ATLANTA — The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are now just two days away from playing in the College Football Playoffs as one half of the two semifinals. Thursday was Media Day for both teams and reporters descended upon them like the Brood X cicadas.
Miyan, Dallan, Runnin’
Much has been made about the absence of Ohio State starting running back Miyan Williams this week at the Peach Bowl, but he was finally back at practice on Thursday.
“He’s had a stomach bug,” head coach Ryan Day said on Thursday. “We’ll just kind of take it as we go.”
Williams’ injuries greatly limited his touches against Michigan, forcing Chip Trayanum into a lead role at running back for the Buckeyes. Freshman Dallan Hayden, meanwhile, carried the ball just twice against the Wolverines after carrying it 46 times over the previous two games.
Day was asked if he expects to see more of Hayden against Georgia on Saturday.
“Yeah, I do,” was Day’s matter-of-fact response.
“He’s had a great month of preparation. So, yeah, we’re going to need him to win this game.”
As to what the depth chart looks like for the Buckeyes, it depends on the health of the players, the situation, the flow of the game, and anything else that might pop up.
“Again, we don’t really have a pecking order,” Day explained. “I think one of the things that we’ve had to do all year, is nothing new, is we’ve had to adjust as the season has gone on because that’s just kind of the way it’s gone this year. That room, we’ve had some guys in and out. So we’ve had to put some guys into the spots. And the good news is we’ve been able to adjust and we’ve responded in that area. So that’s nothing new. And the good news is we should have everybody available for the game.”
Everybody Loves Chip
A couple of months ago, Chip Trayanum was an Ohio State linebacker. Because of the injuries to the running back position, however, he was asked to make the move to tailback to help the Buckeyes out.
The position was nothing new for Trayanum, since he spent his first two years in college playing running back at Arizona State. It didn’t take too long for the rust to fall off, as he showed with his 83 yards rushing on 14 carries against Michigan.
Trayanum transferred to Ohio State to have an opportunity to win a national championship. He has that opportunity now and wants to help his new teammates reach their ultimate goal. His willingness to do whatever has been asked of him has certainly caught his teammates’ attention.
“Yeah. I love Chip,” said linebacker Steele Chambers. “As soon as he came in, he was just a huge big ball of energy for everybody. He’s a really great upstanding guy. He’s just been able to do whatever he can for the team, going from linebacker to running back, sometimes going to linebacker. He’s just a good guy. He’s a team guy, and I think he’s a big reason why we are where we are this year, guys like that being selfless, just doing whatever it takes to get to the highest level out here.”
If Trayanum had his pick, he’d stay at running back next year. But everybody knows he’ll be wherever he is needed, and he’ll give everything while he’s there.
“Great kid,” said OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. “I’m with Steele. I’m afraid we might have lost him for good to running back. I don’t know. But he’s a lot of fun to be around. And like you said, you can sense that he’s really happy to be home. And we all cheer for him on offense, because he’s just a good guy.”
You Can’t Be Perfect All The Time
Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has spent most of his interview time at the Peach Bowl answering questions about the loss to Michigan and the big plays that his defense gave up.
While he has plays that he’d like to have back, the fact is that things are never going to be perfect on offense or defense. You do your best, but your best is never flawless.
“Nothing is perfect in this game. If it was, we’d be playing on a computer, but we’re still dealing with humans,” Knowles said. “So you look at the things that you’re talking about, and you say, ‘well, okay, he’s a really good player. He’s a really good kid. And something went wrong.’ I think it’s easy and a cop out as a coach to say, ‘well, that guy blew this particular play’ or ‘he didn’t get it right and I coached him on that.’ Well, I didn’t. I didn’t do a good enough job.
“If he didn’t show up in the game doing it right, then the fingers need to be pointed back to me, and then say, ‘okay, what did I call, why did I call it, why did we not finish that play right?’ And those are the things that keep me up at night to just keep working on it and grinding on it. And when you have a team and a bunch of good guys and people don’t point fingers at each other, we all just get in it together. You own it. You accept the accountability for it, and you work to get better every day. And that starts with me.”
Since the Michigan game a year ago, the Ohio State football program has had to deal with the worst label in sports: soft.
“The Buckeyes are soft.” Michigan ran through them a year ago, and rather than give credit to the Wolverines, the credit instead was directed at OSU’s inability to stop the run.
This entire year was spent talking about being tough and the need for physical toughness. Then Michigan comes to town again and puts another 40-spot on the Buckeyes. But despite the on-going narrative, that game was not lost because of physical toughness. It was lost because of mistakes.
And when asked about the narrative that Ohio State is soft, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart wasn’t interested in entertaining the thought.
“Yeah. I’ve not heard that narrative,” Smart said. “I don’t look at narratives, I look at tape. And the tape doesn’t say they’re a soft football team. I know how they practice. I know what players they have. I watch the tape. I know how physical they are. We don’t get caught up in narratives. We get caught up in controlling what we can control, which is how we play.”
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