THE MODERATOR: We have Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer.
COACH MEYER: I’m honored to be here representing the Big Ten conference and Ohio State University and look forward to starting training camp a week from Friday.
With that, I’ll answer any questions.
Q. You’ve been in the job since November. How equipped do you think this team is to play at the level that you want them to this fall?
COACH MEYER: I like our players. I like our team. We had a conditioning test that our players are telling me about. And the energy level is real high right now in Columbus with our football team. So I’m anxious to get going.
The thing I don’t understand and really have a complete grasp of is our opposition, of our opponents, because I don’t know the conference very well. So the job is to see who plays a big part of it. As far as our football team, I like where we’re at and anxious to get going.
Q. When you were at Florida in your previous stops, how did you kind of view the way the Big Ten played football, and do you think that it’s changed in the recent years with an influx of new coaches such as yourself and several others just in the last two or three years?
COACH MEYER: Big Ten, the SEC, the last few years, is kind of the kingpin with the success they’ve had in the BCS. I have watched a lot of the Big Ten as we got ready to play some Bowl games in recent years. I see the Big Ten has changed dramatically.
As a matter of fact, I think it was eight out of the 12 teams are running some sort of spread offense right now. And then there’s two option offenses and then traditional offenses, and that’s obviously a drastic change from historically what you think of the Big Ten. So there’s a little bit of a movement.
There’s some great defense in this league, which there’s always been. But there’s several teams right now playing as good defense as anybody in America.
So I think it has changed, but it’s going to be interesting, the evolution, in the next few years with the coaching transitions that are taking place.
So the one thing about college football, it’s very cyclical. And the Big Ten for many, many years was without question the number one conference in America. Right now, we’re not, but there’s a lot of coaches and players right now very intent on making it the best conference in America.
Q. You talked about your lack of familiarity with some of these Big Ten opponents. The fact that you guys aren’t eligible for a Bowl game this year, does that allow you to kind of have that buffer year in order to get more familiar with the opponents you’re going to see in the Big Ten?
COACH MEYER: There’s no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State and certainly not with myself and our staff and our players. So there’s no buffer year. We’ll worry about Bowl games, and one of the concerns I have‑‑ and I shared it with my athletic director‑‑ is that the preparation time when we play our last game, the kids are gone, and I’ve never had to deal with that situation as far as preparing for the following season. That’s a lot of time away from your guys.
And so we’ve had that conversation. I’m going to do some research, continue to do some research. Our strength coach, after our last game against our rival, you simply shake their hands, give them a hug, and say see you in January. That’s going to be hard to do, so we have to put a plan together in place, and that’s going to be for the ’13 season. That’s the only issue. The issue is not the ’12 season at all. We’re going to line up and try to win every game we play. It’s just going to be: How do you handle the 2013 season.
Q. Do you have a problem with coaches being able to solicit players from Penn State right now?
COACH MEYER: I have a problem with that. I have a problem with that.
Q. Do you want to expand on that? Should there be some rules in place so you don’t have members of a coaching staff on another campus so close to a season?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know enough about it. I don’t know enough about the rules. A player has a right to choose, especially by the rules, to go where he wants. To actively go get a player on another team, I’m not sure‑‑ I really don’t understand the rules. I didn’t look into it. I’m not really sure of the rules with that.
But as a player, a young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. We have to keep that in mind. However, when he’s part of a team, you’re getting into a situation that I’m not quite very familiar with, and we’re not going to get very familiar with it.
Q. A question about Jake Stoneburner. I noticed the charges were dropped against him. Has any decision been made as far as reinstating him to the team? And Jack Mewhort as well?
COACH MEYER: They’re not reinstated yet. They’re actively working out. They have to fulfill their penance or obligation that we’ve asked them to do.
Obviously the kind of people that they are, the families they’re from, we did take their scholarships. They’ve had to pay for their summer school. Very expensive mistake. They’re doing what they are supposed to do. Monitoring it closely. And that decision won’t be made until we get to training camp. But as of now they’ll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday.
Q. There was a conversation earlier this week of culture of reverence as it pertains to the NCAA talking about how it pertains to Penn State. You have a lot of experience in being in major college football programs, seeing a lot. I wonder if you could talk about that, who in your life outside of your family that keeps you in check, among your assistants or your staff, make sure things don’t happen like what happened at Penn State?
COACH MEYER: That’s a tough question. I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. You said reverence. I’ve never really looked at it that way.
There’s a lot of things, if you’re asking me, personally there’s a lot of things in my life that I’ve never even approached even thinking that way.
How do I keep things in order, in check? I think humility is one, also understanding that we’re a product of those around us, and it’s never about the head football coach, it’s about a bunch of players which is most important and second most important is a group of coaches.
There’s a clear delineation of who is in charge. And that’s the great places I’ve been able to work and I report to someone and so there’s never the word reverence. Reverence I’ve never really had to deal with that. So I apologize I might not be answering your question, but I’ve never looked at it that way.
Q. What do you think it will take of Big Ten as a conference to kind of reach the level of the SEC, and do you think they can be at that level anytime in the next few years?
COACH MEYER: They have to win Bowl games. That’s the bottom line in all of this is to win. How far we are from that? The coaches in this conference would know much better than I would. I’ll know more obviously next year when you ask that same question I’ll have a much better understanding because I’ll be in the stadiums and I’ll know the teams much better.
But I know one thing: There’s some very good, I’ve watched enough film this summer, there’s some very good teams in this conference. I anticipate winning’s not that far off.
Q. Urban, what challenges, if any, were created by the sanctions and how well do you think you guys have done in dealing with those sanctions in recruiting?
COACH MEYER: The media‑‑ we talked about this last December when we got hit, got hit with that two‑by‑fourthat day they said you can’t go to a Bowl game, it was a two and a half week barrage of negativism and the recruiting that we were dealing with.
Number one is a recruiting issue that Penn State will deal with that we had to deal with in December. However, one thing that it also does you find out who wants to be a Ohio State Buckeye. And I don’t want to speak for Coach O’Brien but he’s going to find out who exactly wants to be on his team. There’s not going to be half‑ins anymore.
And that’s the same thing with recruiting. So number one was recruiting. The number two thing which I’ve not had to deal with yet, well, I had to deal with was the free agency part of the process where our kids, I believe our seniors were allowed to leave.
We’re very fortunate none did. And the third component of the whole situation we’re dealing with is not being able to play in a Bowl game. I’m struggling with that.
I have some incredible leaders on the team. You have three of them you’re going to visit with. We’ve started a leadership committee that I meet with them very often. And at the appropriate time I’m going to start having those conversations with them.
But right now I just don’t think that’s appropriate. That it’s going too well, the off‑season is going too well, the energy is too high. That’s the first bridge to cross, the second one is the free agency and the third one is the actual motivation of a team when there’s nothing at the so‑called nothing at the end of the season.
Q. Can you reflect back on the year you spent in the broadcast booth, did it give you different perspective on things? Were you able to learn anything?
COACH MEYER: It gave me great respect with what you folks do and especially the ones that really do it the right way and respectful.
And it really gives me, gave me an opportunity to go visit some other programs, and you can’t do that, especially myself, I got in a little bit of a cocoon, I don’t know if it was paranoia, wouldn’t let anybody in. We certainly didn’t let anybody out.
I think one of the great things that certainly in college football it’s always evolving, and to go study other programs and take ideas and discuss it with your peers, I was able to do it on a very open basis. And I feel like I’m a better coach now.
But the first question was just a lot of respect for the amount of effort and work that goes into covering the sport, especially when it’s done the right way.
Q. In February you had an incident or accusation from Wisconsin and Bret Bielema. Did you have a chance‑‑ did you sort out that issue, clear the air? And secondly is it important for you to have a good working relationship with all the other coaches around the league?
COACH MEYER: We have a very, very good relationship. I think you’d have to ask coach, but we get along fine. We had a conversation about it at the Big Ten meetings, I believe it was in February. A lot of the things that were reported weren’t said.
We stand by exactly the way how we do things. And from my understanding, once again, it hasn’t been discussed again, there’s absolutely no problem whatsoever with the way Ohio State does their business.
And that comes from the fellow coaches in our Big Ten conference. You asked the question, is it important to have? Absolutely. I can’t see it any other way.
We had that in the SEC and we certainly have that in the Big Ten. A lot of times things start getting‑‑ I start reading something and I’ll read it and say that wasn’t said or where are they trying to go with this?
And there’s a very good relationship with everybody in that room with the Big Ten conference as well as when I was in the SEC.
Q. I heard you earlier this summer mention defensive front seven speed in the SEC. Is that maybe the single most defining characteristic about what advantage that league might have right now?
COACH MEYER: I think that, and I also think just overall team speed right now. We’re addressing that. I notice it on special teams, in spring practice I noticed that, whether you’re three or four, your next best player. So I just think overall athleticism right now we’re a little bit behind. But we’re recruiting with that motive, with that intention and I’m real proud to say it’s going very well.
But I think without question I’m not the only one that says that. The defensive front seven in that conference, in the SEC, is the difference‑maker right now. But it’s a little bit deeper than that.
Q. All the things going off the field right now between Penn State and your school, you have to square up against Coach O’Brien later in the season. What are your thoughts just looking forward to getting on the field and Coach O’Brien being in the league and you guys squaring up?
COACH MEYER: Having a very good plan on third down and 6, taking care of the football. Tackle very well. Coaches‑‑ I can’t speak for Coach O’Brien. I have a lot of respect with the way he’s handling, everything he’s saying.
However, I don’t really know him that well but I know his background with Coach O’Leary and Belichick, I know what he’s saying. Play very good defense. Take care of the ball on third down. 45percent conversion. That’s what coaches think about. They’re not worried about all the stuff. Just make sure you execute very well on Saturday.
Q. Bowl game and championship game off the table, do you think any more added importance is placed on the Michigan game at the end of the year?
COACH MEYER: Sure. I don’t know if you can add any more to it. And the big reason is hopefully by the end of the season there’s going to be two really good football teams that are going to go play each other.
But I think that will be‑‑ I certainly imagine in our home stadium there will be a buzz about that. I’ve already heard it. And I haven’t made that decision on how we’re going to attack that game other than it’s the biggest game of the year and we will get ready for it.
THE MODERATOR: We have Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer.