On Monday, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer addressed the media for his weekly press conference to reflect on the Buckeyes’ first loss of the season against Michigan State while also looking forward to the season finale against Michigan.
Here are three notes from what he said.
All eyes on Elliott
The whole college football world was talking about OSU’s loss, but more specifically, a lot of the attention was centered on Ezekiel Elliott’s postgame interview.
The junior running back put the coaching staff on blast about his low usage and confessed he spent time in the hospital with a leg infection, while also announcing he would be bolting for the NFL after this season.
As expected, Meyer addressed Elliott’s comments heavily on Monday.
“He’s a very well-thought of junior, and he gets a microphone stuck in his face, and obviously, we do not condone that and encourage that,” Meyer said. “Our rule is always talk about your teammates and move on. And he came to see me. We had a very long discussion — he’s great — and he apologized and he said, ‘You know, they didn’t have the whole interview in there.’”
But Meyer said he is not planning on listening to the rest of Elliott’s interview because they “squashed it as a team.”
Many thought Elliott’s frustration about only getting 12 carries in a game that was conducive to running football because of the weather was warranted, even if it was not the right time or place.
Meyer agreed with the substance of Elliott’s remarks but, as expected, was not happy with the way they were delivered.
“I couldn’t disagree with him, his comments, that he should have got the ball a little bit more but that’s not the place to do it,” he said. “That’s why I always like to decompress for at least a few minutes, because I’ve said some things I’m not very proud of, and I’m not saying that (Elliott’s comments are) not true, I’m just saying that’s not the forum to have those conversations.”
Meyer said he would have welcomed a conversation in private with Elliott about his carries, but the way Michigan State was crowding the line of scrimmage factored into the play-calling.
The coach acknowledged that he has to “do better” in that regard.
When asked if the running back’s comments were alarming and made him question Elliott’s character, Meyer was quick to knock it down.
Meyer said it was a “very isolated incident,” while noting that he feels Elliott is one of the most selfless football players he has ever been around.
In hindsight, the coach said he needed to feed Elliott a little more, but with a talented Michigan team on the horizon, Meyer wants to put it in the rearview mirror.
“I know I’m probably going to get another 64 questions on it, but it’s done,” Meyer said. “We’ve got a really good team coming up that we’re playing and we’ve got to move forward.”
Another hot-button issue that has developed as of late was the issue of players with eligibility remaining discussing their future plans.
During the week leading up to the game, junior defensive end Joey Bosa all but announced he would be turning pro after the 2015 campaign came to an end.
That was widely assumed, as the defensive end is considered one of the best prospects in next year’s draft. However, hearing Bosa be so open about his future plans did turn some heads.
Then, after the loss to Michigan State, Elliott said there was “no chance” he would be back for his senior season. Redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones added oxygen to that flame after the game when he posted photo of him walking into Ohio stadium before kickoff on Twitter saying how it was his last time walking on the steps into the ‘Shoe.
On Monday, Meyer was asked if he was concerned about the negative effects that players being so open about their future endeavors and how he balances that within the locker room.
Meyer pointed to his time at Florida in 2009 when a dozen players sent in paperwork to the NFL to inquire about the possibility of their draft stocks.
He admitted it causes “a little anxiety” for the coaching staff, but he said when so many players are talented enough to leave for the NFL early, it is a testament to the type of recruiting going on.
Players discussing their future plans causes concern in two areas, Meyer said. The first is staying focused on the task at hand, which with Michigan on the horizon, “is playing a very good team.”
The second is dealing with filling those voids in the recruiting department. Meyer said it can be a “nightmare” at times, but the coach maintained that it was a good problem to have because if none of his players were good enough to get drafted, that would be a bigger problem.
Everything considered, Meyer said “it’s not easy” dealing with players leaving, but his job remains the same.
“I have to just make sure we’re staying focused,” he said. “The good thing is, they’re really good guys … But there’s human nature out there, too.”
When the players came to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday, Meyer said he held a team meeting.
As imagined, the coach said there was a “knot” in everyone’s stomach after the loss. But Meyer said that is a good thing.
“I would be really disappointed if it wasn’t there,” he said. “Today, you like to assess most of the guys … They are moving on. And it’s always good.”
Meyer said he is trying to not be overly dramatic, but for him, Saturday “was a sleepless night.”
When he got back into the facility on Sunday and started to see the players showing up, Meyer said it made him start to feel better.
The coach recognized the challenges that await his squad with the Wolverines, as Meyer had nothing but praise for coach Jim Harbaugh’s team. But, even so, Meyer seemed to have no concerns about whether or not his players would respond against their archrival.