Ryan Day Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach
Football

Huddle Updates: Ryan Day, Jim Knowles, Tony Alford Talk Buckeyes, Preview Sparty

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Tuesday for his weekly media session. He answered a slew of questions about his Buckeyes and their upcoming matchup in East Lansing against Michigan State. Also speaking with reporters were defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and running backs coach Tony Alford. Highlights of everything the trio of coaches had to say can be found below.

Ryan Day

  • Miyan Williams was the player of the game on offense. He ran hard. Everybody was involved in the running game. Missing TreVeyon Henderson was rough, but he should be back this week.
  • Jordan Hancock is practicing full speed right now but they are hoping to get through the bye week and then bring him back for Iowa.
  • Steele Chambers is really producing the last two weeks, but jobs are on a week-to-week basis.
  • Tony Alford and Kevin Wilson watched Miyan Williams as a recruit. They all felt like they saw something in him. He came from a great program. “Being from Ohio means a lot.”
  • Wednesdays are stressful in practice because they work on short-yardage, goal line, and red zone. The coaches have some heated discussions because those are the most important situations on offense.
  • CJ Hicks was an excellent recruiter for the 2022 class. You always want a “pied piper” in a class. They have a couple of those guys in 2023 right now.
  • Miyan Williams has improved his awareness and his vision in his time at Ohio State. High school RBs think they can bounce everything out and he’s really improved on taking what the defense is giving, and then getting a few more ugly yards after that.
  • A lot of the playbook is “Jaxon plays” and without him, you have to adjust those plays and adapt to what you have. It caught them off guard against Notre Dame but they have adjusted better than that game since. The other receivers have embraced the challenge of stepping up in his place. The tight end play has been another aspect of stepping up to help. The running game has helped as well.
  • You can’t try to pad stats for CJ Stroud just for Heisman purposes. All CJ wants to do is win. He was the happiest guy on Saturday. They scored seven touchdowns on their first nine possessions, which is a pretty good day. You have to take what the defense is giving you and go with some balance.
  • Going on the road to a tough place to play this weekend. It’s a great stadium with a great environment. It is always tough to win up there. This has been a unique schedule but now it’s time to go get their first conference road win.
  • Michigan State has had some injuries but they are still very much the same team they were last year. They are expecting a top 10 team from Michigan State. “It’s going to be hard, just like it always is.”
  • The MSU front has done a good job of creating chaos. They have upgraded some of the areas up front. The Buckeyes have to win the line of scrimmage. “We know what they’re capable of.”
  • It’s a good thing to have expectations and not be satisfied with a 49-10 win in Big Ten play. Before the game, somebody at the Blackwell grabbed him and said, “63-0 today, right?” Those are the expectations at Ohio State.
  • Paris Johnson has some bigger challenges coming. He has made some progress for sure. They will continue to see more growth from everyone up front. For the first time starting at tackle, there’s been some good play.
  • The coaches don’t make the decisions to move players to different positions. They will bring it up and explain why they see it how they see it, but the only way for that move to be a success is if the player wants to do it.
  • Is NIL a net positive or negative a year in? It’s not a black or white answer. The idea of it is a positive and players are benefiting from it, but there’s a lot of hard feelings because of the gray areas of inducements. Until there are concrete rules on what is allowed and what isn’t, there will be hard feelings.
  • Are new leaders emerging a third of the way into the season? “I’ve really felt Ronnie Hickman out there.” Luke Wypler is another. Been surprised by Dawand Jones. The receivers are leading. Zach Harrison has had a really good voice. Xavier Johnson has been excellent overall. Leadership is critically important this week with the first road game of the year.
  • There’s been some really good things on film from CJ Stroud and some things that he needs to improve on. Like everybody else on the team.
  • Have to be aware of fakes in the special teams this week. Have to also be aggressive in getting after a punt. The Buckeyes have good returners, so the blockers need to hold guys up to allow for a return. They have all of the confidence in the world that Emeka Egbuka will catch the punts that come his way.
  • You look for composure and focus from your team on the road. There can be a lot more distractions on the road during the game. Before the game, there are fewer distractions.
  • “You can learn a lot from being on the road.” You can mature as a team on the road.
  • It’s a challenge to keep up with the changing landscape of college football, but you know that as a head coach. It’s not easy “but that’s what we signed up for.” You have to have great people around you as well. You need to make great hires. Mickey Marotti is a guy that Day goes to all the time. In recruiting, it’s Mark Pantoni. Day-to-day stuff, Keenan Bailey is a huge help to him. They have the best nutritionist in the country. The hours she puts in is incredible. They player development program they have is great too.
  • Cameron Brown has been itching to get back out there. He’s been stressing. Day has felt that urgency. They are going to make sure he is where he needs to be. He’s trying hard to get back on the field. Hopefully this is a great week of practice and he can play this week at MSU.
  • The cornerback unit hasn’t really been full strength yet this year, but that’s typical across the nation. The young guys have stepped up. Hoping Cam Brown is back this week and Jordan Hancock in a couple of weeks.
  • The tough thing about moving Emeka Egbuka back further on punts is that if the ball hits the ground it bounces forever. It can cost you three first downs. The wind was swirling in the last game. It was blowing one way above the stadium and another way on the field. They are trying to find the happy medium of placement for Egbuka.
  • They are hoping to get Jaxon Smith-Njigba back this week. He is day-to-day. His style of injury is that it can linger or go away quickly. Just depends on how he feels each day.
  • CFB defenses are doing a better job this year, he thinks. “Maybe that’s not accurate,” but it seems like numbers are down across the board.
  • Day gives Denzel Burke a lot of credit for returning so quickly with his hand injury. He’s “right there” on those pass plays he’s allowing. His footwork is good and his coverage is still strong, he just needs to finish better and he knows that. “We certainly believe in him.”
  • Seeing Paul Chryst getting fired heighten awareness? He feels it every day. You have to win them all and it’s not easy to live that way, but it’s the profession they’ve chosen.
  • There are still a lot of issues on offense. The key is to identify those issues and get them fixed. You can get away with some mistakes against some teams, but not all teams.
  • Donovan Jackson is very talented, but he’s also very intelligent. He’s tough. He can bend and has great power. Skilled. But his mental makeup is what makes him special.
  • How happy are you with how the season has gone so far? “Hard to tell.” It’s a work in progress and they are working to improve something every single week.
  • What’s stood out most about the defense? They play with great confidence “and to me that’s the most important thing.” The scheme is great and the players believe in it. But it’s the energy, the pad level, the fundamentals. The guys are playing faster. “I think that’s probably the No. 1 thing.”
  • You wake up every day worried about doing your best. You wake up running every day or someone’s going to get you. The team has had that approach but can they sustain it? That’s the challenge.
  • Building game plans is not always that fun because there are so many variables, and you need the right chemistry. But the best part is when the plan works on Saturdays.
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Jim Knowles

  • Kye Stokes had a solid game. He’s a true freshman without many reps at that nickel position. They made the adjustment during the week when Cam Martinez was out. He held his own.
  • The safeties have handled adversity extremely well. They have been flexible. “It’s not as easy as it looks.” A lot is asked of those safeties and they’ve done a good job.
  • Why are they successful on third down? “It’s just something that we emphasize. It’s part of this system.” He’s disappointed that they are only 11th nationally in third down defense. It’s a critical part of this defense. The guys are trained on knowing where the line is and keeping the offense from getting there. Their job is to get the ball back to the offense.
  • Kourt Williams has been banged up. He hasn’t been able to fully compete to earn a position. He’s a great leader. “He’s not completely healthy so we need to give him time to get better.”
  • “I like JK’s aggressiveness, number one.” His competition at the end of a route is where he excels as well. Also has a great reach. Throws punches at the line of scrimmage as well.
  • “I’m pleased” with where the defense is. “We have seen some success.” But defense is such a “right now proposition” because failure is not an option. Like he said when he got here, “we don’t have 3-4 years” to make this into a premier defense.
  • His biggest concern? You can play great on defense for a long time during a game, but it only takes one play for something to go wrong. The biggest concern is that they continue to compete and having the mentality of stopping the offense regardless of the score. It can be easy to relax and he has to stay on his players about that in games that have gotten out of hand. It becomes habit and they are focused on creating that habit regardless of score.
  • “I’m pleased with what we’re doing up front.” It’s up to him to create more pass-rush opportunities for the defense. He is
  • He drinks about six cups of coffee a day (with some shots of espresso on top).
  • What you see is what you get with Tommy Eichenberg. “There’s some grunts.” Eichenberg can see things happen and he knows when things go wrong defensively and he immediately looks to Knowles for the right answers. “He’s picked it up as quickly as anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
  • What goes wrong on Saturday’s is his fault. That’s a mantra he began at Duke when his defense was mostly manned by future lawyers and doctors. He still carries that forward today because it frees up his players to just play. The mistakes aren’t their fault.
  • He busted on Steele Chambers for getting tackled by a quarterback on his interception. He told him no wonder they moved him from running back.
  • Denzel Burke has dealt with a lot this season. He wasn’t healthy in camp. Now a hand injury, which is a big deal for a corner. “He’s a tough corner.” Knowles was grateful that Burke pushed himself to get back quickly. In this business for a corner to do that, that’s a big deal.
  • Mike Hall is a big, strong guy with a great takeoff. He’s got things that are hard to coach, so they move him around to take advantage of his ability. He brings the juice defensively as well. He’s high energy. Great personality. Keeps guys loose. That’s part of having a great defense. “You need guys like that.”
  • Steele Chambers looks like a full linebacker on film. He’s improving this season. His tackling is better. He is picking up how to tackle at this level. He’s getting lower and is doing roll tackles now.
  • The linebackers get a bigger picture of the defense because he’s always talking about the entire defense in the linebacker room.
  • Zach Harrison rushing from the inside is great for the defense and gives the offense something they have to plan for.
  • It usually takes a full season to really get to know assistant coaches, but like everything at The Ohio State, you don’t have a full year. But the guys here work hard to get up to speed. The assistants don’t “debate the system” they want to know it and then help to add to it.

Tony Alford

  • Goal lines are tough because there isn’t a lot of space. They don’t really run the quarterback so you’re always going to be outnumbered. But in the end against Rutgers they were still able to punch things in.
  • Mitch Rossi came to OSU as a running back, so he has that background in him. They don’t spend a lot of time with him at fullback, but every day they will do some ball exchange stuff with the quarterbacks.
  • Miyan Williams is becoming more confident in his own skin. He’s been through a lot and has a lot of personal challenges in his own life. The entire program leans on him and loves him. He’s an engaging personality, but you have to get to know him to see it. He’s the consummate team guy. He brings so much value into the running back room and energy.
  • How does TC Caffey fall through the cracks in recruiting? “I can’t answer that. You’d have to ask all of those other teams that missed.” They recruited him as a walk-on. He’s going to be a good player.
  • Recruiting isn’t about trying to satisfy media. He can go home where he can’t satisfy anybody in his house. They saw things in Miyan Williams regardless of his recruiting rankings. He was tough.
  • Alford tries not to put expectations on recruits and players. He doesn’t want to put a ceiling on somebody if they can exceed that.
  • Miyan Williams is a rugged, violent, violent player.
  • As a recruit, Miyan Williams probably felt slighted by OSU’s decision to recruit other running backs instead of him, so it was a difficult recruiting process. Eventually Alford had to apologize for a first impression that he had of Williams that turned out to be wrong. That conversation started to improve their relationship.
  • They have always had two starting running backs this year.
  • Reps for Dallan Hayden when Evan Pryor went down allowed him to grow as a player a lot in camp. He wouldn’t have had as many reps without that injury.
  • It’s tough when you like a recruit but there is no room for him. But that’s life at a place like Ohio State when you have to be unselfish.
  • Every offensive assistant has a say in the offense but you have to be on the same page and you can’t do everything. People can’t get upset if their idea isn’t used. You do what’s best for the players and what they can do. Ryan Day is the best at running meetings. “The guy is amazing.” Alford has told him before that Day is one of the top guys he’s ever had the pleasure to work for or with. “And I say ‘with’ because he makes you feel like you work with him, not for him.” That empowers you to do your job. He allows it and promotes it. But he does the same thing with the players. He is indebted to Day.
  • Henderson has played okay. There is room for improvement. Henderson may be frustrated by the lack of home runs. There are some vision things and attacking the second and third-level of the defense. “But a lot of that is on me.” But he has not played poorly this year. He’s ripping off 6 or 7 yards per carry, “which is pretty damn good.” And he’s done a good job of blocking.
  • It doesn’t surprise Alford that Steele Chambers is doing well at linebacker. After his interception he told him “this is why you’re at linebacker.”
  • Miyan is about three feet tall. He doesn’t give you much surface area to hit. Hitting his lower half is like hitting tree trunks. He has an uncanny way of speeding up into contact, and then has contact balance to keep his feet. “You’ve got to be a willing combatant, no doubt. You can’t be soft.” “He’s a tough guy. There’s nothing soft about that kid.”
  • Don’t paint a picture that TreVeyon Henderson is not playing well.
  • They look to recruit unselfish guys, team guys. You want recruits to spend time with the players as well, because those players will give you feedback about the personality of the recruit that coaches might not see. You also need guys that love the game. Guys can flash on film without loving the game. But you also need to leave your ego at the door as a player. They talk about that in recruiting so that it’s not a shock to a player when they are sharing carries or catches. The staff firmly believes that every single player will “get theirs in the end.”

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