Ohio St. opens the season as the unanimous #1 ranked team in college football. Coach Urban Meyer talks about what he expects when the Buckeyes open the season next week:
Meyer: Hi, guys. Thanks for coming. Obviously, we are preparing for game week. Mock game today, we’re one week out, so we’re going to go at night and try to give our guys a pre-game experience. One of the big emphases that we’ve always had is making sure, especially with two new coaches, is making sure players are not concerned about routine once they prepare to play, and we probably give an inordinate amount of effort and thought to making sure that when the foot hits the ball our guys are ready to go and not worried about silly things about tickets, what you wear, how you get dressed, how you get taped, what you eat. So we’re going to do the best we can to eliminate all of that.
The good thing is they’re a mature team coming back, it is what it is. The young guys we just want to make sure they’re right. The quarterback situation we’ll announce the starter when the first guy takes the snap. It’s still very close. Both guys are performing very well.
Braxton has really the last two days has been outstanding. He’s the whole idea of his body getting used to basically a track practice every day is taking root, so he had a really good two days. I’ll answer any questions for you.
Q. I’m sorry that I’ve asked this question for nine months about the quarterbacks, but at what point do you need to know to start committing a game plan, even if you don’t plan to announce it until Monday?
Meyer: If it was different skill sets probably, but they’re not. If you look at J.T.’s game plan when he was our quarterback and Cardale, it’s very similar. There is a chance they’ll both play as well, so that hasn’t really — in our mindset we’re game planning our offense and they’re both executing very well.
Q. Do you think there is value to keeping that information in house just from Virginia Tech’s perspective to have them prepare for both of them?
Meyer: Not really because, once again, I think they’re very similar. I’ve heard people say, oh, he’s a much better down- field thrower, and he is pretty — if you’re talking about Cardale, he’s a very good down-field thrower, but I don’t know. I imagined if one of them was way ahead I probably would announce it, but they’re not, and it’s more for our team than who we’re playing.
Q. You touched a little bit on Braxton. What were your expectations when he made the transition? Has he exceeded expectations up to this point? I know it’s early. Is he not quite where you want him to be?
Meyer: Early on I don’t want to say exceeded because I knew there would be growing pains. It’s rather comical when I heard just play him at receiver or go put him at corner. It usually takes a year-and-a-half to play receiver to do it correctly.
Now the one thing Braxton can do, you snap him the ball and he’s done that enough to go and there is potential of that as well. So he’s, as of the last three days, he’s, I don’t want to say exceeded my expectation, but he’s darn near ready to go.
Q. You’ve obviously had a lot of championship teams, et cetera. I’m just wondering, everybody always talks about all of the accolades this team is getting and all of that ever since the beginning of last season. How have they handled kind of the trappings of success compared to other teams you’ve had? Have you seen anything?
Meyer: I think really well. I made this comment probably a month ago or maybe two months ago that there are indicators. The first indicator is your academics, and our guys have done well. There is no ineligibility issues. Our graduation rate I was told is the highest it’s ever been at Ohio State, so those indicators have been fine. We had a couple other indicators where we did take a speed bump where four guys won’t play. That set up the red flag to what’s going on here, but we found out they’re very isolated.
Work ethic in the weight room and on the field, and that’s not touchable. Those guys have done great. So-so far, so good.
Q. That’s obviously something that you monitor really closely, I assume with everything.
Meyer: Yeah, probably more so because I experienced it and witnessed it and it’s real, and not just — how many Super Bowl teams have a great year after they win the Super Bowl? How many national champions have a great year after a National Championship year? And it’s tough because there are so many outside influences that can get in and saturate your program and cause damage. But we’ve watched it very closely, and to answer your question, I don’t feel it at all.
Q. In your mind when do you think you’ll decide who the quarterback will be, and if you don’t share that with everyone?
Meyer: We start practice game week, tomorrow they’re off, and all I know is it’s a Monday. It’s not really a Monday, but it’s whatever day of the week it is, and in the coaches’ minds it’s Monday, and I’ll have a good idea.
So two days from now whatever day that is, in my mind it’s Monday. Does that make sense? Because Mondays is a Tuesday is a Wednesday, if you’re playing on Thursday, it’s a Monday.
Q. How have those guys continued to handle it? You said they’ve handled it very well?
Meyer: The quarterbacks?
Meyer: Great, great. They’re pros, man. I thought J.T. has always been a pro. I’m amazed at Cardale’s maturity, the way he’s handling his business. It’s really good to see a young guy grow up. I saw it last year and that’s continued.
Q. (Indiscernible) a guy that’s not starting, now starting?
Meyer: I don’t think it’s going to be hard because they handle it. I’ve had a couple conversations with them already. I think it’s going to be a matter of fact. If you’re not going to play early, get ready because I’d like to see both guys involved.
Q. Just wondering, depth-wise at receiver going into the first game with injury and the situation that you’re at, how do you feel? How many you have in that rotation, how do you feel?
Meyer: Yeah, Noah’s, by the way, he’s doing fine. I think he’s still in the hospital; is that right? As of last night he was. So maybe today or tomorrow we’re hoping to get him out. Surgery was successful. We’re expecting a full recovery.
Depth at receiver is a concern for this game. Talent isn’t. Depth is a concern. Mike Thomas, you have Curtis Samuel, you have Braxton Miller, you have Johnnie Dixon, you have Parris Campbell, you have Terry McLaurin, I might be forgetting one. Those are all guys that can play at this level and potentially some of them at the next level, so those are good.
Then I think Nick Vannett and obviously Zeke is a big part of this game plan as well.
Q. Johnnie Dixon health-wise good?
Meyer: Yeah, we’ve just got to monitor him. He’s got those darn knee issues. They’re not major, it’s just tendonitis, and I expect him to be full-speed today. He’s had a very good camp.
Q. In that regard what are you looking for from those receivers? What are you looking for this week in terms of what would impress you about stepping up and being that guy or those guys?
Meyer: Great question. Attention to detail and taking care of themselves. We really watch closely their body weights, their hydration, how you handle yourself as a pro and how Parris Campbell handles himself. Right now I have Parris and Terry starting at special teams, and obviously you know how we feel at those positions. How they handle themselves in practice and Coach Mick, he’s in charge of all of these sports performance. Are they at the body weights? Are they fully hydrated? Are they maximizing their time?
Those kind of kids are great kids, so I think they’re going to be ready to go.
Q. Another thing with Braxton, you talked last week or so about the routine of playing back or going to a place other than behind the guy that has the ball for the snap and stuff. Do you see a more fluid guy now when he takes the field? What just jumps out at you about him?
Meyer: The last three days have been really fluid, and I think a lot of it is just his body’s feeling good again after going through the “what the heck is this,” and that is the constant running that his body wasn’t used to. So he looks like an H-back now.
Q. Is it fair to say that this might be the only game where your team would definitely have the motivational edge having this is the only team you’ve lost to. And how much of an advantage would that be referring to the days when you had the SEC grind and you’d play somebody who had beaten you?
Meyer: Well, I think there is some truth to that. That there is a little nudge around here because they beat us, and really the way they beat us. Offensively right now there is a lot of distaste for the way that thing happened, and that’s not taking away from their personnel, because I think they have excellent personnel, especially on defense. But the way that happened, it was not — a lot of it was lack of preparation. Good players that are doing a scheme that our guys were not prepared for, so there is a big edge around here.
Q. In the SEC days you had a meat grinder every week. Was it a big edge to have the team that you had beaten the year before, especially coming into your place maybe?
Meyer: I can’t remember. Those brain cells have been chewed up and spit out a long time ago. It’s a meat grinder — don’t fool yourself. It’s a meat grinder every week.
Q. When you do go into a game and use two quarterbacks, how much of that do you hope to be scripted, and how much of that is done by feel on game day?
Meyer: I don’t know yet. We did it in 2006 is the only time we’ve really done it, and it was both. We had scripted plays, but they were two different skill sets, so we say we get to this part of the field, and we need this kind of momentum push.
And Tim Tebow had the personality that everything got picked up. When you were kind of stagnant, he had the personality. I don’t see that this way at all. So to answer your question, I don’t know yet. We’ve still got time to decide. I think a lot of it is going to be in-game, how’s it going, and do we need a change.
Q. You talk about Tim Tebow’s leadership. J.T. was voted captain by his peers. What does that say about the quarterback competition, if anything?
Meyer: The actual quarterback, it’s a factor, but it’s not thee factor. The guy that’s going to give us the best chance to move down the field is going to be the guy taking the snap. I’m not surprised. Josh Perry, I think, got the most votes, Taylor Decker got the second, and J.T. got the third. Braxton got the fourth, and it was either Tyvis or — who was the other one I’m missing? Jacoby.
So the thing is Joel Hale had a bunch of votes, and Adolphus Washington. It’s the most I’ve ever seen as far as spread out on votes. That’s how many good kids we have.
But J.T., I got asked that question by some friends. That means he’s a captain. Not necessarily going to take the first snap.
Q. Are you open to the idea of playing two quarterbacks more than you were a couple months ago?
Meyer: I’m not sure yet. We’re still debating that.
Q. Is the only thing what gives this team the best chance to win or is there something in there of guys deserving a chance to play, earning a chance to play even if, you know —
Meyer: No, at this point it’s at that moment who can — because they both won. I don’t know J.T.’s record, but it’s pretty good. Cardale, I believe, is 3-0. So who gives us at that moment a chance to win.
Q. If the skill sets are similar, right, what would it be about giving both a chance?
Meyer: Performance at practice, accuracy, leadership, toughness, all the things that you look for in the quarterback.
Q. Would that change within a game though?
Meyer: Sure, absolutely.
Q. A guy’s not looking so sharp, let’s put somebody else in?
Meyer: Absolutely, it could be weekly too. If he had a bad Tuesday practice and Tuesday’s our first of normal, and third down is on Wednesday, and they have a bad Wednesday, absolutely. That’s not uncommon. That is the same with the other positions as well. You have to show up every day and compete.
Q. Is there any part of that, doing that at quarterback that could be not a great thing for the team? Or do you think that would just push it?
Meyer: Oh you mean about naming the quarterback?
Q. Do you want — people talk about if someone’s looking over their shoulder and they have a bad start to a game or a tough day at practice?
Meyer: Those are all things that we have to hit on the road. I’m not very experienced in this. If you look, check the annals of college football history, I’m not sure that’s happened. So I think I have to do what’s best for the team at that moment. That is you have two very good players that are very invested. What is the best chance of moving this team down the field and putting them in the end zone? That is kind of the mindset I’ve had right now.
But I think those things I’m constantly thinking about because I don’t want players — and we try not to do that here. That’s why we talk about 4 to 6, A to B, don’t worry about mistakes, go as hard as you can, and we’ll fix it. Mistakes are fixed by great effort.