Ohio State head coach Ryan Day Buckeyes

Ryan Day, Jim Knowles Talk Northwestern, Moving Forward

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Tuesday for his weekly media session. He discussed Saturday’s difficult win over Northwestern, what he and his coaches learned from that game, and what the plans are moving forward. Also speaking with reporters was defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.

Ryan Day

  • No timetable or update on TreVeyon Henderson. No injury updates today.
  • Everybody needs to do better in the running game. Have to block better and run better. Need to do a better job of equating numbers. “We know we can do a better job.”
  • Are there cold-weather issues with this team? Last week was just very unusual. If they played in that kind of game again, they’d probably try to run the quarterback more and earlier, but that comes with risks as well. That weather was extreme.
  • Will the QB run become more a part of the offense? CJ Stroud embraced it and you can see that it is a weapon. “Maybe we found a little something there.” It comes with pluses and minuses. The RBs also need to be able to run.
  • Could some changeups be coming on the offensive line? Josh Fryar played well as the sixth guy this year. He’s getting better. It takes a while to come back from an ACL injury. They’re always looking at personnel that could improve the team. Right now they feel like they’re playing with the best five offensive linemen.
  • If you keep winning, you’re going to keep moving on. That being said, when you look at the film, are you getting better in every area? You identify the issues every week and try to fix them.
  • How much are you prepping for Michigan? “We live it every day.” They have to focus on Indiana but the way they approach it is that they work on that game every year.
  • This team has shown toughness and they’ve been physical.
  • How do you coach toughness? It’s the way of life. It’s how you practice, it’s your mental approach. It’s everything.
  • Winning will continue to help recruiting as they get toward signing day next month. You have to make sure you’re recruiting great people.
  • The wins the last two weeks are proof of toughness. Just as the Utah win and Notre Dame wins were. It gives him and the team confidence that they are getting to where they need to be for the tougher games to come.
  • They wanted to at least try to throw the ball against Northwestern. There were only a few types of throws that worked in that wind.
  • Does he have a favorite uniform? He likes the traditional uniform. “I’m more of a traditionalist.”
  • The expectation is to score every time they have the ball, so they need to be better on offense. The running game involves everyone. They all need to be better, including schemes and play calling.
  • Asked about the conditions or Miyan Williams’ health, Day said that if you start identifying all of those things it looks like excuses. They just need to be better.
  • Northwestern has a great staff. Same way with Indiana and Tom Allen. They always have a good plan and they always fight really, really hard. It’s a noon kick and OSU needs to come out and play better early in the game.
  • What can they do to get off to a better start? Get in a rhythm early on and get going.
  • Concerns about the defensive line rotation? They have a deep defensive line. The goal is to be fresh at the end of games and at the end of the season as well. They have some personnel groupings with Jim Knowles that affects who is in on the defensive line. Mike Hall is still dealing with a bit of a pitch count.
  • Of all the things he was disappointed with running the ball, the short-yardage issues were very high on the list. It was multiple times they didn’t get the movement they wanted. They didn’t enter the blocks the right way. There was another where they could’ve done a better job with the scheme. Northwestern was getting their pads lower than OSU. It’s not just one person. Not going to pin some missed holes on Miyan Williams. He wasn’t perfect. But it’s a concern when it’s somebody different in multiple situations.
  • Why aren’t they throwing to the backs as much this year? “I don’t think it’s a schematic thing.” The screens haven’t worked as well at times this year. Some of it is that the RBs have been in and out of the lineup this year so they haven’t gotten a rhythm maybe.
  • He has spent time in the offseason preparing for Big Ten play and then preparing for postseason. It requires different offenses at times. That’s why they’ve done more under center stuff over the last couple of years. You need to be able to operate in all conditions.
  • They prepared for the weather by watching a bunch of bad weather NFL games. It didn’t prepare a lot of answers. But it was worse than the forecasts. They did well in warmups. He saw a punt in warmups that crossed the line of scrimmage but went backwards and had to ask the refs what the rules were on that and if they could pick it up and run with it.
  • Matt Jones is like a lot of guys right now, he’s fighting through not being 100% healthy. He still gives the offensive line their best chance to be successful. You can spell guys on the offensive line if they need it. That’s stuff they usually decide before the game. With the OL, if it’s just one guy that is banged up, it’s not the end of the world.

Jim Knowles

  • “I think we’ve been doing quite well” getting pressure with just four defensive linemen. That’s when you’re really playing well when you can get pressure without blitzing.
  • He reiterates to anyone who wants to listen. Everything is about habits. “We want to stop every team on every possession of every game.” You can’t make it happen if you don’t focus on it constantly. “The way we play has got to be an every day, every play thing.” You have to play with expectations to stop everything you see.
  • How was the third down defense? Third downs have been good this year but not pleased about the last game. The quarterback run is always a difficult component. He thought they had done well with it before this game, but this was not a good game in that regard. This game turned into option football, so when your DBs spend 80% of the game being told not to worry about the receivers, it’s hard to transition to the other 20% of the time. He didn’t do a good enough job preparing his players for that. Best thing about it was that they were 4-4 on fourth downs. That’s the kind of thing that wins you a game.
  • “I thought the adjustments went well.” Northwestern stuck with components of what they already do. Northwestern created a lot of gaps. OSU hung in and communicated well. Seven points. He didn’t like the rushing yards and the third downs, but the fourth down stuff and the scoring was “pretty damn good.”
  • He has adjusted his system to be able to handle some things you see in the Big Ten. It’s never good enough because you are always working to get better.
  • You can’t really prepare for weather like this. You just have to do whatever you can to fight and win. Whatever it takes.
  • Jyaire Brown played well in coverage at the end of the game. They held Jordan Hancock out because of the conditions. “The field’s a mess.” You have to be careful with him because he’s coming off of a significant injury.
  • You can only prepare players for conditions like that through experience.
  • Where is the defense right now? “I’d still say we’re ahead of schedule. We’ve practiced a lot of things we still haven’t used.” The expectations are high here so are you ever really ahead of schedule? “We’re on schedule.”
  • How much more work does it take to go from the No. 6 defense to the No. 1 defense? The same work it took to get to No. 6. Don’t talk about how far you’ve come, just keep going.
  • Most of the time you’ll go to bigger packages when the offense is going heavy. You stay in base every now and then to convince the offense you might be doing something different. You mix things up.
  • “I was pleased” with the third down and fourth down stops in the third quarter. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.” There is zero emotional reaction for him up in the box.
  • You always work on different personnel groupings during the week so that players have run it. You would rather stay in base because it gives you more options.
  • The Indiana quarterback situation? They’re all pretty similar. One guy might run around more than another, but they all do similar things. Unless there is something drastic between quarterbacks you generally don’t change too many things as a defense.
  • Is he comfortable with the defensive line rotation right now? “I’m comfortable with whatever Coach Johnson does.” Sometimes Knowles will call packages that put different guys in the game.
  • Has Taron Vincent been a surprise for you? “He’s playing to that level — that 4-star or 5-star level.” He has been absolutely consistent since Knowles has been here. They joke about the number of double teams Vincent has taken on. He does that work and is consistent with it. “I don’t care who you are, nobody really likes that.” Then when they move him around he can still make plays.
  • Does it do any good to complain about holding? No, he stopped complaining in his early 30s. You just have to fight through it. JT Tuimoloau gets it more because he’s so athletic. They could call holding on him every other play. It’s an offensive world. Defensive guys fight against the rules, uphill both ways. Don’t complain, don’t use it as an excuse.
  • His comfort level facing a mobile quarterback? “Good.” They have all the right tools in place, they just need to make the plays.
  • How confident are you in the linebackers? “I think that depth has grown.” The more they’ve gotten Cody Simon into the game, it has allowed Knowles to see him more and get more comfortable with him. Same with Palaie Gaoteote. There could be some situations where it’s Simon and Gaoteote together.

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