Big Ten Media Day was yesterday, with each head coach in the conference taking their turn at the podium to answer questions from the media. It’s always interesting to hear the opinions, and politically correct answers, from each of the coaches each year, but this was especially unique in that it was Urban Meyer’s first as Ohio State’s head coach.
Today I want to take a look at each of his answers from the day, attempting to translate each one into what he would have liked to have said – or meant. Hey, when you spend half of your Twitter life speaking from the perspective of Urban Meyer’s Mustache – you feel well-qualified.
But before we get into Urb-Speak, let’s start with this: Bill O’Brien is handling his Penn State situation as well as anyone could. He’s saying the right things, and seemingly doing the right things. The student-athletes within that program deserve to have a leader to take them through the rest of their college football careers, and in O’Brien it looks like they have just that. He mentioned ‘turning the page’ multiple times during Media Day, speaking about accepting the situation and moving forward the only way they know how – by playing football.
Many personalities within the whole Penn State story don’t deserve such a direction. The players do, and O’Brien is providing it. Hats off to the new Nittany Lion head coach.
Speak to us, Urb……
First, it was exciting to see Meyer take the podium representing the university we love. I’ve written numerous times about his rock star status and the assumed future he has to offer for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but yesterday was one more bit of proof for our own eyes that he is indeed the Buckeyes’ head coach.
To kick things off, Urban stepped to the mic and gave us a pretty bland opening statement:
Thank you and I’m honored to be here representing the Big Ten and Ohio State University. I look forward to starting training camp a week from Friday (08.03.2012). With that I’ll answer any questions.
I only have one thing to say to this: It’s THE Ohio State University, damn it.
Asked about the initial group of players he inherited (and for some, recruited) that he’ll be taking into the Horseshoe this season, Meyer said the following:
I like our players, I like our team. We had a conditioning test that our players are telling me about. The energy level on our team in Columbus is real high right now. The thing I don’t understand or have a real grasp of is our opposition, our opponents. I don’t know the league real well. I’m anxious to get going.
I’m calling BS on Urb. He’ll certainly know the rest of the Big Ten teams after he’s play each of them a time or two, but to say he doesn’t have a grasp on his opponents is sandbagging. Meyer is the guy who refuses to be behind in anything, much less to his coaching counterparts. At a bare minimum he’s already familiarized himself with the Michigans and Wisconsins of the conference. Bowl or no bowl in 2012, the Ohio State staff has already proven that they wish to be the most prepared in every aspect of college football, from planning to recruiting to playing. To think he’s waiting until the week before to prepare for his rivals is bogus. He knows plenty more at this point than, “I don’t understand or have a real grasp of” the opponents he’ll start facing just thirty-five days from now.
Asked what he thought about how the Big Ten played football in comparison to his experience as a successful figure in the SEC:
You know the SEC the last few years was the king pin with the success they’ve had in the BCS. I watched a lot of Big Ten as we got ready to play in bowl games in recent years, though. I’ve seen the Big Ten change dramatically. Eight of the 12 teams are running some sort of spread offense right now. And then there (are) two option offenses and two traditional pro set offenses. That’s obviously a dramatic change. There’s some great defense in the league. There are several teams right now playing as good of defense as any team in America.
The one thing about college football is that it’s very cyclical. The Big Ten, for many, many years, was the number one conference in America. Right now, we’re not. But there are a lot of coaches and players intent on making it the best conference in America.
TRANSLATION: “Sh*t’s about to get real in Columbus. Bret Bielema, Mark Dantonio, Bo Pelini and Brady Hoke – keep up or get left behind. Whether the B1G as a whole catches the SEC in national status is up to you guys, but you can be damn sure The Ohio State Buckeyes will.”
When asked if he felt 2012 would be a buffer year between the controversy and he and his staff getting their system rolling at Ohio State, Meyer responded with this:
There’s no such thing as a buffer year. Certainly not at Ohio State, not in college football. One of the concerns I have, I’ve shared with my athletic director, relates to the preparation time after our last game; the kids are gone. I’ve never had to deal with that before. That’s a lot of time away from our guys. I’m going to do some research – I’m going to continue to do some research. We’ve got to put together a plan in place and that’s obviously going to be for the ’13 season. But we’re going to line up and try to win every game we play.
TRANSLATION: “Are you kidding me? We fully intend to win every single game we play this season in order to put the Associated Press in a position to name us co-national champions. We. Don’t. Accept. Losing. This isn’t Little League baseball. It’s major college football. It’s Ohio State. What in the h*ll is a buffer year?”
Asked his thoughts on other coaches trying to poach talent from Penn State’s roster in light of the recent NCAA sanctions, Meyer gave us perhaps the most interesting quote of his day:
I have a problem with that. Yeah, I have a problem with that.
When asked to elaborate:
I don’t know enough about it. I don’t know enough about the rules. If a player reaches out and says he wants out of here, “I’m gone”, he should have the right 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. A young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. However, when he’s part of a team, you’re getting in a situation I’m not quite very familiar with.
We’re not going to get very familiar with it.
The next questions was in reference to Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort being suspended, their charges reportedly being dropped, and how he felt about their return to the team. Meyer’s response:
Yeah, they’re not reinstated yet. They are actively working out. They do have the fulfil their penance or obligation we’ve asked them to do. Obviously the kind of people that they are, the families that they are from, we took away their scholarships. They had to pay for their summer schools. That was a very expensive mistake. As of right now they’ll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday.
Who says Urban doesn’t have morals? I love the stance he’s taken on Penn State. Does it have anything to do with preferring to find and mold his own talent? Certainly that’s a portion of it. But to take this stance, especially while in the presence of coaches who are actually guilty of trying to poach, says a lot about the character of our new head coach, especially in comparison to the reputation some media members in the south have tried to project on him.
I’ve agreed with how he handled ‘Burner and Mewhort from the get-go as well – stern, swift and fair. He’s stood by and continues to give the correct message to those involved, as well as their teammates.
Good for Urban. Good for Ohio State. Good for us.
Meyer was then pressed to continue with his thoughts on the gap between the Big Ten and the SEC. He responded with:
They have to win. They have to go win some bowl games. The bottom line is go win. However, how far are we from doing that? Coaches that have been in the conference for a while will know better than I do. When you ask me at this time next year, I’ll know a lot better. I know one thing, I know there are some very, very good teams in this conference, so I anticipate winning is not that far off.
In my opinion, Urban is speaking directly about his Buckeyes here…..or would like to. Yes, the overall strength of the conference matters to all involved, but his one and only goal – from a football standpoint – is to make the fans, “Proud of your players and your coaching staff, and we will make that happen.” Proud = national championships. Do you really believe he thinks any other way from an on-the-field standpoint?
Meyer also said, in response to a question asking him what a year in the broadcast booth did for his perspective:
It gave me a great respect for what you folks do. Especially for those that do it the right way and are respectful. It gave me an opportunity to go visit some other programs. You can’t do that (as an active coach). It gives you an opportunity to visit other staffs. Maybe its paranoia, but previously we didn’t let anybody in or anybody out. To be able to go discuss college football with your peers on a very open basis? I feel like I’m a better coach now. There’s a lot of effort that goes into covering the sport.
No translation needed here. If you look back to the access he had to other programs as part of the media (rather than a competitor), it probably gave him an interesting look into how other programs work. This is as straight forward as an answer comes and I was glad to see him not dodge this one. He gave a quick shout out to the media and answered the question honestly with regards to what he learned. I know, so he’s so boring! (imagine for a moment how Tress may have answered this one if in the same shoes)
When asked about the reported feud between he and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema over comments Bielema had made in response to Urban flipping Kyle Dodson to Ohio State, Meyer responded gracefully with:
We have a very, very good relationship. You’d have to ask Coach [Bielema], but we get along fine. We had a conversation about it at the Big Ten Meetings in February. A lot of the things that were reported weren’t said. We stand exactly by how we do things. Once again, it hasn’t been discussed again. There’s absolutely no problem with the way Ohio State does their business. That comes from the fellow coaches in the Big Ten Conference.
There’s a very good relationship with everyone in that room at the Big Ten Conference.
TRANSLATION: “I’m dropping 60 on the Badgers.”
After another SEC question (stinkin’ cheaters, booooooooo) and one more about Penn State, the media ended with a question about Michigan, more specifically on whether he had intentions of doing anything to add importance to The Game since there was no bowl game to look forward to afterwards this season. His response?
Sure. I don’t know if you can add any more importance to it, and the big reason is hopefully because there are two really good football teams that are going to play each other [then]. Hopefully there’s going to be a buzz about it. I haven’t made a decision about how we’re going to tackle that, other than it’s the biggest game of the year.
Meyer gets it, and always has. This is exactly where having another Ohio product at head coach helps in the rivalry. Much like Jim Tressel, Meyer will approach The Game each and every year with the goal of setting the record straight as to who owns the Big Ten Conference. Every story we hear about our head coach points to his ultra-competitive side. Do you think for a second he won’t have something up his sleeve to further intensify The Game in the mind of his players? The week of November 24th will be as interesting as any other Saturday in Columbus this year – and perhaps since the epic #1 vs. #2 battle from a few years back.
“Hopefully there’s going to be a buzz about it” ??
There already is.