Sept. 17, 2012
An interview with Coach Meyer
COACH MEYER: Couple comments about positive negatives of our game. The obvious positives were 3 0. The Pac 12 team, we have a lot of respect for their talent and their coach. It was also a come from behind win. A win that you try to simulate those situations in practice and training camp. There is really no way to simulate it other than do it in the arena.
I thought they responded fairly well, obviously. The champions for the game, which are the guys graded out winners on defense, also the defensive player of the game by our coaching staff. John Hankins graded out 88%, a lot of production points. 22 production points, 8 tackles, 2 assists, a tackle for a loss and a sack. Playing at a very high level. Right now John is the guy that really has played well, and I thought played great in this game. I finally got a chance to really watch him in detail last night.
Bradley Roby graded out 95%, six tackles, three assists, tackle for a loss, a sack, a PBU, and 16 production points against several future NFL receivers, so he played really well.
Ryan Shazier is a guy that had 30 production points, which is extremely high. 11 tackles, two assists, two tackles for a loss, a sack, a force fumble all over the field. A couple big hits, a couple save the day plays because of his athleticism. The guy that if you take away the missed tackle would have been graded a champion and maybe been player of the game, Christian Bryant. But he got a special mention because he gave up a big one by missing a tackle.
On offense, the champions, guys that played well are Jordan Hall. Welcome back, very rusty. I think he was where he’s supposed to be when he was supposed to be. I still think we can get much more out of him, 87 yards. We need more big hits than that out of a guy like that, but he did grade at champion.
Zach Boren and Heuerman is a guy that’s starting to earn more playing time. He’s been injured in spring and in the fall. So he’s now you expect him to play some more. Then Devin Smith, I didn’t realize this until Jerry told me, it’s the third week in a row he’s the only guy on our team, offensive player of the game and he also had graded out at champion. So that’s good to see. He’s a guy that obviously we need him to play well.
Special team’s player of the week was also a guy named Devin Smith. So he’s had a very productive day for us.
Positives, defense with sacks and pressures. This is an interesting stat that after our staff meeting they shared with me. Five times they had the ball inside the 40 yard line, and they came away without points, so we stiffened up and we had to stiffen up.
Offensive positives: just big plays in the passing game. Negatives, as a team, penalties were obviously very alarming and they were bad penalties, very ignorant penalties that have to be corrected. That is a sign of an ignorant or lack of discipline team, and that is my responsibility to get that fixed up.
Third downs, we were only 33% on offense. Defense, the negatives are big plays. 40% of their entire yardage at the end of the day was on six plays that all resulted as a result of some missed tackles and poor defense.
Offensively the negatives, we were 33% on third downs. I already said that. Three and outs were alarming. Six times we were three and out. We were not getting enough big plays from the run game other than our quarterback. That’s got to change.
Hopefully the return of a guy like Jordan Hall or maybe we’re trying to figure out who can touch the ball and take it a little bit. Break a tackle and do something with it because we see other guys doing it. We don’t do that enough. We don’t break enough tackles. We need some highlight reels on the Ohio State, other than Devin Smith making a great catch. So we need to see some highlight reels from some other players other than Braxton Miller and Devon going up and making a play. Questions?
Q. Coach, question about what John Simon had to say after the game. Sounded like he was very emotional. If I get the proper impression, was he happy and jubilant that you won a close game? Was he frustrated that you put all this hard work into it and you barely beat this team? You should have beaten them by a larger margin. Just kind of confused. What was his motivation and feeling?
COACH MEYER: I’d say this, by all rights I take offense to that. By all rights beating a team by a larger margin, if you want to come watch film with me, they’ve got some very good players. Probably as good of players as we’ve got. Be careful. Everybody has opinions, but that’s not an educated opinion because some bookie said we should beat a team because they lost some game. That’s not what college football is.
There are a lot of teams that you watch every Saturday night, and boy, what’s wrong with them? What is wrong with them? It’s college football. There are some scholarship athletes on the other side that play very well at times and get coached very well at times.
John Simon is a unique. I just we could go on for two hours about him because that’s how much I love this guy. You talk about a completely selfless human being. I think it’s just an emotional guy. I actually did a time study that guys that don’t play, guys that are eating training table and go to class, they have about five days off during the week. Think about that for a minute.
So if you’re a football player at Ohio State and you don’t play, you don’t travel, you don’t do anything, five days you have basically off. If you’re a guy like Simon, he doesn’t have a day off. I talk about John like I do Christian Bryant, Braxton Miller, because those guys have treatment, lifting weights. They have Friday work. They have Saturday work. So I think when I evaluate what happened that day after watching it, it’s a guy that just was all bottled up inside of him. He won a game. He maybe didn’t play as well as he could have played because he was injured. He was in excruciating pain to the point where I saw him on the field and he won it.
So I think to answer your question, I think it’s all of the above what you said. It was just a guy that he can’t give anymore to Ohio State than he’s given, and I think that was the result of that.
Q. (No microphone) struggled a little bit running the ball up the middle. You mentioned Jordan. Is he a guy that could be the guy that gets up the middle or what other guys?
COACH MEYER: Carlos Hyde’s a perfect body type. But that is the thing about the spread offense. There are not 22 bodies in there. So he’s stumbled bumbled a couple times as he picks his feet up. He even told me the first thing he said to me yesterday, I counted 70 yards that he had that he should have come away with. I think he said 70 yards to me, and that’s interesting that he noticed it too.
I think what you’re seeing across the landscape and we see it every year is sometimes guys make something out of nothing, and sometimes people pull through tackles.
Right now we’re not getting a lot of that. We’re getting it out of five. Our quarterback is making a couple people miss. But defenses are so good right now that you’ve got to be able to pull through.
Cal had a couple of guys pull through tackles. Really poor tackling on our part, but once again, that’s a powerful, big back. The kid that ran I saw it when I went home and saw the highlight on TV. I said, my gosh. I watched it on video. It was a good run and poor tackling.
So to answer your question, he certainly can. He has to. And we need to find a guy to hand the ball to that when a guy hits you, you don’t go down. You get some more yards.
Q. You how much more can you emphasize tackling? What will you do differently starting say Tuesday and Wednesday that will make a change?
COACH MEYER: Emphasis, you get what you emphasize. All I heard about was lack of turnovers a year ago, and certainly we are creating some more. Not as many this past week. But we’ve got something that I learned from my mentor, Coach Bruce. I know we tackled more than anybody, but obviously it’s not getting the job done, so we have to tackle more. Instead of one day a week, we’ll probably have to go two now. It’s all about fundamentals technique.
We make a huge emphasis on stripping the ball. If you watch one of those tackles, it looked like the guy was going after the ball instead of wrapping him up. So we’ve addressed that and we’ll have more conversation about that.
Q. But you have six sacks. Just what in your head, what kind of defensive game was that?
COACH MEYER: It was bad.
Q. It caused a huge turnover at the end.
COACH MEYER: I think the 40% of their yardage at the end of the day, half of it was on six plays. Two of them the guy was down. I mean, put him on the ground instead of strip the ball. That goes down to fundamentals and how do you improve that? You work really hard on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Q. (No microphone) where did that play originate?
COACH MEYER: Actually, it started in Utah. We had a triple overtime win against Air Force. Our tailback was hurt. We played with Ben Moa in 2004, triple overtime. Alex Smith was our quarterback. He wasn’t a great runner, so he put the tight end at quarterback and just kept pounding people.
One day in practice I said try this one day. The first one he almost hit me, and I was nowhere near the receiver. It looked like a tight end throwing the ball, but he got better and better, and we used it and won the game.
So Tim, we put the same one in, but it wasn’t a jump. So he came down just like Braxton did. And Tim was a little bit of an extremist who wanted to go jump and do that. So that’s how it all started.
Q. What about him makes him so effective?
COACH MEYER: If you have a good runner at quarterback and you kind of set it up. Braxton run the ball in the red zone right now because he’s our best option. So if you’ve got a great runner, other teams are doing that too. It’s hard to defend, because basically you’re spreading the field and direct running your quarterback. That means there is a lot of discipline involved in watching your guy but also tackling the quarterback. Jake did a nice job too blocking his way out.
Q. Is there an option though for the quarterback when he sees them vacating the area?
COACH MEYER: To run it?
COACH MEYER: We haven’t given them that. That’s a good thought. Happens really fast. So right now we’re telling them to throw it away.
Q. The defense so far, I know you don’t want to put your defense in bad situations, but there’s been some quick change so far this year, and they’ve done a good job keeping points off the board. Can you talk about the way they’ve bared down in the situation?
COACH MEYER: Absolutely. I think I gave you that stat. Five times they’re inside the 40 yard line. This is, when you say our plan to win and the way to manage a game, we won a game and everything went opposed to what we prepare around here as far as field position. As far as we haven’t blocked a punt yet this year. We’re not dynamic on kickoff return, and we’ve put our defense in bad field position several times. So I’m very proud of that.
Of all the stats on defense, there are two that caught my eye. That’s where hitting the quarterback, and also the fact that we stiffened up when we had to down there.
Q. (No microphone) from the suspension, where is he right now?
COACH MEYER: Oh, he’s been a model student, model citizen since he’s been here, and that is the research I’ve done after that thing happened. So that was a stupid, ignorant mistake that he paid a hell of a price. The thing I like about Jack Mewhort is his dad. He handled it the same way I would have handled it with my kid.
It’s the ones with the families where all of a sudden the kid doesn’t act really responsible, and you hear excuse after excuse, after excuse, and there are no excuses. So Jack’s handled it. As far as I’m concerned, unless he does something stupid again I’ve never really had a hard time with Jack. He’s a hard nosed player that does great for the community. Does great for Ohio State. Was a really stupid thing he did.
Q. How does he play?
COACH MEYER: Plays pretty good. He didn’t grade a champion. I think it’s pretty good. That is something to ask Coach Warinner, but I’ve been pleased with him. He’s probably our best lineman right now.
Q. What are your thoughts on the game coming up against UAB? Also on a non football note, did you have any thoughts with what happened on campus last night with the students getting evacuated from their dorms here at Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: I apologize, I wasn’t aware of what happened.
Q. Water main break.
COACH MEYER: Is everybody all right? I’m sorry, I didn’t know that. The first question was?
Q. On UAB, just your thoughts on them so far?
COACH MEYER: We have to find a way to get to win number four. We’re an average team right now. At times we’re playing fairly well. I like our guys. I like our team. I like the fact that we faced adversity. I’m ready to have some non adversity games. Doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen very often at this point in our development and our journey. You guys know me well enough that if I didn’t, I like the fact that there’s a lot of time being spent here above and beyond their call of duty to get themselves better. That means on today’s their day off.
I see guys walking around here, loading up their iPads and they understand the seriousness of where they’re at right now. We got to eat our victory meal last night, and that is good to go, but that’s over and now it’s time to get ready for the next one. We’re attacking this one.
We understand there are good athletes on this team. They had a tough game themselves. But we have to find a way to get to 4 0. That has to happen.
Q. You talked after the game about this is a different role now with defenses really trying to stop. What more did you see of that as you went back and watched the game? Was there a part when you figured even if the defense wanted to stop Braxton as a runner, he’s still good enough to get the yards?
COACH MEYER: I think we have to take shots. We have in the past. If we have to say what’s a perfect offense, rush for 250, pass for 250 and complete 70% of your balls, which means there are not a whole lot of down the field throws. You miss that throw at 2nd and 10. Does that make sense? So you have to be really judicious on when you’re going to take that shot.
The best thing that’s happened so far in the first few weeks is we’ve identified a go get it guy on the outside that we did not have a year ago. I was worried about it. I didn’t see that develop until this first three games, and that’s Devin Smith. Him and Philly have now proven to me that we can start to be a little more aggressive down the field. That’s what I saw Saturday. A couple of those plays were dynamic.
Also, Jake Stoneburner. Defenses are forcing us to do that. That’s bad coaching. We’ve got to do more of that because they’re defending the run. I think Braxton’s going to do what he does, and he makes guys miss and he’s one of the most dynamic runners at college football. That’s not just from me, but some of the people we’ve played against already.
Q. Do you have a tendency to want to get more involved when it’s 28 28, and it’s tight? Do you get more involved in the game plan and calls at that point?
COACH MEYER: Not on defense. I mean, you flip over and not very often though. I’ve got my hands tied knee deep in special teams and on offense. But I’m very involved in the play calling offense. And on defense, I’ll flip over.
But, oh, yeah, if it’s 20 of 28, I’m right there. How did they do?
COACH MEYER: Well, if we would have tackled better, I would have said great job. But obviously that’s not acceptable because of what’s going on defense. And on offense, when you have six three and outs, that’s not acceptable. But just throw it on them as play callers. I don’t know if that’s fair. But we’re still evaluating them. But to grade them, I don’t give them a C or a B. That’s a journey of watching how they develop. I think they’re doing fine. We’ve just got to play better.
Q. In the first three games you guys have given up 13 plays in 20 yards or more on defense. It’s gotten worse each week. Is it the scheme, lack of execution or just bad tackling?
COACH MEYER: I think it would be too easy to say bad tackling. There are some scheme issues involved that you’ve already addressed. There is an area where we’re getting hurt. I can share that with you. It’s not that big of a deal because you see it.
A good piece of it is poor tackling, but once again blame it on the kid for poor tackling. That’s not acceptable. That is the most alarming thing. I can’t remember Ohio State defense. I’ve watched them for a long time, and I can’t remember the defense I’ve been around that’s given up this many. We’ve got to stop or we’ll lose the game.
Other than saying that is a high priority and getting that stuff fixed, that’s all I can share with you now. We’re working awfully hard to get that done.
Q. Any confidence you will? Couple of years ago special teams were an issue early in the season. They thought they got it fixed and then against Wisconsin, it reared its ugly head again.
COACH MEYER: Am I confident?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, to the point that we have to. I’ve got to see it. I’m no different than you right there. That is absolutely not acceptable. Let’s get it fixed. There is no magic wand. We’ve got our personnel. Personnel I don’t believe is an issue. But we’ve got to make tackles, tackle better in practice, make sure our schemes are more sound into the boundary area, which we’re working on that now.
Q. I realize UAB has already had a bye week. But are you still getting to the point of the season where you’re predicting what an opponent will do more than guessing based on their coaching staff?
COACH MEYER: Well, the first two weeks, Cal Berkley, we have faced all three defenses we’ve faced have been uniquely we didn’t practice what they played because we didn’t know. They’ve done a very good job. You can tell Cal Berkley not one snap think about this not one snap was what they showed the previous year or previous two games. So that tells you what they’ve been doing all off season working on this one game.
They did good. We scored 35 points and guys made plays, but that’s frustrating as a coach and play caller and all the involvement. But we’ve worked all day for three straight days on a certain defense because that’s what they’ve shown. We didn’t get it. So you’re on the sideline, correcting adjustments and everything else.
It’s harder as the season progresses for a team to do that because they can’t just say we’re working on Ohio State because they have some previous games.
So after this game, we’ll see usually what we see, and that is what teams play, because you can’t change defenses in the middle of the year normally.
Q. This is your last two games before the Big Ten. Are there one or two things that jump out other than this guy on offense? Couple of things that you think you need to have in your arsenal going into the Big Ten that you haven’t seen?
COACH MEYER: Well, I still haven’t had a chance to study. I think the team we’re playing in two weeks is pretty good. I watched part of the game. They had a hard time with the Irish, Notre Dame.
But I’ve got a lot of respect for the defenses in this league. They’re probably the best. I would say Top 5, Top 3 in the country, and I did watch them a little bit. They’ve been good for a while, obviously, on defense.
What has to happen on offense, we have to be able to take more shots and that has to happen. We have to create or find a guy that can carry the ball and not get tackled when you get tackled. That’s what college football is.
Very rarely do you see teams drive the ball. Not one team has taken the ball and driven the ball against Ohio State. Really in college football, it doesn’t happen where a team says I’m going to go drive the ball against you. Usually the running back jumps over people. We saw the guy do it in East Lansing. We’ve seen the guys run over people. We’re not getting that. We get them from No. 5. We’re not getting them from the other personnel we have. We have to be able to hit the down field shots which we’ve shown now that we’re further ahead than I thought we would be on completing the deep ball. So we’re going to throw more deep balls.
Q. Will Carlos be available?
COACH MEYER: Carlos will not be available. I would say no chance. But I will alert you if something else. He’s getting much better though.
Q. Just interested, after reviewing it, what do you think happened in the third quarter on both sides of the ball. They’ve had great success?
COACH MEYER: Penalties put us I had the stat, I don’t have it in front of me. But our second and long, first and long was ridiculous. It all started when our center pushed the guy right in front of the official because the guy said something to him. Then same thing with Nate Williams, pushes a guy right in the back after he said something, whatever. It’s all just nonsense penalties, and the field position, and then dropped balls. We had a couple of third downs that the ball should have been moved.
But 3rd and 18, 3rd and 17, that’s what happened for the most part because of lack of execution on first down or a penalty.
Q. Braxton Miller had 12 carries in the game. Probably closer to where you want him. But as a young player, do you worry it gets in his head a little bit too much and the pendulum swings too far in the other direction when he’s not making the plays he’s capable of making, and how will he work with a young player on finding that balance?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I had a talk with him and that was my responsibility. I came out and said it’s too much, it’s too much. It’s getting back to him. He just needs to play the game. So I had that conversation with him exactly the way you said it.
He is a young player, and someone gets in his head and says why do they run you? It’s not your job to evaluate. Go play and we’ll make it work. So we’ll need him to carry the ball a lot. It’s rather obvious he’s going to have to carry the ball out for us. A lot of that is dictated by the defense too. I think you’ll see more people give you because when you read a defender, that defender can make the quarterback run or give it to someone else.
If I’m playing Braxton, I’m not making him carry the ball. I’m going to have him give it quite often. So we’ll see that more and more. So it might be more designed quarterback runs because he has to carry the ball for us.
Q. Two things about John Simon. Do you hope to have him a little healthier than he was last week this week? Do you anticipate Michael Bennett getting back?
COACH MEYER: I have to talk to John. John is a guy that won’t tell you. How’s it going? Great, going good. Then I turn around and watch him walk down the hall way and he looks not good. He says he feels a lot better. I asked him the same conversation I’m having with you. To be honest, he said I feel a lot better than I did a week ago. I said you did not tell me that a week ago, John. He said my shoulder is a long way from my heart. So I get you. I get you.
What is that movie called? I got you, Braveheart. Just tell us so we can get you treated and get you right.
But he’s an amazing kid. If you don’t know him and you get a chance to meet him, boy, he’s something else. It’s why we do what we do.
Q. Michael Bennett?
COACH MEYER: Oh, I don’t know. He’s got to play some time. So I don’t know how far that groin is away from the heart. We’ll find out here (laughing). That probably didn’t sound right. I apologize. He is hurt by the way. I love Mike. Mike’s got a serious injury.
Q. If you watched Braxton the first three games in prespring, are you seeing the progress you wanted to see?
COACH MEYER: From who?
Q. From Braxton into this system. Does it rival like Alex’s or you know what is the next step, I guess, for Braxton in this kind of offense?
COACH MEYER: Getting close. Great question. I am pleased with his progress. He was a much different player than he was a year ago, and that’s just coming from Stan Drayton who was on the staff a year ago, because I didn’t know. Braxton Miller showed up at training camp and wasn’t in that conversation about playing. Ability wise, he should have been. So that tells you he wasn’t a great practice player. That’s where I think he’s improved the most. Freak athletes like that have gotten away with it for so long from little league to high school where they go out destroying people.
Now Cal has guys as fast as Braxton because we’re challenged. So that’s where I’m probably most pleased is the way he’s practicing much better than he did in the spring. I do think he’s on schedule.
The fact that we’re completing some deep balls I know it’s not enough but we’re completing some deep balls and some real deep balls. Those two throws he made were grown man throws I like to call them. The two to Devin Smith were about as good of a throw as any quarterback in the country can make, and that is marked improvement.
Q. The game is on the line in the fourth quarter. Throws an interception and leaves you in a bad spot. Defense gets you out of it and he comes back to get the run. Talk about, that’s not something that you probably would have done a year ago. Just how was he able to pull through that?
COACH MEYER: I agree with you 100%. I saw it in his eyes after he came back. There are some quarterbacks that you see once they throw that pick, the interception it gave them, great field position, and that’s why we did what we did. We came right out and threw two in a row on the last drive. But I never saw where he didn’t want to be a part of it.
Sometimes young players when it goes bad, it’s something else to do. But he wanted the ball in his hands and that’s a sign of maturing.
Q. On that play call, 3rd and 7 on the 28. You can play for overtime, punt it away, whatever. You had no problems letting him roll out and make a decision. Was it just rolling the dice or did you have confidence in him?
COACH MEYER: The play was actually designed to go to Philly Brown.
Q. High percentage play?
COACH MEYER: Very high percentage play. They dropped eight. Once again, good defensive call by them. Rushed three, they dropped eight, and put almost a double coverage on Philly. He sidestepped and that’s when he made the play. So I have a lot of confidence in Braxton. He’s our best player right now on offense. So put the ball in the best player’s hands.
Q. You’ve mentioned Christian Bryant being a missed tackle away from being champion this week. What in general in the defense, it seems like you can make big plays, and then maybe make kind of a big mistake or trying to make a big play. How hard is it to get a player sort of draft the idea of when to go for it. When to be sound, that kind of thing as you develop as a player?
COACH MEYER: Well, as you develop as a player is a key point. If you’re an immature player that doesn’t see the big picture. I’ve coached guys that their job is to make all Big Ten or all SEC or whatever, and that’s by picks. So that is the conversation we have. It depends on the player. The Simons of the world, the Sabinos of the world, you don’t have to have a lot of conversation with them.
Christian Bryant I’m continuing to learn that Christian Bryant is kind of a rock star type of player, and we’ve had that conversation. I just want him to stay within. He’s been great. I don’t feel that too much. I’ve coached players before where I’ve had that conversation. So the greater the player, sometimes you have to do that, but it’s also individual based on who you’re dealing with.
Q. I know you were a big endorser of the Heisman campaign for Braxton. Have you warmed up to that idea?
COACH MEYER: Oh, I don’t think he’s played enough. At some point I’ve been asked, and I’ve been lucky to have three guys go to New York, and it’s been fun to be a part of that or be Heisman candidates, just two went. But three or four have been mentioned and all of that. I think at the appropriate time I won say he’s not. I don’t believe he is now. He’s been playing well enough yet.
Q. You’re playing a team with a coach from the previous staff. Can you talk about when you make that transition, and you retain some, you don’t retain some? Is that more about philosophy and family tree? Just because you don’t keep a guy doesn’t mean he’s a bad coach, but he just doesn’t fit?
COACH MEYER: Oh, the coach at UAB now? Oh, yeah, at times if he’s not a good coach, not a good guy. But that certainly wasn’t the case. That’s better than a good guy. That’s a great guy.
I was here when John was playing, so I know John. He’s a great coach, great guy. But you’re right. I wanted to hire guys that had spread offense because I got stuck before where I hired guys that don’t have the same alignment, same philosophy. You’re in there beating your face against the wall instead of all for one, and one for all.
I’m not saying John wouldn’t have done that. But that’s one of the hardest decisions in coaching. You have to make those decisions. But in that situation, it has absolutely nothing to do with quality coach, quality person.