COLUMBUS – It almost sounded like Urban Meyer was borrowing from Bill Belichick during his weekly press conference on Monday.
Whenever the subject Ohio State’s loss to Iowa two weeks ago or the College Footbal Playoff, he said there would be “zero discussion” of it.
He used the word “zero” six times during his 15 minutes at the microphone. It was reminiscent of Belichick saying, “We’re on to Cincinnati,” five times in a postgame press conference, alluding to the New England Patriots’ next opponent after a 41-14 loss to the Denver Broncos in 2014.
Big Ten East Division leader Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) plays Illinois (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten) on Saturday.
Here are some highlights from Meyer’s press conference:
• FOCUSED ON THIS WEEK: When asked about the College Football Playoff, Meyer said, “There will be zero conversation around here, especially when you talk to the players. There will be zero conversation about what happened before and what’s going to happen in the future. Zero.”
• HIGH ON TAILBACKS: Meyer said Ohio State’s running backs group, led by J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, is “as strong right now as we’ve ever had it as far as depth,” he said.
“That was against the No. 1 rush (defense) team in America, at least top five. And I thought our backs ran really hard. They played fresh and they played fast and they played hard. J.K. had 18 (carries) and Mike had 9 or 10, something like that. I liked the mix,” he said.
• TWO OPINIONS ON TARGETING: There were two targeting penalties called on the Buckeyes in the Michigan State game and Meyer agreed with the replay verdict on one, but not the other.
“Denzel Ward’s was a mistake. That’s where the replay official should not be replay official anymore,” Meyer said. “The guys on the field make mistakes, it happens fast. But a replay official screws it up, then you can’t do that.”
He agreed with the verdict on another targeting call against Dre’Mont Jones. “It was a late hit. You don’t do that,” Meyer said.
• LINEBACKER CHANGES: With starters Jerome Baker and Dante Booker out with injuries last week, Tuf Borland started at middle linebacker and Chris Worley returned to outside linebacker, where he played last season against Michigan State.
Asked if those position changes might become permanent, Meyer said, “That’s the conversation we’re having right now.”
• PRICE’S STREAK: Meyer called Billy Price’s school record 51 starts in a row, “one that will be hard ever to be broken.”
“We have great respect for Billy Price,” he said.
Price was named the Offensive Player of the Game. Damon Arnette and Borland shared the Defensive Player of the Game honors.
Arnette had to leave the game with a thigh bruise and is “probable” this week Meyer said
• QUARTERBACKS A NECESSITY: Having a quarterback in every recruiting class is a necessity, Meyer said.
“You have to have one every year,” he said. “That’s setting yourself up for disaster if something goes on down the road. So you always have Plan A, B, C and D. And we do.
“Quarterback is a unique position. Offensive guard, you can take two of them. Receivers, you can usually take two or three. They’re all critical positions. The quarterback, that’s the position. There’s just a lot of time and a lot of effort spent on that position.”
•FAREWELL TO J.T.: Quarterback J.T. Barrett will be among the players playing their final game in Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Asked about quarterback J.T. Barrett’s farewell to Ohio Stadium, Meyer said, “It’s well documented that I love J.T. He is a member of the Meyer family and the Buckeye family for the rest of his life. I just want to play really well and do the best we can to prepare him to play very well.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau