Defense was a heavy topic for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at his weekly press conference on Monday.
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The Buckeyes are coming off a 52-49 win at Indiana where they gave up the most points in school history in a game where they were still able to win. Check out the video of Meyer’s press conference.
Here were highlights:
There were no champions defensively for OSU
Meyer said he met with the defense. He told them they must eliminate big plays, 4-6 seconds effort, missed tackles and get back to leveraging the ball.
Meyer: "We are putting out an APB for tough guys."
Meyer says Boren to defense is "temporarily permanent" says RB Jordan Hall is doubtful this week.
Meyer says in the long run can't be successful playing like this "At some point you have to play really great defense.”
Meyer said IU caught them in a bad defensive play on Stephen Houston's long run. The DT got swallowed up, LB bad alignment, CB flew out of position.
Here is the transcript of Meyer's comments:
COACH MEYER: Thanks for coming. Couple quick comments about our IU game. Obviously, pleased with the outcome. Give you a million different excuses, for example, injuries, lack of experience at certain positions, driving a bus to Indianapolis, and then getting up and driving a bus again for another hour. However, we're not into that, and I won't accept that here with our staff or players.
So we have a long way to go. The good thing is when you coach a team that's 7 0, you have their attention. It's fragile when other things happen, bad things happen. The will is there, the want is there, we've just got to do a better job.
So very pleased to be 7 0. Coming back here, come home and get a chance to go 8 0 in the great Ohio Stadium. Champions on offense, Jeff Heuerman played his best game as an Ohio State Buckeye, and I'm proud to say that. 48 plays, lot of plays, most he's played, 88% grade out, and a very good job finishing plays. He will play more.
Jake Stoneburner played his best game since our staff has been here as an Ohio State Buckeye, 88% grade out once again. He's not been grading that high. Four receptions, 41 yards, very good blocking his aggressiveness and toughness really excelled in that game. Philly Brown graded out 81%, six receptions, 51 yards, rushing touchdown, graded out a winner.
Offensive line, our tackles played well. Our inside guys need to play better, Reid Fragel, 88% grade out, no MAs, no sacks, no pressures, five knockdowns, continues to get better. The other tackle excuse me, Corey Linsley did grade out a champion, however, I expect more of him, and he expects more of himself.
We gave three players of the week, and that was my decision. I just felt that all three of these guys had a major impact in the game, and played very well for us. First one is our left tackle 91% grade out, extraordinarily high for an offensive lineman. No MAs, sacks, pressures, 12 times the guy was blocking it up on the ground. Played very hard and great effort. Running back Carlos Hyde, 91% grade out, 22 for 156, over 7 yards per carry, 60% of his yards were after contact. Six explosive runs. Very good day.
The other co player of the week was Braxton Miller, 86% grade out. A lot of times he doesn't grade high because he gets tired and doesn't finish on fakes. His action without the ball was tremendous in this game. That opened up a lot of because one thing about having a player like Braxton Miller, you've got to defend him whether he's got the ball or not. He hands the ball off, stands there, and allows another guy to get hit off a running back. The great example of it is the one fumble where Rod Smith ran into the back of our guy and the ball was on the ground because Braxton carried out his fake. You remember that play? It just shows you his effort and what we expect out of him.
Defensively, there were no champions.
Special teams player of the week was Travis Howard. Great effort. Fighting off some injuries. He missed a lot of football on defense, but came in and blocked a punt and recovered for a touchdown. With that said, I'll answer any questions for you.
Q. After looking at the film and spending yesterday I'm presuming on the defense, what did you think of the pressing issue, and what do you intend to do about it?
COACH MEYER: Pressing issues, eliminate the big play. There were 14 plays in there, and I actually met with the entire defense and the defensive staff in there. Instead of just complaining and whining and making noise, we have to put a plan together. That's eliminate big plays. How do you eliminate big plays? Number one, 4 to 6 seconds, number two, missed tackles, and number three, leverage on the ball. Those are things, three things that we're going to really not that we haven't coached hard, but you get what you emphasized. I'm not a big believer in screaming and yelling and throwing Gatorade bottles against the wall. Sometimes you have to do that, however, you fix what the problem is.
Case in point was Ohio State had a real, real issue with throwing the ball down field to a receiver that could catch it. We could have just screamed and yelled and complained and whined. There was a little bit of that, but there was a lot of work on trying to get efficient in throwing the ball down the field and now we're much better. We're still not perfect, but we're much better.
So my point is on defense, eliminate the big play. Eliminate I mean, it's been absurd how many big plays we give up. How do you do that?
Well, when it's missed tackles number one, excuse me, is 4 to 6 finishing plays. 4 to 6 seconds is our mantra around here, finish plays. Missed tackles and some of the leverage on the ball, some of those cutbacks is because we have to reteach leverage to some players that are relatively young or even some relatively old players that just need to be recoached.
Q. How happy are you with the job the coaches are doing?
COACH MEYER: I'm not happy at all with what's going on defense. That includes players, coaches, and I think we can all get better. It's a team effort. We've got good coaches, good players and we'll move forward and get better.
Q. I got a chance to ask Coach Fickell about this as well, but what does holding the freshman linebackers back in your opinion? Is it lack of knowledge of the defense? What's holding those guys back?
COACH MEYER: Injuries. Camren was hurt, Josh Perry was hurt during the week. Those are two guys. There was one point on a Tuesday practice when I grabbed Zach Boren during stretch and said, hey, we're going to move you over because guys are limping. Shazier didn't practice, Kent Williams didn't practice, Josh Perry didn't practice. The two guys helping us on kicking game is David Perkins and Jamal, and they're having a hard time learning the defense. So we're in a little bit dire straits right now at that position.
Q. How much is the team shorthanded on defense do you think as part of what happened? Also, I'm curious, it seemed like moving your fullback to linebacker and practicing (Indiscernible) is he in a better position?
COACH MEYER: I agree with you. The first one, how much of that is either inexperience, youth or whatever. That's a really good, solid excuse. It is. That's a solid one. And there is probably some truth to that, however, we don't deal in that. We deal in improving.
Zach Boren is a guy that there's something about game experience. There is something about being in the arena many, many times. Came here as a linebacker, and was kind of a test for the first four periods of practice that I watched. He changed the entire dynamic of practice, because so much of playing football is the leadership value too of what's going on. Who is the tough guy on the defense? Who is the guy that's going to stand up and take charge? You start sticking freshmen here and there, here and there, and they're just in survival mode, not leadership mode.
Nate Williams had a concussion, and I was expecting him back, and it just got worse as the week progressed. He'll be back this week. He worked out yesterday with us, so that is another leader. Right now we're putting an APB out for tough guys for the guys that take the center of the defense and make it whole. Zach has certainly helped with that.
Sabino was kind of our guy. He was a leader. Shazier's getting better. But Nate Williams and John Simon are it's a little harder when you're on the edge. It's that old saying of what makes a baseball team solid when they're strong through the middle? It's because all eyes and the focus I believe that in football as much as baseball. Same on offense. That's why so much emphasis on our center has got to be a grown man. It has to be.
You can't hide a center, because that's why they call him the center. You can't hide the middle linebacker. You can't hide the center of your defense. It's got to be strong.
Q. When Carlos Hyde seems like a guy that just gains strength the more carries you give him. With that being said, if Jordan were to come back, would you still have to consider leaving Carlos out there to get 20?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I see the same thing. Really disappointed in the way he started though. He didn't start strong, and he'd be the first one he's finally to the point in his career where I can have a grown man conversation with him and it was great. He admitted that. It just wasn't I think all those great excuses I told you about, the trip, the whole everything, we just didn't start very fast. He did not. But he got real strong. By the end of the game, he was a man.
You're right, Jordan is jogging now. He's not healing well. But Carlos won't be removed from tailback.
Q. You mentioned on occasion that maybe had you sold on a power back role in a spread offense?
COACH MEYER: Had me sold?
Q. Yeah, you didn't really understand how he may fit.
COACH MEYER: We had to sell him?
Q. No, you didn't feel like you had to do that?
COACH MEYER: No, no, there's no selling going on. It's play very well or don't play. The good thing is he's playing really well. His post contact yardage is really, really making us some really good offense. We had 36 minutes of possession, and I'd like to say that Heuerman, Nick Vannett, and Carlos Hyde along with those two tackles, that was impressive, an impressive day for them.
Q. In terms of the move you made with Zach, how unusual is that for you? Have you been through something like that before anywhere? What goes into that offensively that you felt like somebody playing at the level, you mentioned Jeff Heuerman, somebody playing at that level that you can fill the void so you feel like you can spare him there. How does that work?
COACH MEYER: Very good point. That move could not have been made if you didn't have Heuerman at the net. Just can't do it. As much as you'd want to do that. Heuerman has been coming on. He's been playing 10 to 15 plays a game, and now he played 50. Same with Nick Vannett. He's really coming on. Good thing is those guys are around here for a few years.
I was thinking and our strength coach reminded me we did that one time with Mike Pouncey, the starting center for the Dolphins. Right in the middle of the practice I moved him to defensive tackle because we were banged and bruised and didn't have the leadership, didn't have the toughness at that point. I moved him for period four, and it changed the whole practice. His energy, his leadership, his toughness, and we kept him over there for several games just until guys got back. It's very unusual though.
Q. Kind of a general question about the offense. It seems there are a lot of games these days where both teams are scoring 40, 50 points. I'm sure you don't want to contribute that with the way the defense is playing. But with spread offenses and no huddle offenses, is it getting harder to play defense in college football these days?
COACH MEYER: I haven't studied the landscape. I can just tell you our situation. I do think that when you start getting 80 plays, 85 plays and that's because of tempo. But it's also there is a risk involved in up tempo too. If you're lousy on offense, your defense is out there all day. I haven't had time to think on a national level, but I'm sure that has something to do with it.
Q. Talk about Purdue. How do you judge them? I don't know how much you've had a chance to study them so far. But they got gashed running the football from Wisconsin Saturday. Do you judge them a little bit more on that or maybe some other evidence that you've seen of them defensively that they might present?
COACH MEYER: The most recent film right before I walked in here was the Notre Dame film, and they played very well. They held their own and could have won that game. So I have not watched Wisconsin because it's just I'll watch that tonight and go through the different plays.
But I know player personnel director John Cooper gave me a sheet of paper, and there are a lot of NFL prospects on there. One is a very early round draft pick on defensive line and he's a dynamic player.
It's just too early to give you a whole how/why Wisconsin did that. I see very good players. I see an aggressive scheme. It's not a vanilla scheme. The last couple of weeks they kind of played and showed you their hand and played it. This group's all over the place. It's a little bit of a they play a bunch of different defenses, so we just have to be on our game.
Q. You mentioned you want to get more involved in defense. How in a week where defense is such a focus, how would your timeout change and the attention be divided?
COACH MEYER: I've been thinking about that, and I don't know. I've not done that very often. I think my job is to support our staff, support our players. The one thing, the overall theme of our team is 4 to 6 seconds and I can coach that really well. We're going to demand 4 to 6 seconds of relentless pursuit and effort. If you don't, I'll be involved in that.
But calling defenses, I'll give my ideas, but once again, that would be a mistake for me to come in. We have very good coaches, very good coaches. I think mine is going to be one of leadership, toughness, and the 4 to 6 second demand that we have on this team, not just defense.
Q. Do you anticipate that you might have to make additional personnel moves just to shore up linebackers in other areas?
COACH MEYER: The options are very limited right now. So that's one. The guy that played very well is Noah Spence. So the thing you have to ask yourself, okay, Noah Spence and Nate Williams play the same position, so let's have a conversation about that and we are. How do you get them both on the field at the same time is the conversation. If your best 11, three four, four three, whatever, get them on the field. We've got enough coaches to figure that out. I'm not saying that's happening. We're just identifying who the best 11 players are and putting that puzzle together.
Q. Injurywise, is it good to have Nathan back?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, he worked out, feels good.
COACH MEYER: Jordan Hall?
COACH MEYER: Doubtful.
Q. Is Zach Boren moved permanent?
COACH MEYER: Temporarily permanent.
Q. What do you tell Devin Smith this weekend? He had two huge plays in that game and two huge drops. Where is he in your thinking in that regard?
COACH MEYER: As one of the most improved players on the team, he just needs to keep improving. I met with our receiver coach and said what a great position to finally be in at Ohio State. He hadn't been here yet. And you have kids now that have just a touch of confidence in that room. You can't go in and be coaching when you have lack of confidence, because then you destroy any ounce of confidence.
All the great coaches I worked for, Lou Holtz was the greatest at that. First of all, you've got to get confidence, and then you coach them as hard as you can. You finally walk into the wide receiver room here at Ohio State, and it's probably been a while. We have not had one day since December whatever it was to walk in the receiver room and coach them hard, because they would believe you if you told them we're not good.
Now you can start coaching a kid like Devin Smith really hard, and I can't wait. He's a great kid, and he's really worked hard. He bounced back and made the play of the day on that square in. That was the play of the day. That was excellent. That showed you his excellence has something good going with him.
Drop a ball, usually the head drops. The head in spring practice, there would have been tears and he would have been off the field. Now he came right back. If you watch that closely, too, the first guy or the third guy that meets him in the end zone is number 5. And his energy and that's good to see.
Q. Rod Smith was having a pretty good night. Kickoff returns, getting the balls on the ground. What do you do with him this week?
COACH MEYER: Keep coaching him hard.
Q. He's still in your plans?
COACH MEYER: Absolutely, absolutely. We say 4 to 6 seconds. If you go 4 to 6, that is the coaches job to get his wrist above the elbow and be tighter with the ball. But if you're giving us everything you've got which Rod Smith is right now. He also had a bad penalty on a punt return, bad penalty, but he's going as hard as he can and we can coach through that. It's the ones that don't go hard. I don't know what to say to you. We don't say go harder. You should have learned that by now. But Rod Smith, get your wrist above the elbow, da, da, da. He was too fast on his course too. We had to slow him down a little bit.
Q. What did you think about that block in the back?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, it really wasn't. But the guy who calls it doesn't matter. He sees the hand.
Q. You mentioned a couple of times going down with Jay. What is the purpose of trying to communicate about Braxton?
COACH MEYER: As close as we get with players, I want to know his background. I want to know anything from his work ethic in practice, to his love of the game, to his family involvement, to his motivation. And Jay, I've known him a little bit. I know him very well now. I think he runs not a good program, a great program. So I, on purpose, drove down there for that reason. I just spent a lot of time with him because I knew how critical my relationship was going to be with Braxton.
Q. What kind of feedback did you get?
COACH MEYER: Oh, they love him, obviously. He did great things for the program. The same humble kid that it's hard to find those guys nowadays especially. Athletic and successful as he's been, so very similar. That really helped me on how to approach Braxton. We still talk.
Q. You guys are undefeated, you're highly ranked. There are a lot of teams out there that score a lot of points and give up a lot of points and still win games. Could you be successful doing it like this?
COACH MEYER: Long run, no. I think temporarily it can. The ones that get to where the errors are rare real elite teams. At some point you have to play some really good defense, and they all do. The top two right now are Alabama and Florida, the two best defenses in America. And that's not by accident they're 1 2.
The great teams we've had over the years yeah, we scored some points, but at the end of the day, defense wins games. As much as I love the other part of the defense and kicking game, that's how you can win a game.
Q. You talked before the season of coaches that you haven't worked with and see how it goes. Do you feel good about where you are with the defensive staff in terms of being on the same page? How they coach it, what the game plan is, all that kind of stuff? Are you comfortable with your relationship in coaching with the defensive staff?
COACH MEYER: Yes, I do. I feel comfortable. I think it takes time. It's not the same staff it was a year ago. There are new guys in that room. But I feel good. They're good team, and great coaches. We just need to see more production on that side of the ball.
Q. When you guys talk about having a balanced offense, is that something they have to play out over the season, or is that something that you need within every game to be happy?
COACH MEYER: This is probably the most imbalanced we've been. However, I think we threw for 200 Saturday. Usually don't run for 30 something yards. That's hard to do. We have had two back to back games where it's almost 70 yards rushing or 600 and some change.
You kind of go back to what's working well for you, also in game management we notice we're not as fast as we've been because we want to eat up as much clock. Especially when you're having issues on the other side of the ball. So we play together. So it's just been a little bit different the way we manage the game. Because at the end of the day we have to win it. If that means a little more imbalanced in the run, I'm fine with that.
Q. How many times in your career have you coached a team where you've been so pleased with one aspect of your offense that you've been willing to unbalance things a little bit?
COACH MEYER: I can't really remember. You're catching me off guard a little bit. I think when we had team, we were unbalanced at times because he was so good at running the ball.
Q. You said you guys needed Curtis to be a player for you guys on defense. Played the whole spring as your starting linebacker and played in fall camp. Is there something more to the fact that you can't really get him in there? You had to go to a guy like Zach?
COACH MEYER: To be fair to Curtis, I think that's appropriate because I'm not that knee deep in that. I love Curtis Grant. He's a good person and his ability. I think those are questions you can ask Coach Fickell. I support it all. But I think you'll see more and more of Curtis Grant. He's only a sophomore. Didn't play much at all at linebacker last year. He took a little longer.
Sometimes guys go through that learning curve of whether it be the style of defense, whether it be overall system of play. But I still think Curtis Grant's got a fine career.
Q. Coach, along the same lines of Shazier, (Indiscernible) you have him listed here, but I don't recall seeing him play a lot. Was the spread something he's not used to playing against? Just what is his status?
COACH MEYER: He got hurt on either Tuesday or Wednesday in practice. I want to say Tuesday is when that whole shift of Zach Boren went over. He got dinged up. Conner is the other one that got hurt. At one point we had three linebackers, Shazier four, and Sabino, so five linebackers were standing on the side.
It's hard to be really optimistic about that position. That's when Zach made the move. So that's the only reason. Josh Perry, I think will be once again just dealing with the young kids. They have to play better.
Q. The long run they hit early in the game with Houston appeared guys were out of position. Nobody flew into the line of scrimmage. What did you see there? What happened?
COACH MEYER: Very poor defense. I saw defensive tackles get wiped out when he was supposed to hold a gap. Misalignment by a linebacker, and then just a bad defensive play.
Q. Do you see instincts from Zach Boren that tells you he is a former linebacker?
COACH MEYER: Absolutely.
Q. How does that show up?
COACH MEYER: He's a football position guy. He's always in the reverse arc as we call it. He's not a body heavy guy. He's always got lateral movement. And on top of all of that, he's a tough guy. So I think he led someone said he led the team in tackles, which is hard to believe, but he did.
Q. This program for years now has been about defense. You come in and publicly, at least spread, spread, spread. How much of a danger is it that the mindset changes among defensive guys?
COACH MEYER: Oh, we can't have that. That's not going to happen. The question right here about do we want to win 48 47? We want to win, but no, Ohio State is going to be a defensive school. Absolutely. Our teams are going to be defensive, no question. Now when, and how that's happening. But if you sit in these meetings and are aware of what's being said, there is no conversation about Chuck and Doc, and Strat and all that. That's not where we are. We're a physical offense and a physical defense. We play the game the right way from a variety of sets.
Q. You said you were exposed by the spread, was it by those factors that you mentioned at the top that you want to improve on? Is that why you were exposed?
COACH MEYER: Well, once again, I think there is so much that you can put in what about this? This is the problem. There are a lot of thing that's we have to get fixed. It comes down to eliminating big plays. That's easy to say. Four to six seconds, missed tackles, leverage on the ball. Every one of those big plays we had very poor leverage on the ball.
The one that the gentleman talked about coming out the gate. Near the end of the game, the cutback one, just very poor leverage on the ball. Usually this time of the year you're working on scheme. Spring practice, training camp is when you do a lot of leverage drills and we're going to enhance that and make it a little stronger and make sure our players understand the leverage of the football.
Q. You and Dan Mullen are 13 0 this year, compared to whatever you were for a while. He's having success. You as well. Did you have good synergy in Florida?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, great synergy, good football coach. I missed him dearly. The guy they have now is very similar. They're very intelligent, tough guys. I love Dan, but you look at Charlie Strong, Steve Addazio, bunch of good football coaches that were on my staff. Awfully proud of them. I think Charlie is undefeated too. Pretty good.
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