December 31, 2014 An Interview with: COACH URBAN MEYER
THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Urban Meyer, the head coach of the Ohio State University.
COACH MEYER: It's been a great week. Appreciate the hospitality of the Sugar Bowl and the great city of New Orleans and our players have had a very good experience. And we're very honored to be part of history.
The more you reflect and evaluate what's going on in college football and to have Ohio State University and our players to be a part of it it's a real honor and an honor we don't take lightly.
We've had a very good week.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. What kind of tone will you try to set today and if you would go through your routine a little bit, and will you be the only man or person that addresses your team today?
COACH MEYER: We have a routine, and I make the comment, our players hear this over and over again, every great athlete, every great team has a routine. It's our job not to disrupt the routine.
We do that the best we can when we're on the road, whether it be State College or East Lansing or New Orleans for a bowl game. So we're a real stickler about that, our routine is best Fridays in football and it starts today. I'll be the only one addressing our team, we had Joey Galloway visit our team briefly yesterday and our players enjoy the routine on Friday.
The most important thing, task at hand, is we get our meetings done quickly. We have a run through, walk through, and then we have to make sure they sleep.
There's going to be a lot going on. A lot of families rolling in town and a lot of activity. Obviously a lot of publicity, and, so, it's most important thing is having those 18 to 20yearolds get a good night's sleep and be ready to play tomorrow.
Q. Couple of years ago when we were talking about this playoff becoming a reality you said you didn't know how you would get a team ready one week and potentially have to do it again. How have you guys treated this week, similar to a bowl week a year ago or maybe more like a Big Ten championship? How have you gone about your business this week?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think that caused a lot of coaches to have whether it be internal conversations within their program or just reflection themselves. I remember just thinking how would this work.
Now that we're here, there's no conversation whatsoever about the next one. You can't. It's not fair to our players and certainly when you're playing a team like Alabama, that's all hands on deck, to find a way to get this one done.
That will be interesting conversation for next week for the two teams that make it. But there's been zero. I think the other two teams are playing in the Rose Bowl and I think it's Oregon and Florida State. Other than that, that's all we know.
Q. How comfortable are you with your quarterback situation, your starter and your backup, which is Jalin Marshall? How comfortable are you now like three weeks into this?
COACH MEYER: Comfortable, not bad. Cardale, if you asked me a year ago or six months ago, I would have looked at you and said look at you like you've got six heads.
But it's a much different story right now. He's had a great week of practice. He's big. He stands back in the pocket. He's got control of the offense. And I think our strength coach said it best to me when we were getting ready for the Big Ten championship game. He said, You realize he came in at the same time our staff did. He's been in every meeting. He understands the culture and expectations of the offense.
So very comfortable. And Jalin has done a great job. Is it the ideal situation? I made this comment over and over again, the one thing that's not allowed is there's no excuses. It is what it is. So, to answer your question I feel very comfortable where we're at.
Q. A lot of chatter in the last four hours that Braxton Miller is actively looking around or at least he has someone looking around. Have you had conversations with him? Do you expect him to return next year? Just what's your thought on that right now?
COACH MEYER: Yes, I've had conversations and someone hit me with that today. I don't expect that. There's a lot of things that go on out there that is out of his control as well.
So, we've had conversations and I expect him to be back at Ohio State.
Q. Did you major in psychology with a thought that you were going to use it in coaching? And if so, how instrumental would you say it's been in your success?
COACH MEYER: That was a long time ago. And like most college students I changed majors probably eight times. And I found myself my third year in college and what are you going to do with your life? I took a couple of classes.
Now, this is really interesting and became very intrigued by it. And I certainly I love that part of the game. I think that's maybe a strength of ours that the motivation of a team, the motivation of an individual, that's something that I really enjoy and I certainly do draw upon some of the things I learned at the University of Cincinnati.
Q. You're a Midwest guy, coached in the SEC. As you built this program, have you always maybe had it in the back of your mind this is a game, this is the sort of program that you have to go through to get your program back on top?
COACH MEYER: Oh, I think everybody in the country, when we were at Florida, that was kind of the because we won I think two out of three. And Alabama is the top shelf. Obviously Florida State is there as well.
You don't just point towards Alabama. You point to whoever is at top and say this is where we need to be. And I quite often use examples with our team, how many great teams are there in college football every year? And usually you can count them on your hand.
I say great teams, I'm not talking about great players. I'm not talking about great coaching staffs because there's 100 of those. But how many on that particular year are playing great football together. And that's selfless approach to the game, a strain of four to sixsecond approach to the game, and there's not many.
We model ourselves instead of saying a certain team because every year it kind of changes who that great team is. Alabama happens to be the last five or six years, as good as there is. But other teams, you see the Oklahomas, the Florida States, the Auburn at the top. And I use those quite often.
Q. You are a different coach and a different person than you were five years ago when you were here. And dealing with the adversity that this team has had, how important is it that you are a different coach and a different guy in guiding the team through that?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think that's probably old news and I don't know how different we are. I think we all grow. We all do, and players do, coaching staffs do. So maybe approach things a little differently. But I still draw upon everything we did in the past and look at the practice schedules, look at the approach.
I still have my same strength coach that I lean on for a tremendous amount of information and thoughts on how to prepare our team.
So, I think I don't know how different it is, to be honest with you. If I look at how we're approaching this game, it's very similar. Your question about the adversity, I always like to say we learn certainly I've learned so much from this team.
And it's not the only team you learn from. The great teams, coaches learn from them. I've learned from this team. I've learned from this group of sophomores someone made a point to me about the quality of players we have in this sophomore, I guess two years ago, recruiting class and I didn't realize it, you get so busy, you start listing the names, and I've learned a tremendous amount from that.
But most of it I learned from Curtis Grants of the world who was a nonfactor and Jeff Heuerman, who was not a highly recruited guy, has become a very, very important person in our program, and Mike Bennett, who was a guy that has always had the talent, is a great kid, great family but never flipped a switch, and he's flipped it. So, we've learned a tremendous amount from our players.
Q. To follow up on the question about this year being different with potentially an extra round, potentially an extra game for your team, I'm sure like good college coaches you see your job as beyond just the football field, you're a part of your player' education, and I'm wondering if you had concerns, discussions among your staff, thoughts about what the extra round of games means in terms of whether it's the fact that potentially is a little more of a burden on the players as compared to the other aspects of their lives or the fact that they're younger and maybe don't have the fundamentals of pro players and now may be playing a 15game season, is that something that obviously it occurs to you, but your thoughts that you'd like to share?
COACH MEYER: That's a long question. (Laughter) I think the question, and that was a lot of good information there. The season this is stressful on a studentathlete, if that's what you're heading. And I think we start classes on the 12th of January. And I made the point many, many times that Ohio State's a much different institution than it was when I had my master's degree there in 1987.
It was a great school then. But it's elite now. And you're in a classroom that's extremely competitive. So, yeah, I'm very concerned about the wear and tear on the studentathlete. But we've done a good job. I think we've done a good job as a coaching staff.
You do have to treat it a little bit differently about how you practice, the amount of pad contact you have, the amount how many times you're going to hit the tailback and your offensive line.
Those are all things that I think our staff and I've watched so close and the same with our strength coach not about just wearing them out, because it's a much different season.
Used to be 11 games and a bowl game. Now, what is it, 12 plus this. You're talking about 14, 15 games, and that is getting very NFLish. We're very leery of it. And there's a part of me that's concerned about the wear and tear on the studentathlete.
But I watch our players and they're having the time of their life. There's no I don't feel like there's fatigue. I don't feel like there's any whatsoever that doesn't want to be part of this, anything whatsoever. So I think it's great for college football. But I think it's something that we all need to consistently monitor.
And I know we have very closely, because the wear and tear on a studentathlete is real. It's never been like this. This is the first time in college football history that you're asking a student at a university to spend this much time you're talking about August until now and your 15 games. Is that what it's, 12, one, 13, 14, 15.
Q. You mentioned for the last five or six years Alabama has been as good as there is in college football. How impressive is that considering that the game has gotten so much more competitive and there are so many more good programs it seems these days? And is it too early to kind of think of where Nick might be in terms of history of great coaches?
COACH MEYER: I think consistency at this competitive time is very impressive. And that's something everybody tries to model. You can have that one shot wonder, that one year wonder, that one year where everything goes right.
But to have it year after year that's the model that people look for. I think that's where Bill Belichick and the NFL has that model. There's been great NFL teams show up and then they disappear.
The one thing about the Patriots, I like to think we model ourselves after as well, is a great testimony to consistency as well. So, it's very difficult, the more competitive and the amount of exposure and every school in the country right now is trying to load up and become part of this playoff. You see it happening every day across college football.
To remain at the top is very difficult. And you said about
Q. Is it too early to think about where Nick might land in terms of great, historical figures?
COACH MEYER: To early where a coach might rank? I don't think it's too early. Won a bunch of national championships. Very consistent winner at several different schools. I think obviously he's one of the great coaches in college football history.
Q. When you look back at where this program was when you took over, not bowl eligible, perceived as a few cuts below the SEC level, how much satisfaction do you take in more or less rebranding this program, bringing it back up to snuff and how much did that have to do with your ability to jump teams that were ranked ahead of you to get into this playoff?
COACH MEYER: Well, our players, our older guys were part of a team that lost seven games. I hear that. I've actually had conversations, not instigated by myself, where they're just so that's why I bring up the Jeff Heuermans and Curtis Grants of the world. Jeff was there and went through a transition period that a lot of programs do go through.
The question was never about quality of player at Ohio State. It was never quality of coach at Ohio State. It was chemistry within the team and obviously distractions. And I can see an incredible sense of pride on those guys because we talk about legacy and I talk about it all the time.
There's a common thread probably at every university where you see the 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes come back because they won a title, and you see the Big Ten champions come back. The bad teams, you don't ever see them come back, you don't see the former players.
When you devote four years of your life and your body to a university, you want to be able to bring your son, daughter back some day and say this is where your dad played.
So, I feel an incredible amount of pride, not so much because I wasn't there, our staff wasn't there, but for the players that were part of the transition period, there's an incredible amount of pride.
Q. Did the brand name you built back up, though, carry weight at the end to help you get into the playoff over TCU and Baylor?
COACH MEYER: Did the branding? I don't know that. That's certainly out of my probably. I never really thought about it. But I think Ohio State traditionally has got a great brand name.
Q. You're a ninepoint underdog. Has that made your guys edgy? Do you see that you guys being a little more edgy being ninepoint underdog? How do you value that?
COACH MEYER: That has really not been a big part of conversation with our team. Probably the next two days it will be, because now the work week's done and we're getting our minds right. Up to this point it's been preparation against a very good defense and offense and make sure we're on point. And it's just kind of the mythology that we go about our business. We don't talk too much about the opponent other than getting ready to go play them.
As you start winding down, get ready to play the game that's where I always lean against my strength coach, Where are we as a team? I try to visualize, pick where we're at and if we have to I don't feel like we're going to have to rock the boat to get them fired up to play the game, this is a motivated team right now. That is something in the next 48 hours we'll evaluate because we have all day today and tomorrow.
Q. When you came in, came into town, you talked about Alabama's defensive front being a concern as far as a major challenge, what are a couple other major challenges you see facing Alabama?
COACH MEYER: Just sat with Chris Ash this morning and I watched I've not watched a ton of their offense. The ability the quarterback is a tremendous player. His ability to extend plays and create, you think I've watched about 30 plays with them this morning.
And obviously No. 9's could be the first pick in the draft, he's that good. No. 4, the tailback and the other big tailback are tremendous players.
But anytime a quarterback can extend plays and his accuracy, we talked about his improvement from last year to this year is off the charts. So the athleticism of the quarterback and then you've got two high draft picks at No. 4. I think the big back, too, is a tremendous player.
And Cooper, No. 9, might be the first pick overall. So there are tremendous challenges because I spend most of the time on offense. On offense it's all about the defensive front. You gotta get plays started. We've got to stay out of the second and 10. And that's any game. But this kind of game you just don't want to be sitting.
They kind of good defenses feed off of getting you off rhythm in that second and 11, second and nine, that's not good business. So, we have to somehow get in the manageable second downs and third and threes, national average that's a 60 percent conversion rate.
Third and ten, plus, it's 10 percent, that's against average teams. So that's all the stuff that's going through our minds right now.
Q. You mentioned that the last 48 hours here, you guys spent the last two weeks getting ready for this game. So that hay is sort of in the barn. How important are these next 24 or 48 hours for you guys? Can you have a great two weeks and mediocre 48 hours, what value do you place on that?
COACH MEYER: The term is insanity, how you deal with the next 48 hours. We'll never deal with, I think you said the hay's in the barn. That's not something that's circulating through the team hotel right now, because great value in what we call working to gain. The physical part is done, the mental part is something we place a tremendous value on. We work the ball. We always say you work the game until the foot hits the ball at 8:00 on January 1st. So, it's a huge two days, very important.
Q. I know there's a lot of factors that go into winning this game. But I think most people would agree that if there's one area you really have an advantage in it's defensive line with Bosa, Bennett, Washington, all those guys. Is that the area where you have the chance to make the greatest difference in this game?
COACH MEYER: Well, I don't think so. I think that's certainly one of them. But there's a lot of areas that we have to find a way to either gain an advantage or equate we can't anytime you play a game of this nature, two very good teams, to try to find that edge, what you just mentioned in the Big Ten championship, Adolphus Washington and Mike Bennett kind of controlled the line of scrimmage. This will be an even greater challenge because of their offensive line. But that's one of them. But to say that's it, there's too much other stuff going on during the course of a game.
I put a premium on field position start. I put as much premium on that as a penalty on kickoff return. You want to have a bad day, start off on your own sevenyard line because someone blocks in the back.
This kind of game every yard is going to be critical. And a lot of obviously a lot of things go into that.
Q. When you started getting into the championship games, is there someone you call a confidante, a mentor, a former coach, that you relied on to plan for this position?
COACH MEYER: Sure, Earle Bruce and Lou Holtz are two mentors I talk to frequently. Sonny Lubick is a guy that I've leaned on in the past. This particular one I've talked to Coach Holtz a little bit and I have respect for his approach to the game and other colleagues. But I have a small circle but I do lean on them.