Maryland and the pass defense were main topics of conversation as Urban Meyer gave his Monday press conference. The Buckeyes are ten point favorites at Maryland on Saturday, but Meyer expects a tight game. Ohio St. has scored a total of 116 points on 1,138 yards of total offense in the past two weeks, outstanding numbers even if the Cincinnati Bearcats and Kent State aren’t the most challenging competition in college football. Maryland’s offense isn’t half bad either, racking up 37 points in an easy win last week against Indiana. Below is a transcript of Meyer’s press conference.
Urban Meyer: Another appreciation for the largest crowd to ever witness an Ohio State football game. Very humbling to be part of that team that got to perform in front of that group. Very well done performance by the offense. Very pleased with the way they came out. Came out fast. Really played, sustained a high intensity and good tempo. I know Tom’s worked very hard. We’ve all worked very hard on tempo. And you really felt that throughout the course of the game.
J.T. continues to be a very good distributor, completing a high percentage of his balls, and really we’re giving him more and more responsibility about getting us in the right play, which is a big part of what the quarterback’s expected to do.
The champion efforts on offense were Devin Smith and Evan Spencer and Mike Thomas. Zach Smith has done a very good job. Those three are playing very high level football for us. You have two other guys that were very close and that was– I think I’ve got them down here– actually Corey Smith was close too, but Dontre and Jalen had a couple of mishaps or they would have been champs too.
Running backs you had Rod Smith, graded at champion, playing very hard. 11 carries. Nice distribution. Battling for the No. 2 spot. So it’s between him and Curtis right now. And Bri’onte had an excellent game as well on kickoff.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett was a champion. Both tight ends graded champion. We were in 12 grouping a lot. I want to say 40 or 30 some plays. And you can expect more of that now that Jeff’s full speed.
Player of the game was the entire offensive line, Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, Jacobi, Billy Price and Darryl Baldwin, they all played over 90 plays. I want to say there’s 111 graded plays. 380 yards rushing.
And then the other player of the game was Ezekiel Elliott, who had– 112 of his yards were after contact. That’s what I really– I went back and watched it again this morning quickly. And his pad level and yards after contact were– he turned a lot of 4s and 5s into 8s and 9s into rushing. Also had 51 yards. Got 233 all-purpose yards.
On defense, the champion efforts were Joey Bosa, Mike Bennett, Joshua Perry and Armani Reeves, and the player of the game was Joey Bosa.
So the obvious concern this past game– we had four plays that really, I hear someone say just take away those four plays, you can’t just take away those four plays. That’s part of the game.
The first one was Vonn Bell was in position. He didn’t play it poorly, came up through the guy’s hand, the guy made a great play. The second one was a screen pass that was well executed by Cincinnati and not defended very well by us. The third one was the one right before the half. And I don’t think– I fault our coaching and also obviously Eli got turned around a little bit and got beat deep.
So that’s a situation that we visited as a coaching staff. And then the last one was the bubble and go. And that was another well-executed play by Cincinnati. Poorly defended by us. We’ve addressed it. We went out yesterday and worked on corrections. And I know we’re going to get a lot better. I’ve not at all given up on our system of play. We’ll continue to develop players and make sure we’re in the right defense at the right time.
And kicking game was one of our strengths Saturday. Our kickoff team is– I think we’re No. 1 in the Big Ten. And I love those guys. Those are my guys and those are– we gave them a standing ovation yesterday as a team. Showed a lot of the highlights as a team.
We have something called Thursday Races. We have a new Thursday Race Award, gave it out yesterday, and went to Bri’onte Dunn. Never too late for a young man to make an impression on a coaching staff. Keep pushing. Get ready for 25 to get in the mix as well.
In my opinion, it’s the only way to run a program like this, is to reward achievement. And it’s not just who can jump high or run fast or catch a ball. It’s who is a team-oriented player. And every one of them, you won’t see a player play unless he has some, unless there’s some other reason, unless he’s really a critical member of this special forces, special teams.
And a good example is Ezekiel Elliott. He’s our starting tailback, starts on kickoff and punt. And the same with Carlos Hyde and Shazier, all those players, will get their start in that position.
Big challenge with special teams this week. Best kickoff returner No. 4, and then the best– excuse me, best punt returner is No. 4, best in the Big Ten, and then Diggs is the best kickoff returner, very talented group. Already spent an inordinate amount of time Sunday and Monday on our coverage units this week because that will be a big difference in this game.
Question: What do you think you might add, just playing a game with a team that’s hosting its first Big Ten team?
Urban Meyer: I know it’s what we’re going to walk into. I had a big write-up– I’ve never been to this stadium. So I just– it’s turf. It’s going to be a noon game. But I imagine– I’ve been at places where this will be an atmosphere they’ve been working on this one, I imagine, for a while. This will be a big-time atmosphere.
Question: During a game, you and your staff, you’re worried about the next play, worried about how things are going. I assume that the players are meeting units. If a kid takes a look out in the field and doesn’t respond necessarily–
Urban Meyer: Takes a lick?
Question: Gets hit really hard, you’re trying to put the next play in motion, whatever, the kid comes out. Is there somebody whose responsibility it is to keep an eye on guys just to see that they might be in trouble, that they might not be fully in charge of their faculties, in addition to anything that you guys might notice?
Urban Meyer: Like if they’re hurt?
Urban Meyer: Oh, yeah. Our strength coach is right there. And he always tells me immediately if someone’s hurt. I’m not sure the question.
Question: Sometimes they hide it well. Kids don’t want anybody to see they’re hurt.
Urban Meyer: No, we have people– we have an excellent training staff. Doug and them, that’s their job. They do nothing else, other than– I’m constantly– I don’t know if you see it– every series I have a conversation with my strength coach.
And he controls the sideline. And that’s how we do it.
Question: You kind of touched on this a little bit in your opening comment. But you said on Saturday night you were going to have hard conversations about the breakdowns on pass defense. Could you describe the conversations and just how you feel about where that aspect of the game is?
Urban Meyer: We gave up 360 yards receiving. Four plays equated well over 250. And so I wanted– that’s my job to find out why. And after our explanation conversation, I know the why now. I had a couple of things that I would have expected differently. The one before the half I expected different. We left the middle of the field open. And everybody– that’s something I need to get involved in, too, and say let’s give my two cents.
And normally I grade myself down on that. I don’t call defenses. But I’m a game manager. That’s what my job is, and I should have had more input in that. I want to say there’s 40seconds left or something like that in that situation. The other situations we just gotta play and coach better. And I am– once again, it happened here, our first year here, ’12, when we had a bad day, real bad day on defense against Indiana.
And we had a team meeting in here and it was nasty. It was all about playing hard. And I went through– I graded the defense myself. I went in there, met with them. Guys played very hard. Played a very good throwing offense that we had four really bad plays that we have to get corrected, have to get corrected. And I’m satisfied with the direction we’re going. We’ve just got to get them corrected.
Question: Do you feel this is close enough to becoming at least as a potential to be that championship defense you’re looking for?
Urban Meyer: I guess I’m going to give you the positive answer: Absolutely. I like who we’ve recruited. I like who I’ve hired, and we’re going to grind and work and get better.
Question: Is the offense– I think you guys had 101 plays the other night, 700 something yards, pretty balanced attack. Is that beyond where you thought it would be at this point with the new quarterback and new line and new running backs?
Urban Meyer: I was really excited to get our skill going, and we didn’t do a good job really early in the year. Navy, we were a little conservative because of a really new quarterback. Virginia Tech, I wish we had that one over again.
And then you had, we have Kent and then the last two. I was really– I am really even more excited now about our offensive skill. It is a street fight to get the ball right now. And when you roll– the thing I really appreciate watching is when you can start platooning guys as they’re going in. I don’t know if you notice that during the course of the game. You’re running new tailbacks, running new, and who is better, our first or our third.
They’re pretty good. And the same thing, we have two sets of receivers who can go in. Now we have two tight ends with a very capable third. So we’re recruiting some depth. And when you start talking tempo, you wear out the defense. Unfortunately wear out the offense, too, if you don’t have that depth. Now Coach Warinner even has a little depth in the offensive line. Starting up a platoon a little bit. That’s a good sign, start getting that many plays and not worrying about it.
But there’s been times in the past when we want to run very up-tempo. And it looks awful because everyone’s blown out. I don’t feel that now that way at all and more importantly our offensive coordinator, he’s a big tempo guy. I’m the one putting the brakes on. I’m the one on the field seeing the fatigue. As long as I know we’re rotating players, on the headsets it’s go, go, go.
Question: Have you had an offense like this before?
Urban Meyer: We have had great offenses, like great offenses. I consider this potentially a really good one. Maybe a great one. But this is the first time I feel very comfortable with the tempo.
Because that’s not something in the Florida, Utah, Bowling Green, we never ran tempo offenses. Tom, that’s a big part of why was hired, I wanted to do it. And he’s an expert at it.
Question: Is J.T. further along than you expected he would be at this point?
Urban Meyer: Great question. No, I had a lot of confidence in J.T. I love J.T. He’s fun to coach. He’s a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He’s a student of the game. He has a great relationship with his coordinator and position coach. He’s a product of those around him. There’s some guys making really terrific plays out there for him, too. So I think as a group this is a good group to be around right now.
Question: That’s a good problem to have, but if J.T. keeps playing well, have you thought much about the situation next year, if Braxton comes back healthy, J.T. played well this year, you’ll have a tough decision to make.
Urban Meyer: Not until you said that. Braxton is our quarterback. To be fair to Braxton, Big Ten Player of the Year. Good to know we’ve got both of them. And Cardale Jones is growing up. I admire him. I haven’t had the third uncle phone calls about– not that I would take them, but Cardale, I like his professional approach right now.
Question: Obviously Ohio State fans like to compare themselves against Michigan. As coaches, you all recruit against them constantly. When you get into a season, how much attention can you pay to what’s going on with your rival?
Urban Meyer: You follow the Big Ten. I don’t personally. Jerry or someone will– I don’t spend much time at all. I’m always checking the scores on the way home. And we have a little routine in our car as we go home, someone reads the scores to me as I’m driving. And I just hear the scores and then see how my friends are doing first. I always check my friends and see how they did. Guys I’ve worked with. Then we check the Big Ten. And I haven’t followed our rivals very much, but I follow our conference.
Question: If you haven’t been watching closely, does it surprise you to have heard those scores and know they’re 2 and 3, this is pretty historic lows?
Urban Meyer: I haven’t studied them. I watched a little bit of Utah, because obviously I know the coaches at Utah very well. And I know the players they have. And regardless whatever is going on, what’s going to happen, Game 12 is going to be the best effort they’ll put out. That’s when we really get concerned about them.
Question: Anthony Schlegel has blown up on social media. Have you seen it yet? Literally, at the end of the day, you can’t have guys running out on the field.
Urban Meyer: In all seriousness, I grabbed Anthony last night. I’m sure Gene Smith– I appreciate him protecting our players. I would rather him not have a lawsuit if something bad would happen, you drill a guy like that.
So we had a partial serious conversation. And they we also gave him a Hit City Award, our team, and had a little fun with it, too.
I never saw it. But I have all my Internet people do it for us. They showed all the Internet stuff about him like Iwo Jima and all the things. We had a lot of fun in here with that. They love Schlegel, as we all do. I do. He’s an incredible person.
Question: What was your reaction– did you have one when Maryland was named two years ago? And better yet, what do they bring to the table for the Big Ten?
Urban Meyer: I really looked to going to Maryland when I was an assistant coach. What was that coach’s name, from Colorado. Ron Vanderlinden was the head coach. And this is a long, long time ago. Real young, Clay. I was very young. Did a little homework back in Maryland, most fertile areas in America recruiting. I think they’re a great addition to the Big Ten. A lot of respect for them. I remember watching the Maryland teams over the past, been very good. And I think this group is pretty good.
Question: You recruit hundreds of players. How quickly do you move on from a kid like Diggs when you get–
Urban Meyer: You move on real quick. We had a good relation with Stefon Diggs and his family. And I really thought we had a legitimate shot at him. I knew when watching him play that he was special. Now that I see him, he’s as good as there is in America.
Question: Coach, you talked about wanting to get the pass defense shored up. How much do you need it shored up for this particular game, because they’ve got some great procedures in Diggs, Leak and Long?
Urban Meyer: Everything you just said is a conversation we’re having. And everyone rest assured, there’s no more effort. It’s not like you work a little harder. We’ve got to get it fixed. And it’s a combination of coaching and playing. So we’ve got to get it fixed. It started yesterday. We went out, didn’t spend a lot of time on last week’s game correcting mistakes. I want to get out on the field actually work on the issues we had. We did. And we’re going to do it again. We’re not allowed to practice today, but the kids will get their iPads filled with stuff today. And obviously Tuesday, Wednesday practice. But you’re right, this is a big one. There’s another group of talented receivers.
Question: You would concede a bit an aggressive defense will give up big plays. Are the big plays just happening too often or–
Urban Meyer: Great point. When you want to challenge every throw and play press coverage, the vulnerability is not the hitch. You take those away, and I still want to do it. We’re not going to give in just because we have a one-on-one matchup we lost. That’s going to happen. However, it’s happening too frequently right now.
Question: You spoke about Joey Bosa being the defensive player of the week. What stands out about him as you watch him? How would you explain his get up and go to somebody?
Urban Meyer: Very easy. He’s energizer. He just goes– he practices that way from day one. It’s a product of, you know, his family. His dad’s got an incredible football background. His uncle played here Eric Kumerow. I thought we’d have a guy that would be pretty much game ready because he went to a really quality high school program. I didn’t imagine it to be this ready. He’s extremely strong and quick and relentless. And on top of that he loves and understands the game.
Question: Does he remind you of anybody in the past who can affect games defensively?
Urban Meyer: I think John Simon. He’s a little more talented than John, a little longer. But John Simon had that same– you watch those two play in practice and compete and there’s a mindset.
Those are two good people to be– to be in company, everybody knows how we all feel about John Simon. But to even mention someone in that same vein, who is a few inches taller and a little longer, that’s pretty rare air, those two guys.
Question: Looked like J.T. in the game had a couple times where he changed a play, got you guys out of a look. What do you need to see in a quarterback to give him the freedom to do something?
Urban Meyer: The command. The negative is we also had a couple false starts. And you can say the center, the tackle, the guard, whoever it was, it’s the quarterback. And so that was the– we had some conversations on the sideline. And they weren’t pleasant. It’s all him.
And he’s gotta take charge. Extremely intelligent guy. He understands we want to run a play. There’s certain looks that don’t run against that. He did a very good job. In the second half he got us in a bunch of them. I want to say a dozen he changed the plays. We went to the bear, and had a bear beater, immediately got us in, two big plays on them, and we got out of it. That’s what the quarterback has to do. So J.T.’s proved he’s got the cognitive ability to do it. Now he’s got to continue to have that leadership. And now we’re going on the road. We need to bring more presence behind his voice.
Question: You guys talked about his leadership from the minute he got here, just the progress of taking charge on the field or sideline with guys. Is he still a young guy in that?
Urban Meyer: No. He doesn’t exactly rattle the walls when he speaks. Gotta to work on voice lessons with him, make sure he gets a little deeper voice. He’s done a very good job with that.