Every time Urban Meyer holds a press conference, I’m reminded he was a psychology major in college.
(Full disclosure: Psychology was my favorite subject in school. I did so well in the classes run by one of the toughest professors on campus, some suggested I switch majors. Think about it. Instead of slumped on my sofa, watching hours of SportsCenter and pondering my next column, I could be using my couch for a more useful purpose, raking in big bucks and basking in the PhD behind my name — and it wouldn’t stand for “poor, hungry, driven” like it does now.)
Anyway, I’m almost as fascinated with the way Meyer pushes players’ buttons as I am with the way he manuevers and massages his offenses.
Who doesn’t think he was lighting a fire under his passing game personnel with his “clown show” comment the first year?
How many times have we heard him recount how so-and-so looked like crap when Meyer arrived in Columbus, and was down to his last strike, only to become one of Meyers’ favorite players? He has this gift for backhanded compliments, which keep the players from getting swollen heads.
Ask Kenny Guiton. Meyer loved to call him out. He had us believing that Guiton had a “one-way bus ticket back to Texas” before he became an invaluable pinch-hitter for starting quarterback Braxton Miller.
Exaggeration? Does it matter? Meyer coaxed the best out of Guiton to the extent that he now uses Guiton’s name as a flattering adjective.
In case you didn’t hear, Meyer called J.T. Barrett, his latest quarterback from Texas, “Guiton-ish.” That was before Barrett was flummoxed by a well-disguised Virginia Tech defense last week.
Presumably, Meyer’s feelings on Barrett haven’t changed because of one loss, but how can we know for sure? Remember, we’ve got a master psychologist at work here.
“Effusive” would be overstating Meyer’s praise for Barrett after his impressive, Big Ten Freshman of the Week debut against Navy. He was 12-of-15 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-17 victory. He also had a team-high 50 yards rushing.
His quarterback rating was 237.2, third-best in the nation. Miller has only had one game in his career with a rating that high.
But Meyer showed restraint in his back-patting, perhaps because he knew what was coming in terms of a defensive test seven days later.
“He’s just not the dynamic guy,” Meyer said after the opener.
Fast-forward to last Saturday and a set of stats from Barrett that looked like they might have been authored by Brandon Weeden: 9-of-29 for 219 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and seven sacks.
Did Meyer compare that performance to the rear end of a rhino? No.
“Gutsy,” he said.
Can’t let your redshirt freshman quarterback get too high or too low from week-to-week. Smart.
Meyer wasn’t asked a direct question about his quarterback until the very end of his press conference Monday. He reminded reporters that Barrett is playing for the first time since he tore an ACL midway through his 2012 senior season in high school.
“You can see he can throw and he runs it well enough, but as important as anything is the character and maturity ... so he’ll rebound,” Meyer said. “I have all the confidence in the world; so does our offensive staff.”
It helps that they’re game-planning for Kent State, not Penn State. And with byes coming up twice in the next four weeks, that’s like two weeks of fall camp the young Buckeyes can use to prepare for the final seven games, including trips to State College and East Lansing.
Maybe by then we’ll all be waxing poetic about Barrett, and there will be no hidden psychology behind it.