Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was once asked if he was concerned about a particular position, to which he replied that he’s the head coach and it’s his job to be concerned. About everything.
Ryan Day is now entering his fifth year as the Buckeyes’ head coach in a constantly evolving college football universe, but the job description hasn’t changed where concern is concerned.
Concern is a constant. That’s why the coaches work so hard in recruiting. The better they recruit, the better their chances of having strong position groups throughout the program.
But with that recruiting and coaching also comes good news and — sometimes — pleasant surprises.
The Buckeyes are now three practices into spring camp for the 2023 squad. Tuesday was the first day in pads. Something new is learned about the team every single day. When asked after practice about the position groups he finds himself thinking about most — other than quarterback — he seemingly dipped into both the “concerned” pile and the “good news” pile.
“Probably offensive line, and then probably the secondary, just in general, just where that’s at,” he said. “I will say this again, I like the way the corners are playing. We’ll see how the safeties did today. The depth of the D line. It’s good to get a couple of guys out there now that [starting middle linebacker] Tommy [Eichenberg] is not gonna be practicing here this spring, to get some of the guys going at linebacker. But those are the areas that we’ve got to really do a great job with.”
The offensive line is replacing three starters, so that process is well underway. Fourth-year junior Josh Fryar is the presumed starter at left tackle, but there is an on-going battle at right tackle between redshirt freshman Tegra Tshabola and redshirt sophomore Zen Michalski. There is also a competition at center between redshirt freshman Carson Hinzman and Louisiana-Monroe transfer Victor Cutler.
“First day in pads today, I’ll get on the film and take a look at it. I think so far I’ve been impressed with the way Carson has come out and competed early on,” Day said. “Vic is learning the offense. I think he would tell you that practicing everyday at Ohio State is something that he’s adjusting to. But he has the ability, has athleticism, got a great attitude. So I think we’ll see the best football out of him as we get closer to the middle of spring practice. But so far been pretty pleased with what’s going on center.”
As for the competition at right tackle, it sounds like that one will begin to heat up this week now that the pads are on and scrimmages are coming.
“Right tackle, it’s still too hard to tell,” Day said. “I think there again, it’s our first day in pads. So it’s gonna be hard to really give you a lot of evaluation. We’ll get going with a bunch of inside drill on Thursday. And we’ll probably get after it a little bit in a scrimmage setting on Saturday at times. So I think coming off this week, we’ll have a better feel for it.”
Some of those questions and concerns can start to be addressed this week as the Buckeyes ramp up the physicality. This, of course, could end up bringing about more concerns, which is always a concern.
But it pays to stay in a state of near-worry because then at least you know the situation is being addressed. The real concern is when a coach allows optimism to rule the day. That’s when mistakes get made. Optimism is fine, but it won’t take long to prove it right or wrong.
“You just have to evaluate it for what it is,” Day said. “You have to identify it and you have to be real. You can’t be fake in this game, the players know it and the coaches know it. So sometimes you can feel like we’re riding a guy or we’re really negative on someone who’s a really good player. And they can call that out, or if you’re wrong in your evaluation, you think someone’s better than they are, then it’s gonna get you beat down the road. So you’ve just got to do a great job of communicating and identifying what you think it is and the evaluation.”
They say you never have to get ready if you stay ready.
You also never have to get concerned if you stay concerned.
The Buckeyes do return two All-Big Ten-level players on the offensive line in guards Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones, and Josh Fryar has only ever proven his worth when given an opportunity.
Until it all comes together, however, the possibilities will always carry more concern than confidence, even if the confidence is perfectly fine.
That’s just the nature of the job.