Meyer Just As Giddy As OSU Football Fans
If you followed any of National Signing Day like most Ohio State football fans, you no doubt saw video of OSU head coach Urban Meyer pumping his fist with glee when he received word that he had landed yet another topflight prospect.
In fact, Buckeye fans had reason to show the same exuberance. Not only did the hometown team earn the signature of Tampa (Fla.) product Nicholas Petit-Frere, the top offensive line recruit in the nation, and put the finishing touches on yet another elite class, OSU also announced Meyer had been granted a two-year contract extension and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was turning down overtures from the NFL to stay put.
Schiano, the former head coach at Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reportedly turned down an offer from the New England Patriots, of all organizations, to run Bill Belichick’s defense. He didn’t address that specifically but told reporters in the end he liked being in Columbus working for Meyer.
“I made it kind of a personal policy of mine never to discuss other jobs than the one I have,” he said. “But in general I can say after the season there were opportunities both in college football and in the National Football League, but at the end of the day, my family, myself, we love it here. It’s a tremendous people at the university and town, and this has become home. So you make those decisions as a coach and keep moving.”
Schiano also declined to get into his near departure to become head coach at the University of Tennessee, a move that was thwarted after on-campus backlash citing his tie to Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky scandal there.
“Today’s about this recruiting class. What a great day for Ohio State and Ohio State football. This certainly isn’t the time. There will be.”
The real man of the lectern, though, was Meyer, who has been OSU’s coach since November 2011 and has done nothing but win and recruit at a head-spinning pace since.
The Buckeyes inked 26 players to the 2018 class, most of them of the four- and five-star variety. Not surprisingly, virtually every analyst deemed the haul to be among the very best in the nation, most of them rating OSU’s class second to only that of Georgia.
During his address, Meyer broke down the class, spoke of the importance of keeping Schiano, and answered a few personnel questions as well.
His comments from Wednesday follow:
URBAN MEYER: Good morning, thanks for coming. I’ll get a couple comments out of the way. We just signed 26 players at a very highly ranked class. A class that I think it follows suit the last two that we have brought in here as far as academic fit for Ohio State University, culture fit, and a character fit. Which I think I just want to credit our staff and they did a phenomenal job.
Our coaching staff, you look at the early signing period, we had three weeks after a rival game, we lost one of those for obvious reasons, we played the Big Ten championship game and then you had two left and to get ready for a bowl game. And then obviously Christmas and the timing of our bowl game wasn’t perfect. So people asked the question, did you like the early signing period? We did very well. The majority of class was signed on that date. But I didn’t — the timing of that was very, very hard on my staff and myself. But it all worked out.
January was far less drama. Far less panic like you normally speak — or normally you deal with in January. So I’m going to be curious to see how the — our colleagues feel about it and we have to keep in mind in our minds that the one thing that only matters, only matters is the student athlete. Do the student athletes have an opportunity to go where they wanted to go. And if the answer is yes and it was beneficial for them, then I think this is something we continue. If it’s not, then obviously we have to revisit it.
So once again I want to thank our staff. I’ve had some great staffs, it’s hard to say — as far as recruiting staff, this is one of the best I’ve ever been around. Even this morning we had our session this morning and Coach Schiano and I have been on the phone for a couple hours and went right at it. And a couple, Coach Johnson and there’s Coach Day, we had our entire staff. The one thing about here, and I made it clear, you can’t coach here at Ohio State unless you’re an elite recruiter. Just can’t. That’s nonexistence. I’ve heard the old days, he was a guru of this or a guru of that, he’s not a great recruiter, you can’t coach here. Recruiting is the name of the game and our coaches all did a very good job and very proud of them.
The other people I would like to thank and the young man Nick, who just committed to us from Tampa. And he made a comment to me and this made you feel good, that he’s a relationship person and the best — one of the big selling points he had was when JK Dobbins talked about his relationship with Coach Mickey Marotti, our strength coach. And he’s not a strength coach. Coach Mick is a guy that deals with them hands on, he’s very involved in their lives and people like Nick need to know that.
So I thank our staff, but even above our staff, I want to thank our players. There’s nothing quite like walking into a locker room of like-minded people and that’s what I believe this class, that’s why they came to Ohio State. And Gene Smith’s in the back here, I’d like to thank him too. Never once has he said no when it is in regards to a player — a student athlete welfare. This is a tough game, it’s a tough game and involves injuries. It’s a tough game that you have to monitor all kinds different safety precautions for your players, not one time I’ve been told no. And that’s a very important factor. He allows myself and our coaching staff to fully invest in our players. I’m talking about on the field, but everybody knows about our program oft the field and there’s never been any hesitation from Gene, our administration, about doing what’s right for our players.
So with that said I’ll answer some questions for you. 26 guys signed. I think how many are here? Eight or nine? Nine guys are here mid semester and it’s a good looking team right now. So I’ll answer your questions for you.
Q. You touched on maybe the drama-free January period. As guys were recruiting Nick as a five star player, very sort of heated recruiting battle. How much did not having to deal with recruiting 20 guys help in your pursuit of him?
URBAN MEYER: Well, we called it laser-like. The focus was on a few guys and the few guys jumped in the boat, for the most part. So, I think the question’s very valid. Can you really put your laser lights on a guy like Nick when you’ve got 15 of them out there. I remember the old days now, you went into January with four or five commitments and you had 20 to go get. Florida State, when I first got in the SEC, Florida State when I was at Florida, they would have one signing — one big recruiting weekend right before signing day and they would get 20 signees. Those days are gone. So it’s just a much different approach right now.
Q. Obviously he’s a very talented player, Nick, but to get another tackle in this group, how important is that for you guys?
URBAN MEYER: Yeah, we had to. Max Wray and then obviously Thayer Munford is going to be very good player. But everybody in the country is looking for the tall, athletic elongated guys that can bend and they’re hard to find. That’s why they’re paid so well in the NFL because those body types are hard, hard to find. And you throw a 3.8 GPA on top of that, a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy, and he’s a great finish to that class.
Q. He’s ranked as the number one offensive tackle recruit in the country. Just obviously you wanted to get a tackle in this class as you mentioned. To get the number one ranked tackle in this class can you take us through that recruitment?
URBAN MEYER: Yeah, well Greg Schiano was knee deep in that one, as well as Stud. And it was one that this had been going on for a couple years. He’s the most thorough evaluator I’ve ever recruited. From A to Z, we sat in my office for about two hours and I had him go through each program and he kind of volunteered all kinds of information I’ve never quite heard. And he’s the one that shared the information about, a big selling point here is when I was talking to J K Dobbins, who was his host, about his relationship with the coaches on the staff. And he volunteered, because JK’s a relationship-type person as well. So obviously he’s got to come here and perform, but if you’re a betting person, bet on this guy to have a great college career on and off the field.
Q. You touched on the early signing period already. When we talked to you then, you said you didn’t like it. As you reflect on it now, do you think you’re a bigger fan of it, so to speak?
URBAN MEYER: I don’t know. I’ve I haven’t had time to evaluate it. Once again, I don’t think it really should be up to myself or our coaches. It’s — the student athletes get a chance to go where they want. And I don’t think when we first had conversations about that people would be forced to sign, and maybe not look around and I think that’s what happened. So once again this is all about the student athlete getting to go where they want to go.
Q. Can you clarify the status of Greg Schiano? There were reports he was leaving now, there are reports he’s staying. Is he staying? What’s his role going to be?
URBAN MEYER: Coach Schiano, just like last year, he turned down a handful of head coaching opportunities in college. Multiple opportunities, again, in the National Football League this year. Multiple opportunities that — in college football. And he’s not one of those gets it out there. Me and him are kind of built in the same — we don’t use that to try to leverage people or try to — we — that’s zero conversation in the media. It’s between myself and him, and then obviously, Gene Smith is very involved. I can — at least a dozen opportunities Coach Schiano’s had. And we had many, many discussions and he’s informed me that he’s 100 percent staying at Ohio State University. So that’s done and he’s here. I think he’s going to be made available to you here in a little bit.
Q. How important is keeping him? And also could you address the departure of Kerry Coombs and who might replace him?
URBAN MEYER: Yeah, he’s essential to our program right now, Coach Schiano. If he is not my best recruiter, he’s certainly right there near the top. He manages so much for me off the field as well as being one of the top defensive coordinators in America. And he’s a relationship person that — he’s not one of those coaches that knows his position or that side of the ball and that’s it, he knows every one. Because he’s been a head coach before. So a very valuable member of our staff as many of the guys. Kerry Coombs, that was, that took my breath away a little bit. Kerry is dear friend. Him and Holly are — for the rest of our lives will be very close. He was instrumental in our success we have had here. Great Ohioan, a great person. And I was shocked when he did that, but he’s a friend and we obviously wish him all the very best.
Q. Any thoughts — or how close are you to replacing him on the staff?
URBAN MEYER: Time’s on our side a little bit, so I would say probably give us a week and we should have a replacement.
Q. Following up on that. Pivoting on the offensive staff, you guys hired Alex Grinch about a month ago, obviously role not determined as of yet. But what was it about him that made him a guy that you needed to get, and how has he blended in your staff so far?
URBAN MEYER: I started studying Alex back in the summertime. You always try to have an on-call. We found out that we were going to be able to add a 10th position. And I believe that he should probably have, like most, I imagine are going to have five each, five offense, five defense, and I wanted to add someone on defense. I wanted to have a high — I need high-energy guys in our program. When you start losing guys like Luke if I can article and Kerry Coombs, who are energy, energy people, great recruiters, great people, they get their units to perform, he fit that mold. And then what he did at Washington State, I think was outstanding. I really studied him throughout the year. I checked their scores all the time, I checked they’re statistics, I’ve been watching film on him. Then on top of that, he’s an Ohio guy that wanted to be here. The minute we offered him the job, he had a hand full of job offers right on top of it that obviously he, obviously he picked the right one.
Q. You mentioned the Ohio connection. Obviously he’s a Grove City guy, was that a major factor?
URBAN MEYER: Huge part of it. Yeah, he played at Mount Union, which I have great respect for all those guys that come from that program, they’re usually excellent football people. And him and his wife — his wife is from Alliance, Ohio and he’s from right down the street, so, yeah, that was a perfect fit.
Q. With Coombs leaving, obviously, it’s a huge loss for the defensive backfield. How much is Grinch’s background in defensive backs, not necessarily that’s going to be a defensive backs guy, but how much is that background in coaching defensive backs help maybe soften that blow a little bit?
URBAN MEYER: I think it does. The one thing that, Kerry was an expert at corner play. And you can — he had five first round draft picks, I would imagine never had been done before in the history of football. What coach Coombs has done, so that’s a big shoes to fill, whoever gets that spot. And Coach Grinch will be very involved in that. As will Schiano.
Q. You said multiple times over the years that you will look and that the rankings matter because somebody’s keeping score. I don’t know exactly where this class is going to finish, but if it does come in at number one, how might you celebrate it and recognize it with your staff and Mark Dantonio and those guys, what they accomplish?
URBAN MEYER: Probably a toast tonight and move on to next year’s class. That’s about all you do. No, we do. I don’t want to call their people not telling the truth, but if they are keeping score, you try to win, and, but is that the end all? Of course not. Will that matter? I think it matters that successful teams have great players. And the rankings, that’s something we keep an eye on, but that’s not an end all.
Q. I’ve never been behind the scenes to do this the way you have times over the years, but when did you maybe have a sense that this caliber of class was coming together in kind of the way you envisioned, maybe when you got here?
URBAN MEYER: When I good got here?
Q. You wanted — you said you wanted to have a number one class here at some point. That was the goal every year. Maybe it won’t finish, I don’t know, but when did you have a sense on this last calendar year that it might be coming together this way?
URBAN MEYER: I have fun with the number one class. I don’t want people to think that’s what we recruit for, it’s not at all. It’s something we keep an eye on. At Ohio State you should, the coaches here have always recruited very well. If you can’t recruit at Ohio State, you should — you’re not very good recruiter. What we have to offer people and, once again, I gave credit to our athletic director. What he allows me to do and us to do, it’s about the student athlete welfare. It’s awesome to go walk into school and say, hey, by the way, here’s what we can do for you. And I just, I push it very hard. The days, if you can’t recruit, you’re not, this isn’t a place for you.
Q. What do you do when an important guy on your staff has a NFL offer? What is that discussion like, and do you persuade guys to stay here? Do you offer them enticements to stay here? How do you do it, what do you do?
URBAN MEYER: All of the above. Trying to think who we had leave. I’ve had Mike Vrabel leave, and I kind of felt that might happen. Carry Coombs was a shocker. Greg Schiano, I don’t know. I’m trying to think who else. Larry Johnson.
Q. Ryan Day and this —
URBAN MEYER: Ryan Day. Yeah. And then Larry Johnson. You name it. He’s had an offer from everyone. I mean that’s how good he is. So I try to create an atmosphere around hear that we take care of our coaches and that it’s an excellent work environment. The best working environment you can have is sitting in a room with quality people. I think we have done an excellent job on that. Do we entice them or do we — that has become a little bit of a factor where people want to take care of their families. Do we get into bidding wars? We don’t do that. We want to do the best we can and once again our athletic director allows me to do that.
Q. And if you could just clarify the situation with Ryan and Kevin now on the offensive staff. Ryan staying, did his role change at all? Does he have more say in the play calling, is his arrangement with Kevin any different than it was last year?
URBAN MEYER: Not much different at all. I think that’s still to be determined. He was a co-coordinator by title last year, he wasn’t. He was very much involved in the play calling a year ago, he was very much involved in the game planning. Actually led the room in certain areas, so I don’t see that much changing. The biggest change is the title. And as the evolution of the staff last year, that the both of them worked very well together, and they were both very involved in the play calling. So we — the one thing that I’ve tried to make clear, too, is there’s not a dictator here. And there’s not some guru going to come in and say it’s his offense. That will never happen here. Same thing on defense. We’re not going to hire some guy that, hey, this is so-and-so’s defense. It’s not. It’s Ohio State’s defense and every coach in there has an ownership in that.
Same thing on offense that when Kevin Wilson or Ryan Day or whomever come into the program, it’s not hey, this his offense, because it’s not it at all. Now, they all have a chance to make better and I think they have. So we don’t get caught up — I don’t know if you noticed that, in 16 years I’ve never been caught up in that. It seems to be those are great questions, but it’s insignificant as far as the way we look at it.
Q. I don’t know sometimes, especially on offense, sometimes like being the play caller, seems like a thing sometimes that, that matters to some guys —
URBAN MEYER: Well, when you get your program, do it that way. That’s fine. We don’t do it that way. We do the Ohio State offense and everybody’s involved. And I’ve heard that, too, it’s so-and-so’s offense, he’s going to do it his way. You never hear that here.
Q. You have a couple early enrollee corners. By the time they signed and now they also a cornerback’s coach. How have you guys managed that with them to kind of help them through the transition process to a new cornerback’s coach?
URBAN MEYER: It’s been tough. Especially the guy that left. Yeah, he was not a — you know, he’s a relationship person. We, Coach Schiano has assumed that control. They have only been back now, I think for three weeks or so since the bowl game, and they have been without coach Coombs, I think for two now. So we’re just all getting back now. It’s all going on as we speak. Because players get two weeks off all by themselves after their first two weeks of school. Now we’re all back and we’re starting to get back involved with the players.
Q. Keeping Greg Schiano and bringing in another coach, how do you balance out all of their roles for this season?
URBAN MEYER: That’s what we do here for the next three, four months. To hire the best possible coaches you can and then let them work together as a staff and do what’s best.
Q. Do you feel like that next coach has to be a cornerbacks coach?
URBAN MEYER: I think so. We haven’t finalized that yet.
Q. The unintended consequence of the early signing period was that the pool kind of shrunk of the players that you could get. It kind of forced a lot of programs to go after just the best player available instead of necessarily addressing the needs that you have. Instead of going after maybe a three-star offensive tackle, you guys would sign a wide receiver in Chris Olave. How did you guys see your approach change as you went along?
URBAN MEYER: It’s exactly what you said. There reaches a point, even with the old signing period, that you reach a point where you say best available player. Because if you say we need offensive tackle, but there’s not one of the same quality that we need to play here, then we move in another direction. But best available is a term we actually use.
Q. Did you look at it as a second chance with a lot of players. Obviously you missed out on an in state offensive tackle the first time around that allowed you guys to go after another — maybe even better offensive tackle?
URBAN MEYER: Yeah, we, that, no, I know that received a lot of publicity and he’s a fine player, but our, we had our rankings well before any decisions were made and the guy we got was the one the laser lights were on.
Q. When you look at the order of which official visits are taken, the kid that you just got, Nick, took his last official visit with you guys. Is there an importance in your mind for when official visits occur and do you feel like Ohio State’s in a better opportunity to land the player when you guys get the last crack at him or is that like a fan thing?
URBAN MEYER: That’s when the guys like Schiano, the veterans are so critical. If you start visiting those guys at a big marquee game early in the season and they’re not going to decide until now, they forget, just the way it is. What have you done for me lately, and what’s this their memory back about Ohio State. And watch this year, April, May and June are official visits. We’re probably going to try to minimize official visits for people that aren’t going to decide for a while. But I’m hearing a lot of kids are going to decide by the summer. So I think what the committees have been put together to study all this, I think the intended — the unintended evolution of what’s happening. And I don’t believe when they said let’s have early signing everybody is going to be signing by June. I’m concerned that might happen. I’m not a big fan of that. As is high school coaches aren’t a big fan that have either. So this is, this dynamic is ever-changing. And what you just said, is the recruiter has to be a very sharp guy and understand what we’re dealing with, because bringing a guy on a beautiful fall afternoon here as opposed to bringing them in in January, those are things you think about too. But that’s a little bit overrated as well. We have had some of our best players on cold weekends. And so those are all — the recruiter’s got to know what he’s doing.
Q. As you’re well aware, based on what you hear when you’re on your radio show every week during the season, there were a lot fans that always wonder how long you’re going to be here and you were asked about it. The early signing day, I was wondering when you sign a class like this, and it keeps getting better or in the same caliber every single year, how does that change or does it change your perception of your future, the state of this program, and it seems like it would be harder to not see something through when you keep doing it every year. It seems to like —
URBAN MEYER: I don’t know where that’s coming from. That’s never come from me and we’re going to sign an extension here soon because the university has been good enough to extend something to me. And so I think that that’s all down the road news, but I plan on — I feel great and I don’t know, once again, for someone to bring that up in recruiting, I don’t, that’s easy to fight against because it’s not true. So I don’t know where — how many more years are you going to coach and all that, I feel fantastic. The program’s healthy and we’re going, so — and I’m going to, I’m going to get some more years put on my contract.
Q. Maybe it’s just paranoia, but every single year it seems like when you guys are bringing in a class like this, that that is just a renewal or more affirmation that this program is healthy. And I just don’t know every single February when you look at this whole class and it’s No. 1 or No. 2 and you have the numbers that you have, the talent that you’re coming in, if that changes your perspective of your own future or if that’s just —
URBAN MEYER: My future? With all due respect, I don’t know where that’s coming from. It’s not coming from anywhere within this building.
Q. Is there a sense though that you guys do have it rolling recruiting-wise? And when did you — you have been doing this for a while and obviously been successful here the last many several years, but what is it like when you have sort of got it rolling as a staff?
URBAN MEYER: Well you get paranoid, paranoia, how do you keep it rolling. Like we’re going to celebrate a very high-ranked class, a bunch of players on paper that look fantastic and look even better in person. And then we post it and everybody — tomorrow you get — you better have the next guy on the phone for us. We already had a blitz, I want to say yesterday, a blitz is I think we had 43 calls made in this office to the top nine teams in America for next year. So that’s the paranoia I guess that I live with, is how do you top this year with next year’s.
Q. Obviously you had a kid from Fairfield, Ohio go to Clemson on signing day back on December 20th, the first signing day. But it made it acute on Nick, whatever you want to call him, Nick, how do you say it?
URBAN MEYER: Petit-Frere
Q. Yeah, anyway, made it acute then to sign him. But when you get that, when you get that call, what was that like for you to know that you had nailed him?
URBAN MEYER: Nick?
Q. It made it more acute —
URBAN MEYER: Well, we actually got the call, I want to say yesterday, that he wanted to be a Buckeye and that was a 50-year-old man acting silly and chest bumping and jumping up-and-down and all that stuff. So it was a very good feeling. He filled a need that every college in America has that need and that’s an elite offensive tackle.
Q. Jackson showed up, he had to have some surgery on his ankle and stuff or his foot, but what do you expect out of him? Obviously he is sort of the uncle of this recruiting class.
URBAN MEYER: Yeah, his attitude’s been great, he had a little piece of bone taken out of his foot from an old injury. He should be back for spring practice. Has a great attitude and coach — he’s here because of Coach Johnson and wanted to be a part of the Buckeyes and so we need to get him ready, he’s got to play next year.
Q. We talk about early enrollee. As a 17, 18 year old that’s a tough call to make for some kids. If you were 17 or 18 what would you look at as the pros and cons of enrolling early? And then as a football coach what do you hope they get out of coming here early?
URBAN MEYER: We were one of the first teams to do that, I want to say back in 2006, that really started — and that was all new to me, I wasn’t aware that was going on. So you started getting early enrollees and what I found out is that they have a better chance of playing early. That’s not, that’s not an absolute, but for obvious reasons they are officially in our weight program, they’re eating all the meals that Ohio State athletes — so you see their bodies starts to grow, because high school athletes a lot of times don’t eat like that and they don’t get trained like that. And quite honestly my son’s a senior in high school now and I remember being a senior in high school. Spring time, a lot of things do not get done in the classroom or anywhere else. So this is a chance, but you have to grow up fast. That’s a negative. I can imagine Shelley and Nicole, people don’t handle that real well in our house, if he had to leave right now. So it is a tough situation but there’s obvious reasons why it’s a tremendous advantage to get here and get going.
Q. Does Haskins start spring with a lead?
URBAN MEYER: I have no idea. That’s going to be an evaluation every day as we get ready for spring practice.
Q. Anything you told Weber if he decided to stick around, he said he had a talk with you, I think at some point.
URBAN MEYER: I more listened. I listened to him and Coach Alfred and him have a good relationship. I talked to his father. And the maturity level, what’s the next level, is pretty tough. Are you mature enough to go handle life in the National Football League, or do you need another year. In his opinion he needed another year and I agreed with him. But there were no promises and I’m — we’re going to do this for you and all that. I let those guys do the talking and then see if we can help them.