Ohio State coach Urban Meyer hosted his weekly Monday press conference to discuss a variety of topics stemming from the aftermath of the Buckeyes’ 28-3 win over Illinois and a look ahead at their highly anticipated matchup against Michigan State.
Here are three notes from the press conference inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Monday.
Fixing the pass protection
After the win in Champaign, Illinois, Meyer said the one unit he was not happy with at this point in the season was the pass protection for redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Barrett was under pressure throughout the game on Saturday, finishing 15-of-23 for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception that was a direct result of incoming pressure.
“It’s not just one thing because sometimes we get our tight ends involved in it, and they weren’t great Saturday. And then just a guy getting beat here and there in the lap of the quarterback, so we’ve just got to get a little firmer,” Meyer said.
Meyer said before facing a team like Michigan State, shoring up a weakness like that will be a premier focus in practice.
“We’re not that way in our pass protection, so we’re going to work at it really hard,” Meyer said. “This is a real week to work at it.”
One player who particularly struggled on Saturday was redshirt senior right tackle Chase Farris, leading some to speculate a change at the position could happen, namely in the form of sophomore Jamarco Jones.
However, Meyer quashed those rumors on Monday.
“No, no, Jamarco Jones is the next man in, and he’s getting better and better, but at this point, no,” Meyer said in response to a question about if a change at right tackle was possible.
The senior class
Meyer took time during his press conference to rave about the senior class, which will be playing its final game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
“Last game in the Horseshoe and they’ll be honored,” he said. “And sometimes you honor senior classes and you honor them because I guess you have to honor senior classes, and other times you honor senior classes because of the contributions to great university and a great football program or kind of over the top, and this one is.”
Meyer pointed out that the four-year seniors, who arrived in Columbus the same year he did for the 2012 season, have already set an OSU program record with 48 wins, as well as a current national-record 30-game conference winning streak and separate winning streaks of 24 and 23 games.
“These kids really, I look at these names. It’s going to be a tough day,” Meyer said. “Senior day is always a tough day, especially for the guys that are really invested.”
Joel Hale, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett and Bryce Haynes are fifth-year seniors who will be honored on Saturday, while Warren Ball, Cam Williams, Tommy Schutt, Adolphus Washington, Jacoby Boren, Taylor Decker and Joshua Perry are fourth-years who will say goodbye.
Meyer later said that players who are expected to leave after the season but have not yet achieved senior eligibility — such as junior running back Ezekiel Elliott and junior defensive end Joey Bosa — will not be among the players honored.
“I think that’s just the way we’ve done it in the past here,” Meyer said. “I think you have to be a senior or at least four years in the program.”
Each week Meyer dishes out “champions” for player performances in the previous week’s game. In the aftermath of the Illinois win, Meyer named 19 players that stood out against the Fighting Illini.
The heavy majority of the players came on the defense, which featured 13 champions. Redshirt sophomore defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis and Michael Hill, Washington, Schutt, redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Hubbard, Perry, redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee, redshirt sophomore cornerback Gareon Conley, junior safety Vonn Bell and redshirt junior safety Tyvis Powell were named champions. Additionally, Bosa, redshirt sophomore cornerback Eli Apple and sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan were named co-defensive players of the game.
On offense, Elliott took home player of the game honors, while redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas, sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel, redshirt junior right guard Pat Elflein and Decker were named champions.
Samuel was also recognized on special teams, as he was named special teams player of the game after deflecting a punt in the first half.