COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s win over Indiana. He also answered a number of questions about his football team and discussed this weekend’s upcoming matchup at Maryland. Also speaking with the media was defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.
- Day began by expressing OSU’s sadness and prayers for the University of Virginia football program. “It’s tragic and senseless and it pains me…” that something like that would happen.
- Josh Fryar graded out a champion at right tackle. When you play a full game you can get a very good feel for where you’re at. He has continued to grow and build, plus he was able to play in many games this year as an extra lineman. The offensive line took a step in the right direction this week.
- Every week they have a couple of blocked punts they work on, then they make adjustments in-game. Lathan Ransom has put a lot of work in as a punt blocker. The guys who work on punt blocks wear base-stealing gloves to protect them from breaking their hands in practice. There is give and take when going after a punt. There are a lot more challenges with blocking rugby punters and the shield that they have in front of them.
- Xavier Johnson can move back and forth in practice or games between receiver and running back. They always felt like he was more of a back than receiver, but he has blossomed as a receiver. He is able to go back and forth because he’s played so much special teams. You learn so much about the game playing in special teams, and he embraced it.
- How do you keep from looking ahead to Michigan? It’s something that comes up every week and every year. The competitive excellence and focus comes up so that you don’t come in on a Tuesday meeting and have to try to get guys to focus on the game before Michigan. They are focused on the next task.
- What goes in to preparing for Michigan on a weekly basis? “I just think it’s a mindset.” But right now the focus is how they play on Saturday at Maryland. They know they have to be at their best each week. They can go 11-0 this week and still not reach any of their goals. Maryland has played some teams very tough this year. They do a good job of recruiting. They have skill weapons on offense. They have been stout on defense. They have had battles over there before, like in 2018.
- Paris Johnson found balance growing up and has been able to maintain that as he has gotten older. Football is something that he does, it’s not who he is.
- Ty Hamilton is playing his best football, by far. He graded out a champion this week. He’s versatile and is strong against the run and pass. He can transition very well.
- The talent was always there with Dallan Hayden, but it’s always a question about how quickly a freshman can assimilate into the program with everything they ask of them. When he has gotten on the field, he takes care of the football, accelerates, has good feet, and trusts his instincts.
- How important is the reputation of the WR room in recruiting? He wouldn’t have believed they would’ve continued on so well without Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but that shows how important depth is. The guys have taken the opportunity and run with it. You can see the development and the blueprint. It’s an exciting time to be a receiver at Ohio State.
- What would Jaxon Smith-Njigba add to the offense right now? It’s tough to say. He’s one of the best receivers in the country and one of the best slot receivers he’s ever been around. “He’s been missed.”
- Is short-yardage the best way to manifest toughness? The first thing is physicality and how hard you play. 4-6, A-B. That’s a big thing. They show clips of those kinds of plays to the team. You have to bring it every week. In terms of short yardage, that is a part of it. You have to get movement and be physical.
- There are times during games that are no longer in doubt where they do what’s best for the future of the team. They work on things during games in order to have it ready for when they will need it to help decide a game.
- How do you balance wanting physicality with throwing on third and short? You have to at some point say that you can run for one yard, but there also times when the passing game is clicking. But there are times when you have to have that mindset when you can go get that one yard.
- How frustrating have the injuries been? “It can be very frustrating, but at the same time it’s part of the game.” They try to make sure the players have everything they need to get healthy and stay healthy. A lot of guys played against Indiana that were hurt. Guys are pushing through bumps and bruises because it’s November in the Big Ten. They have the right mindset and you can see the guys are strong and they’re pushing through.
- Dwayne Haskins played so well at Maryland in 2018. He played tough and ran for three touchdowns. That game will be brought up this week.
- How close is this team to playing their best ball? If you say you’re playing your best ball, that means you’ve played your best and can’t get anybody. They have not played their best yet. They can get better in all three phases, and they have to if they’re going to accomplish their goals.
- The talent has to be there for a true freshman to play, but if you don’t have the maturity and the work ethic and intelligence, it won’t happen. That stuff adds up really quickly. Freshmen can hit a lull and then they come out of it. That happened to Chris Olave.
- How do you prepare for a game at running back not knowing how much guys will be able to practice? They have physical reps and mental reps, so you have to focus if you’re not getting the physical reps. Then there’s film and extra work on your own. That’s what Xavier Johnson did because he didn’t have the physical reps. That will be the challenge for the veterans who may not practice but still play.
- Asked about playing Michigan back-to-back in a Big Ten Championship Game without divisions, he’s not in a place to think about that right now, but it would be very unique. More like an NFL situation.
- He has not heard about the NFLPA asking for the banning of slit film turf in the NFL, which is the same kind of turf at Ohio State. The university has had some preliminary discussions about that according to SID Jerry Emig, however.
- Xavier Johnson could have transferred and played more somewhere else but he stayed because he wants to win a national championship. He’s not alone. They have tried hard to get players to recognize the opportunities here at Ohio State.
- What role can Kam Babb have moving forward? They’ll see what he can do on a regular basis, but they have to see what his body can handle. He’s smart, powerful, explosive, runs great routes, with great body language.
- There’s a lot of excitement about Ohio State on the west coast among recruits. There will be more excitement there with two west coast teams in the Big Ten.
- He feels like he did after the game about Dawand Jones, Chip Trayanum, Denzel Burke, and TreVeyon Henderson that they should be able to go but they’ll no more this week.
- Do you feel like you’re driving a car and parts are flying off? That’s part of being a college football coach right now. You do the best you can to prepare for being in November. The only way to do that is to build a tremendous amount of depth.
- He’d be shocked if all three of Chip Trayanum, TreVeyon Henderson, and Miyan Williams can’t play this week. He thinks at least two will be able to go.
- The safety blitzes? It allows the safeties to be aggressive. Guys are more comfortable with the system. It allows them to play offense on defense. They’re going to do more of that this season.
- Ty Hamilton is like a “cold-blooded gentleman.” He’s quiet, good smile, but he’s really tough inside and athletic. He uses his hands really well. He’s developing and earning more playing time.
- Does Tommy Eichenberg’s cast limit his tackling? It’s part of the game but the toughest guys don’t let it limit them. You try not to talk about it and you try not to acknowledge it. There are things you can do in tackling when you have a cast or a brace, but for the most part you just play through it.
- How much of a lift did Cam Brown and Jordan Hancock give you? It’s a big lift. They played well. Brown did a good job making plays on 50/50 balls that they weren’t making earlier this year.
- What are you seeing from Taron Vincent and Ty Hamilton? Taron can hold the point but then also discard and disengage from blocks and make tackles. That’s the next step to playing that position.
- It’s good to have everybody back in the secondary. It’s a luxury to have that many guys.
- What impresses you about the OSU WRs and Marvin Harrison? As a group, they are extremely hard working, talented, and competitive. They always go hard, and that’s part of what makes them great. Marvin Harrison “is just the best I’ve ever been around.” They see him make plays every day in practice.
- How do you defend Marvin Harrison? You have to try to double him, but he’s made catches against them in practice in bracket coverage. You have to change it up because if he and CJ Stroud know what you’re doing, they’re going to make plays.
- Jack Sawyer has embraced his role. “I keep encouraging him to even be more reckless.” You may make some mistakes, but he wants him to be more reckless. Jack Sawyer doesn’t want to make mistakes. It’s not being cautious, but they have given him a lot to do, so it takes some thinking. He’s doing a good job but Knowles has to do more to cut him loose.
- Is it hard to communicate being reckless to a player? “Absolutely.” They spend so much time on gap responsibility and being sound, so yes, there is a tipping point which has taken him some time over the years before players really get what it takes for one guy to be reckless among the other 10 defenders.
- What does it take to stop the run? You have to control the line of scrimmage. You have to be able to whip people up front. After that, it comes down to an understanding by the linebackers and safeties of where the ball is going to end up.
- There is nothing sexy about being a defensive tackle. It’s hard work. It’s the way football was initially created. You still need your tough guys to be tough. They have gotten great play out of the tackles and it’s going to be key to get that moving forward.
- The average national rank of offenses you’ve played is in the 90s, how confident are you that the defense can handle better offenses? “I’m confident” that they can play well against anything they see. You just take it week to week with great habits and lifestyle and demeanor, no matter what they rank. If you look past somebody, you’re in trouble regardless of their rankings offensively. He is confident this defense is ready to be relied up on and counted on.
- What can Maryland do offensively? The quarterback is a really good scrambler and playmaker. Maybe a little banged up, but everything flows through him. He’s dangerous. They have skilled receivers. In a spread attack, they’re dangerous.
- Is Mike Hall still on a pitch count? Ty Hamilton has played extremely well so he deserves that opportunity. But Hall has really battled injuries and it’s a week to week thing on how Mike is feeling and what he can do. “He’s really fought through some things.
- Do the busted plays haunt you a little bit? “They haunt me a lot.” But they get studied now and in the offseason. Indiana had five explosive plays. They want five or less. But they had opportunities to make plays against those explosive plays.
- Lathan Ransom is a football guy. He can get what you’re talking about and understand it. You start to put more on him as you see what he can handle. Ransom is a fixer, but he still needs to be able to play fast. It can pile up, so you have to watch that.
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