Feb. 3, 2016
COACH MEYER: Well, thanks for coming. I want to thank our staff, really relentless pursuit of a top 2 or 3 class. I guess consensus, I’ve just seen a couple of the rankings and rankings aren’t important. As long as you’re keeping score, we like to do the best we can. What I look at, even more than the rankings, because some people have 30 in their class, some people have 25, is the average. I think that’s kind of appealing to me to know that we’re one of the top teams in the country as far as quality of player.
And once again, what’s it really mean? Nothing. Because you had a skinny-neck kid from New Albany that played quarterback that ended up being okay and he wasn’t ranked very high.
Every year that happens but we do check those things out. I know I do. And so I want to thank our staff. So we obviously had a tough loss. Came back and played our best football at the end of the season against our rival and against Notre Dame in the bowl game and then we went right to work.
Then we found out, we anticipated maybe seven juniors leaving for the NFL draft. And I know I’ve spoke with other coaches about this. It’s not ideal, but I’m not sure what is, when you find out.
And I think the date is the 16th of January; is that correct, when the junior has to declare? And I know Coach Saban and I have discussed it before and other guys, and what’s the ideal date? Is it in December, when you’re getting ready for bowl games and potential playoff opportunities?
I think the date’s pretty good. I’m a pretty big fan of the recruiting calendar and everything as is. So I don’t know. But that hit us hard — hit us hard, because a lot of kids nowadays are already precommitted. And so you have to go out and it’s a street fight to either get back involved with a player, especially when you lose, for example, when we lost the guys in the secondary. That’s why Jordan Fuller was such a key get at the 11th hour.
So that’s real. We can discuss that. I do want to discuss about just our stance on the recruiting calendar, on regulation. You know, I hear the stuff about texting. I want to make this clear why — and this is a high school coaches and high school player perspective, not college coaches. Who cares about college coaches? That’s not what this is about. It’s about them, and not screwing up a high school kid’s senior year or junior year. If you text someone you can’t stop that, so you have a phone full of what? Text messages.
If I don’t want to hear from that school they’ll keep hitting me because that’s their job, and usually it’s not them, it’s maybe an intern doing it. So here’s a kid in high school being bombarded with text messages sitting there doing this all day. If it’s social media you can determine who you want to hear from.
So you can help us out. If somebody wants to write an article saying it’s the most nonsense thing in my life when I hear people saying it’s the same thing, then you’re clueless on how to use this thing, which I was several years ago, but I’m not now.
So any help you can give with that, too, put some common sense into. When I hear the certain committees put together to have these conversations, I’d like to know how many people on the committee has actually recruited.
And then are you thinking about the 17-year-old or the 16-year-old instead of the 50-year-old. And that’s what we have to continue to do. And we push that very hard here at Ohio State and Gene supports that, I know.
Regulation is big, for example. Another nonsense rule that came across our face a couple of years ago and said unlimited mailings, you can send whatever you want to send. That’s, once again, that goes in the stupid column of not thinking things through.
So regulation is big. Beef up these NCAA — with all the money made from the College Football Playoff and Final Fours and all those type of things — and beef up the enforcement staffs and keep it a level playing field and also, more importantly in all that, not change the lives of the young people.
I’m a big proponent of a July dead period from start to finish, nothing allowed. Let the players go enjoy their families before they get ready for a very long season. Let the coaches enjoy their families as they get ready for a very long season.
The NCAA’s done an excellent job with the dead period during Christmas. And I very much appreciate that. And then final thought on that is also the early signing period, why would you do that?
I’m not a fan of that. You’re moving it just forward and forward, what if a kid wants to change his mind. He wants to change his mind because of coaching changes or other circumstances the player should be allowed to change his mind. Once again take it out of the minds of a 50-year-old and put it in the minds of a 16-17-year-old. And also if you’re going to let people contact a junior in a high school in spring, just visualize a great player, what that will look like.
So don’t go to class the month of May because you’re going to be meeting with coaches all day long. And, of course, that doesn’t make sense to do that.
And they say, well, coaches are doing it anyways. Well fire the coaches, fine the coaches, and then put the schools on probation for the schools that are doing that. So that’s just not the Ohio State — I don’t want to speak for Gene Smith but I speak for our coaching staff we feel very strongly about strong regulation and keeping the recruiting calendar as is.
With that said, our staff went out and grinded and we had to replace some very good players. And I’m very appreciative of what they did. Seventeen guys were committed early, before Christmas, Mark told me. And those 17 guys didn’t visit anywhere else, and they signed at Ohio State.
And that tells you a little bit about the relationships made between our coaching staff and them, the trust that they had with our coaching staff and the quality of person and player, not that you’re not allowed to change your mind. But we have pretty stable plate right now at Ohio State, and that makes our life easy. Quint from ESPN was here and said another uneventful signing day. I don’t know if I agree with that because there were some events going on.
But our guys, it was pretty — it was a great day for us and we’re anxious to get going. Instead of going through every player and just giving you the recruiting coach-speak I’m going to open it up for questions and maybe get a couple extra questions, because we’ll go from there.
Q. Just the idea of the verbal commitment nowadays, teams like you guys took probably four or five guys who were committed elsewhere. You had three or four guys who were committed to you in various points in the process and went elsewhere. Just, I don’t know, what do you make of this? And is somebody’s word their bond anymore? And two-way street, coaches want to keep guys and, I don’t know, what do you make of that whole thing?
COACH MEYER: I think at the end of the day — my daughter went through it, so I got a different — she can go where she wants to go. If she changes her mind she’s allowed to do that. And we encourage our players to look around. A kid that wants to commit early and doesn’t look, we often say just take a look because we want to make sure this is where you want to be.
Because what happens if you get stuck with them and they don’t want to be here or they wished they hadn’t come, that’s a nightmare you’re dealing with. So we have a little different perspective.
We did lose some commitments. And we know that’s going to happen. I think we’ve already got 10 for next year or something. Are all 10 going to hold? No. And we don’t expect them to.
They and their family want to go look at another place for some reason, just be honest with us and we’re honest with them. And that’s not going to change.
Q. Are there any players on the roster right now that won’t be back this season either due to medical reasons or otherwise?
COACH MEYER: Well, we gave Craig Fada and Joe Burger scholarships. They’re not going to be counted for the fall. That’s a spring and summer scholarship, and then some open for attrition, but I don’t think so.
Q. Kyle Burger, he’ll be back?
COACH MEYER: No, Kyle Burger, he’s what do we call that, medical. His knee.
Q. Quick recruiting question, Malcolm Pridgeon, do you think he’s going to play right away? Can you talk a little bit about him?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, that was Ed Warinner and Greg Studrawa. We don’t recruit junior college — nothing against junior college guys, but we try to build from the youth up. And they kept telling me about this player, offensive tackle from Nassau, and I saw his size and watched the videotape, very impressive guy. He has some work to do in the classroom yet. He came on his visit and stole everybody’s heart. Everybody that met him, you guys will love him when he gets here. He’s a 6’7″, 320-pound guy that’s interested in culinary arts. Like, really.
And just a great young man, and our offensive line, Pat Elflein and I went to dinner with him, and Ed and Stud, and you’ll really enjoy him. What’s that mean? We don’t recruit a junior college guy to sit. He’s a three for two, but we hope to get him here in June and compete for a starting spot.
Q. You were excited about your 2013 class when you first signed it. You could tell that the day of it was special and look what happened. Can you make any parallels between this class with how deep it is and —
COACH MEYER: I hope so.
Q. And rankings and things to make it feel similar in any way.
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I really do. But every coach in the country is walking up to the podium saying how great their class is. The next phase of all that is development. You get — everybody has good classes. But some guys pan out. Some guys don’t. Why is that? We take great pride in the fact that now the work starts. And work starts immediately.
Recruiting is over for that class. The minute that fax showed up, now it’s get to work and they’re going to get a strength program immediately, and there’s a lot of pressure on them to perform in the classroom, off the field and get in shape when they get here.
So very excited about this class, to answer your question.
Q. You guys make relationships with kids, it’s ongoing. Sometimes for more than a year. And sometimes those relationships last for a long time then they don’t end up coming here. A guy like Kareem Walker who ended up at Michigan. He committed to you at the national championship game at halftime. I think you guys got to the call before the game. Can you tell me about the emotions of you and the coaching staff when you create a relationship like that? He’s supposed to be a big part of your class, not only does he not come, he goes to your rival. Just the relationship and maybe how that might have felt?
COACH MEYER: Some relationships are better fits than other relationships. And sometimes it’s heartbreaking when you get really close to a young guy and the family and he decides on somewhere else. But that’s part of the business. We don’t worry about what we didn’t get. We worry about what we got. And we’re happy with the running back situation, with Antonio, but that’s part of going to exist for the rest of time in recruiting.
Q. Would you ever spend the night at a recruit’s house?
COACH MEYER: No.
Q. Is there one guy or a couple of guys that when you got their commitment here in the last several weeks, I heard you talk about George Fuller, supposedly were sitting in your driveway and honked the horn. Dwayne Haskins, was he on that group? What’s the impact of getting a Dwayne Haskins when you had a quarterback leave and then —
COACH MEYER: That’s right. That was very strenuous moment when the previous commitment decided not to play the position. And I was actually in a hotel room in New Jersey when I got the phone call.
I mean, my mouth went dry, I said, what? Because every other quarterback was committed, basically. And we started searching the ones that were not committed. And to be quite honest, it wasn’t a very — what word am I looking for? — very attractive pool of players that — our expectation at quarterback.
And I made the call to Dwayne. And we had a great relationship prior to. He’s been here several times. I know he’s a big Ohio State fan growing up. And the relationship instantly was right exactly where it was when we went our separate ways. He’s an impact recruit.
I anticipate after going — he went through a workout and watching him, watching his film and the way he’s been trained. He’s got an excellent quarterback coach, that he will compete for playing time as a true freshman.
Keandre Jones falls into that category. Just to make dinner taste better last night I made the coaches watch Keandre, Jordan Fuller and Haskins before we left last night, just to make, when you go home, it kind of makes you feel good that you got three guys like that coming in. They’re all wonderful people, too.
Q. Is Stephen Collier, you were talking about your quarterback situation on the radio the other day, you’ve got J.T., you’ve got Joey Burrow and you’ve got Dwayne. Stephen Collier never seems to come up. Where is he in the mix, I guess?
COACH MEYER: This is a critical spring for him. What’s it going to be, his third year? So this is the time for him to produce. He works his tail off. To get in the mix you’ve got to be pretty good because Joe Burrow’s really moving, and then the one walking through the doors in June is really good. So it’s all about competing and making — this spring is huge for Stephen.
Q. Defensively, who do you see really impact — you talked about Keandre Jones a while ago.
COACH MEYER: And Jordan Fuller.
Q. Do you need these guys to make an impact?
COACH MEYER: Absolutely. Nick Bosa is an automatic. I say this every year. I don’t want to redshirt. It’s not our plan. We don’t recruit you and say let’s sit them down for a while. We want to play them immediately. If they’re good after three years, want to go to NFL, that’s their choice. We want them to get a degree. The days of fifth-year guys at Ohio State, they don’t usually — if they’re around for five years, something happened or they’re not good enough. Or they were beat out.
But our way of recruiting is like the 2013 class, like what we’re doing and go play. So this class I would anticipate a lot of guys playing.
Q. Regarding Gavin Cupp, who basically gave up his spot on another team’s commitment in that class for a chance to become a Buckeye, what does that say about him?
COACH MEYER: Incredible.
Q. And do you also feel an obligation to give him a longer look because of what he gave up?
COACH MEYER: Great question. Gavin Cupp story, this is a credit to him. He wanted to be a Buckeye. He was committed somewhere else in the Big Ten. And he knew if he came to our camp something might happen. And that school, I don’t know the whole story, but I don’t think he was part of their class anymore. I went down stood and watched him because I knew what was going on.
But I don’t micromanage that position either. That’s up to the line coach and the coordinator to present to me. But I gave that an extra look because that’s tough. But we didn’t give it to him because we felt sorry for him. He earned it.
Q. Last year you talked about how you were up all night with the Mike Weber thing and Isaiah Prince and a few others. This year the class got done for the most part a lot earlier. Do you attribute that to the impact of the national championship, or was it anything that you all did or why do you think y’all were able to finish up?
COACH MEYER: Great question as well. I think just a relationship with our coaches. There was no drama last night and that was it.
Q. Also between all the redshirts last year and the incoming freshmen you’ll have about 45 players with freshmen eligibility this coming season. Have you ever had anything like that. How do you handle that?
COACH MEYER: Same old. Forty-five with four years of eligibility. Yeah, just I call it the year of development here. Our staff has been pounded on that and that’s in every phase of their lives because there’s such a — I wish more of the kids would have played this year, hindsight. But we we’re a pretty good team. I don’t know if that’s ideal. I’m not sure you want forty- — you want better spacing out than that. But sometimes that doesn’t always happen that way.
Q. Specifically on Dwayne Haskins, what are his skills not only as a thrower but as a runner?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know if you saw the Canada/U.S.A. game, there’s a highlight video of him out there. He’s a very good athlete. He wasn’t asked to run a lot but when he did he was a very good athlete. I remember when we ran him around here a very good athlete. As good a release and arm strength that I’ve seen at that age since I’ve been recruiting. If you go watch his highlight tape, just watch the ball come out of his hand, his arm strength, he’s a good 6’3″-plus. And the quarterback coach, like I told you, we’ll have him come in here and meet with us because he’s that good.
The fundamentals that Dwayne Haskins possesses right now is as good as I’ve ever seen in a young quarterback.
Q. We talked about this during the season with Cardale and J.T., just sort of the idea of having the quarterback who is at least a threat as a runner, especially in that read game. When you recruit quarterbacks, whether it’s Joe Burrow, whether it’s Dwayne Haskins or whoever is coming down the pike, do you have to have that, do you have to see that ability to be a run threat at least?
COACH MEYER: Yes, and I think Alex Smith is the best example we’ve ever had. He certainly was a run threat. He wasn’t J.T. or Braxton or Tebow, but he was a run threat. We can’t have a guy that’s — I don’t think those guys exist. I think the ones in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning and maybe Tom Brady is the other one. I think every other quarterback from Roethlisberger to every great college quarterback had the ability to get out of a jam. I don’t say he has to run the ball like Braxton, because those are rare guys. But we will not recruit a quarterback that can’t extend the play. Because we actually like playing against those kind of guys.
Q. I don’t think we talked to you about this, with the coaching move that was made with (indiscernible) coming in here, was Tim looking to move into an administrative role? Was that something that had to happen because you needed to make a shift?
COACH MEYER: We began conversations a year ago at this time. A lot of it has nothing to do with Tim’s quality as a coach, but I made the decision that Ed Warinner to be the offensive coordinator, and to coach all five, I don’t know if anybody does that in NCAA in college football. It’s too hard.
And it showed — we did a good job and led the league in rushing, I believe, and some other good things, but we still — the last two games were outstanding, 40-plus points, over a thousand yards against two top-10 defenses, and I need someone upstairs to work together.
And that’s where he belongs. That’s where he’s going to be. And so we had to do that. And you can’t — he had to hire a line coach. And I actually tried to hire Stud when I was first hired. He was at LSU and for family reasons he couldn’t move his family at the time.
So he’s an excellent — he was my first line coach at Bowling Green in ’01.
Q. Obviously you guys do your own thing very well. But to follow up on the last question, how much do you guys pay attention to what Michigan is doing? Obviously it’s hard to escape the headlines, what do you think of some of their tactics? How much do you pay attention to them and does it cause you to —
COACH MEYER: I was asked about that the other day. We certainly monitor everything. Not just them but the Eastern side is one of the most competitive conference divisions in college football. So we know everything that everybody’s doing.
We monitor the best recruiting schools in the country and see what they do. I made the comment we’re going to look at mailings, graphics. However we have to remain true to ourselves and who are we and who am I and who do I like to hire and how do we — our focus is on real life Wednesdays and graduation life after football, and if you’re blessed enough go on to the NFL and win some championships along the way. We’re not going to stray from that.
That’s been Ohio State style for as long as I’ve been alive and it’s not going to change. But I’ll tell you this about our conference: They’re recruiting their tails off. Big Ten is on fire right now. And I can tell you on a national respect, I can feel it. I’ve heard about it. Guys are really working. So it’s very good for the Big Ten Conference right now.
Q. Coaches back in the old days used to use their platform for political endorsements, that kind of stuff. These days the tempo stay out of the mix?
COACH MEYER: Gene thought it would be a good time to tell you my thoughts on the election coming up. Gene, is it okay?
Q. Why is it we see that with coaches, why do you feel it’s most appropriate in your goal to stay out of the mix, what’s your take on that?
COACH MEYER: My job description is very clear and that’s to coach Ohio State football and the focus is on 17- to 18- to 22-year-olds. I have strong beliefs but I’m not going to share that with you guys. I don’t think that’s appropriate.
Q. Wanted to ask about a couple local guys, Jonathan Cooper, he’s already here. (Indiscernible) but strength coach. And also Malik Harrison as well, just committed and signed today?
COACH MEYER: That’s Luke. Luke knew him for two years. His basketball highlight video is worth watching, if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s ridiculous. We sent at least four coaches to watch him play. He’s one of those typical Ohio tough guys that we think is going to develop into something. I can’t tell you what position, he might be a hand down, rushing the quarterback some day like Sam Hubbard. He might be an outside backer like a Darron Lee or he might be a tight end/H-back. We don’t know. We liked his parents. We loved the fact that he wanted to be a Buckeye.
Ohio kids like that usually turn out really well.
Q. Slightly off the topic of recruiting but when you turn on the Super Bowl on Sunday, you’ve got five guys formerly Ohio State, a lot of them you coached. What does that do you for you, the program, and maybe a dovetail in terms of recruiting?
COACH MEYER: We’re using it now. Everybody talked about what do we do to sell, do we have to do certain things to sell our program. Someone asked that question. And the Super Bowl, that’s going to be very fresh news to every recruit in the United States of America. The fact on pro day that’s going to show up here in the month of March I think it is, it will probably be the biggest pro day in college football. I don’t know how you gauge that.
The draft, people are throwing around numbers like 15 players or something, maybe potential six first-rounders. And then you throw in the highest graduation rate and highest APR in Ohio State football history. And a 50-4 record. We focus on the things you just mentioned.
So there’s a lot of things to sell here, and it’s Mark’s job and our job to make sure that that’s out in full force.
Q. Some of these wild recruiting stories get out there. Do you find that recruits start making wild requests of you — Coach, will you dab for me, will you ride a see saw for me, will you hold a sign up for Hulk Hogan. Does that get crazier and crazier as kids (indiscernible) see what coaches will do?
COACH MEYER: I haven’t been asked that. I imagine that’s coming. But it hasn’t happened.
Q. You already touched on Dwayne and Keandre. But you also had a commitment from Binjimen Victor all in the same day a few weeks back. Just wondered maybe what all went into that all coming on one day and have you ever had a day on the recruiting trail where —
COACH MEYER: It was a good day. Zach Smith was on him — he’s been at least two years we recruited Victor. Dwayne was very involved in that. Dwayne Haskins is an excellent recruiter. And he fits. I went down there. I wanted to make sure he fit.
Because you know he’s in South Florida. How is he going to migrate up here. But I’m blown away at what kind of quality kid he is. He’s qualified. He’s ready to rock and roll and go play. But Coach Smith really did a great job recruiting him. That was a big get.
Q. I ask this knowing that 18 of these kids have never stepped on campus gone through a workout with you. As you stand here, is there a number in your mind of how many you think will contribute or how many you need to considering some of the holes you to place?
COACH MEYER: I hope 18 of them play. I kind of went through that, special teams and I’m going to force to that issue with our position coaches. Sometimes position coaches, they protect themselves by saying the kid doesn’t know what he’s doing so I’m not going to give him those reps, so I’m not going to allow that this year. Last year was so hard because we were very loaded or older team. And this year we’re pushing them out there. I’m going to make sure we’re pushing our guys out there, let them go play.
Q. More than others than you know is more pressing?
COACH MEYER: Yes, the secondary.
Q. With that in mind, how much competition do you foresee? You obviously have a lot since you’ve been here, but the holes you have to fill this last — what’s it going to be like?
COACH MEYER: ’14 was like this a little bit as we went into spring ball. Eli Apple wasn’t Eli Apple. And Zeke Elliott wasn’t. He was a guy that looked very average his freshman year. Then you throw in Steve Miller, Curtis Grant Darryl Baldwins, all these guys that became very good players.
And that’s the challenge for our coaching staff to be nine strong and develop your guys. The process started already two weeks ago. Very critical year for development.
Q. Does Bosa, obviously passes the look test grade him for us?
COACH MEYER: He’s playing. He had the knee injury but he’s well ahead of schedule. Looks fantastic. He’s a little ahead of his brother at this time. It’s probably not fair for him to say that because he was developed by Larry, really coach available and Larry. That’s a standing offer for the Bosa family if they decide to have more children along their journey, they have a scholarship offer.
Q. One more question about the comparison to four teams. Talk about the year of development, is it the spring that’s the peak time or is it all on the coaches, I assume you have to have fast learners?
COACH MEYER: Yes, yes, yes. It’s everything. And that’s one of my jobs, a job that I enjoy is just continually pushing our coaches tell me about this guy if something is going on and the power of the unit that we live by here and nine strong is that from academics to body weights to how many times you do a sit up, 225, that’s all the coach’s responsibility. And developing them and teaching them how to play football.
I’m lucky we have very good teachers here and just added two excellent teachers in Schiano and Studrawa. And this will be as critical an offseason as we’ve ever had.
Defensive Coordinator/LB Coach Luke Fickell
Q. Luke, I know that you were at Malik Harrison’s announcement today. I know he’s your guy?
COACH FICKELL: Our guy. He’s part of The Ohio State University program. I recruit that area, yes.
Q. What was it about him that made you feel like he was a fit? I know there were some comparisons for what you did for Darron a few years ago in getting him an offer and why did you feel the need —
COACH FICKELL: Malik deserved the offer. And I probably know more about him than anybody in this class and oftentimes the guys that are closest here and the guys in the state of Ohio you know more about. And that’s a positive and negative at times, too, because there are different — there’s different things that those guys that are local, different challenges for them.
So he’s a kid that, man, his ceiling is who knows where and reality is we bring him in here as an athlete. He could walk in tomorrow and try a wide out, try a tight end, try at defensive end, try at linebacker. What he is he’s an explosive athlete with some length and a really good character kid that we’re going to really enjoy having as part of this program.
Q. Is there anybody because based on an area that you find this guy deserves an Ohio State number, he deserves to be here, how much leeway and trust does Urban have in you that if Luke says we should take this guy should offer him what’s the process like in a situation like that?
COACH FICKELL: I think that we trust all these guys. I’m sure Coach has — obviously the longer he’s known people their track record may so to speak. But they wouldn’t be here if he didn’t trust them. Ultimately in recruiting it does come down to a lot of that. Guys fighting for guys what they truly believe and knowing what can be successful in this culture and in this environment. And he’s one of those kids I believe can truly, truly not just survive here but thrive here in the culture and the environment that we have.
Q. Luke, with some of the defensive linemen in this class, whether it’s Jonathan Cooper or Nick Bosa or whoever, we know you have some holes on the defensive line. How realistic is it for a true freshman to come in, you know that position, to come in and try to compete for realistic playing time at that position?
COACH FICKELL: I think it’s difficult at times. There’s the biggest — I think the biggest difference in the high school game to the college game has got to be in those big positions, whether it’s a defensive lineman, whether it’s an offensive lineman. The good thing about defensive line as opposed to offensive line there’s not really truly as much to learn it comes down a little more to the battle. But guys physically developed I would say have the first and best chance to come in and be able to compete at that level right away. And obviously Nick Bosa would be one of those guys that you would say physically coming in would have an opportunity to be able to challenge Malik Barrow a guy coming off surgery as well I’m not sure whether physically he could step in there tomorrow and battle with some of the guys.
And then you’d say maybe a Jonathan Cooper it might be a little bit on the edge where you might not be as physically dominant on the inside. But it is difficult. But, again, we recruit those guys with the idea that we think that they can come in and give us an opportunity to compete and vie for some playing time, especially if you’re playing nine or ten guys up there.
Q. On signing day we talk about the guys and guys that redshirt you forget about them for a while but specifically on the offensive line thinking about the groups the guys we redshirt talked about a year ago Cornell or aller buy, how ready are some of those guys do you think?
COACH FICKELL: Some of those guys are coming off injuries as you spoke with some of those guys are coming off injuries make it a little bit more difficult, which is why spring is so big. Guys like Jashon and some of these guys even Dre’Mont who had an opportunity to compete a little bit more in bowl practice are going to be a little bit more prepared. Bowl practice really is like another spring ball. We’ll have as many practices in bowl as we did for all of spring.
So it was great for them. It was a great opportunity for them. They won’t be freshmen they won’t be sophomores. We like to look at it as basically they’re in their second year. Looking at big things from Jashon, from Dre’Mont and a bunch of those guys because it’s going to be a little bit by committee until we can figure out really who we can count on.
Q. Urban when he was talking about Bosa he might be ahead of where Joey was as a freshman, A, that’s probably exciting for you guys. B, it could be a lot on him. How do you view it? What did you guys see for him coming in?
COACH FICKELL: Again, we think we know. And you’re not obviously ever for sure on guys that are committing as far as how ready and more so mentally the things they can handle. But the great thing you can say about probably Nick as well as Joey is that they grew up around it.
And I kind of refer back a little bit to a guy like James Laurinaitis, obviously not as highly recruited as those guys. But a few things about James, just that confidence level. I try to attest it to him growing up in that environment. Obviously his dad was a big-time wrestler in that environment of competition and always in the stressful and tough environments. And really to look at it, the Bosa family, Joey with his dad playing, he had big shoes to fill and obviously high expectations.
So I don’t know that it’s going to be anything different for Nick. Nick is a mature kid that I don’t think will bat an eye coming in whether he wears the number 97, whether he looks like Joey or walks like Joey. The reality is he’s Nick. He’s grown up with it his whole life. Went to St. Thomas Aquinas and followed his brother and had a successful career.
I don’t think anything on the mental pressure side would be my guess would affect him.
COACH FICKELL: Maybe he’ll come up with something of his own. But Zeke kind of stole that once Joey left that game. Maybe it’s now Zeke’s kind of thing.
Q. Urban was just in here talking about Keandre and kind of thinks he’s going to be a high impact guy. As his position coach now, what did you guys like about him and also I assume that probably wasn’t a coincidence that he committed on the same day as two other guys in his class?
COACH FICKELL: I mean, all those things all kind of come together. And like we say if you build it they will come. But the reality is, he was a guy that we had targeted probably after his junior year that on film was a guy that was very dynamic, and I guess maybe you’d say the Sam backer position, the prototype of what we’re looking for. You could kind of bottle up Darron Lee and say this is a hybrid type of guy we really want an athletic guy that can blitz that can cover space out there.
From all the recruiting, watching all the film going into even before the senior year, junior year, he was probably the one guy we targeted to say wow that guy fits exactly the mold of what we want. We didn’t have that opportunity to start with. Maybe he was committed to the local school and this that and the other thing and how things happen and go.
But the reality is when we had an opportunity, when things started to come open, when all of a sudden Darron Lee was going to leave and did leave, it opened up an opportunity for us. And we took that opportunity, knew what we wanted and we’re just fortunate enough that we had the good fortunes obviously to put a lot of things together to get maybe one of his good buddies and do a great job at landing a great football player.
Q. Last year’s signing day was about a month after the title. So this was the first recruiting class where you had a full year as defending champions. Did you notice that it was any easier because of that for you all to get into some doors or recruits were more receptive?
COACH FICKELL: That block O opens all the doors you needed. National championship and all those things, but the reality is that that block O and the history what it’s done not just over a short period of time but a long period of time in my 14 years of recruiting, 20 years I say of being here, you know, it’s always going to open the doors for you, if job that Coach does and the way motivates us and obviously the emphasis he puts on recruiting and him doing it himself is what really sells.
But the opportunity, whether we won a national title, whether we were 12-1 or whether we were 12-0 for the years before that, the reality that block O, that Ohio State opens the doors for us now. It really takes great guys to be able to go in there, get the job done.
Q. Did you have a vision of a Darron Lee-type player before Darron Lee became that guy, or did he —
COACH FICKELL: Yes.
Q. Did he become that guy?
COACH FICKELL: No, really we did. And I can go all the way back to the Orange Bowl to be honest with you, for probably that year and the eight years prior to that, we had played about 70 percent nickel defense. 75 percent nickel defense.
We call ourselves a 4-3 but in reality we play a 4-2-5, 75 percent of the game. After that game specifically knowing all the lateral plays and handing the ball to Sammy Watkins and blocking a nickel back on the edge the ball running over the edge laterally, sat down, said we’re not going to have that again. Now, obviously there’s some give and take with having a nickel guy out there as opposed to a linebacker and we said this is what we need and this is the route we’re going to go.
Now, were we fortunate, did we know exactly what we had in Darron Lee? No, we didn’t have a crystal ball, but he was the type of guy we were looking for, a guy that you could say what is he? Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? Is he this? Is he that? No but he’s athletic enough to play in space we know darn well we’ll put him out there limit all lateral plays and all bubbles and all things that are going to make sure they try to force the field make us cover 53 and a third. The reality with having that guy out there the piece we’re looking for that we’re going to try to shrink that field and have to play one-third of the field.
Q. Who else on this group right now of linebackers you’ve got fits that mold in your mind?
COACH FICKELL: We walk out there tomorrow and Chris Worley is going to be that guy. But that goes without saying. We’re going to find a way to get our best 11 guys out there. You’re going to see Jerome Baker have an opportunity to go out there. And you’re going to see guys that are going to come in Keandre Jones are going to have an opportunity to go out there. But we’re going to move them around, find the guys that give us the best opportunity to be able to do those things.
And all you’ve got to do is look back at the one play Darron went out one play in the Illinois game, guy took a shot in the chest the very next play they come out throw the bubble out in the field balls we put a new true freshman out there they were going to come challenge that thing right away. Believe me we bring it up often to whoever is going to be able to fill that spot.
Q. Like Urban said, he wants to play — get maybe 18 of these guys the 25 from this group on the field next year and stuff. Do you feel that urgency, but also do you see the opportunities that these guys need to fill?
COACH FICKELL: I think, yes, I think we’ve got to have that vision, because you look at a guy like Darron Lee and there’s a guy that leaves after three years. For one year he sat himself on the bench.
You could go back to Shawn Springs guy who redshirted and leaves with another year of eligibility. Anthony Gonzalez was the same. There’s so many of those type of athletes you know what you have to do you have to discipline yourself to go ahead and put them out there. And that’s the most difficult thing because we play at such a high level, there’s no ground for somebody to say, okay, well he’s not quite good enough so let’s put him on this special team.
He’s just growing. No, no, we expect them to be grown men, act like grown men, play like grown men. For us we’ve got to discipline ourselves to be able to put them out there and give them an opportunity to prove it.