NATIONAL SIGNING DAY LINKS
Urban Meyer: Thanks for being here. A couple comments about obviously the first early signing period. I don’t know if it’s the first ever in the history of college football, but the first one that we’ve ever been a part of. I really want to thank our staff, and I don’t normally do that. It’s all about the player. But I can’t remember the urgency that we experienced today or this past two weeks. You just start thinking about the time warp that took place finishing the season that we had to finish the way we did, and then you play your rival, and then you play the Big Ten Championship game, and by the way, signing date is two weeks away now.
There were three weeks of recruiting. If you’re in a championship game, you get two weeks of recruiting, and Mark Pantoni and his staff but really our coaching staff, I can’t remember a December like that ever. So we’ve just got to plan, and that’s the way it’s going to be. I just really appreciate our coaches and their families because they were gone. You think, boy, you guys just won the Big Ten Championship. Okay, I’ll see you in two weeks because it’s done, and when I say done, it was incredible.
Two weeks of intense travel, home visits, relationship building in December, and I’m anxious to see how this all plays out and talk to colleagues because everybody is too busy now but what their thoughts are of the early signing, and special thanks to the parents of these incredible families. This is a heck of a group, and the older I get, and I don’t say I’m very unique but I’m one of the guys that have been on both sides of it, to hand your child to someone really changed my whole approach to recruiting eight years ago or whenever that was when my daughter was recruited by Georgia Tech. That’s when real-life Wednesday started, that’s when we spend an inordinate amount of time of — we don’t talk about degrees as much as we talk about careers. And I remember a coach one time, I would ask the coaches recruiting my daughter, and I’d stop them and say, what are you going to do for my kid, and every one of them said, we’re going to help her get a degree. I looked at them and I said, my daughter is a 4.0, what the hell are you going to do to help get my kid a degree, help her take tests?
So we’ve taken a much different approach here at Ohio State, and that’s — yes, a degree is absolutely critical and essential to leave here with a degree, but we’re going to try to do much more than that and try to give them a career. We have worked so hard on it, and it’s been an overwhelming success. A lot of that has to do with because we’re in — corporate America is only about two miles from here, and it’s been a great success, and I know that’s very important for young people and the families here. That’s very strong.
Quick comments about early signing, and then I’m sure you’ve got some questions that we all have to remember, that there’s one person that really counts in this, and it’s not me, it’s not you, it’s not the assistant coaches. It’s not the university. It’s the player. The player is making a life-changing decision, and I would hope that I’m not complaining because I’m still evaluating. We did very well. I can’t imagine that we have this many early signed. We worked — it was very good.
My understanding was early signing was for the Jaelen Gills of the world, a kid that grew up in Columbus, Ohio, wants to be a Buckeye his entire life, and he’s going to sign so you don’t have to babysit him for the next two months, which I think that’s very appropriate and admirable.
But what I felt happened and something that we deal with and other schools deal with is that the NFL entry deadline is January 15th. Our kids just got done playing two of the biggest games in their career and won a championship, and we’re getting ready to play in a big-time bowl game against a heck of a team at USC, so there’s been very little, if any, conversation about NFL entry and all that yet. We’re trying to fill a roster that I don’t know, I can’t tell you who’s leaving, who’s coming, and I have some ideas, and there’s been preliminary talk, but certainly you talk about life-changing decisions for those guys and life-changing decisions for young people, the prospects.
I just feel when you start squeezing people’s time, I just don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but I’m anxious to see how it all works out. So we have a numbers — we’re just — I mean, if you saw that room in there, it’s just you’re playing the percentages, and what happens if you oversign and a young man doesn’t decide to go to the NFL when he told you he was. That’s his right. You can’t hold that against him, and same thing with — so the intent was for the Jaelen Gill. What I’ve had happen to me is I’ve talked to several players, and my answer to them, because we’re straightforward with them, is that I don’t know if I have a scholarship right now because I don’t know who’s leaving for the NFL Draft. A couple times, more than a couple, I got a comment back saying, Coach, this school is telling me if I don’t sign on the 20th I’m out. They’re taking my scholarship offer, and that’s not what the intent of the rule was.
But I get it. I just think that’s a great conversation piece for everyone to say, okay, really is that the intent of the early signing period. So here’s a young person committed to a certain school, his dream is to go to a school that you can compete for a national title. However, the school that’s competing in that level is saying I don’t know because there might be five guys leave for the NFL draft. But you know what, there might not be five guys. So what do you do. You’re honest with them. And the comment back is I think I have to sign with this because what if they pull my scholarship. I’m stuck with nothing.
So I think that’s a good conversation piece. If we all remember the only thing that really matters is that young person gets to go to the best place he can possibly go and that he wants to go, and if that works out, then I think it’s a good situation.
With that said, I’ll answer any questions for you and move on.
Q. An indirect recruiting question: You’re losing so many fifth-year seniors who made up like a good bit of the leadership of your team, might be losing some of the other top guys to the NFL. Is it going to be more challenging than usual to compensate for those losses?
Urban Meyer: I think so. You know, I think this is a special place in my heart — my heart, our heart here, because you guys know, these fifth-year guys are not just fantastic players but they’re the nuts and bolts of this program. They own this program, and they’ve been — I can’t ask for any more from them. That’s always a challenge when you lose elite leadership, and that will be. The good thing is this is a very healthy program right now. There’s some very good young leaders coming up the ranks.
Q. You touched on this already, but I’m curious if you can expound on it. Just from Ohio State’s perspective the pros and cons of the early signing period, some of the pros and cons from your perspective?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, the pro is I just went around the room. I just sat there and I and an assistant coach said, tell me the positive, what’s the negative. The positive is you’re not babysitting. Jaelen Gill is done. I got his paper, let’s start getting him ready to play and monitoring academics, et cetera.
The negatives — that’s the positive. The negative is there’s several. You’re trying to speed recruit for two — we only had two weeks to recruit, and people will say we should know about them early. Is that right? Whoever would say you should know about that, I imagine, all due respect, they’re journalists or have nothing to do with recruiting or coaching or anything like that because football is a developmental sport. You can’t — there’s some freaks of nature that just are giant — just bigger and fast and everything by the time they get to this point. You know what, there’s also the Darron Lees, Josh Perrys, Tyvis Powells that are incredible football players that just a little bit later development, and those guys, that concerns me because Ohio is so known for that, too, and that really is alarming to me, and I’m on our staff. I keep diving at our coaches saying, are we doing the right thing here. Well this kid is better because he’s had four years of spring practice, he’s had all this, this, this, he’s a little bit ahead, and we don’t have a chance to get to know these late developers.
We took a late developer this year, and that was one of those — there was probably 10 hours of conversation on that.
So the positive is, like I said, no babysitting. The negative is that you’re squeezing the recruiting process into a small time period and very critical decisions for us, more critical decision for the young person.
Q. Seems like every year you guys are adding a player like a Robert Landers, for example, late in the process, not always an Ohio kid but a player like that you’re adding like January —
Urban Meyer: They won’t be available. They’re signed.
Q. You were just talking about wanting to see a senior take, especially at quarterback. You got a chance to do that this time with Matthew Baldwin. How much more comfort does that give you, and what did you see?
Urban Meyer: Oh, I saw a dominant performance by a senior. I saw a kid that had a chance to leave Lake Travis, and nowadays every kid, I’d say 90 percent of those players leave because they have to go get theirs, and here’s a guy who was loyal to his school. It was a great high school, one of my first experiences down there. That’s as good a football as there is in the United States of America. Here he comes in and the kid completes over 70 percent of his passes, takes them to a state championship, and is a monster competitor that we — Ryan Day did a heck of a job. We’re sitting there getting ready to play Penn State, and he’s coming up to me saying, hey, let’s watch this kid from Lake Travis, and I’m ready to pass out, saying it’s 10:30 at night, I’ve got 3rd down and 6 in my mind and we’re trying to watch another quarterback.
But that’s the way it is. And so you’re squeezing a recruiting process into a small time frame.
Q. When you saw him, did that make — were you still interested in taking two quarterbacks at that time or were you sold on —
Urban Meyer: We just can’t numbers-wise. I’d take two any time we can, especially in that situation. It’s just a little fluid right now. But I don’t know our roster number.
Q. I don’t know if you can answer this well right now or not, but after this first year, what system — what suggestions or what would you like to be the ideal way to handle it? I don’t know if there is one.
Urban Meyer: I don’t know right now. You know, to be honest with you, we’ve had really good bowl practices, and it’ll be time — I’m anxious to go to the head coaches’ meetings and listen. Do I think it’s all negative? I was really dead-set against it. I’m looking at this right here, dead set against what? That’s unbelievable. But I think there’s going to be some very good dialogue, and I want to listen.
Q. I don’t know if you’ve heard this proposed at any other point, but you referenced Jaelen Gill, and I felt like all along you don’t want to babysit him, you knew he was going to come here, wanted to come here. What about no signing day at all, if you give them an offer, just sign whenever you want?
Urban Meyer: No, I’ve heard that. Once again, I hate to make comments I thought haven’t it thought. I have given zero to this. I’ve been in freaking Idaho and all over the place. And by the way, I’m glad I went to Idaho. It went really well.
Q. Was that your first time in Idaho?
Urban Meyer: No, when I lived in Utah I went to Idaho several times. First time I got a recruit out of Idaho, I believe. That’s not true, Spencer Toone when I was at Utah was an Idaho player.
Q. We talk about this every year, but the balance between keeping kids in Ohio and going nationally, there were four kids in Ohio right now, is it a problem if you only have a few Ohio kids if you’re winning 11 games a year?
Urban Meyer: It is.
Q. How do you go about changing it?
Urban Meyer: Well, we had some academic issues this year with some of the Ohio kids. We err on the Ohio guy, and that’s a small number. I don’t think it’s over. As a matter of fact, I know there’s at least one more that we’re holding onto because he has a signing date or something. Yeah, that’s a problem. What’s the solution? Do the very best we can.
Q. When you look at a kid, is it harder to retain a player if he is not from Ohio and not grew up here? Do you think it’s easier to retain a player and keep him in your program longer if he grew up in the state?
Urban Meyer: Oh, I think that’s obvious it’s probably a little easier to retain an Ohio player.
Q. Is Matthew going to be the only quarterback you sign today?
Urban Meyer: On today, yes, and I would anticipate, but there’s another signing date somewhere down the road. I’m not sure when it is.
Q. You mentioned that you haven’t had the opportunity to have those NFL Draft conversations with guys, but just knowing them, do you feel like you at least have a pretty good idea of who might go and who might come back?
Urban Meyer: You know, I say that every year and I get shocked sometimes. We on purpose do not. There is not, hey, I need to know. We don’t do that. These are life-changing decisions. I have my own — I’ve got percentages and Xs next to the names and it changes, it’s fluid, it changes every now and then, and oh, here’s the other thing that the player has a right to send in office — it’s called send office paperwork, and the NFL 10 years ago, it was awful. You’d get these things back and you could tell people didn’t spend time at it. I don’t know if I’m disrespecting anybody, but here I’d look and say, who watches videotape. He’s not a first-rounder. And it came back and there’s a big differential. So for example, this young man was told he’s going to be a third-round draft pick and he’s a free agent. So he made the decision to leave and he got screwed.
It’s much better. They’re doing a much better job, the NFL, working with the colleges and working with these players, and now they’re allowed to evaluate these underclassmen, so this is a very detailed — I’m not sure you guys are aware of that. They’re allowed to now look into the young player.
And the players, if I ever heard a player as we’re getting ready to go play a Big Ten Championship game against the No. 4 team in America and he comes up to me and says, hey, can I send in my paperwork for the NFL, that would be one of those, what the hell are you talking about. So here’s a young person, finishes the Big Ten Championship, he needs to take a break for a minute and then sends off his paperwork. It takes about two weeks or so to get back, and we have a signing day already, and a lot of the paperwork is not back yet. You understand you’re squeezing very important decisions into a small time frame. So those are all the things that you have to ask.
Q. Do you feel like you’ll have everybody available for bowl game or is anybody considering not playing in the Cotton Bowl?
Urban Meyer: I think we’ll have everybody. Obviously we announced that AJ Alexander is a medical, Kierre Hawkins is transferred. And I think that’s it right now.
Q. Mark Pantoni made that official, so in case you’re worried about that. What did you like about him? Can you kind of describe the process with him?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, he was one of those nights we came in and started — I wanted to see the Ohio guys, and I sat there and went through it myself over and over again, and this is right after I found out that AJ Alexander was no longer going to be able to play football and Kierre made his move to move on, and we’re very thin at that position. And so I looked at the — I started watching him, and he’s a late developer player that I think he was hurt some of his junior year, and I like the fact he plays extremely hard and he’s a big athlete.
Q. Where do you project him?
Urban Meyer: Big athlete. I think he can do either. I know where — there’s needs at both spots, but I don’t know, it’s just a big athlete that — and you meet the young man, he’s a 3.8 GPA, he comes from an outstanding family, great high school program. That Pickerington football between Central and North and the rivalry there, that’s great football.
Q. I’m going to ask a couple questions just about football instead of recruiting if that’s okay.
Urban Meyer: Sure.
Q. Last year when we were here with your class on the signing day, we always talk about who’s going to play and that kind of thing. When you look at your freshman class this past year, I think 14 of the guys played. Was that just them showing they could play? Was that need? Was that an effort by you guys if they show it let’s get them out there? How do you do that and get 14 true freshmen out there?
Urban Meyer: I think it would be wrong for me to just group them all together. I don’t know that. I think that you don’t just play a guy to play him. Jeff Okudah played because he’s one of our best players, and we also needed him, but I’ve got news, he would have played anyways. That’s how good he was. J.K. Dobbins when Mike went down became a need, but guess what.
So I think it’s unfair for me to just group them all together. I would like to play — I say that every year and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. It’s not intent. If you don’t play here, it’s because you’re not good enough. It’s not because we’re saving you for somewhere down the road. Those days are gone. If you come here and you’re good enough, you play. If you don’t, that’s what I try to tell everybody, fans, uncles, everybody. If he’s not playing, it’s not because we’re holding him back. No, no, you go play. This was a very good group we had, and their future — that group is a very good group.
Q. This is even more specific: When I think about J.T. Barrett and his career at Ohio State, to me the play that stands out most for him and what he did great was the 3rd down runs from the empty set; why was he so good at that? Why did you guys — sometimes you’d see that, it’s 3rd and 4 and J.T. is back there by himself five wide. It’s like, this is going to be a quarterback run, and it would be a quarterback run, and it would work. It worked a lot. Why is he so good at that, and why were you guys so good at that with him running him on 3rd down?
Urban Meyer: Well, historically it goes back to 2001 at Bowling Green. Dan Mullen was on my staff, and this is before teams really did a lot of that. The other guy that was really good at that was Bill Snyder at Kansas State. I went there and spent a week and watched how he did his business, and he was doing things that other people didn’t do, and it’s sheer numbers. You put five guys out, they’ve got five guys have now just left the box, and you put a free safety back there, and there’s only five guys left. Does that make sense? And so your numbers are called equated.
That’s one reason. And he is dynamic at getting — he’s a very good reader. He’s a very good understander. He’s excellent with ball security, and it works.
Q. It’s a combination of his athleticism but his smarts and being able to read where he needs —
Urban Meyer: You’re forgetting two things. Number one, he’s one of the most competitive human beings that stands on this earth; and number two his toughness. All the other things are true, too, but when you have a competitor like that, you know who’s going to touch the ball. I’ve said that over the headsets many times: J.T. is carrying this ball.
Q. Two questions: One, every team across the nation is looking for quality defensive tackles. You guys signed three, Antwuan Jackson out of JuCo ranks, Taron Vincent, and your trip to Idaho, as well, with Tommy. Talk a little bit about the defensive tackle class, and secondly, schools have negatively recruited for years and years. They used Larry Johnson’s longevity as an issue and he had to go to social media to say I’m not going anywhere. What are your thoughts on having to go to those lengths to try and stem some of those concerns?
Urban Meyer: I’ll look for you to talk to Larry to talk about those three inside guys. He’s made some very strong comments about the future of the inside of our defensive line. What I love about them, they’re all great kids, great families, and they’re ready to go. I anticipate they’ll all play. Our interior defensive line is going to be strong.
I’m used to the negative; I don’t agree with it. The one thing you’ll never hear Ohio State go into someone’s home and talk abut some other school or some other coach. We don’t do that. But that’s the way it is.
I wasn’t aware that was going on because I don’t read social media stuff, but I was made aware to me by our staff, and so Larry said do you mind if I do this. No, of course not. So Larry is his own man, and he’s committed to be here for many years.
Q. Y’all signed a couple of players from Middle Tennessee, Max Wray and Master Teague. Can you talk about what you see in them and how they might impact the program?
Urban Meyer: Well, Max Wray was committed somewhere else and we started dialogue with him and he’s got a wonderful family. We need tackles, so that’s one area where we’re somewhat thin, so he fills a need there. Master Teague just kind of came to our camps. He’s big, he’s fast, one of the greatest kids you’ll ever meet, excellent student, a great family, so they fit some needs.
Q. How involved are you — when you self-report an NCAA violation, how involved are you in the self-imposed punishment, especially when it comes with you agreeing not to recruit someone?
Urban Meyer: Good question. Good thing is we don’t have many of those here. I get extremely upset when I see that there was something done that was done incorrectly, and we do everything we possibly can to make sure that does not happen again, even if it sounds minor, it’s not minor. When I hear the word violation, and most people, including my wife say, what does this mean. A kid took a picture on a set of a game day thing or something like that. But there’s — everybody in our program should know the rules, and that shouldn’t have happened.
It’s presented to me, and I agree with it or disagree with it, and we move on.
Q. You get involved with the class today; how many might you sign in February?
Urban Meyer: Yeah, we’re not many left. I just don’t know our roster number. I won’t know that until January because of the NFL. There’s not many left.
Q. And because you’ve been consumed in recruiting, how have you prepared for the bowl?
Urban Meyer: We rely on guys that are very good at what they do. It’s called my staff. The one thing that I can also tell you is that we’ve had — this is the best group of young coaches we’ve had, and when I say young coaches, our GA’s, quality control people. It’s the best group we’ve had in my six years here at Ohio State. Without them, we can’t do that. When I say do this, I’m talking about everything. But when you come on off the road and you see the entire scouting report of the team you’re getting ready to play like done the way you want it done and that lets the coaches go to work. They’ve done a great job.
Q. Will you be coaching when you’re 65 do you think?
Urban Meyer: No. Don’t use — maybe. How’s that?
Q. I don’t know if you can answer this or not, but there was a big-time tackle from Ohio, we’re getting the impression he’s going somewhere else. Can you address that, and number two, considering all the effort put into that young man, how big a disappointment is that on a day like today?
Urban Meyer: I can’t comment because there’s — I’ll leave it at that.
Q. When you look at this list, what jumps out at you the most about this list of guys that you’ve gotten so far? There’s 20 I think have been announced by now. What jumps out at you as the strength of this class when you really look at it?
Urban Meyer: Well, I think there’s no doubt the interior defensive line. There’s so many — one of my favorite players is a guy that was absolutely relentless in the pursuit was Josh Proctor, Player of the Year in the state of Oklahoma. Obviously a heck of a football program there, and he made the decision to join us. And then I’m looking at one of the — I do this quite often. It’s not fair to the young people, but I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited. His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play. And there’s many more, I just picked a couple there.
Q. We’ve asked you this question a million times when you’ve recruited quarterbacks: What is it about — you talk about Baldwin, his lineage, where he’s from. Baker Mayfield is from the same school. What more than anything else jumps off the page at you or the video about him, about Matthew Baldwin in particular?
Urban Meyer: Well, I went and watched him practice, too. I trust Ryan Day. Ryan Day did a phenomenal job. I’ll say this, too, just about Coach Day. Coach Day had the opportunity to potentially be a head coach in the SEC and decided to stay at Ohio State. He’s done a phenomenal job for us. There have been other coaches on our staff have opportunities to move on and they haven’t, so this coaching staff is very strong right now.
The one thing about Matthew Baldwin is that — I learned this years ago and I’ve said this before here, that what we do when we evaluate really any position; however, the most important position is the quarterback, is the competitive spirit is number one, toughness is number two, leadership is number three, number four is intelligence, number five is can you get out of a bad play, and then by the way, how does he throw, how does he run. We’ll work on all that other stuff.
And I think you see so many mistakes made at that position because people don’t categorize like that, and he checks the box off perfectly going right down the list, and when you see NFL make mistakes in drafting guys, it’s because they didn’t fit those top four categories, top five categories. You have a non-competitor at quarterback, it’s a bad day. You have a guy that is not very intelligent, not very tough and can’t lead, really, really bad day, and we’ve been lucky around here four years; we’ve had one.
Q. Are you going to be able to go watch his game Saturday?
Urban Meyer: Matt Baldwin?
Q. Yeah, I think he’s playing AT&T.
Urban Meyer: No, I think we’re dead.
Q. Y’all dropped off one fellow in particular, we were talking about the ESPN set and all that kind of stuff. Was that the reason you dropped off of him or was it another reason?
Urban Meyer: I can’t — I don’t want to talk — we’ve got to move on. Thanks, guys.