a grasp from what Michigan State is this year only because of how many different rosters they’ve used? They haven’t had the same starting lineup in back-to-back games?
COACH MEYER: They’re very systematic what they do. They have very good players. They’ve dealt with some injuries like a lot of teams and like a lot of us, but not worried. Just grinding away.
Q. Urban, you talked about how well the receivers are playing. Just, for instance, a couple of guys like Noah and Parris and Terry, last couple games, they’re not catching a lot of balls, but they’re playing —
COACH MEYER: Outstanding.
Q. — like well. What does it say to you about guys — we know how receivers are. They all love to catch, but they’re still playing and doing the things they have to do.
COACH MEYER: Great question. I’ve been around men who are complete buffoons about that kind of stuff. When you recruit them, you hope they’re not that way. You kind of try to get in their grill and find out if they’re a selfish guy because our objective is to win the game at all costs.
And Terry McLaurin, if that means you be the best gunner and go down and stick a guy on his ear or return like you did at Maryland, so be it. So we’re very cautious about that, and I’ve walked away from some players that start asking the wrong questions when they’re a junior in high school.
So we’re very fortunate right now. I think Zach’s doing a good job with those guys. K.J. Hill is a blocking fool. Nolan Brown, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin — those guys are doing a great job, especially the last couple of weeks.
Q. Last couple of weeks, talking about how well the defensive line is playing, Tyquan Lewis just seems like a guy who is just like a solid guy. Do you see other guys feed off him a little bit?
COACH MEYER: He’s a great leader. I didn’t know that when we recruited him. He was kind of an under recruited guy. He came to camp — Vrabel was here. That’s how long ago it was. I didn’t think much of him, to be honest with you. I thought he was okay, kind of a quiet kid, but he’s a man’s man. I love that guy. He raises the level of play of those around him. He’s actually a very good player now. I thought he was just a ham and egg guy, kind of a worker, but Larry’s done a very good job with him.
But to answer your question, he’s one of our top leaders on our team.
Q. Urban, back in the day, you were a psychology major, is that correct? There’s too much made of this revenge factor. How much do you use that to motivate? This week especially in Michigan State, payback. I’m just curious how effective that is.
COACH MEYER: Good question. Once again, it depends on the team. You can’t go to chapter 2 and say, let’s pull that out and see if it works. I’ve not even thought about it one bit because Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are knee deep in just game planning. Thursday, Mick and I will sit down and see where we’re at. I have so much confidence and trust in guys like Pat Elflein and J.T. I’ll chat with them a little bit. I just love coaching grown men like that.
So to answer your question, I’ve done that, and it’s not my decision, it’s our decision what approach we want to take.
Q. It can be effective?
COACH MEYER: Sure. It depends on the team and the individual.
Q. Dovetailing, whatever the word is, off of that, what is it about the way Michigan State plays that has given you guys problems in the past?
COACH MEYER: Really good players.
Q. But past that, is there something about their scheme?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, they’re good. We’re not the only ones they’ve given problems to. They’ve won a lot of games here, what is it, our fifth year here? They challenge every throw. There’s no freebies anywhere.
Once again, it’s not scheme. It’s not scheme, it’s players. They have very good, very good — I think they developed — when I first got here, when I saw two first rounders, a corner and all those safeties, they were very good, and they’re still very good.
Q. That’s the reason I wanted to follow with this. So what — when you’ve looked at their video, because I know you’ve probably looked at their defensive video, what was going wrong with them earlier in the year? Obviously, they shut out Rutgers, but they scored 40 points against Northwestern and got beat. What have you seen about their defense that —
COACH MEYER: I think they’ve had some injuries. You know, I don’t — I still — it looks like the same Michigan State defense to me, and that’s what we’re preparing for, and they’re very good players.