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Meyer: 'This is a special team'

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer conducted his weekly press conference Monday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Meyer reflected on OSU’s 35-23 win at Penn State and looked ahead to Saturday’s home game with Illinois (3:30 p.m., ESPN).

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We have video of Meyer’s comments here. We will have a full transcript up later as well as coverage of interviews with assistants and players as well.

Meyer says 3 OL, Jake Stoneburner graded as champions

Other champions included Hyde (91 pct of yards after contact), Spencer and Braxton Miller (player of game)

Meyer says Miller's "competitive spirit" a big reason they won; defense POG: Brad Roby (7 pbus) and Ryan Shazier (8 tackles, pick-6, 2 sacks)

Adam Griffin got scarlet shirt for extra effort, Brad Roby two tackles on kicks, Devin Smith 4 tackles on punt.

Meyer said he told Jake Stoneburner he had to play better and Jake knew it

Meyer: "To go on the road and face adversity and deal with injuries .... I see some of the intangible locker room conversations ...

Meyer: "This is a special team. They refuse to lose. They fight for each other. It's a bunch of guys who show up each week and work hard."

Meyer says Miller's progress is on schedule, still room to improve as thrower, but has improved in a lot of other areas

Meyer: "Fundamentally, I feel a lot better about where we're at defensively ... You can see the improvements on the field."

Meyer said Miller panicked some in the PSU game but later was able to settle down

Meyer on playing Illinois: "The thing is us getting better ... there will be no issue getting ready. We will have plenty of respect for Illinois.”

Meyer said OL Chase Farris "is on fire ... his development has been great."

Here's a stat: Illinois has won 7 of its last 11 meetings with Ohio State at the Horseshoe (wow)

Meyer on punt block: "We are going to simplify ... it was a missed assignment. We had 2 guys block the same guy. That can't happen."

Meyer on Devin Smith covering punt: "He's the fastest player on the team. You put fast people out there and force fair catches."

Meyer on Sabino: No player trying harder to get back, not sure if he will be back this week, though

here is the archive of Meyer's full comments:

A couple comments about the Penn State game. I very much appreciate that atmosphere at that Penn State. That was as good as I've been fortunate to be in some really great environments, classy environments where student support is tremendous, and I just think that that needs to be recognized. I know our players have great respect for going there. I've heard all about it going up the week prior to it. So, it certainly lived up to its reputation, and even in my mind, enhanced it. So our guys responded well in a very tough situation, a tough environment.

Overall, very good team win. A lot of things to continue to correct upon, however, probably our best team win not probably, our best team win we've had. Once again in a very tough situation, our defense continues to improve. Zach Boren continues to improve. I'll go through champions in a minute.

But fundamentally, we're much better tackling and leveraging the ball. We blitzed more. We had more pressures. Our defensive staff will give you more numbers. But we played more man coverage and blitzed more than he did all year. So that's telling us something that we need to do more of that.

So I'll just talk about the champions. On offense, Andrew Norwell graded a champion, Jack Mewhort, a champion, and Reid Fragel. Three of our five offensive linemen graded out as champions.

Wide receiver Jake Stoneburner continues his last few weeks have been the best football, according to him, of his career at Ohio State. Lot of things that you don't see as well, but just his down field and physicalness. We're moving him inside and playing a little bit of fullback ever since we moved Zach over. So some things you don't see, he's doing very well for us. We really appreciate his restored or rededication to making himself a great player.

Evan Spencer played very good, his three for three opportunities, made plays all three times. Carlos Hyde graded out a champion, and 91% of his yards were after contact. He's a very strong contact runner.

In our offense, player of the week started very slow, was not very efficient early on in the passing game, however finished very strong. Made some big plays for us, and his competitive spirit is a big reason why we won that game. That's our quarterback, Braxton Miller.

On defense, we had just two champions, and they were both co players of the game. Brad Roby graded out 94%. He had an inordinate amount of play opportunities, 30 opportunities, which is almost unheard of. They were throwing a lot at him, and he had 7 PBUs. And I even had one of my guys just recheck some of my records. I don't think we've ever had a guy get his hand on 7 balls and 20 production points.

Other co player of the game continues to I don't think he played as well as the week before. He was as productive or even more productive. But Ryan Shazier graded out a champion at 8 tackles, 3 assists, two tackles for loss, two sacks, forced fumble and a touchdown, 38 production points, which is very high. Other guys had special mentions, however, they didn't grade a champion.

On special teams, Griffin received a Scarlet Shirt, which is an award we give out to guys that get great efforts. He stopped a fourth down fake punt, and Brad Roby made two tackles on kickoff. Then the last one is our defense excuse me, our special teams player of the game was Devin Smith, had four tackles on punt. Excellent effort running down the field.

With that said, I'll answer any questions for you.

Q. I know Zach Boren moving to linebacker was your idea. I knew you expected him to play well on some level. But how well he's playing, does that surprise you at all?
COACH MEYER: I wish he'd grade a champion because I think he's a champion type player. I'd hate to be the half empty guy. But I thought he even played birch that's how much respect I've got for him as a football guy. I know it's new. Probably unheard of in the history of major college football on a Tuesday to go over a new start, but that's how much respect I have for him as a player. I'm certainly not patting him on the back. He needs to grade a champion, and he wants to grade a champion as well. But I'm not surprised, no.

Q. You mentioned a more aggressive defense. Was that an edict from you that you need more pressure?
COACH MEYER: It's not an edict. It's something I've been pushing. I've been pushing a little bit, and we'll continue to push. I think it's having confidence. C.J. Barnett coming back at full speed, and I understand the injury issues. Once again, our two corners can play man. There are three other eligible players that have to be manned up as well, and that is where the issue comes, not with confidence.

First everybody thinks let's go play man. We have good corners, great. There are three other guys somewhere. You can't just hope it works out.

Q. You referenced a heart to heart conversation with Stoneburner a few weeks ago to clear the air, maybe. I know some of that is private. But what was your message to him?
COACH MEYER: I don't want to tell you that. Here's what I think: Perception and there is nothing worse than false confidence. Maybe people telling you you're better than you are, and deep down, Jake Stoneburner is a very, very smart guy. He watches a lot of film and sees himself. However there are sometimes when I first got here, Jake Stoneburner was the greatest thing in the world and he wasn't. Great kid, great kid, but he's playing very well right now.

For some reason he hadn't been, so you can blame it's all the coach's faults, or Coach Tressel or everybody's fault, but at some point, you've got to play better. That's exactly what was said. The cool thing is he said I agree a hundred percent, coach, and you got it. He's been great.

Q. Was he uncomfortable at all in that role? Was there a transition period to the responsibilities he had? Was that a factor at all?
COACH MEYER: I don't know. Is Jake available? I think Jake's a great one to talk to. He's playing well. You can watch the video he's going after people, and he's much more physical. Our goal is also if he's blessed enough to help him have a career playing football, and I think there is a potential now that that might happen.

Q. Back in I think it was '97, talent would get you seven, eight wins, nine, discipline, leadership makes something special. Three games to go you're 9 0. Is this team falling in that category as special even beyond record?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I think so, absolutely. I'm glad that you very good that you remembered that. I didn't think you guys paid attention. That's good. Make sure you give him an extra cookie in his lunch, okay.

Q. I had to look it up, for the record.
COACH MEYER: Take that cookie back (smiling). To go on the road, to face adversity, face injuries, face an offense to have an offense on your team that's not doing very well, and your defense just scores hangs in there, dealing with special teams woes because new guys playing new positions every darn week on that team. But I see some of the intangible locker room conversations and I see a team that this is a special team.

This is a special team. They're fighting for each other. It's a refuse to lose type atmosphere, which some of us have seen teams that play really well, and they're blowing teams out all the time. We're not that type of team for I can give you 150 reasons why. However, we're a bunch of guys that work really hard, blue collar approach, that show up every Tuesday and want to get better. You don't want anything else as a coach.

There is some discipline and leadership taken place, that's why it's pushed above the 7, 8 wins.

Q. How did (Indiscernible) when you go up against a friend, a guy that you've worked with, like at Illinois this week?
COACH MEYER: Not difficult at all. I love Tim. Tim was on our staff. He's a great coach, great person. I like his dad even more than I like him. I call him the real Coach Beckman, but it's good to go.

Q. Do you talk to him at all?
COACH MEYER: No. In the off season, we do, yeah.

Q. You have referenced Braxton's competitiveness many times this year. I'm wondering when things aren't always going perfectly and he makes a bad read, an interception, does the competitiveness get in his way sometimes where he's trying to make a play all the time?
COACH MEYER: Yes.

Q. How do you harness that, because you love the competitiveness?
COACH MEYER: There is another type of player. The one that doesn't have that competitive spirit, and I'd much rather teach that Tiger to bite. It's hard to teach a Tiger to bite. It's a little easier to teach it when to bite.

Braxton, if you had to probably really evaluate his progress, I'd say it's probably on schedule, which somebody would say well, he should be a better thrower by now, and he should be. But there are other areas of his game that have really improved. So fundamentally, we addressed I don't think fundamentally he played a very good game Saturday. He missed a practice, and Braxton can't miss a practice. This Sunday we had a lot of fundamental work. As we progress through the season, I try to cut our practices back. We're one of the few schools that haven't had a bye week, and usually a bye week, you would go out there and reorganize your fundamentals. And I took him yesterday, and we're going to have to find time for him.

That's hard to do when you want to get them off their feet because they're getting worn down a little bit. Our team fundamentally is not where we need to be. We need to keep pushing that envelope, and a lot of young players playing, and a lot of players that maybe just aren't ready. We need to keep pushing. Braxton fundamentally has to be on his game, and he wasn't very good Saturday.

To answer your question about the competitive spirit, there is nothing else a coach would rather coach than a competitor that you have to cool them out a little bit and say don't force things and don't try to win the game every play. I've coached guys where you say try to win the game once in a while, and those guys aren't really the kind of guys you want leading your team.

Q. Obviously, we know your plan to win starts with playing great defense. With what you've seen the last two weeks from your defense where are you on that path defensively?
COACH MEYER: I'd be careful saying the word great. It was the first time Michigan State, I have great respect for Silver Bullet defense even when I was far away because I've always watched Ohio State. And I really feel like, fundamentally, I feel much better about where we're at defensively. And I think our coaches have done a really good job taking ten minutes, sometimes 15 minutes a day just working on fundamentals. This time of year that's almost unheard of, but you can see the improvements on the field.

Q. We know you guys can go to a bowl game. We've talked about that already, And we know you want to win every Saturday. But in the bigger picture, how important is a good season in the first year as coach as you are establishing yourself at a school and establishing your program here at Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: Great question, momentum in recruiting, momentum in development of your players. You're dealing with 18, 19, 20 year olds so momentum is everything. You don't look past this week. You never look beyond like let's play for next year. We're not playing for next year. We're trying to get as many wins as we can. This whole thing is about getting win number 10.

But making that phone call, we make a lot of our phone calls tonight to recruits. It's as much of the coach's tone, the energy in the phone call. You have to make those calls when something bad happens as well. I'm not really into it. I can't wait to make those phone calls tonight, and I'm really anxious to make those phone calls tonight. And say, hey, this is Urban Meyer from Ohio State, and we're 9 0. The best thing about 9 0 is you have a chance to go for 10, and the conversation usually picks up from there.

Q. Talking to Jake the other night, he said in that conversation you talked about his development. He had a little bit of a hard time coming to grips with what you wanted from him in that new spot. Could you tell he was a guy that was sort of seeking what it is you guys all wanted?
COACH MEYER: So, to me that's the issue. You don't have to come to grips with anything. You put them on the ground and go as hard as you can and say, yes, coach. You're right. That's probably a big part of it. That was part of our conversation as well. Someday the Chicago Bears might want you to run down on kickoff; you don't evaluate and say let's think now or you're going to be out of work.

So you're right. I see Jake as an intellect. He's a very smart guy, and I agree, that's probably what was holding him back, and it shouldn't hold him back.

Q. Braxton had a slow start throwing the other night. Was it almost like a frantic thing? Is that what you're talking about the fundamentals? Can you talk about what you saw in the second half?
COACH MEYER: I saw a much more confident player. That atmosphere is hard to stay settled down. That was a heck of a deal. I think it was a rather traumatic experience he went through to be back out there. His whole week went from here and he just progressed the whole week.

A lot of it was his foot work. Pulling away from center was very sloppy, and he panicked at times. The one to his right just flat panicked. It was like he was throwing a baseball, but he settled down. He settled down.

Q. What do you say to your team this week? What is the pitch?
COACH MEYER: Well, these players know Illinois. Illinois has had more draft picks than Ohio State the last few years, certainly more first- rounders. They've won 7 of 11 in Ohio Stadium, so I'll bring that up. But at the end of the day they'll look at me and say move on, Coach, let's go. The thing is us getting better. There is a lot of film on us to see us getting better, and a lot of film on a team that at times looks very good. So there is no issue getting these guys ready. Lot of respect for Illinois.

Q. You've had teams that you knew as a powerhouse. Is this more rewarding to coach a team that you know has some flaws, has some issues and get them to this point?
COACH MEYER: I try to live in the moment. I love coming to work. I love walking in the team meeting room. I guess that's rewarding. You really enjoy what you're doing. I see development. Chase Farris right now is on fire. You don't know Chase Farris. Someday we're going to talk about him because his development has been great.

So if you ask me a question and watch young people develop, there is nothing better. Other than winning a game, I'm putting that right there, and I'm seeing it happen every day here which is why we all love to do it.

Q. Working on special teams, I know it's been up and down. How much of it is just increasing (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: We've had our seventh different lineup on punt right now. Every week Zach Domicone couldn't go this week, and so and so couldn't go, and Sabino went down. You need to have some awareness. Right now we're having guys that I wish I could be less blunt but are just unaware because they're first timers. So we've just got to do a better job coaching it, and that comes on coaching.

Q. Follow up on Tim Beckman. He's kind of had a tough go of it after the Indiana loss. What is your impression of the rebuilding process he's going through and maybe just the job he's doing?
COACH MEYER: Oh, I don't know that much about him other than I watched two games on video. I didn't watch the offense yet. I watched special teams and start going through. That's what we do all day tomorrow. So I haven't really followed them at all. I have great respect for Tim, and there is no doubt he'll get that thing turned.

Q. You talked about Braxton, and we're three quarters of the way in now. Does he need your blessing or endorsement? Or do you say, oh, next year is his year? Maybe promoting players generally.
COACH MEYER: I've always tried to not to when I get asked a question like you're asking, I give my honest answer. Do I believe he's a Heisman candidate? I do. I didn't say that before. But I do believe Braxton is a Heisman candidate. He has to play much better. However, just from sheer production of a team that's 9 0, it puts him in that category, and that's without knowing all the other candidates.

I know I watched that Kansas State quarterback, and he's a great player. I'm trying to think. Oh, the guy from West Virginia. I haven't been following enough. But you're asking me because I have a little experience at that award and seeing guys getting ready. Braxton has to play much better, however, I believe he is a candidate.

Q. Off topic here, you were at Notre Dame, and probably no place is more of a love hate (Indiscernible). Were you aware of that when you were over there? And how important is it (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: This may not be an appropriate time to talk about it. I'm a huge Notre Dame fan. I always have been. I'm Irish Catholic. I love that they're doing well, and they're great for college football. They're really good. I've seen them on tape a little bit, so I'm not surprised.

Well, love/hate, is you're the Yankees and they can't stand you, but they also love you. You come walking into high school with a shirt on, you either get something thrown at you or a big hug. It's not, hey, the principal's office is over there. It's one of these or one of those. It's not, hey, by the way, it's over there.

Q. Do coaches use game tape occasionally to shape their players' opinion of a team? Would you ever cherry pick the best plays from a team to convince your guys that the team is really good or show them more human plays if your guys need built up?
COACH MEYER: I think so. Not in this case, but I've done that in the past. When you're facing a team that maybe they don't think they can beat, we've done that a little bit and tried to humanize them a little bit.

In this instance, everybody knows who we are. We better fight our tails off or we'll lose the game. So to answer your question, we have, and we're not in that situation right now.

Q. It will be a rough week weatherwise. Is that going to influence your preparations at all?
COACH MEYER: I looked at today, and all I care about is Saturday. If we need to go practice in the slop, we'll do it. Right now I understand Saturday will be all right. So we get to use this beautiful indoor.

Q. Wanted to ask about the punt block, and having it happen again and giving up a touchdown, is that something that continues to concern you going forward into the last three games of the season?
COACH MEYER: It sure does. We're going to simplify. Blood is in the water, and a bunch of sharks are trying to go after punts. So we'll do you know it was a missed assignment. We had two guys block the same guy and that obviously can't happen. We've got to really do a better job of coaching it and getting it ready to go. It does concern me though to answer your question.

Q. You guys have a much different style of punt this week. Did you see something that would prevent something like that from happening?
COACH MEYER: Just a change up. I think if you sit there like a sitting duck nowadays, we don't have the greatest hang time. We're struggling a little bit with hang time. So you want to free release people. And any time you free release, you're opening up the flood gates for some protection issues. So that's where we've got to spend a lot of time on that right now. Like last night and today, a lot of time just getting this thing cleaned up on who is going to be on it, making sure they're healthy enough to do it, and making sure our roles are intact.

Right now just flat punting the ball is not very good, and he's actually very pretty good at doing our quarter role like we did and making sure we're in sound protection. So we're in a little dilemma right now.

Q. Did you see anything with Devin Smith? You had him out there.
COACH MEYER: Fastest player on the team. Ideally we've had years where I think one year we had 13 total return yards. Because our belief is you have 6.5 seconds. If you're hitting the ball 4.5 seconds hang time, and 2 seconds get off, that's 6.5 seconds to cover 40 yards. You put really fast people out there and force catches. We're not doing that right now. But at the end of the day you would say what is the best punt? Fair catch. 13 total or some ridiculous small return yards in getting the ball off, we're not there because we don't have the hang time or the distance. I'm just worried about the returners.

So we're jury rigging a system, and I won't saying it's working very well.

Q. Do you think Sabino could be back this week or does he need a bye week still?
COACH MEYER: I'll give you more. I don't want to give you something wrong. I just saw him in there. There is no player trying harder. I would say it's questionable for this week, and we'll let you know as he gets going.

Q. Devin had to come off a little bit?
COACH MEYER: He's fine. Our trainer and doctor says we're as healthy as we've been.

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