Sept. 21, 2015
COACH MEYER: Haven’t watched all the secondaries in the country, the defensive back fields, but I take ours, especially the way they’re playing, the way they worked, the way they’re coached. We went from one of the worst pass defenses in America two years ago — I know we’re No. 1 in the Big Ten, but we have to be up there in the national rankings. I haven’t seen that. But playing at a high, high level. That’s obviously correlated with the pressure we get to put on the quarterback.
Tyquan Lewis graded a champion, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Raekwon McMillan, Josh Perry, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Tyvis Powell, and the co-players of the game were Darron Lee and Vonn Bell, so obviously the ones that did not, it looks like we have a couple interior guys.
But the four guys in the secondary, the three backers, that’s a heck of a day against an offense we had a lot of respect for going into it. An offense not just with a very good quarterback and skill, but well-coached and did a variety of things that our guys practiced well.
On offense, no champions. We did not do well. One of the worst-executed performances since we’ve been here, so we’ll get that corrected.
Special teams was solid, and we had players special efforts was Jalin Marshall and Erick Smith, and Vonn Bell also got an award for kickoff cover, and then special teams player of the game was Chris Worley, just great effort on punt kickoff and punt block starting on three phases.
So I’m just going to go ahead and hit it with the quarterback situation. That seems to be a theme. Had a conversation with one of them yesterday, and going to have another one today. And I think because of all the intrigue by it, that you’ll hear someone say how can you play quarterback with someone looking over your shoulder? And my comment to that person was — well, no one’s complaining, but how do you not?
If you think you’re going to play at the next level, there is going to be probably one better than you stand right next to you, so get used to it. You are going to look. That doesn’t mean you get hooked. If you have a bad day, you get replaced. That might not be everyone’s philosophy and that’s okay. That’s okay.
We’re going to play — I haven’t decided yet, we’re going to have conversations. Today, not one is beating out the other, and they’re not playing great. So once again, if that’s an excuse, which I call it an excuse of how can you perform with someone looking over your shoulder, NFL quarterbacks do. I’ve never had one not. We’ve always had a back-up quarterback. It just happens the back-up quarterback here whoever it may be is really good.
So it’s not that, we just have to perform better. We’re turning the ball over at alarming rate, and we’re not playing well on the offensive front. So all those things have been addressed, and it’s more coaching than playing performance. So we’re going to get that fixed. I expect a much better performance Saturday from our guys.
So with that said, I’ll answer any questions.
Q. If you say that not one has beaten out the other yet, does that mean that Cardale is still likely to start?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know.
Q. When you go through a week, can you take us through how you have managed these guys in terms of practice reps and game reps?
COACH MEYER: Cardale has gotten most of the one reps. He’s a high-volume right now guy. J.T.’s a very efficient guy and he stands right behind him and gets the same reps. Just not actual behind center. So those are all things that haven’t been determined yet.
Q. Do you think that any of the other — the offensive line the last couple weeks struggled. Does that have anything to do with playing two different quarterbacks?
COACH MEYER: No, no. That has something to do with facing a variety of defenses. We did not prepare our guys for, once again, it just sounds bizarre and it is, but Northern Illinois changed their whole defense, and we weren’t able to adjust and adapt and we slowed down the offensive line. So we’re playing defense and offense right now, and it’s not working. So we’re going to take a more aggressive approach to how we go about our business.
Q. Kind of an off-beat question. But last week on your radio show you mentioned you tried to hire Toledo coach Matt Campbell to your staff. Going back to that time, what stood out about him? Can you take us back to that time?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, that’s a great question. He at the time was the No. 1 assistant at Toledo, and I was putting together a staff from scratch. Kind of an idea with Tom Herman because I worked on that a little previous to that. But other than that, no idea. Then I started recruiting, and he’s really well known throughout the State of Ohio. Obviously has Bowling Green ties, where I do too, and obviously Mt. Union ties which I knows those guys really well too. Just the feedback was really positive. We have a great relationship, and I think he’s a star in the business right now.
Q. When you watch the tape of the offensive performance, what stood out to you? Was it a bunch of different things?
COACH MEYER: Bunch of different things. Obviously, when no one grades a winning performance, bunch of different things.
Q. No theme at all or is it just each time it was somebody else messing up?
COACH MEYER: If someone’s going to ask this question, we didn’t play very well, and it wasn’t — we don’t do this anyways, it’s not the quarterback, it’s not the O-line, it’s a variety of things that we have to play better. If you look historically what an Ohio State offense is for us, it’s control the line of scrimmage, best perimeter blocking in America, which we had last year, and a very good, solid play, action passing attack. That’s not what’s going on. So we’re going to get that fixed.
Q. This is obviously your offense, but there was a lot of turnover on the offensive coaching staff during the off-season. Do you feel like are you guys all on the same page right now?
COACH MEYER: We’re getting there. It’s not as smooth. Anytime you have transition, we lost two. Stan Drayton was a very quality coach and so was Tom Herman, obviously. But we’ve hired two very quality guys. I just think we’re going to adapt and change some things, and while I’m anxious to — I wish we were playing tomorrow.
Q. Herman used to talk about how he liked calling the plays from the press box and it was a sterile environment and he enjoyed that. Is that just everybody’s different? Is that something you might look into?
COACH MEYER: We’re looking into some of that. Ed Warriner’s — it’s not like it’s a demotion or something like that. And Tim’s been here long enough. The way it would work I would say Tim or Dan Mullen or Tom Herman, run this, run this, and it’s boom, and we’re on the same page and we’re going. We’re not quite there yet.
Also if we go jet tempo, that’s got to be from upstairs, because you can’t see anything from down there. So those are all things we’re going to get cleaned up.
Q. If there’s ever something you don’t like out of a specialist and all those guys have their own coaches, generally, and Cam’s is in Australia, so how do you handle that dynamic? Do you let them sort it out with their coaches? Do you ever talk to them?
COACH MEYER: No, as far as getting that extra coaching? I met the guy, and he came over and visited us. Obviously they’re far away, but I always think a specialist, a kicker, a punter should have that extra guy that he works with. I know our kicker does.
No, I encourage that. Because you only have nine coaches, and I’m kind of the guy that — coach of those guys. In punting I have a pretty good understanding of, in kicking I don’t. So I always encourage those guys to have a guru or a mentor or a coach that works with them in the off-season.
Q. Do they handle everything? Like if there’s something you don’t — if Cam’s not getting enough hang time or —
COACH MEYER: No, no, punting, we handle that. The kicking is — those are strange guys those kickers, so we just kick them through the upright (smiling).
Q. You mentioned turnovers and turning the ball over. How do you handle that other than emphasizing it? Is there anything you do?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, you have to look at how and evaluate each one. We had three turnovers, three interceptions. All three were absolutely inexcusable. Sometimes there will be something where a guy gets hit as he’s delivering a ball. Zeke Elliott who is usually pretty good, laid one on the ground. Curtis has been really good, but the guy put his helmet right on the ball, so I’m evaluating. That has an impact on who touches the ball.
If I see Mike Thomas one time, he didn’t get fumbled, but he swung his armed around. We really watch that, teach through it, coach through it. That’s how.
Q. It was also like they weren’t turnovers, but sloppiness in terms of —
COACH MEYER: Dropped balls?
COACH MEYER: Braxton dropped a snap.
Q. Yeah, are guys trying to do too much? Do you see pressing there?
COACH MEYER: Good question. It’s a fight for the ball a little bit too. That’s a very good question. I guess if you’re only playing three guys, but we play more than three because we have more than three. I’m talking about the skill set. So that’s observant, and I think there is something to that. That’s our job to calm it down a little and go play. Because one’s over here and we drop the ball. The other one we motion in and between the exchange we drop the ball.
Q. You talk a lot about wanting to get the ball to your best play makers. Do you feel like you guys have been doing that? Did you do that Saturday with the play calling?
COACH MEYER: No. And then a couple times we did and it didn’t get to them, so we’ll get better.
Q. Specifically with Braxton, you guys had eight direct snaps to him against Hawaii. I think it was just two last week. Do you like that direct snap to him? Is it possible that takes the quarterback out of any rhythm when he comes in for them?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I like it because it’s one of the best athletes in America with the ball in his hand, and it’s sometimes a rhythmic issue. It worked pretty well against Virginia Tech, so we’re not going to stop that.
Maybe what we’ll do is that’s a flow of the game type thing. But we have some Q runs and you don’t necessarily want to hammer your other quarterback.
Q. Looking back, obviously you’ve said there were multiple areas offensively where things weren’t going right. When you took Cardale out of the game, was that the right time to take him out or is there, looking back, is there any second thoughts about that?
COACH MEYER: I think it was the right time.
Q. What made you?
COACH MEYER: Turnovers.
Q. That read on that second turnover?
COACH MEYER: Yeah.
Q. I guess the question is it seemed like J.T. had a similar read on his pick later, but he didn’t come out.
COACH MEYER: Right.
Q. So what is the — how do you determine what causes a change of quarterback?
COACH MEYER: Well, it’s a feel of the game. It’s not something I have written down. It’s something that I have to make sure that you’re on the same page that they are, and that’s not easy. The thing that I worry about and I know that’s happening is just the overwhelming mess that is on these 19, 20, 21-year-olds as far as that’s why I’m probably going to say just let them stay away from the quarterback for a while. Just let them get settled in and go.
Very unique situation that I constantly evaluate am I doing the right thing by them? And I don’t know any better other than if you have a very good player at the number two spot and number one’s not performing, go in there. If your number two is not very good, but I don’t know. At this kind of level, I don’t know where that is.
When I hear that, most of the people that say that haven’t played a whole lot. But every once in a while you hear someone say how can I play — well, I’m not looking over your shoulder if you perform pretty good. If it’s not good, then we have to make a change. We have to win the darn game, and that was a close game.
Q. Your psychology, what is the difference in psychology between hunter and hunted, and how has that psychology affected your kids?
COACH MEYER: Great question. I think it’s affected us offensively, and we’re playing defense on offense right now, and you don’t do that. Some people do, but our history is we want to score a lot of points. We want — our objective is to score a lot of points and still play great defense. So very good question. It’s something that I feel on offense. Not defense, defense or special teams, this whole program is the hunter.
On offense right now, for a variety of reasons and not the players, we’re sitting back and we’re not going to do that anymore.
Q. You kind of hinted at it earlier from the quarterback situation, are you thinking about going with one guy now and see how it goes?
COACH MEYER: Let’s be clear. I did go with one guy. The guy didn’t perform well, so we went with the back-up. There is no set thing saying that we’re a two-quarterback system, we’re not. The back-up’s a very good player, whomever that may be. So we are going with the guy.
Q. Number two, you guys, I’m not going to say you live on it, but what sets you apart are your explosive plays. And you had them against Virginia Tech and stuff. But sort of do you feel a frustration there too in the offense about not getting those?
COACH MEYER: As is Marty’s question, you’re the hunted instead of the hunter. So, yeah, those are all addressed. You’re exactly right. We recruit players to have explosive plays. We give them opportunities to have explosive plays and over the last several years for the majority, they made them. We’re not doing that right now, so that’s a high, high emphasis right now.
Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash
Q. Coach, Chris was just talking about how well the secondary is playing right now. Why? What is so good about the secondary right now?
COACH ASH: I think it starts with the players that we have. They’re talented players. They’re playing extremely hard. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They believe in themselves, believe in what we ask them to do. They believe in the process, our weekly process of preparation to get ready for a game each week. They keep getting better every time they take the field.
Last week, the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice that we had was probably the best week of practice that we’ve had since I’ve been around here, and I think the results on Saturday keep getting better because of that.
Q. Whenever teams seem to try to get horizontal on you guys, whether it’s a pass or a run from the sideline, it seems like Vonn Bell is kind of like a missile shooting up.
COACH ASH: He’s a silver bullet. He’s the true — if you were to say what is a silver bullet, look at Vonn Bell. When he comes from his safety position downhill, whether it’s a run or a pass, he’s coming to light somebody up. He understands angles. He’s an aggressive player. He’s a great tackler. He’s bought into the way we teach tackling. He works extremely hard at it every day when we’re in practice, and what you see on the field each Saturday is a result of what he’s done in the last year and a half with the way we tackle.
And naturally, he’s just an aggressive player. He’s got that it factor. He knows how to get to the ball.
Q. Chris, like Urban said, he finds it hard to imagine any secondary playing better in the country right now than your group. What do you see about that group in particular that excites you? What are they doing great more than anything else?
COACH ASH: Well, we talk about some of our objectives for each game and every day, really. One to believe in what we’re doing and believe in themselves and they have that. But we want to go on the field and challenge everything, and we’re doing that right now at the corner position, safety position, linebacker position, we’re challenging throws. We want to produce takeaways, and we’re doing that. In the first three games we’ve been able to do that as a defense, not just in the secondary, but as a defense.
And we want to play physical. You can see in our tackling we’re a pretty physical tackling defense, not just a secondary, but a defense. If we can do those three things consistently each week, we’re going to have a chance for success. Right now I can say in the three games we’ve played we can check all those things. It’s good to see that.
But like I hear all this about our secondary, we’re playing well in pass defense and all that. I mean, there is really a may I approach reason why we’re having success, and it’s because of our defensive line. It’s team defense. It’s not about the secondary. It’s not about the corners and the safeties. It’s about team defense.
For our safeties to have success and coverage they rely on good reroutes from the outside linebackers. We have Josh Perry and Darron Lee getting reroutes on number two, running up the field and taking steam off of them, that makes a big difference. When we have a quarterback running around back there scared to get hit because Joey Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Adolphus Washington are chasing them, that makes a big difference.
So it’s a team concept, team defense. One part won’t be successful without the other. The good thing about it is our guys know that, believe in that, and they’re flourishing because of it.
Q. Another thing, this team is coming in, and they’ve played some pretty good offense, a few games so far. Their Braverman kid, I can’t remember his number.
COACH ASH: No. 8, yeah.
Q. He’s had over 100 yards receiving the last three games. What sets a guy like that apart when you watch them on video?
COACH ASH: A lot of it gets back to their scheme. They put him in position to get a lot of free-access throws where people aren’t challenging him very much because of where he’s at. A lot of it’s bubble screens off the play action where they’re getting outside linebackers sucked up and getting the ball to him in space. He’s got great hands. He’s got good ability to run with the ball after he makes the catch and avoids contact and makes people miss out in space.
But I think they do a great job. They have a good, reliable receiver like that. They’re getting the ball in his hands fairly quickly, and they’re doing it without him getting challenged. We want to be able to challenge receivers because of this are scheme.
Q. It seemed like last year it took a few games before you guys defensively were playing your best, and it surely helped to have an offense score a lot of points. This year it feels like it’s almost reversed. Is that a fair assessment to say the defense is leading the way? Is there a measure of pride for that unit to be doing the opposite and helping out the offense?
COACH ASH: Well, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the offense does. If they score 50 points or 5 points, we have a job to do, and it’s to go out there and limit points and keep the opponent out of the end zone. So our players take a lot of pride in that.
Offensively there are going to be great days and there are going to be bad days. Defensively, there are going to be great games and already going to be bad games. But the true measure of a great team is you can balance each other out and pull through tough times when one side of the ball maybe didn’t have a great game or the other side of the ball didn’t, the playmakers on the opposite side pulled the team through and you get a victory.
You’re sitting here undefeated and you get a chance to make corrections that you need to get corrected and get things going in the direction you need to get them going.
But it’s cyclical. There are going to be good games and bad games for both sides of the ball. Again, fortunately we’ve got enough talent on each side of the ball that we can overcome those.
It happened last year like you were mentioning, just the opposite. Right now our concern defensively is to go out and do the job we need to do, and that is to keep the opponent out of end zone and off the scoreboard.
Q. How many prospects do you think just offhand are you responsible for in the grand scheme of your plan, like individually?
COACH ASH: I guess I don’t quite understand the question.
Q. Like how many are on your list? I think at one point would you be the main guy?
COACH ASH: Are you talking about recruiting?
COACH ASH: I don’t know. Every player that we’re recruiting on defense we pretty much as a defensive staff are all involved with it. We don’t just recruit as individual coaches. We try to recruit as a team effort defensively, and we’re involved with every recruit we’re trying to recruit.
If you’re talking about more just being a lead recruiter for certain individuals, pretty much anybody that’s involved in the secondary, Coach Coombs and I tag team and are lead recruiters for basically all the secondary players.
Q. What I was getting at is at Ohio State your list for players who are Ohio State caliber is a lot smaller than like a place in the MAC?
COACH ASH: It is a lot smaller, yeah.
Q. What do you think the challenges might be if that list were way bigger?
COACH ASH: Well, the challenge that we have right now from a recruiting standpoint defensively, especially in the secondary is we’re looking for very specific skill sets to do the job that we ask them to do. We’re not just looking for, for example, a big 6’3″, 210-pound safety. That doesn’t fit the job description of what we need our guys to be able to do.
So we’re looking for guys with coverage ability, good tacklers, football intelligence, like a Vonn Bell is right now. Those are the type of players we’re looking for. How many of those are out there? Not a whole lot of them, so it shrinks our list even more. That is probably the biggest challenge is trying to identify guys that can fit our skill set and fit the job description that we ask them to do.
If you’re talking about comparing an Ohio State recruit list to a MAC level recruit list, ours is going to be a lot smaller. We have to make sure we do a great job of identifying the guys that can actually play winning, high-level football here and not just take guys because they put their hand up and want to come to Ohio State. We have to take the right guys. Because we all know there are a lot of guys out there that probably would say, yes, I want to go to Ohio State if we offer them, and we have to make sure we’re offering and taking the right players that can compete and win at a high level.
Q. You guys have a specific challenge because it’s harder to find guys that fit your need. They have a challenge because they have too many to look at?
COACH ASH: I’ve been there. I get the challenge. At times you’ve just got to find guys. If you’re in a program, a lower-level program and you’re not winning, you might not be very attractive to recruits and you got to find guys to fill a roster. I’ve been there. I know how challenging that is. To get those guys, you have to sort through a lot of people, and it’s a lot of film evaluation, lot of follow-up, lot of phone calls, lot more than we probably have to do here at Ohio State. It’s a completely different recruiting approach because of where you’re at.
Q. I’m sure you can’t get into specifics about Damon Webb’s off the field incident, but from a football standpoint, what’s that mean to you guys? How disappointed are you? It seemed like he was coming on.
COACH ASH: Yeah, I can’t make any comments about Damon Webb’s situation. A statement has been released by the athletic department regarding Damon. But Damon was playing well for us, ask he’ll be missed. But we’ve got enough people that will fill in and we’ll continue to get the production that we need.
Q. Nickelback spot, who is the number two nickel?
COACH ASH: Yeah, at nickel, Cam Burrows and Marshon Lattimore are two guys that are working at that position. Cam took most of the reps Saturday, and Marshon, we’re just trying to get him into the flow of playing football because he hasn’t played a lot here. But those are the two guys right now.
Q. Erick Smith won’t be involved in there at all?
COACH ASH: Right now today, no.
Q. Are Marshon and Ward your back-ups right now?
COACH ASH: They are.
Q. You mentioned Sam Hubbard before, former Lacrosse player, a safety when he was being recruited, a linebacker. Can you explain his development and what makes him special? What his role is right now?
COACH ASH: Well, it’s hard to explain his development because it’s been off the charts to be honest with you. You said it already. A guy that came here, or didn’t come here as a safety, but was a high school safety. Now he’s 260-pound defensive end, rushing the quarterback.
I mean, in a short amount of time, you’re talking about in a year and a half or two years he’s been able to develop his body. What that really does is it talks about Coach Mick and what his staff and the strength and conditioning program here at Ohio State is all about. I think they’re second to none. Coach Mick does an unbelievable job.
But it speaks volumes about Sam Hubbard’s commitment. We laid down a challenge with him. We thought his best position would be defensive end. He wasn’t big enough, strong enough to do the job a year ago, but he is now.
Again, it’s his commitment to Coach Mick and his staff’s plan of development to get bigger and stronger, and our nutrition staff and being able to provide them the right food and build his body the way it is right now. So it’s really kind of unprecedented to see a guy go from where he was to where he’s at in such a short amount of time. But those are the things that Coach Mick does.
Again, he puts together a great plan. But Sam’s followed that plan, and it’s worked out well.
Q. New to the position, what’s his ceiling?
COACH ASH: It’s very high, really high. You see him making huge improvements really every day he goes out there. From week one against Virginia Tech to where he was at here this last Saturday, completely different player. We hope to and expect to see that continued improvement each week as we go forward throughout the season.
But Sam’s a great kid. He’s very committed to being the best he can be, and knows he needs to continue to get stronger to become a better player, and he’s working on it all the time.
Q. I know there is a difference between practice and games, but is the offense that you go up against in practice looking better in those workouts than they are on game day right now?
COACH ASH: It’s hard to say that because what we do defensively and what they’ve faced defensively on Saturday is completely different. I would say probably from an offensive standpoint facing our traditional four-down defensive line front is probably easier than what they’ve faced in the last three weeks.
They’ve gone against bear zero, and they’ve gone against who I would consider odd, junk defense the last two weeks. That is not easy. It’s not easy at all. They don’t go against that every day, and when that all of a sudden pops up in a week, it makes it very difficult to make that transition. Our offense is loaded with really good coaches and really good players, but when they’re thrown a curveball like they have been the last three weeks, that’s a challenge. If somebody came out offensively against us defensively and did something completely different than what we’d prepared for, guess what, it’s going to be a bad day for the Buckeye defense too.
Q. How easy is that to do? To show someone a defense — to do what Northern Illinois did? To do what Virginia Tech did last year, to go to a bear defense when they haven’t shown that before?
COACH ASH: It’s not easy to. It’s like going to a casino and gambling a little bit. You’re hoping it works out. If it does, then hat’s off to you. If it doesn’t, then it will be a bad day for you.
But when you’re facing an offense like ours, they’re loaded with a talented group of offensive linemen ask skilled players and quarterbacks, a lot of these teams feel like they probably have to do something different.
Q. Can you define “odd junk”. What’s the junk part mean?
COACH ASH: When I say that, it’s just blitzing and coming from a lot of different angles. From the field, the boundary, the middle, and just trying to create confusion and make plays based on that.
Q. Is that what you guys try to do on third down?
COACH ASH: Yeah, you would consider us probably a junk defense on third down. You can get more exotic and do some different things to try to create confusion. We don’t do that necessarily on first and second down, but some teams do. A lot of it is personnel based. If you’re facing a defense that’s got that type of personnel and that suits your personnel, that’s what you do.