COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles spoke with reporters on Monday and provided a number of updates on where the Buckeyes stand, just 12 days out from the season opener against Notre Dame.
- JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer now have a full year of practice under them and both of them worked hard last year. They also had their senior seasons of high school impacted by COVID. You can see them taking off now that they are comfortable. They can be complementary players if they continue to get better and make it so that an offensive line can’t shift their protection one way or the other without having to pay for it.
- Regarding the transfer portal, it is a balance every year to make sure you’ve got 85 scholarship guys on the team. You have a mixture of starters, backups, and developmental guys. Then sometimes you have an opportunity to bring in somebody who can fill a hole for you, like Tanner McCalister this year. That’s typically how they’ve done it with the portal. They went into spring with about 90 scholarship guys because they knew they would lose some to the portal.
- The first game always features tweaks from the opponent and yourself. You have different players so you want to utilize their talents in ways that help you win. You always have to adjust to your personnel, especially in that first game because you don’t always know exactly what you have. You try to find those things out in scrimmages and practices. That is one reason they practice in Ohio Stadium at times and also try to create stressful game-like situations in practice.
- The coaches tell the players that the pressure should be felt during the week. Saturdays you should be prepared.
- When he is scouting quarterback recruits, you look at the physical traits first. Size, movement, accuracy. Then you look at spatial intelligence and awareness. Some guys are “carnival quarterbacks” who can throw it into a tire a hundred times, but once you start moving the tire they fail. Leadership and overcoming failures is also very big. You have to be able to grow from coaching and mistakes.
- Regarding cornerback health, they will be full-strength going into the Notre Dame game. The goal is to have them full-strength for next week’s practice.
- Jyaire Brown and JK Johnson have worked their tails off this camp. They have both gotten much better working against these WRs. They are getting close to being game ready.
- Camp is now over with classes starting tomorrow.
- Defensively they now have a better feel for their players and who they are and what they can do compared to last year. That will be reflected in how many players are playing in the first game. There will likely be fewer players playing against Notre Dame because they simply know more about their roster than they did a year ago.
- CJ Stroud and quarterback coach Corey Dennis have a great relationship and they have since recruiting. Stroud has a great “why” perspective on what he’s doing. His number one thing is winning and everything else is secondary.
- The new media partners for the Big Ten is exciting. Gene Smith called him up and told him about it when it was going down. It has been a very exciting month for the Big Ten.
- They are currently at 85 scholarships.
- How do they replace Evan Pryor? “Quite honestly, we have been very impressed with Dallan (Hayden). He’s got a lot of talent. He’s our third running back right now. If he continues to grow, then we’re going to trust and put him in the game.”
- They put Chip Trayanum over at running back one day in practice just to see what it looked like. He looked good, but he’s back at linebacker. He could be an emergency guy if need be.
- Kam Babb had a setback but not one that is going to cost him the whole year. Hoping to have him back on the field in a couple of weeks. His situation is unique because of his history but they’ll be trusting the doctors and being smart about bringing him back.
- Tommy Eichenberg has done “about what you would hope for” to this point. And “about what you would expect.” Toughness, leadership, activity. He’s the quarterback on the defense right now. “He’s a very intelligent player.” He’s competitive and has a great feel for the game. He can diagnose plays at a high level and process a lot of information.
- Been very impressed with Cade Stover and Mitch Rossi. Both have had very productive camps. They can both do a lot of different things and they ask them to do it all.
- Julian Fleming has had a very good camp. “Been impressed with him.”
- Hoping Taron Vincent can take the next step and solidify some things. “He’s been a bright spot for sure.”
- Asked to name a couple of freshmen that he knows will play this year and he declined because he said his phone will be blowing up with parents before he finished this press conference. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
- Brian Hartline’s greatest attribute to this program changes every year. His first year he was thrust into that coaching role and he ran with it. He played in the Shoe, so it gives him instant credibility. But then he also went on and played well in the NFL, which gave him more credibility. Day has challenged him to become a more well-rounded coach about the entire offense and he has done that. “He’s become a more complete coach” and Day is hoping that pays dividends for the team this year.
- Kyle McCord has made strides and they need him to keep doing that. Day told him the other day that it’s hard to be the guy who is one play away but yet probably won’t play until next year. Day told him he can’t look at it like that, he has to look at is as if he is going to be in the game on snap two against Notre Dame. He was nearly a champion in Saturday’s scrimmage.
- He has talked to James Laurinaitis about a position here in the past.
- CJ Stroud can handle a lot of information in meetings but it doesn’t mean you need to be overly complicated. Day asks Stroud for feedback all the time during games. In Saturday’s scrimmage, Stroud suggested a red zone play that led to a touchdown.
- Day isn’t sure if Notre Dame getting a look at Jim Knowles’ defense last year in a bowl game gives an advantage to either side.
- The three things they wanted to get done were toughness, discipline, and skill. They got tougher for sure. Their attitudes were excellent. “I think we checked that box.” They checked the discipline box on and off the field, and the same with skill. They aren’t going to stop working on those things, but they have done what they wanted to do with camp. They have a better idea of what they have on this time.
- They’re still working on deciding who the backup quarterback. That will be decided later in the week.
- They have made good progress in winning short-yardage battles on offense. He likes where the offensive line is right now.
- You have to find out how much responsibility you can give a guy. It’s fun having a second-year starter at quarterback, but you still have to just go out and play. You can give CJ Stroud a lot but you don’t want to give him too much to think about. You want him to be free to just play. You have to find the balance of getting a competitive advantage with allowing him to play free and clear.
- Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau can both do everything at defensive end. They don’t need to be viewed as complementary players. They can do whatever you need.
- They had nearly all of their cornerbacks practicing today. Injuries happen in camp and the experience that they young guys get when they step in pays off down the road.
- They’re up to about 75% of the defense installed. “I’m very comfortable with where we’re at.” Now they have to start paring it down and get specific to the opponent. The players have been open to learning and they want to be great. That has allowed them to get a lot in. The plan was never to get to 100%. They will keep some things in reserve and pull them out as needed during the season. He doesn’t want to put brand new things in as they are preparing for an opponent.
- Biggest concern right now? “I don’t have that many concerns. Now that the cornerbacks are coming back, I feel confident in what we have.” “I have no concerns.”
- JK Johnson has really stepped up. He has increased his knowledge level. He’s grown up quickly and they’re confident they can put him in a game.
- He doesn’t sleep well, first game or not.
- The defensive line rotating does not impact his desire to not rotate in the back seven. They can operate independently in that regard. They want the front four to be fresh but the back end needs to get into the flow of the game and need to stay in there and see everything.
- When might the defense be fully installed? By the end of the season it will crank up even more but he has to be judicious with it. You used to be able to put new stuff in during the week of a game because offenses were a lot simpler to defend. He doesn’t like doing that nowadays. You never really want to get to 100% because you don’t want to let people know everything going on in the back of your mind.
- Lathan Ransom is decisive. “He just goes.” He’s a football player. He can diagnose plays very quickly and he’s aggressive with how he treats it. He’s had an exceptional camp. He was the Silver Bullet of the Day. May be the only two-time winner. “He just stands out on the field in how he operates.” “He’s usually never wrong.” Knowles had no idea if they would be able to have him this year because of last year’s injury so this has been a pleasant development.
- He feels good about who will be playing in the back seven. They will play some rotational guys but not like the defensive line. You want an extra corner, nickel, and linebacker that can be brought in with certain calls and in certain situations.
- What has surprised him most about being here is how quickly the players picked the defense up. They want to be great. They went through tough times last year and they want to avenge that. They all have visions of getting to the next level and they all want to learn. They all ask questions.
- They talk about living up to the Silver Bullet legacy all the time. “It’s mentioned every day.” They don’t talk about the past at all but they do talk about creating something special with this defense and reviving that culture. They want to give the players and their parents something to be proud of on defense. Everything else at Ohio State is top five, so why shouldn’t the defense be? When you go over the mistakes with the players they make in practice, they take ownership and they want to get better.
- “We are further than I thought we would be.” They have been able to be competitive against this offense “and that’s a big deal.”
- Tommy Eichenberg is ahead of anyone he’s ever had in terms of the pace he’s picked up the defense. “His learning capacity, his ability to correct mistakes when he makes them — which is not often…” His pace of learning is fantastic. He processes quickly and reads his keys, which can change depending on the play. He’s a serious dude and he takes the game seriously and that reflects in his teammates. “He’s not jacking around.”
- They have guys who can be “combo guys.” Kourt Williams is the “tougher find” as a combo guy as a safety and linebacker. It doesn’t give away your hand as much.
- The Jack is not yet the Leo. They have made progress. There are still certain roles and defining factors that can take a while. It could take an entire year. “It’s a work in progress.” They will know more once they get into live action and see how much a guy can handle. Can one guy handle any call Knowles makes? If that happens, then they move forward. But that takes a while.
- How do they matchup against Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer? You have to have someone with size who doesn’t get bodied out. But you have to have someone who can play the run because the tight end is around the ball a lot. You want a bigger player to get his hands on him early. Even if the linebackers aren’t covering him they can still be a factor in defending him. He feels like all of their safeties can do what they ask. They’re all physical and will be willing to step up and use their hands and body to defend him.
- CJ Stroud is a superior, top of the line quarterback. Every defense has a weakness, so the faster a QB processes and finds it, the more he can attack it. Stroud talks with Knowles and he asks questions and wants to learn. He’s the best he’s had in terms of handling a defense. “I don’t think he makes mistakes.”
- What does he want from the defensive line? “I want them to attack. I want them to be aggressive.” He wants them to hold their gaps and hunker down at times when it comes to that, but for the most part he wants them to create problems for the offensive line. The goal is to put the offense on its heels for a brief second that will allow the defense to create a new line of scrimmage. “We want to clear the double teams off of them.” They want to create disguises and bluffs in order to create one-on-one matchups up front.
- “We are so deep and so talented up front.” You can name anybody as standing out. “You’re going to see a lot of guys play and a lot of guys make plays.”
- Is it an advantage that Knowles got to see how Notre Dame tried to attack his defense? “I don’t know about advantage, but it helps me to see how a team responds to the defense.”
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