Sept. 1, 2014

An Interview With: COACH Urban Meyer

COACH MEYER: I’ve known that for a long time way back from 1986, 1987, when I was here before, and all the way to the Pac 12 game against Cal last year where the majority, I don’t know if it was the majority, but there was a bunch of Ohio State people in that stadium and then this one. It was a home game for us. And we appreciate that.

Second, just a couple of comments about our opponent Naval Academy. I’ve coached against Navy many times, against Air Force several times. Army I think once or twice. And tremendous respect as most people do for the discipline and the way they play. This was probably the most talented of all the service academies that we’ve coached against. I remember one year, Army, I think Ed Warinner was there when I was at Notre Dame, they won 10 or 11 games.

They were a top 20, top 15 team. I remember leaving that field thinking they were extremely talented. I thought this way about this group. Very talented, very experienced. And it was exactly what we expected. And J.T. did okay. He was 12 of 15, he had a drop, a pick, an interception, an interception, a drop and a throw away, those are three incomplete passes. We shouldn’t drop a ball, very ill advised pass on the red zone. And then a throw a way where we got beat quickly up front got rid of the ball which was a good job.

Interesting thoughts I shared with our team yesterday. Review that with you. Offensively that was very poor the first half, very poor. We had a punt, a field goal, a punt, our first three drives, you can’t do that in that game. And I knew that going into the game and that’s why get pretty uptight because every possession, Navy can score at any time, plus sometimes you only get three or four possessions a half. But once again punt, the good thing is when we did punt we dropped it on the minus 1 yard line. We did hit a field goal. We had a punt again, I believe that was 3 and out. And then we threw an interception and we closed with a field goal. And that was, that kind of a first half usually if your defense isn’t hanging in there, you have a problem. Second half was much better. Had turnover on downs and three straight touchdowns. Our defense scored for us. They gave us the ball at the minus 43 and the plus 41 twice, obviously. We’re down 14 to 13 and we went for it on fourth and two and we came right back and we held them to five yards. That was on a Curtis Grant. That was that series of plays. That was the difference in the game. We spent a lot of time talking to our team about that. Chemistry on our team is very good. There’s a tendency to, when you go for a blocked punt you run into the punter, when you go for it on fourth down why did we do this, why do we do this, I think we make it very clear we’re probably going to go next week for it. So let’s get ready. When they say defense your job is to stop people. And Coach Fickell and Coach Ash made the comment to me it’s the best they’ve seen in the last couple of maybe three years even as far as just when it’s sudden change situation or a fourth down you don’t get it. You just go do your job. And then just that once again the series of events on we’re down 14 13. We went for it at midfield. You’re midway through the third quarter. If things don’t work out, they score, we’re down by 8, and you maybe get two possessions left in that game. And that was what was going through my stomach after we didn’t get it on fourth down. But we get the ball back and they punt the ball at the end zone, 80 yard touchdown, you take control of the game a little bit. Very important series in the game, that’s why I made such a big deal about I thought the defense gave up far too many yards. One series was disturbing. They ran a little counterplay, first time they ran it, and a four play drive for 80 some yard touchdown. Other than that I thought our defense hung in there very well. Champions for the game. Doran Grant and Tyvis Powell. Two first time starters there with Darron Lee, Tyvis Powell. Doran Grant graded out 100 percent. Didn’t throw the ball but eight for eight making plays. On offense, your champions once again are guys that play with championship level effort in execution, Devin Smith graded out 88 percent, two touches for 94 yards. Evan Spencer played very well, blocking downfield. He’s one of the top two or three blockers we’ve ever had at wide receiver. Dontre Wilson graded out at champion, five for five making plays. He did have a drop, I should say five of six. Eight touches for 90 yards. Our two tight ends played pretty good Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. And then offensive line Taylor Decker and Darryl Baldwin. Ezekiel Elliott was Player of the Game. Those are our champions. Night game, Ohio State style, which was very unique. Our players are excited. Our fans are excited about it. We got a very good opponent, coach I’ve known for a long time. First time I’ve ever played against him. But they are what they are after not really studying we studied a little bit in the summer and offseason. And one of the top five defenses in America. Really good defensive coach. Offensively last year they struggled but this year they have a quarterback that’s a transfer that’s thrown the ball very well in the one game. So I’ll answer any questions for you.

Q. I don’t think Marcus Baugh made the trip. Can you give a stat uses update on Marcus Baugh?
COACH MEYER: He’s suspended for two games. He’s not going to play this game either.

Q. You talked some about the offensive line after the game. Getting another look at it, what did you think overall the line play and what can you expect making a jump from week one to week two?
COACH MEYER: We were very disappointed early in the game. We had some pressure we wanted to throw the ball earlier and it wasn’t because of J.T. or the wideouts because I thought our guys had made plays and I have a lot of confidence in J.T. we couldn’t have minus yardage plays and it didn’t start off very well.

So I think they settled down much better, played much better in the second half. And we just, there’s a couple of guys never really played at this, played major college football. Billy Price, Jacoby Boren, Darryl Baldwin really hasn’t played. Half line has and Taylor Decker. Three of the five, that’s the first time in that environment. I thought the second half they played pretty well.

Q. And you talked so much this offseason about pass defense and everything you overhauled. You play the first week
COACH MEYER: I think we’re ranked pretty high in pass defense.

Q. Are you just curious to see against a team that’s more traditionally offense?
COACH MEYER: Real curious. We have to shift gears. Excuse me. Shift gears. We have to shift gears. That’s a tough I trust our scheduler. That’s our AD. He’s great.

But that’s getting ready for that game is tough enough. It’s just now you have to go back to pass defense that’s brand new. So we actually started in earnest yesterday on the field. When usually we don’t do much on Sunday. Yesterday we did. Get back to see if we improved our pass defense.

Q. So many questions with J.T. going into the game, at least on the outside. Anything you learned about him that you didn’t know about him before the game, and is this a guy you believe you can still obtain the same goals you did with Miller?
COACH MEYER: I believe so. I believe anytime you lose a great player, we’re not a group I’m just sharing with you what I tell our players too, Braxton Miller Big Ten Player of the Year twice back to back.

To say we’ll be fine we have to have someone pick that up. We need 100 plus yards of offense. We didn’t have it Saturday. We need some of those skilled athletes in space. When they get in space, you saw a couple of those guys that got tackled. You’d like to pull through some of those tackles.

So I was not surprised at all by J.T. I thought he handled himself very well for his first start.

You take away the interception, and I think he did very well. And I’m trying to think what misfires he had, very cognitive quarterback. Very smart quarterback that gets us in the right plays and makes the right decisions.

Q. Unique opponent, unique offense in the opener, a lot of history and tradition. And intangibles there. Is this more the type of game these kids came here to play, night game, TV, well known will the jitters be any different? I guess not because it’s a home
COACH MEYER: Someone told me all the excuses were there last week. You didn’t hear us bring it up very often. Nine new starters on offense. The good thing they’re not nine new starters. They’re veteran players now. Enough with the excuses and get going.

I just think of our D linemen. Joey Bosa didn’t come to Ohio State to squeeze down blocks and keep people off his ankles. That’s what he had to do last week.

He came to rush a quarterback and penetrate. So there’s big smiles across our defensive line right now to let them go play.

Mike Bennett, how did you play Mike? And I don’t know if he graded champion or not. He said I got double teamed every snap and one guy was trying to take my knees out. That’s all legal. It’s really good football, to be honest with you. But it’s not what to answer your question they certainly didn’t come to play in that kind of game, the defensive line.

However, I will say this, you come to Ohio State play that that was a great atmosphere. Pro stadium. And against a very good opponent.

Q. Building on Bill’s question, you said after the game, a lot of work to do. But how much can you really take from that? How good do you feel about the community going in, what can you take from that game?
COACH MEYER: Concern number one is offensive line. We’re facing could be, trying to think the rest of our opponents. This will be one of the top 2, 1 or 2 defensive lines we’ll face every year. Our offensive line did not play like an Ohio State offensive line. The standard was set many, many years ago.

I think Coach Warinner, the last two years really added to the reputation of Ohio State offensive line. We did not play like that.

The second half we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect. You play pretty good this week you won’t win that game. So we have to get much better fast in the offensive line.

On defense, you don’t take much from that. Because I didn’t see a lot of missed tackles. I saw a couple of execution errors on a new play they put in, first game of the season those things happen.

I’m not concerned about that. I’m looking forward to watching how our pass defense has improved.

Q. Question about Darron Lee. Obviously huge point. This overall, can you kind of talk about his development?
COACH MEYER: He did grade at champion. Eight tackles. He’s a guy that is a product of offseason program met drills of all the different ways we try to develop some toughness around here. He’s a quarterback from local, New Albany quarterback. Starting in one of our tougher guys on defense that throws it around.

So I thought I was not surprised. He’s been practicing like that since spring ball. Kind of came out of nowhere. Didn’t expect that in spring practice.

Q. They’re both tall to me but Michael Brewer and J.T. Barrett are I think considered undersized as a quarterback. Is the game any more favorable to that sized quarterback now than it was when you started?
COACH MEYER: What a great question. I think space has made it a little bit easier, back when you had masses of people in front of you all the time. That’s a great question I never really thought about.

We had Chris Leak, an undersized quarterback, Josh Harris. And Braxton’s not gigantic. I think that would be very good research.

I think mobility has kind of taken over the 6’4″, 6’5″ guy that can’t run. There’s some great ones out there. The defensive coordinators would like to get after those guys because the threat of him doing something with the ball is not really there.

Q. Can I ask what you think makes Frank so successful. I know the past two years aren’t one of the better he’s one of the winningest coaches in the FBS?
COACH MEYER: I’ve had so much respect for him. When I was the I was the receiver coach and Bob Davey came walking in said you’re the special teams coordinator, I said I don’t want to be the special teams. I didn’t really say it like that, because he would have said you’re out.

But he was one of the guys I went because Beamer Ball something that’s been around for a long time. And I would like to think we’ve patterned ourselves ever since that was in 1999 or something like that, ’98, when he said that. That’s when my appreciation for special teams and then I see what Virginia Tech did for so many years.

I studied them in person and I studied them afar ever since. He set a standard for he’ll go down as how they won games, first of all, he’s a classy guy that does things the right way. But second of all his style of play is so unique for many, many years. Obviously he’s a legend.

Q. Urban with J.T. at quarterback, I remember two years ago you said the same thing about Braxton, add a little more to it each week. Is this a situation where you were fine with what he’s been doing or do you add a little more to add to the flavor?
COACH MEYER: We’ll expand a little bit. He was just in there. Tough week to do it against. The one thing they’re not overly complicated. They just play very, very hard. Yes, we will keep giving him more and more. We went into a very vanilla last week.

Q. You kind of referred to this, running game, both offense and defense against and for the run. You were okay with the way you ran the ball and for the most part the way you defended?
COACH MEYER: Take away one series, and I know that’s really not the right way of looking at it. When you look at the score being 7 6 at halftime I thought our defense played outstanding. That’s 21 6. We were in a bad and really their touchdown, that was when the ball hit the pylon, that was a close call as well.

So I’m okay with overall running the ball and stopping the run, that’s not going to get it done this week, but first guy out I wasn’t that disappointed.

Q. Dovetailing off that, for your running game, the carries were very evenly distributed it seems from backs. Going forward is that the way you like because you have guys that can carry or do you need somebody to be a 15, 20 carry guy? What are you looking for this week and down the road?
COACH MEYER: Last year we had a guy that was a 20, 25 carry guy. We have some pretty capable players. We also don’t have that body type to go just slam it in there so many times on the offensive line. And so that’s a good question. We’re going to let it see. I know there’s a lot of guys, Rod Smith had the play of the day. He held a block on punt return for 11 seconds. And the way we do our business here, that entitled him some carries.

I mean, it was one of the greatest efforts I’ve ever seen on a play for 11 seconds he locked down a defender and then knocked him down at the end of the play. If we could get one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen.

When you see guys doing that type of thing, Jalen earned some carries and Donte certainly has. You have Zeek and you have Curtis Samuel, all these guys earning these carries. And so it’s probably going to be like that again this week, just because these young guys have earned these carries.

Q. One quick, you just touched on it the pylon. What was explained to you about that? I guess the rule is if you touch the pylon in any way it’s a touchdown. But he hit it from the back instead of the front. Just how was it explained to you or was it?
COACH MEYER: It wasn’t. I’m not one of those guys that rant and rave at officials, and I know there’s a replay, I heard there were two calls. We sent the one in as well where Zeek rolled over a guy on the third down and 4 and I didn’t really study it that close, but we sent it in I’m waiting on the response back.

If it touches the pylon, it’s a touchdown. The question I had is did part of his body go down or out of bounds before he did it. Great play by that kid, because he was out of the

Q. And the other thing, Devin Smith all of a sudden just pops up every now and then makes a huge play. You’ve been with him, around him for three years now. Explain what he’s about in your opinion.
COACH MEYER: He’s the best “D” Ball player we’ve done this for a long time, I want to say one of the best “D” Ball players we’ve ever had. He adjusts so well to the ball. He caught someone said 18 or 19 touchdowns, average 40 yards per catch on a touchdown. That’s unique. Extremely fast. Tracks the ball down very well. It’s not like we’re holding him. The team we played against was a very soft zone. They weren’t going to give you the deep balls, and they had a coverage mistake, that’s how that happened.

Q. Was that played not only for him but for J.T. to recognize, you understand what I mean, did everybody kind of build on that one?
COACH MEYER: We wanted to do that early in the game. It was actually the same play where we caught Dontre on a 30 yard pass in the first half, same exact play except it was designed each levels play, designed to take a look deep first. If it’s there, take. If not, come down, check two to three.

And they mis hit the coverage. That’s always a big part of our one reason Devin’s doing so well in our offense that’s the number one look on all of our, not all of them, the majority of our play action passing game.

Q. You mentioned you guys maybe came out a little vanilla and then could you explain the play book for J.T. this year. Is there a learning curve for coaches just like there would be being prepared on the field learning what he does well, how you’re going to call plays?
COACH MEYER: Once again, I think Barrett’s part of it. The offensive line is a big part of it. What can those guys do and what can they do well. We’re expecting them in next couple of weeks to be able to do it all well. It’s not just J.T. When we say expand the play book, it’s for J.T. and it’s for the offensive line.

And once those two groups come together, which I’m expecting that to happen rather quickly, it better or we won’t win this game, then we’ll continue to expand it.

Q. Coaches always say this time of year that they expect the biggest jump maybe from week one to week two, just for J.T., what do you anticipate will be an area where he can make some strides right away?
COACH MEYER: Good question. Just trying to think of the mistakes he made. He was pretty just good. More dynamic, 16 yard run, Ezekiel led on the draw play. And he’s done pretty good. He’s just not the dynamic guy. Wouldn’t mind, when you go, go. But he played pretty well.

Q. We’re all asking about J.T. It seems like a lot of your answers are you lack confidence in your offensive line right now.
COACH MEYER: The second half helped. Spring practice did not help. Training camp helped. And then the first half did not. The second half really helped. So to say I don’t have confidence is probably not fair, because we called on our own 20 yard line a play action pass to go win the game.

I wasn’t going to do that in the second quarter. In the second half I gained a lot of confidence, because I saw their demeanors change at halftime and there’s a redshirt freshman out there playing, a senior that hasn’t played much competitive football and there’s another guy, another young player that hasn’t done much.

Q. And you guys didn’t have a whole lot of plays in that game. I think you only had seven in the third quarter. Did you get everybody in that you wanted to offensively?
COACH MEYER: No. Raekwon McMillan, we have to get him in the game. He got on some special teams. Erick Smith got on some special teams. Sam Hubbard is close. Johnnie Dixon is close. We have to get other guys in the game.

Q. Pretty similar to that as far as the freshmen. I remember after last year you said you wanted to make sure those young guys were more ready to play after some of those guys didn’t get a chance to get in a year ago. I think only four played in that first game against Navy.
COACH MEYER: Only four played?

Q. True freshmen from this?
COACH MEYER: It could be more than that. They have to earn that time. But Raekwon will play this week. And the other names I mentioned are getting better and better. And Donte Booker had he cut his foot on something and so he wasn’t really ready to play. We gotta get him ready to play as well.