Today, Coach Urban Meyer spoke with the media in-depth about a variety of topics, including the national championship game. Here’s a full transcript:
Q. How excited are you to finally get on the field and get all this talking over with?
COACH MEYER: It really doesn’t matter if I am excited. Our players are very excited. They’ve been practicing now, I would want to say, for 30-some days. 19, 20 practices behind them. They are excited about going to play Ohio State.
Q. Coach, can you talk how you have handled the situation with the two quarterbacks and how the quarterbacks have dealt with it also?
COACH MEYER: The question is about how do we handle the two-quarterback situation. I think with the high-profile position at quarterback at University Florida, if you have other than a Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, two high-character, unselfish people, I am not sure we could have done what we did. That’s a credit to those two guys. We had situations at running back where Tim had to play. He earned that right to play. Without two unselfish people, that would have been a problem. And it was a great situation to have all year.
Q. Urban, has anything changed with the place kicking situation and what’s your confidence level with Chris?
COACH MEYER: Chris is—yeah, the kick against Arkansas, he made every one yesterday and Chris will start the championship game.
Q. How is his confidence?
COACH MEYER: I think it is pretty good. I think the kick against Arkansas—he has been hitting the ball well all year but he has missed them. And if he was not hitting the ball, he gets the ball up, he has been hitting it clean. He just has to continue his work on his accuracy. He has a lot of experience and to make a change now would be inappropriate and not be right, so we are going to go with Chris and have a lot of confidence in him.
Q. Will you still be thinking on third and seven getting six yards?
COACH MEYER: It depends on the field. Right now I am saying the 20-yard line is the area where we will be satisfied with kicking the ball. I thought about doing that at Arkansas. But I have a lot of confidence in Chris. I am with him every day. I see him hit the ball every day. He will be fine.
Q. Urban, is Reggie Nelson here?
COACH MEYER: He is here. I asked him last night—we had a little talk last night. He is going to not come out here today and appreciate everybody’s—the media has been fantastic. They backed off him. If you have ever gone through that, then you know what I am talking about. Still got to remember he is a 22-, 21-year-old young person.
Q. How is he doing?
COACH MEYER: He is doing great.
Q. Are you concerned about him?
COACH MEYER: I am concerned about it, but Reggie Nelson is not a good football player, he is one of the best football players I have ever been around, not just defensive back.
And I expect that he has practiced very well. Will focus be an issue? Of course it will. But I think he is that good of a player. He prepares himself very well for games.
Q. Coach, talk about young men. They have been very professional with dealing with the media?
COACH MEYER: My guys, I am proud. I told them just a few minutes ago we don’t need bulletin board material. The hotel said they are the best group to be around.
Q. Are you going to do anything different with the defensive backs?
COACH MEYER: This is a game of a matchups. College football, when you are facing the electric players, I would like to think when they talk about our offense, it is all about matchups as well. And we just have to be careful who is covering Gonzalez and Teddy Ginn, obviously. And the moment you start double-teaming people, you are taking away from your own game. We will have to mix it up. When we show coverage, we might have to sink an extra guy in the box to stop the run. When you face a team that has balance, that’s the issue.
Q. Is that your main concern?
COACH MEYER: Our main concern is—like we faced Tennessee or some other dynamic personnel. The minute you let them get behind, there will be a problem. There will be yardage given, but we have to keep the ball in front of us.
Q. Do you carry a buckeye with you?
COACH MEYER: No, no. That’s all—those are all stories blown out. No, I don’t carry a buckeye with me.
Q. What’s the story?
COACH MEYER: People in Ohio carry a buckeye for good luck. I have done that in the past. I have one at my house but I don’t carry it with me.
Q. Probably wouldn’t have worked against the Buckeyes?
COACH MEYER: You never know. Those Buckeyes are …
Q. Urban, is there an X factor in this game, not a Troy Smith, not a Chris Leak, but a player that has flown under the radar on either roster that could be a (indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: It could be a Brandon James or a Jarred Fayson, a Wondy Pierre, a Riley Cooper. I think the emphasis that these two teams place on special teams, I am surprised that hasn’t been a bigger story. I think you look at championship game. You look at our wins the last two years, we have won a lot of games because of field position, going all the way back to Tennessee. A blocked field goal. Knocking the ball out against LSU for safety. Those are the unsung heroes.
All championship games in my opinion, those are the X factors.
Q. How important is Reggie Lewis in this game?
COACH MEYER: Big, big. Reggie has to settle down and play a little bit and when he does, he is a fine player. He will face the best group of receivers we faced all year. Ryan and Reggie, to think they weren’t playing last year, Ryan was sitting the bench somewhere and Reggie was one of the—wanted to transfer because he is a second string wide receiver. Now they are both starting against Ohio State in the championship game.
COACH MEYER: He is 90%. We’ve got two days to get him up to 100. Dorian Munroe did very well when he substituted for him in the Arkansas game. We will play both those people.
Q. Does the national championship feel different, this is its own separate thing. What’s the emotion for you?
COACH MEYER: Emotion, it is more about preparation. This is the longest I have ever had and our teams ever had. We spent hours and hours, a lot of phone calls about how the problem is—I like to use resources of coaches or players who played in this kind of a setting and it has never been done before. We are the first ones to play this far removed from the other Bowls.
So we tried to break it down as much as the best we could so it did become stale. We kept them healthy and fresh. After yesterday’s practice, I feel good.
Q. What did DeShawn Wynn—can you talk about your relationship with Earl Bruce?
COACH MEYER: Relationship with Earl Bruce is, other than my father he is the guy that I call most often for advice. I have always admired Coach Bruce because he is—first and foremost, did it the right way. He cared about the players. On his list of priorities was the player, family and staff. And other than that, he didn’t do a whole lot.
Q. DeShawn, how is his foot?
COACH MEYER: He is fine. He is gimping a little bit, but he is good to go.
Q. Will he be a difference maker?
COACH MEYER: He was at Georgia and Tennessee. He was a difference maker at the end of those games. Kestahn Moore had a great week of practice.
Q. Have you seen plays that you haven’t seen all year?
COACH MEYER: I will let you answer that.
Q. Coach, would you talk about how the extra time —
COACH MEYER: You will see—we have had a lot of time to prepare. I don’t know if it is new plays but new formations and we are going to do—we are facing a very good defensive front. So our key to the game will be block them and not let them sink their cleats in the ground and get after us.
Q. What about the extra practices, have they helped your young guys?
COACH MEYER: It is unique that we have not kept guys after—the other Bowl games, for example, two years ago we came out here and every week, every day after practice we would practice for 20 minutes with the young players. Our young players are all playing. So we don’t have time—we didn’t do that at all. Our young guys are playing.
Every day, I would say let’s keep after them. I would look and our guys were all playing. We haven’t really done that this time around. Over 20 of those young guys are in the depth charts right now and going toe play on Monday.
Q. Coach, from what you have seen on film, does Ohio’s defense remind you of any team that you have already played this year?
COACH MEYER: I go back to LSU, I think LSU is a talented team and I put them on that level. Very good personnel. One thing, all you have to do is look at the rankings, and even the Bowl scores and the teams we have played, they are facing great defenses. It wasn’t an issue this year for us. We faced plenty of them. They are obviously the top defense and one of the top two defenses we faced all year.
Q. Why has the two-quarterback system worked for you where in years past it really hasn’t been successful to the point where a team can play for a national championship?
COACH MEYER: It goes back to the personnel. They are both very good players. They complement each other. All it takes is a bad attitude or a selfish approach to the game and it blows up. Chris Leak was phenomenal and so was Tim Tebow. There was a lot of people that think Tim should have played more and a lot of people that said Chris should have played more.
All they want to do is win games and they have done a very good job of that.
Q. Two years ago when you turned down Notre Dame, it raised some eyebrows. Were your colleagues surprised that you turned them down and were you surprised how quickly you were able to get here?
COACH MEYER: I knew there were smart players at Florida. I’m not real smart, but I am smart enough that before I step into something I do a little research and find out what you are working with.
It didn’t surprise me of the quality, but I had great respect for the SEC but after experiencing it firsthand, that was the only thing that was kind of shocking, how good the defenses are in this league.
Am I surprised we made it here this far? If you would ask me at this point last year, I would say yes. After now I have been around these players that long, I am not that surprised because we got a bunch of good kids that fight hard.
Q. Do you think it surprised people when you turned down Notre Dame to go to Florida?
COACH MEYER: Do you think it surprised people?
Q. Did it surprise your colleagues to have you turn them down?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know that. Didn’t really ask.
Q. Coach, when you look at your head coaching career, do you find a lot of success in your second season? Highest ranking school history, Utah, BCS Bowl. Here you are at the national championship second season at Florida. Any rhyme or reason to that?
COACH MEYER: There is a great rhyme and reason. We have fantastic players. That’s kind of the common theme about if you didn’t have Chris Leak and Tim Tebow and Dallas Baker, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. It is certainly note the coaches. I have a terrific staff, but this is all about the players. I have been very fortunate.
Q. What’s going to happen in year three?
COACH MEYER: We have good players, we will have great year.
Q. Why do you think Coach Tressel is so successful in big games? He has four titles at Youngstown State. He is 4-0 in Bowl games. Why do you think that is?
COACH MEYER: I have studied Coach Tressel. I think he is a very even-keel guy. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. Other than that, I don’t know.
Q. What’s been your philosophy as you go from one school to the other and inherit other guys players? What has been your trick to get everyone to buy into your system?
COACH MEYER: I don’t agree when you say a trick.
COACH MEYER: There is no trick about it. It is a program based on extreme hard work. I know all the program—everybody works hard, but we set a standard. If you are in, you’re in. If you are not, you’re not. We make that as clear as we can as early as we can. Players want to win. Kids want to win. If you paint a picture of this is how you are going to win and be real clear with it, that’s about it.
Q. When you peeked into the meeting room when the Buckeye assistants were visiting you and you said “see you in the big one,” how confident would you be that was true?
COACH MEYER: I read that. It makes a great story. I don’t remember saying that. The one coach worked for me at Bowling Green. He is a great coach, Tim Beckman. I think Ohio State was pre season number one. Because of our depth issues and other things going on, I didn’t know that we could make it this year. But obviously we did.
Q. What kind of things were learned or shared in that meeting that they had with you guys that have been used in practices?
COACH MEYER: That mostly was our defense coaches. You would have to ask them. I could see Ohio State is using some of the things we did. And we are using some of the stuff they do. It is two excellent defense coaching staffs got together and shared thoughts.
Q. What are the advantages of the speed?
COACH MEYER: I think it will be close. I think the speed. That’s what separates Ohio State. They have the athleticism on the outside. They recruited very well. I remember the first championship game they played in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami, Miami had all this speed but you saw Ohio State neutralize when they spread them out and kind of got out of that little box. And I think that’s great coaching and they recruited well for that.
Q. You are an Ohio guy. Does that perception go away? The Big 10?
COACH MEYER: Certainly with the big teams in the Big 10 it is gone. Maybe the bottom half of the SEC, if you did your research, the upper half are fast, lower half are slow. It would be the same. Evaluation of the Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10. USC was pretty quick the other night. The teams in the low half probably have to work on that.
Q. You are coming off the SEC championship win against Arkansas. Ohio State hasn’t played in a dome this year. Is that a factor?
COACH MEYER: It doesn’t matter one bit.
COACH MEYER: About 199-—shoot, I want to say ‘88 or ‘89 I was a wide receiver coach at Notre Dame and Bob Davie came walking in and said I was the kind of guy that sat in the back of the room and drew pictures of pass routes when special teams meetings went on. He said, You will run the special teams, and I didn’t want to do that.
But I did a lot of research and went and visited several NFL teams and talked to other colleagues and did a lot of research and found out, you block a punt, the percentage you win in that game is nine out of ten times. I don’t claim to be real smart. Just tell me we are going to win a game nine out of ten times when you get a hand on a punt, we’re going to try awfully hard to get a hand on a punt.
And I appreciate the players. All the questions are about Teddy Ginn or Chris Leak. No one has asked me about a Wondy Pierre or a Riley Cooper or a Jarred Fayson.
COACH MEYER: That’s why they get per diem for Bowl games. That’s why they will get a championship ring. Some players like to get travel sweats and free stuff and don’t do much. I like to be around the guys. That’s their way of earning the keep with the program. We have a great group of guys. We had a meeting about that a minute ago. We have a great group of guys.
Q. How does the offense work in the SEC?
COACH MEYER: I haven’t heard it much this year, quite a bit in the past. How much did I pay attention to it or how did I hear it?
Q. I was thinking you heard it a lot and now being here …
COACH MEYER: We had an offense at Utah that averaged close to four-ninety-nine and some ridiculous amount of points. We had great players. Also, there is a common denominator, we didn’t face many top-25 defenses. I think you have to—the great reporters, not that I’m evaluating you, but the great reporters should do their homework and take a look at those offenses don’t play very good defenses. I think we have 600 and some yards against some of the defense that aren’t real good. Some of these other programs are throwing some good numbers out there. I am a coach. I like to sit back and evaluate that myself.
Q. People said you need a running back, run the ball, you need to use different guys.
COACH MEYER: I think our team takes on the same approach our staff does. At some point, somehow you have to win the game. If that means a fake punt, a blocked field goal, the team takes on that personality. We didn’t have to do that two years ago. The game was over in the middle of the third quarter because we overwhelmed people with our personnel.
We can’t do that with Florida. I’m not sure in the SEC that will ever be done.
Q. Urban, when you are on the stage like this, do you think much about the days when nobody talked to you, nobody knew who you were?
COACH MEYER: Yeah. I look back and loved every minute of it (smiling). I remember my first press conference at Bowling Green up in Detroit, I came walking in as new head football coach, I sat in media day and after a half-hour, looked and said, am I done? I grabbed my stuff and left. I cherish those days.
Q. Speaking of the days when nobody was speaking to you, what do you remember of the days in Cincinnati both as a player and coach?
COACH MEYER: It was a great experience. Met my wife there. Loved every minute of it.
COACH MEYER: I still keep in touch but it was so long ago, not really.
Q. You played baseball?
COACH MEYER: I played minor league baseball before that. That was right out of high school and then I played after that.
COACH MEYER: You can throw Ohio State in that category as well. You watch the first half of Ohio State versus Michigan, that was not three yards in a cloud of dust. I want to say Michigan threw the ball 16 of the first 20 snaps and Ohio State did the same thing. They were very unconventional, three by two empty sets.
I think that’s a credit to, first of all, the defensive personnel we see, the defensive schemes we see. And you have to move the ball. I think Boise, I have great respect for Boise and what we are doing at Utah and now we are doing at Florida.
There were games we were more conventional because I felt we could do that. It is whatever you do to move the ball and get first downs.
Q. Urban, you talked about Earl Bruce as a major influence. Who else—you have been around a lot of different coaches. Who else have been guys that maybe you have taken a little something from and stored away?
COACH MEYER: I got a little packet of guys. Jeff Tedford, Jeff Rodriguez are great friends of mine. Steve Kragthorpe, Cal Winningham are my closest confidants in the profession. We every year seem to get together and talk football. I try not to get around too many because there are only a few guys like to talk with and those are the main guys.
Q. You made a rapid rise, it seems. You seem like a guy who plans very well. Did you ever have a timetable where you said, okay, now I have my Bowling Green job. I want to be here at a certain point? You have gone through this very fast?
COACH MEYER: Greg can answer that for you. No, I never did that. I live for every day and just try to do the best job week.
Q. Does it surprise you how quickly this has happened from Bowling Green to now?
COACH MEYER: It doesn’t until I realize the players that I have had the opportunity to coach. Not many people had to coach Josh Harris, Omar Jacobs, even though he played after we were there, and then Alex Smith and Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. That’s a pretty good personnel.
Q. You had dinner with the Ohio State coaches last night. What kind of conversations did you have with Tim Beckman? Were you guys having a little fun?
COACH MEYER: We had a lot of fun.
Q. What did you talk about?
COACH MEYER: We talked about you, and the great job you did at Bowling Green. No. Our wives got together. I think our kids are getting together today. I love Tim. Tim is a very close friend.
Q. It seems like everything is so interwoven. You worked for Coach Bollman at Illinois State; is that right?
COACH MEYER: We are from the same hometown.
Q. Is that what it is? Is that everybody—there is such a close-knit fraternity?
COACH MEYER: This is unique. Last night at dinner because I have been so busy, I looked around and knew every one of the coaches. I knew their football operations guy. I saw Chuck Heeder.
Q. Brandon Siler mentioned that—he said once he heard you speak, he thought you guys were going to win a national championship. What did you see in that meeting?
COACH MEYER: I am not telling you.
Q. You’re not? Come on.
COACH MEYER: You have to ask Brandon that. That’s a long time ago.
Q. You don’t remember?
COACH MEYER: You know what I said.
Q. Coach, there is so much time between the games. Do you have to work hard not to overprepare your team?
COACH MEYER: Lou Holtz is someone I talk to quite often. He made several comments to me that the game is played on January 8th at 6:30. Not on January 3rd, not on December 26th. We have been very cautious of that.
I like to do team meetings as it gets closer. We haven’t done that yet. Our focus is not an issue. Your body can’t take the exhilaration, the adrenalin flow 72 hours before the game. We’re trying to keep everything low key and get into our routine. It is Wednesday of game week right now. We are right on schedule.
Q. This game has been dissected by so many people in so many days. What are the two or three keys?
COACH MEYER: It is no different than the championship game, it’s no different than Ohio State-Michigan game. I think it will come down to field position. The unique thing is both teams emphasize special teams. I think that’s going to be the key. You look at that Arkansas game that first touchdown of the game was Chris Leak on a nine-yard run because of the blocked punt.
Ohio State also had some dangerous punt returns back there, Teddy Ginn and Gonzalez. It is going to be ball security and special teams. It is going to be the difference.
Q. Because of the Arkansas game, is it important in a game like this to score first, get some points on the board?
COACH MEYER: I think that’s important. I think it is going to be a street fight. This is going to be a long one. This is going to be who is going to survive. When you have two well-conditioned programs like I know they are and I know we are, I think it is going to be momentum. Who can try to get back the Arkansas game. We lost momentum, got it back and held on to it. If you lost it again there, you lost the game.
You look at the Ohio State-Michigan game. Ohio State had the momentum, lost it and got it back and held on to it and finished the game. It will be able to get the momentum switched back to you.
Usually in the big games that’s the difference.
Q. Coach, are you telling your players that they painted the stadium for Ohio State, the colors in here?
COACH MEYER: No. But I will use that. That’s good. You walk, there is a lot of stuff out there that we are using. There is a lot of stuff. That will be good. Appreciate that.
Q. What about there is some book or something that you showed the players that had two pages of Florida and 60-some pages of Ohio State? Is that true?
COACH MEYER: There is a lot of stuff out there. (Smiling.) The pregame speech is not going to be hard.
Q. Do coaches invent things to motivate?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I’m sure they do. If you have to invent it if it is reality that—we just got to—we are the underdog and we kind of like that role. Do coaches invent those type of thing? Some do. I don’t think we do. We do what we do, though.
Q. Urban, you said you are the underdog. Do you feel your program has gained respect—you said you are the underdog. Do you feel your team has gained a respect ever since you got the number two slot and that you are here now?
COACH MEYER: I hadn’t really followed that. I think we are facing a consensus from point A to point B or point A to point Z that they are the number one team in the country. That’s all you have to say to our team.
Plus, nowadays, as much as the media and everything else, it is simply a football on the film. They are really good. They are a great football team. We have to play our best. The best motivation we do is dissecting our opponent like most teams, you evaluate what you are going against. You are going against one of the top defenses in the country and very good special teams.
Q. With all that said, do you feel, though, those on the outside looking in do respect what you have done and what your team is bringing to the table?
COACH MEYER: I think they respect our players, certainly do. To jump to where we jumped and that was all human votes that got us to that point. So I would say yes.
Q. Coach, why have you stuck with Chris Hetland and some of the abuse he has been—abuse he has been through with some of the fans?
COACH MEYER: I think as a coach you put the guy that is going to help you win a game in there. You don’t go on what time of the day it is. I think Chris gives us the best chance to win that game. I still do. That’s my decision. I don’t have a special teams coach that I am turning that over to. That’s my decision. I see him during practice every day. We have a routine. If he is doing well—we open it up on several occasions this year and he was not beat out and I didn’t open it for this one because he has earned that right. And he made the field goal against and every extra point against Arkansas. He has earned that right.
How do I make that—he gives us the best chance to win the game.
Q. He says he thinks he is going to win this game?
COACH MEYER: I should censor him. That’s good. He is a confident player. The way he hits the ball, that’s not by mistake. He is a good kicker.
Q. Coach, your players talk about family. Can I ask you a couple questions on how well you know the family members? They say he has won several awards for painting and sculpting?
COACH MEYER: On our team?
Q. Who would that be?
COACH MEYER: No idea.
Q. Brian Crum?
COACH MEYER: I did know that.
Q. Compete in the National Spelling Bee on ESPN in 1999?
COACH MEYER: No idea.
Q. Tim Higgins. Who looks like rapper Fifty Cent?
COACH MEYER: Don’t know.
Q. Consider the funniest guy on the team?
COACH MEYER: Tookes.
Q. Goofy, funny, same thing?
COACH MEYER: Same.
Q. Strongest guy, bench presses 480?
COACH MEYER: Ray McDonald.
Q. And best dressed in high school?
COACH MEYER: Best dressed? Brandon Spikes.
Q. Close, Brandon Antwine?
COACH MEYER: No? (Laughter).
Q. First couple years at Bowling Green when you were head coach, what were the most important lessons you learned about running pro?
COACH MEYER: That’s a great question. That’s a really good question. I think the biggest thing I learned and it is an offshoot of the guys I worked for, Lou Holtz, Earl Bruce, Bob Davy, is that the head coach’s job is to get involved in every aspect of the program and turn it over to no one. Ultimately it is your responsibility. That includes academics to facilities to schedule to pregame meal to curfew. I think that’s the number one thing. You learn that at a place like Bowling Green. Here we have turned it over, we have such fine personnel. But I learned that at a place where we didn’t have that. We didn’t have a budget to have all the academic people so we did it ourselves. We still do it ourselves here.
Q. Are you still mostly the same program, same system?
COACH MEYER: Same exact.
Q. At Bowling?
COACH MEYER: Much more support staff. We are still—we still check classes. We still have the players over to our homes. We still do all the things we did at Bowling Green because you had to here. Here it is better.
Q. Urban, when you beat Missouri your first game as head coach, talk about the feeling and how that carries over, I can do this job, I can do this?
COACH MEYER: Six years ago sitting in that hotel room before the game I remember looking at my wife and saying, What happens if we get our brains beat in and lose every game, how long will they keep us? She said, Shut up, I bet you win them all. And I said no. I thought there was no chance. We wake up and do a walk-through like yesterday and I saw a look about them that you might find a way to do this.
Our first series, first down, nothing; second down, nothing; and then we end up winning the game. I remember the time well.
Q. From the time you got the job, talk about the personnel you inherited, you pick a lot of coaches’ brains?
COACH MEYER: I talked to Ron on several occasions, more just how his family is doing and those type of things. We have Charlie Strong on our staff, so I relied on much on Charlie from a personnel standpoint. And Larry Fedora is another guy that I talked to and Mike Locksley was on our staff. We have great respect for that staff and we still do.
Q. What about the fact they had played Ohio State this year, have you thought about calling him about what Ohio State does?
COACH MEYER: I have not. We watched that film very closely. Offensively, it was—we weren’t called about offense. Defensively, Charlie Strong might have because he knows some of those coaches and Greg Mattison probably has.
Q. Players talked about how you should be Urban Legend. What do you think of that?
COACH MEYER: Our players are saying that?
Q. I am just quoting that.
COACH MEYER: They would never say that.
Q. They said he should be. Your response to that, I am sure you have heard that a lot?
COACH MEYER: I have no response.
Q. Why do you love this game?
COACH MEYER: It is unique. I knew—I wanted to be a football coach since I was very young. I have always—I played baseball because I was pretty good at it or I was. I played football because I loved it and that has always been a football first.
Q. What is it about the game that you love?
COACH MEYER: I came from a great high school program. I came from a great town where football was king. Obviously a great state where football is everything. I just fell in love with it at a very early age.
Q. How ironic it is you are playing Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: It is very ironic. We were pumping crowd noise into our practice facility yesterday. We try to mix in the fight song of the team you are playing and Hang On Sloopy is being played. I turned around and said “can you imagine that?” That’s when it really started to sink in.
Q. What do you think of Arizona and the stadium?
COACH MEYER: Haven’t seen Glendale very much other than driving in here. With you the stayed jump—but the stadium is the best we have been in. This is our third time—my third time coming to the Fiesta Bowl. I can’t imagine a better Bowl to be at.
Q. How many major influences have you had?
COACH MEYER: I am coaching today and playing today because of the influences. I had some great high school coaches in baseball coach Bill Schmidt and football coach Paul Cogsdale (phonetic). Very close. I see some of the high school programs from recruiting and realize how fortunate I had playing for great coaches.
Q. Some of the guys for Ohio State probably recruited when you were at Bowling Green. Do you remember some of those guys and do they give you any insight?
COACH MEYER: Yes, we recruited a guy named Troy Smith and Teddy Ginn. They were a little better than Bowling Green. They were both in our camp and Troy Smith was a guy that was under the radar for a long time. I know Troy very well and watched him grow up as a player.
Q. Do you think the freshmen have done well and had a big impact? Did you have any idea that they would be this poised and they would do so well?
COACH MEYER: I knew we would have to play them. I don’t want to act surprised because there were some elite players and our staff did a great job of doing their homework. But to perform on the grand stage they did, at times I don’t want to say I was shocked but realize they are really, really good players. Percy Harvin comes to mind. Tim Tebow and a guy like Brandon Spikes. We have some tremendous effort by our guys.
I don’t want to say I am necessarily surprised.
Q. You said you always wanted to be a football coach. Did you of ever cherish the Ohio State job, coaching at Ohio State, if the opportunity arose?
COACH MEYER: I like where I am at. I have always loved Ohio. Absolutely.
COACH MEYER: We are close. We never worked together. He left Ohio State the year before I got there. I was a graduate assistant and he would come back. I actually when I was first hired at Bowling Green, I drove down to Columbus and watched one of his practices and walked around. Goes way back.
Q. (Question about Jim Tressel)?
COACH MEYER: I know his staff. Jim and I talk in the off-season every year usually and run things by each other. He hired one of my former coaches Tim Beckman and I was very involved with that.
I made the comment last night it is great for the country two programs that try to do it the right way. There is no shortcuts. You hear about some of these things going on in college athletics, reform—I keep hearing we are going to reform college football. You don’t have to. Florida and Ohio State make it every year, it is all good.
COACH MEYER: There is a lot of coaches from that area. I make the comment you all lived out West and now down South. I think the power shift has kind of migrated to the South because now—especially that northeastern Ohio, it used to be many, many players coming out of that area. The population was kind of moved a little bit down South.
The one thing about the northeastern part of the state, all you have to do is look at McKinley and St. Ignatius, and St. Ed’s; the best football in the country.
Q. How close were you with Tim Hinton and how much of an influence was he to get a receiver coach?
COACH MEYER: He got me started. That was one of the first times I have been asked that. He was very important in my development as a coach. I had a chance to be a defensive back GA or a tight GA, he talked me coming over to offense. Tim was very involved.
Q. He said after the receivers videotape you made he still expects royalties to this day. Is there anything to that?
COACH MEYER: No, no chance of him getting royalties.
COACH MEYER: I think he has adapted. I respect coaches that adapt to their personnel and I first really noticed it because he is really—studied their offense when had a little more talented team and they spread the field and took a quarterback that was maybe not a runner and I think he was one of the top rushers. Maybe he was the leading rusher, one of the time rushers, Krenzel. I sat and watched every snap of that game and the way they one it. It was intelligent coaching.
Q. Do you remember Dallas, your first season, what did you tell him?
COACH MEYER: It was a very honest meeting. I couldn’t really share with you because you would print some of the things we shouldn’t print. A truthful evaluation of where he was as a player.
Q. Did you see the immediate change in his mind?
COACH MEYER: No, it was gradual. He is a great person. If you know Dallas, you know he is a great person. You will get that out of him.
Q. People say players in the south are faster than the players in the north. Why is that perception?
COACH MEYER: I think it is year-round training. It doesn’t necessarily mean ours are faster than their guys. There is more—I would say the quantity is greater in the south because of year-round training. The fact is, there is six months a year it is hard getting outside. I think that has something to do with it. Year-round training and the emphasis on track in the south.
Q. As good as you thought Percy Harvin would be when you signed him, has there been moments when he has surprised you even? What are some of those?
COACH MEYER: He is a little better than I thought. He has been hurt a lot this year. He got hurt during two-a-days. He got hurt in the Tennessee game, hip flexure, sprained ankle. That run in Tennessee, stick him in as a tailback, we saw a little bit of a flash there. The catch he made against central Florida and just went 60 yards down the sideline. We saw that in practice.
Q. Has Coach Bruce given you any insight into Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: Not yet. We are going to meet. I am not sure how much insight. It is more him talking about the opponent, trying to attack the game. We had a great discussion before the Arkansas game. Made comments to be very aggressive. That was very helpful.
Q. Is he rooting for you?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know if he is rotting. I think he is involved in both programs.
COACH MEYER: We are close. We are not there yet. We are recruiting awful hard. I think fast wins and I think fast is what we want to coach. If you can run, we are going to recruit you. If you can run fast, Florida’s coach is going to call you.
Q. Sprinter speed or track speed?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, there is a difference. There is a big difference. What you have to do is evaluate the track speed and if you can turn it into football speed. Some guys come to programs and they are not at very good programs. We have taken some guys that have developed. Percy came from an excellent program, had great track times. That was a no brainer. You take a Wondy Pierre-Louise who didn’t play football for two years. He is from Haiti. He can run. He was very athletic, good kid, his high school coach did a good job. That’s a little bit more of a risk.
Q. Somebody can do sprint-type stuff, does that make speed more important on both sides?
COACH MEYER: No question. I think as the game continues to progress, you look at the Michigan and Ohio State traditionally what people say is slow. They are not slow. They are very fast. You look at Michigan’s skill and Ohio State’s skill, that’s why they are the best teams. Some of the other teams up north are handling the other teams very good. Michigan and Ohio State are fine because they equate to speed every theme they play.
Q. A lot of former coaches that have coached at Ohio State speak highly of the program. How much of an influence was that of you and how much do you look back fondly at your time at Ohio State?
COACH MEYER: That’s my outlook on college football and how it changed when I was hired at Ohio State. I played in a situation that wasn’t very good. It wasn’t a very good program. I get to Ohio State and met Earl Bruce and watch the way things are done and got a piece of that tradition.
Everything we do ties into building tradition, the Gator walk, singing the fight song with the student body. All those type of things I learned first at Ohio State.
Q. Did your playing at UC impact you as to what you wanted to do later in life?
COACH MEYER: (Nodding no.)
Q. Coach Beckman said he was excited that your kids would get together. Have you done that?
COACH MEYER: Today.
Q. Have you talked with him and Coach Heacock?
COACH MEYER: Last night was the first time.
COACH MEYER: Are you talking about the speed aspect? I think more importantly than the quarterback that runs fast, you look at Troy Smith won the Heisman trophy. I am sure Troy would say the same thing. You take Teddy Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, that’s not the Heisman Trophy.
Last year in four games, Chris Leak didn’t perform very well. Statistically he failed to perform. What people fail to mention, Dallas Baker was out, Chad Jackson had a hamstring issue, Bubba broke his leg and Cornelius had a sprained ankle. And we happen to play three defenses ranked in the top ten. I didn’t read that. It was just about how Chris was struggling.
It is Chris’s fault, his coach’s fault. Quarterbacks are the product of the speed around them, and our goal is not necessarily the fastest quarterback but have the fastest players in the country on either side of them.
COACH MEYER: I think that position, I feel very strongly about that. We really enjoy playing against quarterbacks that are immobile. The quarterback that cannot get you out of a problem, that’s a lot of fun. You ask our defense coaches, that’s a lot of fun to coach against. The guy like a Troy Smith, the guy like a Michael Vick or Brett Favre, everybody thought Brett Favre was a classic drop-back passer. He was not. What made him great was the ability to turn a bad play into a good play.
Alex Smith was very dangerous when you blitzed him because he is so smart, he moved and created plays and Tim is the same way. Chris has become much better at that and increased his value as a quarterback. The great quarterbacks have one thing in common, that’s that they can get you out of a bad play and that involves running.