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National Signing Day 2014: Urban Meyer press conference recap

By request, here's Meyer's press conference from earlier today.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

COACH MEYER:  It's been a significant developments or several developments.  Not that significant.  Several developments as far as our program first we had a little staff transition.  I think this is the first time I've had a chance because we've been on the road.  We lost two coaches.  Everett and Mike Grable.

We replaced him with Larry Johnson and Chris Ash, but a couple of comments with those gentlemen we hired.  First they wanted to be here, they both had very, very good jobs and they wanted to be here.  Larry, obviously.  Mike Grable is an opportunity to say Mike did an excellent job for us, excellent recruiter.  Hurts me that he left.  But I know it was all positive.  But he's a Buckeye and really did a great job for us recruiting.  A dynamic personality, and that went into, when I was putting together to replace him, you can't lose a dynamic person, personality, energy guy and not replace him where you're just not going to have that in your program.

And so we hired Larry Johnson.  Larry Johnson is a guy I had great respect for many years.  Made a phone call two years ago when I was hired here in December whatever year that was, I called Larry.  We discussed Ohio State.  But then I made the decision to hire Mike Grable.  We just didn't have a spot.  Noah Spence's dad called and said Larry would like to talk to you about a position.  This is right after Mike took this position.  And the communication was great.  We went and met in Indianapolis at the convention and it was a no brainer on our end, and Gene Smith approved as well.

So he's been everything that I thought he would be, spending time with him on the road and had an impact as far as recruiting already.  And then Chris Ash is charged with‑‑ he's got a serious responsibility.  That's to improve our pass defense.  He'll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense.

He's going to coach safety.  He's going to continue to coach corners.  However we're going to have one voice back there, it's his responsibility to improve our pass defense.

And obviously it's more than just a secondary.  It's linebackers and everything.  But you're going to see some significant changes in the way we approach our business back there.

I'm going to be more involved than I ever have been, just to make sure that we get up to standard at Ohio State on defense's side of the ball with emphasis in pass defense.

Player transition.  We just had a group of seniors depart Ohio State that came from losing seven games two years ago to winning 24 straight.

Obviously a couple bumps at the end but a group of players I have a lot of respect for.  I love those guys.  Those guys came in and they let us attack their hearts and let us coach them.  And they're gone. 
So whenever you lose a good group of players you have to replace them.  And I like our last year's recruiting class, and I really like this year's as well.

We signed 23 players.  Emphasis is on linebacker.  Going to give you a quick analysis of our roster and where I think the strengths, there are some obvious strengths and weaknesses but the linebacker position is one that's we're going through an overall right now.

That's far too many mistakes have been made in either lack of development or whatever and it's just not where we need to be.  So there's four linebackers been recruited Raekwon McMillan, Sam Hubbard, Kyle Berger and Dante Booker.  Four guys I'm putting pressure on them Coach Fickell and myself to get ready for next year.  They have to play for us, in addition to the players we have on our roster already.

So just so everybody knows, there's no redshirt plans for those players at all.  We thought about that during the recruiting process.

We want mature players.  One thing that's common about all four of those guys they're from very good high school programs.  State champion down in, back‑to‑back state champion down in Muller.  And have a state champion at Saint Vincent Saint Mary and Raekwon comes from a great high school program down in Georgia.  He's on campus right now.  Defensive back field is another area we're going through an overhaul right now and that's how do you do that.

You do that with the way we teach, with the way we do things back there but also with some personnel.  And very pleased with our recruiting of defensive backs.  Damon Webb is a guy‑‑ once again, unless something happens, they're playing.  There's no redshirt for these players I'm getting ready to discuss.

Damon Webb, I anticipate he'll be in the depth next year.  And Marshon Lattimore from Glennville is going to be in the mix as well.  And Erick Smith, he's a guy I'm really excited to get here.  Played corner in the all star game but we plan on putting him at safety.  And once again immediately in the depth.

Malik Hooker is a guy who only played two years of football.  I watched him play basketball and he certainly has the athleticism and size.  It's just experience.  So he might take a little bit longer, but that's an area obviously that we need to improve.  That's the defensive backfield.

Offensive line is an area that performed very well for us a year ago but four players have left.  And we plan on moving Taylor Decker to left tackle, and right now Darryl Baldwin is penciled in at right tackle and we signed five offensive linemen.  Of the five, the two that I see the maturity, Jamarco Jones and Demetrius Knox, are guys that I would like to see.  Typically you don't put freshmen in there early, but these guys got mature bodies, and they're fairly mature young men and you have Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout and Brady Taylor a guy from Columbus, impressive guy.  Kind of a late‑comer, he's up to 295 pounds now and a wonderful family, tough guy.  I love the guy.  I'm really excited‑‑ he might be a guy that gets in, sneaks in the depth fairly quickly as well.

So I'll answer any questions for you.

Q.  Urban, two questions.  One, the Darius Slay thing came out of nowhere, can you kind of explain how that happened?
COACH MEYER:  Darius Slay I didn't know much about him or who he was.  That's Larry Johnson contact from I guess they've known each other for years and years.  Jared Odrick who Larry Johnson coached at Penn State, there's a nephew or something.  I think Larry would be a good guy to talk to. 
I watched film on him.  Do we want to take this kid, I'm thinking, sure, I really don't know much about him.  That's a Larry Johnsonism.

Q.  We know Chris Ash is in charge of the secondary co‑defensive coordinator who has the ultimate final say in defensive calls and how does that work?
COACH MEYER:  We're going to have those conversations.  Right now Luke will.  Who has the ultimate say on‑‑ how do I say this?  On offense some people would say you need one coordinator.  There's certainly one way to go about it.  Who has the alternate say on offense.

If someone said Tom Herman I might raise my hand and say I'm not quite sure that's correct at certain times.  So Ed Warner at times does.  I do.  Once again, some people might disagree with that.  So Luke Fickell's the defensive coordinator, co‑coordinator when there's third down or some type of pass I want a real strong back end presence and that's what we've got.

Q.  What are your three keys philosophically to improving when you have your coaches, when you send them out, not so much what you're looking for but how to secure guys, what do you say to guys?
COACH MEYER:  It's like how we approach our business here.  You're going to hear this‑‑ it's not like‑‑ Shelley is always funny, coaches say the same thing, blah, blah, blah is what she says, but it's relationships, and it is.  Zach Smith was a guy that did just okay his first year here.  Really the first year and a half.
He knocked it out of the park this year.  He signed Jalyn Holmes and Johnnie Dixon, and he beat a bunch of high profile schools in different regions.  And that was simply for one reason.

The number one reason is the Ohio State brand.  The brand is so strong.  The number two reason is our relationship.  And I see that when I walk in Jalyn Holmes's house and he's on that Facebook or Facetime, whatever that is, he's sitting there talking to Zach Smith's son, I think four‑year‑old son, five‑year‑old kid for five or ten minutes, I knew we were in pretty good shape, if he has a great relationship with Zach's son.

So I usually can walk in because I'm kind of the closer.  There they set the ground work.  I know where we're headed when I walk in that home.  And the number one thing without question is relationships being built.

Q.  Follow up real quick.  I talked to some BG guys‑‑

Q.  From 2002, Bowling Green, your first class, how has it evolved from you as far as closing, the whole process?
COACH MEYER:  I think it's probably pretty much the same.  I'd be interested to talk to those guys as well.  It's pretty much the same.  Want me to go after them?  We're really honest with them.  I made a comment just a minute ago in an interview that some people don't like kids to go on visits.  I think kids should go on visits.
Jamarco Jones went on a visit at the 11th hour.  I don't know if I appreciate that.  I would much rather him go on a visit in July or September.

But I will never tell a kid you can't visit.  I'd rather them not.  And even with Jamarco, I never said you shouldn't do that.  He very simply said I want to make sure.

After being on the parent side of two recruiting battles, if someone ever told my kid you can't go visit, that would be not a pleasant conversation, because those kids deserve to go wherever they want to go to school.  And so that's I think you asked about the approach.  It's a very honest, open approach, come in, see everything we've got.  This is the way we do our business.  It's not for everybody.  And if you want to be a part of it we'd love to have you.

Q.  What are your thoughts on the scholarship reductions being behind you, how much of a limitation was that.  Seemed to treat it very well.
COACH MEYER:  We didn't get through it very well.  We would have had more safeties.  We would have had not special teams issues that we've had over the years.  So nine scholarships was a tough deal. 
You start doing that with the multiplicity of injuries you deal with.  We had 13 season‑ending injuries.  So we're anxious to move forward.

Q.  I think you guys have might be like two overcome August, how do you plan to be within the framework‑‑
COACH MEYER:  It's not two.  It's just something we've got to manage the roster right now and who is coming back for the fifth year, those type of things.  And we're dealing with some injury issues right now as well.

Q.  Did you hear anything on Christian Bryant at all?
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, he's not coming back.  Appeal was just recently‑‑ the second appeal‑‑ we appealed it twice.  That's one that I was hoping he'd come back.

Q.  What does it mean to you to have a highly ranked class?  Obviously you've had three in a row.  Two in the top two or three looks like, when it all figures out.  Why is that important to you?
COACH MEYER:  Well, I mean, I hear people say it's not important.  I disagree.  I think it's very‑‑ as long as you're keeping score we're going to try to win.  I'm disappointing we weren't the number one recruiting class in the country.  Our staff knows we're disappointed about that.

Is that the final end‑all.  No, it has really no‑‑ as long as they're going to go keep track of it.  And there is a correlation between how teams do where your team is ranked, recruiting class is ranked.  But certainly that's not the final product because you've got to coach and develop them and get them here.
So actually we do pay attention to that.  It's not saying we take a kid who is a five star over a three star, if we believe in the three star.  That's not it at all.  But I'll start watching it at the end of the recruiting class.

Q.  Looks like you literally are going to lean on this class.  I mean, last year you talked about some guys you thought could come in and play.  Some of them didn't pan out.  I don't know how much of a gamble is it, or do you feel like you're gambling a little bit with this class a little bit from that standpoint?
COACH MEYER:  No, we wanted to do it last year.  We didn't‑‑ Gareon Conley should have played last year.  That's Gareon's fault and our fault, position coach fault, if we're going to sit here and blame, which I'm not blaming.  But we're counting on these guys to go play.

What you don't want to do, and I gotta really watch how I present this to our staff.  I don't want to have a young man come in and play 12 snaps and lose a year.  If we're going to play him, play him but you have to get him ready to go.  And the young man has to attack it as if to go get ready.  Joey boast is a perfect example came in day one.  We know that.

Q.  These guys have played competition tells you they can step up.
COACH MEYER:  Last year we did.  Pretty good.  That young man, we should have had them ready and has the ability level.  I'm not picking on Gareon because Gareon is going to be a fine player.  Doing fantastic for you.  So we were, if it's the way it turns out, we'll redshirt a very minimal amount of this class.

Q.  Last year this time you seemed disappointed with the class you put together on the offensive line, only one showed up, lose the four seniors, did you have to double down your emphasis on getting guys up front for this class?
COACH MEYER:  Who did we sign last year, Billy Price.  Gardner didn't make it.  Who was the other one?  Evan Lisle.  Last year was a disappointment in the offensive line.  We moved Billy over.  He's going to play on offense, and he is going to‑‑ I think he'll if not start be right in the depths, Evan Lisle is coming on as well.  Kyle Dotson, time to show up and start playing.  And Taylor Decker obviously he's starting for us, and we signed five this year so they have to perform.

I'd say two of the five have to be in the depth.  And we recruited as such. 

Q.  Would this be about the amount that you would normally recruit or was that influenced by last year?
COACH MEYER:  You want 16.  You want 16 linemen in your program.  And so obviously when we moved Billy Price over, then we only needed five to fill.  I think we're at 16 now.

Q.  Similar to Tim's question, how can you quantify what happened to them?  You look at your staff say won some games today, how much is recruiting, how much is development?
COACH MEYER:  50/50.  That's a great question.  I think we won today.  I made it clear to our guys, very pleased with their efforts today.  That was a good class. 
I think once again I think it's a great class.  Jamarco Jones, that would have been‑‑ that would have been a fake smile in here today if we didn't get him.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER:  I don't know.  We'll see.  I think it very well could be.  Best class here?  Oh, yeah.  I think so.  I think so.  We'll see.  Who knows.

Q.  Mentioned a couple times on the radio show today earlier one of you guys had a winning program in high school and the tangibles they bring can you expand on that, what exactly do you look at?
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, I'm going to do a study.  We just don't have much time.  But the correlation between a young guy playing early and a guy that comes from a championship level program, that means he understands weightlifting and fundamentals of football and winning and the price it takes to go win a game and win a championship.  Those guys usually play early.

And you look at Kyle Berger, Ignatius and Dante Booker and Saint Vincent Saint Mary and Raekwon and Hubbard, those are the guys you look for. 

Q.  You always talk about wanting to have speed in this class.  Where does that come from and are you feeling pretty good?
COACH MEYER:  We're getting close.  Curtis Samuel is already on campus.  Right now we've Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson are those prototype guys, hybrid type players we're looking for.

Although really Ezekiel is more a pure tailback but Curtis Samuel guy, he's electric fast, to go with Dontre.  So we need a couple more.  Parris Campbell, should be one of the fastest guys in state of Ohio.  10.5100 meter guy.  And we also have to get our speed up but overall offensive skill but we have from where it was two years ago to where it is now much different.

Q.  I want to ask, ever have anything where a coach go through what Tom Herman did?
COACH MEYER:  Tom Herman, that really didn't happen.  (Laughter) it was only a four‑hour delay.  But Tom likes to blow things up.  And it's a fish tale and gets bigger and bigger.  No, it was 19 hours.  I told him he'll tell the story.  Is he going to be able to talk to them?  You can let him.

He got‑‑ I get a phone call in the morning.  And Mark Dantoni, our recruiting guy, is nervous.  I can't get ahold of Gene Smith should he leave the car, what if he leaves the car.  I said what are you talking about, 19 hours without food or water he's very delirious right now.  I said Tom's always delirious.  I called him up and said get a G2.  Get a G2 which is a Gatorade and one of those protein bars and get to work, we have to go close Demetrius Knox in Dallas.  That's what he did.  Obviously I'm being funny, but I've never had a guy go through that.  19 hours in a car stuck in traffic.

Q.  Coach, going back to the last two quarterbacks Braxton and Terrell, highly rated guys in the recruiting process.  Steven was kind of a guy you hand picked you analyzed himself at camps.  What did you see with him that made you confident in making him a quarterback in this class and what is it about him that (indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER:  He's a development guy a little bit.  He's a guy that came in.  Incredible character guy.  Great size.  He's here on campus already.  Very nice release.

He's gotta grow into the position.  He's not like you said the Terrell or the Braxton.  But Alex Smith wasn't either.  So we saw a lot of attributes to him we thought could turn into a very good player for us, that's why we took him.

Q.  Nice to get them into camp and just watch them and see?
COACH MEYER:  You have to at quarterback.  And a couple of kids even in state would come‑‑ it's almost like a rule.  We need to see you throw a football to take you.  And nowadays kids are committing so early, sometimes you don't get that opportunity.

So we've had to adjust our philosophy a little bit, because that was a rule.  I remember when we recruited Tim Tebow at Florida.

Are you going to offer him?  Yeah, we're going to offer him but I need to see you at camp.  I'm not coming to camp, I'm not going to offer you.  You get in those kind of conversations.  Recruiting has moved up so far now.

Sometimes we're going to have to adjust, because we're offering quarterbacks now that I don't see throw, and I've never done that before in our career.  But you have to, because early offers are out.  There's already kids offered right now for next year, which at that position you'd like to have them on camp, in camp. 

Q.  You talk about the principle of alignment.  You introduced two new coaches today.  How much of that has to be pleasant at the start and how much is that something you work on?
COACH MEYER:  I think you said alignment?  That's a great question.  (Lost audio) .
And the good thing is they came from programs that are very similar the way we do it.  They follow the rules, they do the things the right way.  Premium placed on academics and we call power of the unit.  And that's kind of the way they were raised in the coaching profession.

Q.  Does that principle apply to players as well, and if so how do you ensure that‑‑
COACH MEYER:  You can't ensure that.  They're 18 years old.  You're relying on high school coach's recommendations and to answer your question certainly it is expected in recruiting as well.  It's much more difficult just who you're dealing with.

Q.  You talked about wanting to win on a day like this.  You guys just played Michigan State on the field, the big time title game.  Is it magnified at all when you're competing with teams like that for guys, obviously Jamarco and Darius Slay, all the guys, does that magnify the competition?
COACH MEYER:  I think the school you just mentioned, they're real, and I think they've always been real.  But I think they're more nose to nose with them quite often in recruiting, if that's your question.  I've got a lot of respect for the way they do their business and that's an adversary.  That's one of our teams we're nose to nose with right now in recruiting.  We don't win them all because I know we lost a couple, too.  But that's a real battle right now. 

Q.  You talked about‑‑ the changes you're making on defense, with having two new coaches in, you had two coaches leave, did you think you needed new voices, that you needed to make those changes?
COACH MEYER:  I think so.  I think so.  I have a lot of confidence in the coaches that were here.  And obviously we didn't perform up to standard.  We won a lot of games but there were some holes.  Holes very easy to blame players or blame coaches.  Just overall we need to freshen up our defense.  That's what's going to get ready to take place over the next few months.

Q.  We haven't talked about Braxton at all.  Were you ever worried that‑‑ did you ever think it was a possibility that he would leave for the NFL?

Q.  What was the discussion like when he decided to come back for his senior year?
COACH MEYER:  It wasn't very long.  And his father, who is doing much better health issues he was dealing with, but Braxton and I have a very good relationship.  And we waited until after the game.  And I told him my opinion that he could become a very high Draft pick if he continues to improve, and he said that's what I thought.  It wasn't much more than that.  We met together as a family.  Had a very positive conversation and made the decision.  Never at one time do you say what should I do, because I wouldn't tell him.  That's their business.  But I gave my opinion as far as how much more he could grow as a quarterback. 

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