Marla Ridenour participated in a Google Hangout video from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis with Bleacher Report and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
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I’m not totally surprised at Monday’s announcement that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is returning as CEO of Pilot Flying J. In the final episode of “NFL Road Tested” on the Travel Channel, Haslam is seen asking how much he would be needed in Berea in the off-season. Clearly he was already thinking of returning to his “first love” in Knoxville.To read more or comment...
Here's what Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday afternoon at his 2013 signing day press conference in Columbus.
COACH MEYER: We hit three out of three. So very pleased. Our first year together as a coaching staff last year did not count because that was not a coaching staff. That was a bunch of guys coming together like a bunch of gypsies trying to find players anywhere we could find them. We did pretty good.
You look at those kids who helped us play this year, and the futures of last year's class is pretty strong. But I wouldn't consider that a great recruiting effort. That was, like I said, a bunch of cowboys out there trying to find players.
This year it was a full cycle of recruiting. And very impressed with our coaching staff. I'm going to name a couple of them. Not to devalue some of the other efforts, but some of the efforts were -- I've seen some really good efforts. Everett Withers from start to finish, his effort on Vonn Bell, as good as I've ever seen. The octopus approach, surround him, wrap your tentacles around him, and every person in his family, his coach, the people, support group, and the way he closed that, the way we finished that with that young man, and the way we handled it on campus, and you just saw when you saw his press conference, I was so proud the way he handled himself and the fact that we did it the right way from start to finish.
And that's all about a relationship to go pull the guy out of that area of the country and have him be a Buckeye.
Tom Herman did an excellent job down in Texas, an area that traditionally has not been strong for Ohio State. I wish I could claim I had more experience in Texas. I've been there quite a bit.
But Tom set the wheels in motion, and we pulled three excellent players out of an excellent football state with Mike Mitchell, J.T., and Dontre.
And then the effort of Tim Hinton in state, I think Jalin Marshall is a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait till signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted. He made a decision because he loves Ohio State, wants his family to watch him play, and I think he's one -- I don't think -- everybody knows he's one of the finest players in the country. And he's even an a better person.
So those are a couple of examples of -- I think Luke Fickell did a great job with the two backers we got. We got Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson, because a lot of crazy stuff was going on with Trey Johnson with people trying to pull him in certain directions.
So you're going to hear stories about it's a feeding frenzy out there. It is. And sometimes you'll hear people say take a -- say, okay, Ohio State, or myself or someone, say you offer committed players.
Let me make this real clear: Everybody does that. And it's not wrong. Okay. At the end of the day the young person has the right to go to any school he likes. If one school is better than the other, fits his personality, if something is going on illegally, that's a whole different animal.
But at the end of the day the 17- or 18-year-old man has a right to go to any school he wants. So when some school comes after Trey Johnson full speed ahead, I might get like worried, but you can't get upset, because if it's a better situation for him than Ohio State, whose choice is it? The media? No, it's not your choice. It's not the coach's choice. It's the 18-year-old's choice and his family's to go to whatever school he wants.
Our coaches did a really good job, especially in the Trey Johnson situation, hanging on with both hands and, once again, surrounding himself.
Pleased with the coaching staff. And now we go from recruiting phase to preparation phase, and we've got to get them ready to play because really we don't redshirt here at Ohio State. We're going to recruit guys and get them on the field as fast as we can when they're ready and push them to be ready.
And that's the same thing we do when we tell them when they come visit our campus, we're not recruiting you to sit for a year or two and we'll try to get you ready. We want to go recruit guys who are ready to jump in the fire and want to go play as soon as they can.
And I think on defense I'm just going to real fast get asked the question: What were your needs on defense? Really all positions. To say we needed back end help, no, we need it all the way across. We're a little bit light on defense, and I think we answered a lot of our concerns once we develop them.
On defense you can see the back end. The secondary players are all long players, which means good size to them. Obviously good speed. Backers. We have two impact players we're projecting, and then the defensive line we've got good guys and defensive ends, too. Hit a couple good, solid -- some great players on the defense line we're hoping.
On offense, the one area that we didn't close well enough is the offensive line. We wanted to get some playmakers, and we have two sub 10 500-meter players coming in, which is real fast. 10 500 meters is a benchmark we'll use from here on out. You have to have a couple of guys like that on your team.
Big plays are a problem for us. And we have I think Dontre and Jalin and James Clark, so we have actually three guys that we would put in that category.
So with that said, questions?
Q. Where is the talent level now on this team? When you took over a year ago, obviously it wasn't exactly where you wanted it to be. How close are you to being where it needs to be and how much development is needed?
COACH MEYER: It was pretty good. We went 12-0. I think we were built a little differently. But to say we never had talent, I never said that. We maybe didn't have the home-run hitter explosiveness, open-space players on offensive, but you know what? Some guys really grew up and did a good job for us. Philly Brown did a nice job. We don't have enough. When you run into an offense where you can split guys all the time and you only have one or two, that's not enough.
So I think we're starting to get a little bit of that built up where you're having a Jalin to put out there, and Dontre can play that, that's what he'll do as well. And you can break the formation a little bit and have guys in space.
So that's the only -- that's the only area if you say, boy, Ohio State wasn't very talented, I wouldn't say that at all. Ohio State was talented.
We just didn't have enough -- making miss guys on offense would be the one area, and I think we addressed that.
Q. Urban, number one, would you describe this -- SEC country went down and got James Clark and Vonn Bell, some other guys, you go to Texas get three guys, you go to (indiscernible) going to Oregon at one point. How would you describe what you're doing as far as transforming this program, I guess, and what you're after? (Indiscernible) comment about the SEC.
COACH MEYER: We recruit Ohio. And what happened last year was we got behind the eight ball a little bit. We're not going to offer a player until we get to know him.
So this time last year we closed a class. Next week all of a sudden offers started jumping all over the place in state kids in Ohio. And I had never met them.
The one advantage, we're already knee deep in '14 players, 2014 players. We didn't have that luxury a year ago. And so some of the kids early committed, right out of the get-go, where is my offer? We're like, well, we like to see you in camp and get to know you a little bit.
We were behind the eight ball a bit. I would rather probably get another three or four from the in state from now on.
We're much further ahead now than we've ever been since I've been here, which is only a year. We're much further ahead. So we would rather not be so much national. Do want to cherry pick -- we have a presence in Texas. Cam Heyward and Roby really helped us. Once you get a couple, you start getting more. They helped us in Georgia. Ohio State has a history in Florida.
My background is in Florida. We got a couple of players out of there. Texas was a new one. Tom Herman's footprint on that that really helped us. So we'd much rather have more of a base here and then start branching out a little bit later.
Q. Is there a certain athletic type you're definitely looking for now?
COACH MEYER: Us and 130 other schools, yeah, guys that run really fast and are tough. And I heard about what Vonn Bell said and all that. I think there's a little bit of a chase going on after the SEC. That's fine. You've got to give credit where credit's due.
If that's a perception that we're chasing them, that's fine. I wouldn't disagree with you. But we're trying to -- we want to increase our speed on our team a little bit.
Q. Toughest battle, what was the toughest battle from your vantage point, of guys you got so far?
COACH MEYER: Vonn Bell was -- I mean, that was a street fight. I mean, up until two minutes I was on the treadmill because I couldn't take it anymore. I went out there on the treadmill.
I'm sitting out there I wanted to get away from our coaches, and poor Everett Withers was driving me nuts. Had to get away from him. He walked up, and I got the phone call when he walked up.
And Trey Johnson. Trey Johnson, that was nonstop. Couple of SEC schools that were just ruthless. I wouldn't say ruthless, just did a good job going after them as hard as they could.
We hung in there, got it done.
Q. If you look at the two classes, it seems like last year you had so many guys on the offensive and defensive lines, this year there's a lot of speed skilled positions. Obviously you always want them. Is there a bigger priority last year on building on the inside and this year staying on the outside? Is that fair to say or not?
COACH MEYER: I think last year was a big emphasis on "D" line. We were just trying to find the best players possible that had interest in Ohio State. This year was a concerted effort to go find fast guys.
And we had to -- in the back end, we're going to have three safeties walk out the door next year that are good players. We had to get some safeties.
We had Travis Howard and Roby. Travis is gone and Roby was almost gone. We had a big emphasis on corners. And "D" line is every year. You always have to sign that many "D" linemen.
The area we had to do better was offensive line. Offensive line we got two. We're going to have four starters walk out the doors next year this time. And we're not prepared for that. And so that's area number one. And 1A, 1B, 1C is offensive line men for next year.
Q. With the skilled guys, is that a position that's feasible for them to come and contribute right away?
COACH MEYER: Yes, we've had great success with the skilled guys that can come in, whether it be a corner or offensive receiver especially these guys, I think they're going to help us.
Q. You had a couple of guys reference Alabama today, Vonn Bell for sure. Kind of similar to Tim's question. Obviously I'm guessing they got that from you, going after a battle. Are you declaring war on Alabama today? I need a sound bite (laughter).
COACH MEYER: No, absolutely not. We have one rival, and that rival has been dictated many, many years ago. One rival, and that rival is clear. And they had a good recruiting class as well, by the way. Good for the Big Ten conference.
I think anytime you're in SEC country recruit, I think anytime teams start talking about who is the king of the hill right now, those words might come out of people's mouths, including mine once in a while.
But, no, make it real clear there's one rival. There's one person we're going after, and that's our rival. That was dictated many, many years ago. So that's it.
Q. I know this past few months has been a whirlwind, this past year. I guess going forward -- I guess it's hard to imagine, the amount of energy you guys have put in recruiting. Going forward, what's your take on the new rules that will allow you to put more energy?
COACH MEYER: Bad stuff. That's stuff we're going to have -- the Big Ten conference is going to meet. I'm putting together a personal letter to all the coaches in America. I disagree with most of them. I know there's some people, I would imagine not many of them were recruited who wrote those letters. That's my question, who comes up with that. Have they actually got in a car and went and recruited sophomores in high school and said, think about this for a second, unlimited mailings and you can mail them whenever you want? Just take a deep breath, and whoever said that put that in motion. Could you imagine what's going to be rolling into kids' driveways and fatheads and magnets. It's nonsense.
So, no, there's going to be a lot of conversation I'm sure about that. But, no, we're not -- I'm not -- I don't want to speak on behalf of Gene Smith, but I keep hearing deregulation. I'm not a big fan of deregulation. I'm a big fan of firm, harsh penalties for people who break rules, not saying just go -- we can't follow all this stuff so have at it. I don't agree with that at all.
Q. You talked about the relationships you have to build with recruits throughout the process. Specifically with James Clark, you guys got involved mid January he said today after committing. Have you been involved in all your years with somebody you've come together that quickly with? There was another school that he spent many, many visits to and ended up picking you guys over them. Have you been in one like that?
COACH MEYER: That was a unique situation. We actually had contact with him early on. But, no, that was a unique situation. Dontre was much different. Dontre, Coach Herman, I remember talking to him last March, last February. So that was a yearlong recruiting process.
You're right, James Clark was kind of -- we had a young man tell us he was coming and ended up not coming and we went to get the best receiver. When I saw his film, and then I even found out what kind -- he's a 3.9 student. He's got a fantastic father. And I know that area really well. And so we just dove right in, and he turned out to be a great fit for us. That's very unusual.
Q. When you look at where this program was last year when you took over coming off the season and the scandal coming off 12-0 season with one of the top recruiting classes in the country, what can you say about the transformation of where you've been able to take this program from when you started to right now?
COACH MEYER: I think it's obviously very different. I use the term flavor of the week. It's momentum, whatever it is. There's a lot of good stuff going on here. But this is the kind of place that should be going on.
So a year removed, I'm very -- if you had to say are you pleased with where we're at, I'm pleased with where we're at. I think our guys recruit really hard. Fundamentally we're not where we need to be as a football team. But we're working hard at it. We have good coaches, good people, great support staff. And most importantly walk in the locker room there's a bunch of players I love being around.
I speak -- when I say "I," I speak on behalf of our coaching staff. Pleased with where we're at.
Q. Being at 82 instead of 85, does that affect anything you did?
COACH MEYER: That was awful. It was horrible. Can't take three more players. It's like a toothache. I mean, every time you say, okay, let's -- well, we can't. Let's -- we can't, we can't. Then you start juggling the numbers.
So, yeah, it's significant. Those are three -- someone says you only have three scholarships less. Wait a minute. That could be three Braxton Millers or John Simons.
Three scholarships is a significant amount. It's not easy to deal with.
Q. Did you have to back off any kids that you had?
COACH MEYER: No. Probably made a couple of mistakes. We probably made a couple of mistakes.
No, we had to back off some guys that were -- some offers were there, and then we said, no, we're going to have to pull that offer. And that's hard to do sometimes.
Q. You get one more today. Would you make your number in August?
COACH MEYER: No, I'm not prepared to answer that. We will make the number in August. That's a problem if we don't.
Q. What are the possibilities since you've listed him as an athlete as Troy Smith was when he arrived?
COACH MEYER: I see him being a potential dual threat. Hybrid, you might hear the term. That became kind of famous back when Percy started -- the Percy name and all that.
He's a guy that can run inside, outside, and also go -- he had 46 catches or something, he had 35 -- 700 yards receiving and he had I think 1800 yards rushing.
So there's not many people in the country that can do that. That was most appealing to me when I saw that, along with the 20.8 200 meters. That's a very unusual athlete.
So to answer your question, he'll be able to do both.
Q. You mentioned if you went three out of three today you would consider that knocking it out of the park. And you did that. Vonn Bell, James Clark, and then waiting on one more you can't mention that you feel good about. Is that safe to say?
COACH MEYER: Vonn Bell, James Clark, and Dontre Wilson.
Q. And you're waiting on one more, and you feel good about the one you're waiting on?
COACH MEYER: Yeah. Yeah, we've been told good things.
Q. You talked about getting on the treadmill and everything. What emotions -- what's it like when you're waiting on a Vonn Bell?
COACH MEYER: It's awful.
Q. Game day-type feel?
COACH MEYER: Yes. If you bottled it, I wouldn't have it around me that often. You know, it's fine if you feel your team's prepared, if you're ready to go, it's not that bad a feeling. Just sit in the locker room getting ready to go play.
It's that when you're not quite sure, did we cover this, is this group prepared, is this guy prepared, did we cover this, that's a bad feeling. Same thing with recruiting.
With Vonn Bell, I say it was awful. It really wasn't awful because I was very involved in that. I know the guy that recruited him, and it was as good a job as I've ever witnessed. And it was good people you're dealing with.
So if he would have called me said, You know what, I'm going here, I would have said, I love you, I wish you well, because you've got a great family and you're going to have a great life.
And it was no nonsense going on. We all have a million stories about where we think is -- it's just things that shouldn't be going on and you're not being honest or people -- people aren't being honest with you, that's when you don't feel good about the situation.
But that situation, you'll really enjoy meeting Vonn Bell and his family. First-class family.
Q. You mentioned Jalin Marshall, one kid that had waited. Are there kids on this list -- fans and everything get wrapped up in those last few guys. There's guys that you had committed a long time ago that signed today. I don't want to put you on the spot, but are there some guys that you think people don't -- aren't thinking about right now that you're equally excited about?
COACH MEYER: If you don't mind, I'll take a couple of minutes and go through them.
I think we have two corners that if they didn't early commit would be as good a corner as there are in America, and that's Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, and they're doing a fine job for us right now.
I think J.T. Barrett, when he did the Elite 11 and some of the feedback we got from him, if he didn't hurt his knee in some situation, if he didn't early commit, he would be another guy we'd be scratching and clawing and have a parade for him if he would have come on signing date.
Joey Bosa, without question, one of the best players in the country, and a guy that committed early.
The other guy, Billy Price. Billy Price is 6'4", 305 from Austintown, Fitch High School. He would have been one of those guys that put nine hats out there, that he would have thrown the Ohio State hat, there would have been a big celebration around here. We believe he's that good of a player and that good of a person.
Evan Lisle turned out to be -- he's probably the most improved. He's a guy we had to really think about taking, his development, and he comes from a great high school, Centerville High School. I talked to some coaches who coached him down in the All-American Bowl, one of the most improved players. Started over some other big-time athletes.
So and then the name you say is Jalin Marshall. He's the guy that I just have a great relationship, we all do, have a great relationship with him and his family. They're first-class people. I just envision him -- not that I want him to do -- I would rather recruit Stu the way he did it, but can you imagine Ohio State University and the state of Ohio and Buckeye Nation if he would have waited and put on a hat? That would have been a great day. Because we think he's certainly if not the best player in Ohio, one of them.
Q. You're obviously the closer. I'm curious about the openers, your assistants. When you put a staff together, how important is their ability to recruit, not just work hard? Maybe there's a gift there. Can you speak to that? Do you have them research guys?
COACH MEYER: Oh, yeah. That's number one. That's number one. The way I evaluate coaches and the way I look when I put a staff together is go out and find quality student-athletes is number one job description. Number two is you take care of your group, your players. And the third one is you can help us put together offensive and defensive schemes. Offensive and defensive schemes in college, much different than pros, because it's number three on the list.
Number one is you have to go find players. If you as a coach can't bring in a good player, your value, there's no value. Because it's the lifeblood of what we do, is finding good players.
Q. (Indiscernible) Texas so that's part of the whole idea of bringing them in?
COACH MEYER: No, that was all part of the deal. I mean, whenever you hire a quarterback -- I should -- I'm not being completely honest with you, coordinator is a little bit different, but I knew very well Tom had a background in Texas and I knew he's a good recruiter, because I did the homework before we hired him. Very good recruiter.
Q. Talk about your chief rival being Michigan. They've got nine guys out of Ohio. Are they coming in to challenge you as much as --
COACH MEYER: They've always come down here.
Q. More so lately, perhaps.
COACH MEYER: I haven't been here, but I understand it, I asked the same question. They've always been -- that school's always had great Ohio players on there, a couple -- a Heisman Trophy winner, too.
COACH MEYER: Two? Yeah. So they've always -- it's not just them. Everyone's going to -- you're going to come to Ohio to get great players. There's well-coached players in America in the state of Ohio. It's old-fashioned football, old-fashioned coaching.
And the one thing I love about the players in the state of Ohio, the respect factor is there. In my opinion, is greater or more than greater than any state in the country, where the high school coach is still in charge of the program. When you go meet with a player in Ohio, you're going to meet with his high school coach. And you can't say that about all the states across the country. That's my favorite part about recruiting the state of Ohio.
Cornerback / 6-0, 184
Voorhees, N.J./Eastern High School
Overview: Eli Apple, who enrolled into Ohio State in January, is a five-star prospect (ESPN 150) who is
rated as high as the No. 11 prospect nationally on the ESPN 150 … the No. 1 prospect in New Jersey and
No. 6 cornerback prospect (247Sports) … he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after helping
his Eastern High School team, coached by Dan Spittal, to a 7-4 record in 2012 and to a regional
semifinals berth … had 17 pass break-ups, two interceptions, 45 tackles, three forced fumbles and a
blocked kick in 2012, plus 39 receptions for 770 yards and four touchdowns on offense … was the fourth
in this class to commit (on Feb. 16, 2012) … the son of Annie and Tim Apple, Eli recently changed his
last name from Woodard to Apple to honor Tim, his father since age 2 … “...I am the man I am today
because of his tireless love, and commitment to our family,” Eli said in a statement. “So it is with great
pride and honor to carry his last name. I am truly blessed to be Eli Apple.” … his family includes a
younger sister, Jordan.
Eli Apple, CB, 6-0, 184, Voorhees, N.J. (Eastern)
J.T. Barrett, QB, 6-1, 225, Wichita Falls, TX (Rider)
Marcus Baugh, TE, 6-4, 245, Riverside, CA (J.W. North)
Vonn Bell, S, 6-1, 190, Rossville, GA (Ridgeland)
Joey Bosa, DL, 6-5, 270, Fort Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Cam Burrows, CB, 5-11, 200, Trotwood, OH (Trotwood Madison)
James Clark, WR, 5-11, 170, New Smyrna Beach, FL (New Smyrna Beach)
Gareon Conley, ATH, 6-2, 170, Massillon, OH (Washington)
Tim Gardner, OL, 6-5, 320, Indianapolis, IN (Lawrence Central)
Michael Hill, DL, 6-2, 305, Pendleton, S.C. (Pendleton)
Trey Johnson, LB, 6-2, 220, Lawrenceville, GA (Central Gwinnett)
Tyquan Lewis, DE, 6-3, 223, Tarboro, NC (Tarboro)
Darron Lee, ATH, 6-2, 205, New Albany, OH (New Albany)
Evan Lisle, OL, 6-6, 290, Centerville, OH (Centerville)
Jalin Marshall, WR, 6-0, 190, Middletown, OH (Middletown)
Mike Mitchell, LB, 6-4, 225, Plano, Texas (Prestonwood Christian)
Donovan Munger, DL, 6-3, 290, Shaker Heights, OH (Shaker Heights)
Billy Price, DL, 6-4, 305, Austintown, OH (Fitch)
Corey Smith, WR, 6-1, 180, Akron (Buchtel, E. Mississippi CC)
Tracy Sprinkle, DE, 6-2, 241, Elyria, OH (Elyria)
Jayme Thompson, DB, 6-2, 185, Toledo, OH (Central Catholic)
Dontre Wilson, ATH, 5-10, 174, DeSoto, TX (DeSoto)
Christopher Worley, S, 6-3, 195, Cleveland (Glenville)