Ryan Day Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach

Ryan Day, Jim Knowles, Kevin Wilson Talk Buckeyes, Preview Penn State

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Tuesday to provide some updates on his football team and to look ahead to Saturday’s matchup at Penn State. 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.

Ryan Day

  • Iowa went to more single-high safety stuff that took a little bit of time to figure out and adjust to. It also helped once OSU had a longer field to work with. You just have to
  • Every game is like a new season when it comes to preparing and scouting the opponent. You prepare based on what you’ve seen from a defense but you also have to have contingencies because they face new things every week from opposing defenses.
  • Not being able to run the ball well enough in the red zone was a factor in not scoring touchdowns down there. Some penalties also impacted them.
  • There was good and bad with the offensive line. Some of the issues were taken advantage of by Iowa’s defense.
  • Focusing on toughness is an every week thing. It wasn’t just an offseason thing. They will need to be tough in State College. They need a great week of preparation. The competitive stamina is going to be huge.
  • Jim Knowles did a great job of identifying areas where OSU had advantages over Iowa defensively. Starting off with an interception can really rattle an offense as well.
  • Chip Trayanum at running back happened when they lost TC Caffey for the year. Trayanum came to them a couple of weeks ago to tell them if they needed him for anything on offense, he’s ready. So now Trayanum is with the offense and Palaie Gaoteote needs to be ready as the fourth linebacker. Teradja Mitchell will also be available soon.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba is always trying to get back out on the field. There was nothing new to report on any injuries. The evaluations on the sideline by trainers were just normal evaluations.
  • There are only a handful of guys on this team that have played at Penn State with a crowd. Penn State is a good team with a veteran quarterback and a new scheme on defense.
  • Penn State QB Sean Clifford has played a lot of football. Guys like that have seen so many different things, which makes them dangerous. He’s tough. He can throw the ball. He has made plays with his feet. This offense can attack you in a bunch of different ways.
  • An offense that is struggling is always a team effort. It’s not just on one guy. Last week they were struggling a little bit but were still putting points on the board and the defense was playing great.
  • “I’m not one to flood the quarterback with a bunch of information in a game.” He lets his QB go play. They will talk throughout the game but the work was put in during the week so that the QB can just go play on Saturdays.
  • They will continue to need Noah Ruggles more and more this season, so this was a good week of action to see from him.
  • There are some very mature receivers in OSU’s room. They don’t look like they are 18-19-20 by the way they act and talk and work. He saw it start with guys like Terry McClaurin and Johnnie Dixon who handed it off to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. It’s a well-rounded group of receivers and they are great people.
  • You try to do the best you can to simulate the game in practice. That’s sometimes difficult to do with pressuring the quarterback. They have ways to simulate it in different aspects.
  • Julian Fleming has always been good at being a downfield threat. He could eat up a lot of ground and track a ball very well. “He’s a presence out there.” You’re seeing the big-play receiver out of him that he is.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba is on pace to play this week but they will continue to evaluate.
  • There were a couple of stretch runs last week that produced negative runs. It’s not always about mixing it up — but you have to mix it up — you have to identify who you’re working to. At the end of the day, if you’re good at running the ball, you should be good in any kind of run.
  • Day wants to be aware of what their percentages and tendencies are in each alignment, like shotgun, pistol, etc. It’s the tendencies that you don’t know about that can really hurt you.
  • There’s no reason to change anything with the running back rotation right now.
  • You can make mistakes as a play caller in taking a right-hand turn during a game because things aren’t working. Afterward you can go back and look at the film and realize it wasn’t what the defense was doing, it was that the offense wasn’t executing.
  • Tanner McCalister has worked out great. He understood he had to earn his way here. You don’t just come in and play. It takes a special person to come in and win a job. They try to be smart about adding guys because the culture here is very important.
  • Lathan Ransom is showing his skill set in this defense. This is the best version of him right now. He has a great relationship with Perry Eliano. This style of defense really fits him.
  • How concerning is the lack of running game last week? Each week is a different situation. You have to identify what you did well and what you didn’t do well. The result is feedback on your preparation. There wasn’t one common thread last week, just an overall lack of execution.
  • Long snapper Bradley Robinson was injured last week. There isn’t an update yet but Mason Arnold would be the guy if Robinson can’t go.
  • They got a little bit of a smile out of Tommy Eichenberg after his interception. There was a little bit of a celebration. He’s so consistent. When nobody is watching, he’s got a strong voice. When he says something, people listen. He’s not going to be barking at everybody but people know when he’s in the room.
  • He doesn’t know PSU DC Manny Diaz well. They may have met once. He does a great job of scheming. Lot of respect for him as a coach.
  • His perception of Penn State when he was growing up? Watching Penn State back then was a big deal. Like when he was in the NFL coaching against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick: “I didn’t know if I was supposed to cheer for them or myself.”
  • Josh Proctor had an illness last week. He should be back practicing this week.
  • PSU OC Mike Yurcich had a huge hand in recruiting CJ Stroud to Ohio State. He’s a creative play caller and great QB coach.
  • The Jaxon Smith-Njigba pitch count is part of a very specific plan. He has plans for total yards, total plays, range of motion, etc that has been created by the medical team. “It’s way over my head. I’m trying to figure out what to call on third down.”
  • Cameron Brown isn’t a long-term injury. Expect to see him back soon.
  • Jordan Hancock has been dying to get back out on the field. He did a great job the last couple of weeks of diving in and being serious about getting back on the field. “It’s great to have him back on the field for our defense.”
  • They don’t really script plays. They have things they like that they will rep, like first third down, first downs, etc, but they try not to overdo it on scripting because when you run out of the script, you might lose your rhythm.
  • CJ Stroud is excellent on the sideline. Great demeanor. Does a great job of listening and providing input on what he’s seeing on the field. Stroud is going to process everything you tell him, so Day is careful with the information he gives him.
  • Is there momentum in position groups when it comes to recruiting? Yes. He remembers recruiting in 2017 and people asked him why there weren’t any OSU QBs drafted in the first round. He told them there would be soon. Every position at OSU should be a “PositionU.” They should be QBU, RBU, WRU, etc.

Jim Knowles

  • Jordan Hancock has great length and skill, but he sees the formation well. He sees the adjustment. He can predict pre-snap what’s going to happen. He has a high football intelligence.
  • Palaie Gaoteote has great athleticism. He has linebacker instinct. He needs to stay healthy because Knowles has always felt he could emerge if he just stayed healthy.
  • The number of snaps for the DL is dictated by the pace of the game and other factors determined by Jim Knowles. Things are working well so he’s not going to ruin the flow regarding snaps.
  • He’s been impressed with Lathan Ransom from the first time he was able to practice. He’s got a hot hand. He can pull the trigger and go.
  • Tanner McCalister brings a coaching presence to the room. He has answers for the other guys. “He knows me and how I coach and what I’m trying to do.” It showed maturity on McCalister’s part to stretch himself and start something new at Ohio State.
  • Penn State has a veteran quarterback who is smart. He reads what you’re doing. He hangs in and can also scramble. He’s an operator. The receivers are skillful. They can go up and win 50/50 balls. They are good route runners. That whole operation will be a challenge.
  • Taron Vincent is a veteran guy who made the decision when Knowles got here to buy in. That is really important to recognize. It’s not easy for a veteran to do that and to accept change like he did. He has the respect of the other players, so he brought a lot of other guys along with him. Vincent helped a lot of guys buy in.
  • It’s a process adding more to the defense each week. “I have to be comfortable with it because if you make a mistake, it’s costly. It can hurt the entire team.”
  • When you face a talented slot receiver like Penn State has, you have ideas going in on the matchups that you want. Then it’s also about creating doubt in the QB’s minds regarding what he’s going to see from the defense. It’s about 50/50 in creating a cloudy picture but also having a plan for defending that particular player.
  • The defense has trended up and continues to trend up. It’s his job to keep it going. “You can’t ever stay the same in this business.” You have to keep pushing and prodding, looking for ways to improve and things to add. Success breeds further success.
  • It’s not difficult to judge a defense’s performance against a bad offense or a good offense. Did you execute the play that was called? What was the technique? You break it down and study it for what it is and correct, motivate, and teach off of that.
  • CJ Stroud is the best he’s ever been around at diagnosing defense. He sees the rotations, he sees the holes. Every defense has a hole and he locates those holes. He loves the game and will continue to ask Knowles questions about the defense.
  • He didn’t feel any pressure about vouching for Tanner McCalister and expected him to be just fine at Ohio State because the process was the same.
  • Denzel Burke has been the same player all season long. He’s talented and skilled. He’s a fun guy to coach. He’s coachable. He competes. He listens to what you have to say. He always responds to every challenge since Knowles has been here.
  • Yes, you can snowball turnovers, but there’s no “turnover play” you can call. There is no fullcourt pressure in football. But it happens. Players get more confident, execution gets better, it’s an indicator of execution. Guys are getting to the point now where they can cheat a little bit, which is the goal. He wants them to play free because they understand the totality of the defense.
  • His perception of Penn State growing up in Pennsylvania hasn’t changed. “I haven’t seen a change.” Penn State has done a great job of remaining consistent.
  • This group of OSU receivers? They finish. Routes are great. Speed is great. But actually completing the catch is as good or better than he’s ever seen. “They just get it done.”
  • The first thing he looks at regarding an opponent is how they are making their explosive plays. What formations, what schemes. Stopping those big plays is a huge part of stopping an offense. Then it’s formations, down-and-distances, tendencies. A lot of writing and scribbling.
  • He has not been at Penn State many times over his career. It was important to the people he grew up with.
  • Cameron Martinez is an excellent player. “I really love his coverage skills.” He’s got great feet and he’s a competitor. He’s been hampered a bit by injury. He’ll play more as he stays healthy.

Kevin Wilson

  • Iowa did a nice job of changing things, but they expected some single-high looks. The stretch plays got a little thin at times. Iowa played better than they did up front and won some one-on-one battles.
  • Deciding on fourth downs depends on weather, opponent, where you are, how the defense is playing. How good is your punter at pooching? What’s the score? People talk about analytics, but you have to make adjustments and you have to go with feel.
  • His film process is different than most. He wants snapshots of formations. “It’s like flashcards.” Sometimes it’s also nice to watch the flow of a game rather than cut-ups. He’ll watch 2 or 3 games on Sunday nights. Then on Monday you get more specific. Then Tuesday it’s situations. It starts with generalizations and then it gets into specifics. Each asst coach also has an expertise that Ryan Day asks them to study and “bring things to the table.”
  • The first half against Iowa was unusual because of the short fields on offense. It was hard to get into the flow. It condenses the plays you can call.
  • Problems on third down start with protection. You’re looking at matchups. It’s about time and space. Iowa made them work on Saturday, just like Penn State will this Saturday.
  • Marvin Harrison’s best aspect? He’s physically and mentally mature. Also, as tall as he is, he’s not long-legged. For a 6-4 guy, he can run great routes because he’s got legs like a 6-foot body rather than a 6-4 body. “That’s my opinion as an O-line guy.”
  • Sometimes you’re searching for the perfect play, but this time of year you’ve got to play through the muck. Sometimes you have to make an ugly par. When you’re a little bit off, how can you minimize the ugliness? Sometimes you press pause and talk about it. What plays does CJ Stroud like? What about the other guys? It’s easy to be really good and be off. “We were a bit off the other day” but they settled down. It was good to be home. Those challenges will continue to present themselves this season.
  • On challenging CB Joey Porter: You can’t not challenge a guy. You have to run your offense. They have really good corners, so they’ll have to work hard to get open. You don’t shy away from it but you also don’t want to be greedy.
  • He used to script the first 15 plays of a drive earlier in his career. You were trying to keep guys happy. It was a collage of plays. Then he started narrowing it to like 5 or 6 runs and passes he liked with each possession. You have to be able to adjust and adapt. Ryan Day said earlier in the week that this team loves solving problems and that’s one of their greatest skills. Good teams handle changes during the game. Bad teams talk about changes on Sunday.
  • You don’t want a bunch of talking when the call is being played. You don’t talk when the play is being called. There is a calculated way to work together and they do that well. Once the play is called, then there can be some talking.
  • The sack and forced fumble of CJ Stroud happened because Donovan Jackson didn’t handle the twist. “Not blaming the kid, we’ve just got to be better.”
  • The run game has been okay this year. No matter how well they throw the ball, there is always an extra defender against the run.
  • Chip Trayanum is a heavier load of running back. Very good instincts. He’s played it enough to handle the pass blocking as well. “He looks good.”
  • “I’m sure it’s hard” for Jaxon Smith-Njigba to not be playing. You can’t live your life saying “what if.” You have to play the hand you’re dealt. He’s a great practice. He’s going to have a great future, but selfishly you’d like to have him here in the short term too.

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