COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Tuesday to discuss the Buckeyes open weekend that just ended and to preview Saturday’s upcoming game against Iowa. Also speaking with the media were defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.
- They got a lot of guys some rest. Right now there are no injury updates. They’ll know more towards the end of the week. Today is a big practice.
- Iowa’s defense is very good. The OSU staff has been working hard on how to attack them. The minute you think that defense isn’t going to change it up, they do. It’s going to be a challenge for the offense.
- The defense has made some progress this season but the goal is to be the best in everything they do. That’s how they approach the work here. That was the first half of the season. The second half of the season started yesterday.
- CJ Stroud worked in the offseason to get stronger, faster, and more powerful. His body changed in the offseason. That has allowed him to be more mobile in the passing game this year.
- The cornerbacks worked hard in the off week. They understand where they need to get better. “We’ll find out more on Saturdays. That’s always the ultimate test.”
- The emphasis this week will be on Iowa, but they will be hammering fundamentals and techniques. They have great hand usage. Iowa understands their offense and defense better than their opponents.
- How do you not be complacent about Iowa’s offense? They have a similar style to other teams the Buckeyes have faced this year. They’ll want to run the clock and keep OSU off the field.
- If Jaxon Smith-Njigba does return, it allows the room to be deeper and takes some stress off of the other guys. There are special teams burdens as well. The receivers have done well and the team has benefited from their increased experience.
- When Day played at New Hampshire with Chip Kelly as his OC, they wanted to put as much stress on a defense as possible and that has stuck with him. Back then, the stresser was going fast. Now, the speed has changed a bit because defenses can handle it better, but he still wants to stress a defense in as many ways as possible.
- Does he hate punting? It depends on the game. If it’s a field position game, punting is huge. There are other games where it’s back-and-forth and you can’t really afford to punt. Analytics come into play, but you also have to have a feel for how things are going and how the team is doing. Forcing teams to go 90 yards after a pooch punt is big and those games are coming.
- When the offense is fully healthy they have to guard against trying to force the ball into players. They have to take what a defense gives them and if that means Jaxon Smith-Njigba is being double-teamed, then the ball has to go somewhere else.
- Iowa forces you to execute your offense all the way down the field. They get their hands on the football in so many different ways. They know how to tackle really well. They create turnovers. “They feel like they know their defense better than you know your offense, and vice versa.”
- Paris Johnson has always been well-rounded. His mom Monica has done a great job of raising him. They saw all of his attributes in recruiting, on and off the field. It’s been a great marriage and he has made a major impact in three short weeks.
- How does he decide which HS game to go watch on an off week? You evaluate who you’ve already seen and who you need to see. He listens to Mark Pantoni on who needs to be seen.
- Were they able to keep momentum in the off week? The energy has been really good. The players had plenty of juice. Having a couple days away energized them even more yesterday when they got back to the Woody.
- How do you balance the game plan when you’ve got more players back than you had before? You still just have to recognize what the best way to attack the opposing defense is, and go from there.
- Does he feel better about where OSU is now after seeing last weekend’s college football games? It gives you an idea of what’s coming. Three top 10 teams lost. That’s why they emphasize competitive stamina. “We know the challenges ahead are bigger.”
- What did he watch on Saturday? “We had a couple TVs going.” They watched multiple games during the day but had some family stuff in the evening.
- He talked to Jim Knowles in the hiring process about sticking around for a long time. Knowles told him he liked Columbus. He likes the city. The goal is to keep him around for a long time. Gene Smith allowed them to go find the best fit, and they did that. It was the right fit for Knowles and OSU. Day thinks he’s enjoying being the defensive coordinator and is content with his job.
- Everything that the OSU coaches have told defensive recruits is happening with this Ohio State defense and they’re excited about that and want to jump on board.
- He’s been watching Luke Lachey over the years and he’s the next one in line there. “Knowing him and knowing his family, just proud of the way he’s played.”
- The key to the red zone? Balance. They’ve been able to run the ball when they want to and throw it when they need to. They have good scheme and execution. Rarely is somebody wide open in the red zone and you’ve seen that this year with so many contested catches.
- Every week they communicate with Big Ten head of officials Bill Carollo about calls that may have been missed.
- Iowa knows how their defense is going to get attacked. They have years and years of evidence and experience in adjusting to stop those attacks.
- You can do a great job of scheming things defensively but eventually it comes down to a one-on-one situation and the importance of tackling remains paramount. Fundamentals will always be key.
- The more sports and positions you play, the better football player you can be and the more you can do.
- The message to the team is always about focusing on themselves. When things are being said or not said, that has nothing to do with them and what they’re doing. Everybody knows who Ohio State is. That’s why it’s Ohio against the world. They get a lot of attention, so they try to block out all of the noise, good or bad. The noise gets louder and louder as the season goes on so the message has to get louder as well.
- The 2017 Iowa game, what happened? It’s a scar that doesn’t go away. “Yeah, I’ve felt it this week for sure.” They were coming off of an emotional win against Penn State. Then they open the game with a pick six. “That was a tough day for all of us.” Those scars are real. They have talked about it to the players and as a staff. “This team is always difficult to beat.” It doesn’t matter what year.
- Ohio State’s players are handling NIL better than most. That’s why they recruit great people. It has certainly changed things in the sport. Now they have to recruit players who are going to knowingly experience NIL, so that’s different.
- Are there more wrinkles to show at positions other than Jack? There are some things they can do with the safeties. They could blitz them more but they haven’t had to do that yet.
- JT Tuimoloau is that combination of get-off and strength. Like Mike Hall on the inside. He draws ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda’ holding calls. He makes the quarterback do something different at the stack.
- The middle linebacker in this defense has to understand the big picture and there is no trepidation in taking the big shot. That’s what they get from Tommy Eichenberg and Malcolm Rodriguez last year at Oklahoma State.
- How does Iowa’s usage of the tight end stress a defense? It’s a concern. These are the best tight ends they’ve seen since Notre Dame. “You have to contest.”
- How do you convince your defense that they need to be ready this week? Iowa blocks well and has well-coached schemes. The schemes that result from having the QB under center, like wide zone and pull plays. The cutbacks need to be watched. It’s about the defense reacting and fitting their gaps.
- The cornerbacks have gone against good competition every day. They have gotten them more reps and coached them to finish. They have shown them results both positively and negatively and how those results came to be.
- Growing up in Pennsylvania — Eastern PA — he grew up having respect for Ohio and Western PA and always thought Ohio high school football was superior. That’s what he continues to see. Loves to see the support from the community and that trickles down and makes football in the state that much better.
- Great defense is about habits and training. Fighting to continue to improve, no matter who you are playing. No matter the circumstance.
- He hasn’t had to sell his defensive ends on the fact that there may not be a lot of stats for them. It’s always about the team and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. That can be tough in today’s day and age, but football is the greatest team game that ever was. It’s up to the coaches to uphold that.
- How this defense does against OSU’s offense in practice is an accurate gauge for how they will do against offenses later in the season. This is the best offense in the nation and it’s a great thing to be able to get work against them.
- The cornerbacks were challenged this week, but it always goes back to him and is he giving the corners their best change to succeed. They had a good week of practice.
- Ronnie Hickman’s attitude on the sideline in games or practice is always strong. He has a great defensive attitude. Focused and always wanting to correct issues. It’s a good thing that he isn’t making as many tackles as last year, but they still have more they can unleash with the safeties.
- His daughter went to Tennessee, so he’s sent a lot of money to Tennessee. She sends him a lot of LFG Vols texts. That kind of offense and attitude is what he went against a lot in the Big XII. The kind of attitude that OSU has. He has systematically built the defense to deal with that kind of offense.
- Jordan Hancock can be a great help. He performed well before his injury. His attitude, calmness, and demeanor is what you need at that position. Having somebody like him back can be helpful to everybody on the field and behind the scenes as well.
- How does a game-opening pick six change things like in 2017 at Iowa? It energized the crowd. Gave them momentum. You have to play through the ebbs and flows.
- It’s challenging when you get a lot of guys back healthy and have “a collage” of things you can do. You have to revert back to what you’ve been doing and what’s been working. There’s an art to making that work. You have to make sure the players embrace it. The players know there may be something designed for them, but it’s up to the defense to allow that situation and play call to happen. It will be challenging moving forward to get it to work all together, but they have good players.
- He first coached against Iowa in 1999 at Northwestern, which was Kirk Ferentz’s first year. He and Iowa DC Phil Parker used to carpool in recruiting at different MAC schools in 1990. This is a very disciplined defense. They have great eye discipline. They are clean up front. “They don’t flash, but they have better quality players than people give them credit for.” “We’ll have our hands full blocking them.”
- Dawand Jones is not close to what he can be. He’s still young. Wilson has known Jones’ high school coach for years. They saw early on that he had a lot of potential. It would have been easy for Jones to come up short, but he has put in so much work to get where he is. He’s doing well academically as well.
- The keys to the red zone success? They’ve run it better. Iowa has a great red zone defense. It’s tough to run on them down there. The compacted field allows Iowa to be a little more aggressive with their blitzes. You have to stay on schedule with the plays. A third and 2 instead of a third and 9 is like a 4-point play.
- Luke Wypler is a confident player. He can have a hard edge to him depending on the day. He’s one of the best workers on the team. His voice carries well among the team.
- Iowa’s defense knows how offenses are going to attack them. A 50/50 ball may not be a 50/50 ball by the time the ball gets there. They get help everywhere. It starts up front with the defensive line pushing the pocket.
- Iowa doesn’t give up big plays and plays tough in the red zone. It’s hard to score on them.
- “When you play the best defenses, you show what you really are.”
- Game planning during the week has always been good at Ohio State. He starts with a lot of questions and talking. He and Ryan Day probably throw more ideas out that never stick. Wilson will throw something out, but then Justin Frye or Tony Alford may say that doesn’t necessarily work with what their players do. Coaches have to check their egos just like players do. “It’s a total deal.” “It’s one of the best things of the day.” He loves it. There are a lot of great young coaches and GAs too. Ryan Day is the grand marshall, but there’s a lot of floats in that parade.
- How much does offense miss Jaxon Smith-Njigba? “I miss him because…of how hard he practices.” He loves to play and Wilson misses having him out there because of his energy. The team will be better when he’s back not just because of his big plays, but because of his energy in practice. He’s a great practice player. Brings a lot of great karma to the team.
- Dallan Hayden helps make the practices go well. He knows what he’s got in protection. He makes his reads. He has ball security. Now is when what you see in practice starts to make it to the games. When a lot of these young guys are playing with the ones, there’s no drop off and it helps the defense get better as well. Hayden has a great future. Great teams practice good down the stretch.
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