After redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was ruled out for the season due to a fractured ankle suffered against Michigan, the Ohio State football team learned of the death of teammate Kosta Karageorge on Sunday evening.
While OSU refrained from commenting on the ongoing investigation surrounding Karageorge’s death or the player’s medical history, coach Urban Meyer addressed the media during his Monday press luncheon to discuss replacing Barrett and the Buckeyes’ upcoming Big Ten Championship Game matchup with Wisconsin.
After beating the Wolverines, 42-28, on Saturday, the Buckeyes concluded the regular season 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten. OSU sits at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff poll, and a new set of rankings are set to be released Tuesday evening.
- Meyer started off the press conference by praising OSU’s students and fans after the Buckeyes led the country in total attendance this season.
- Meyer also praised OSU’s senior class and said those players have earned respect.
- He noted the one thing this year’s seniors haven’t won is a Big Ten championship. “The one thing you notice I did not mention in there is a championship, and that’s an opportunity to get it done this week,” he said.
- Meyer said Barrett’s Sunday surgery went well and that he “talked to him last night.” He added Barrett was expected to be at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center sometime on Monday.
- Meyer said Barrett’s injury is similar to the one suffered by senior wide receiver Evan Spencer during OSU’s Orange Bowl loss to Clemson last season. Spencer has played in every game in 2014.
- “Obviously Evan’s recovered without any issues whatsoever, and so they’re anticipating the same with J.T.,” he said. “We love J.T., I personally have an incredible amount of respect for him.”
- Meyer said he doesn’t feel Barrett’s injury should remove him from the Heisman Trophy conversation. “He is a Heisman candidate too, and he should be invited to New York,” Meyer said. “And if he’s not, there’s something wrong.”
- Despite the Buckeyes’ No. 6 ranking, Meyer referred to his team as a “top-five” team in the nation.
- He said Wisconsin is an “excellent team” and added Badger coach Gary Andersen is a “great football coach.” The two worked together while Meyer was the head coach at Utah.
- He noted Wisconsin redshirt-junior running back Melvin Gordon is a Heisman candidate just like Barrett.
- Meyer said it’s “been a tough week” for OSU.
- He noted he does not agree with the decision that led to junior defensive lineman Noah Spence being ruled permanently ineligible.
- “Obviously a young man goes missing, and then obviously we lose J.T. Barrett and then obviously the tragic news last night,” Meyer said of the events unfolding over the past week.
- He said the Buckeyes are “an extremely close team who leans on each other at tough times.”
- “Every red flag is up,” Meyer said. “Every excuse to not play well, to not win a game, to lose a game.”
- He added the Buckeyes have “some really good built-in excuses” and said it’s going to be a challenge to overcome the “incredible tragedy” of Karageorge’s death.
- “This is so much deeper than lining up on a football field,” Meyer said.
- Meyer said the reason he was in a good mood Monday is because he’d “seen about 40 players come popping through, ‘Hey coach, how’s it going?’”
- “That’s what makes coaches’ days,” he said.
- Meyer said there’s nothing in the “coaching manual” about how to deal with a player’s death. “Just continue to grow and stay on your journey,” he said.
- On Karageorge’s time as a walk-on at OSU, Meyer said: “He loved it, he loved it. I had dinner with him a couple times, it just was such a short period to spend with him.”
- While redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones is set to start for OSU, Meyer said he hasn’t decided if a Jones injury would mean burning freshman quarterback Stephen Collier’s redshirt.
- Meyer said Jones has a “very good understanding” of the OSU offense and has taken reps with the starters in the past.
- He said the coaching staff plans to use Jones how they must in order to win the game, but have had conversations about whether or not they should limit his runs. “We’re not saving him for next week, the week after,” Meyer said. “We’re not saving anything, this is an opportunity to win a Big Ten championship.”
The Buckeyes and the Badgers are scheduled to play on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Kickoff is set for 8:17 p.m.