The Buckeyes play Oregon Monday in Arlington, Texas, in their 15th game of the year with a national championship on the line and the OSU coach is deep in preparation. Here are the highlights from the press conference.
- Meyer said that the 15-game season his team is dealing with makes the wear and tear of football all the more obvious. He noted that the 85 scholarship players that the NCAA allows was instituted with a 12-game season and the teams that have been added to the end of that for the Buckeyes (Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon) aren’t FCS foes.
“I’ve never practiced like this, we’re being very cautious right now,” he said.
- In addition to the health of the players, the biggest concern entering the unchartered territory of a championship game in this setup is outside influences, Meyer said. The coach is happy that the team is not going to Texas until Friday. They’ve already had their bowl trip and don’t need another.
- In injury news, Meyer said that tight end Jeff Heuerman (ankle) and H-back Dontre Wilson (foot) are both probable for the championship game. Wilson was wearing a walking boot for the brief period of practice that was open to the media.
- When asked about the progress of redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee, the defensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl, Meyer joked about turning him down at several camps: “Shows how good an evaluator I am…”
The coach credited defensive coordinator Luke Fickell for believing in Lee.
- When looking at Oregon’s offense, something Meyer hasn’t done a ton of while helping prepare his own offense, the coach said that the Ducks’ tempo and the play of quarterback Marcus Mariota were the things that stood out. Meyer said that not only did Mariota deserve to win the Heisman Trophy, but that he was glad he did “for a number of reasons.”
- During his year off from coaching, Meyer went to Oregon to take notes from then-Ducks coach Chip Kelly. He said his biggest takeaway was the complete alignment of the program from a cultural standpoint. Said he didn’t want the Buckeyes to have the same culture, but have the same unified belief in the Ohio State culture.
- Meyer said that the downside of an up-tempo offense, and the reason he didn’t go to it sooner, is that the quarterback has fewer opportunities to be a leader without a huddle. He did acknowledge that it is the future of college football.
- The Buckeyes have thrown downfield more since Cardale Jones took over at quarterback, though the vertical passing game is more a product of what defenses are giving Ohio State than it is the personnel the Buckeyes are using, Meyer said.
The coach added that Jones is a better pocket quarterback than either Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett because his size allows him to see over linemen better. He is the first quarterback Meyer has had since Alex Smith at Utah that can high-low a pass over a lineman.
- Meyer also commented on the progress Jones has made, saying that “Cardale could have been a statistic” without the proper guidance. He got it. A lot of people don’t realize how close he was to being an asterisk, Meyer said.
- Evan Spencer is the team MVP, Meyer said, and will retroactively be named a captain at some point. His play in the Sugar Bowl – a key block on Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown, a touchdown pass and recovering an onside kick – are indicative of his meaning to the team.
- Meyer was asked about the advantaged Oregon’s uniforms can have in recruiting.
"Every school has their niche, and Oregon found their niche,” he said.
The coach said that when that stuff happens at Ohio State, though, you have to be careful because of the tradition that the Buckeyes have.
- When asked about the job that Ed Warinner has done along the offensive line, Meyer said he will be an “instrumental” part of the staff going forward, though he was not specific.
Meyer added that while the team is losing a great coach in Tom Herman, the team will still run the Ohio State offense next year.
- The 2013 recruiting class has made its mark all over this season for Ohio State, but Meyer expressed some disappointment that the staff redshirted as many as they did last season.
“Some of those guys won’t be here for the fifth year,” Meyer said. “So we screwed up.”
- Meyer brought the Penn State game up a number of times today as a turning point for the team as the Buckeyes played very poorly and won.
"That's the intangible value of this great game of football that has been here long before us and will be here long after we are gone," he said.
- Lastly, Meyer was informed that the town of Ubrbana, Ohio, would officially be dropping the final 'a' from it's name Monday in honor of the coach for the championship game.
"You're kidding ... wow," Meyer said. "That's very nice."