Jayden Ballard Ohio State Buckeyes Wide Receiver

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘He can really stretch the defense’

Position Coach, Not Position Recruiter

Ohio State running backs coach Carlos Locklyn has made it clear over the past couple of years that the level of coaching at the running back position can be improved.

He has said that it is the worst-coached position in football. And rather than college head coaches finding the best coach for the position, too often they simply look for the best recruiter.

“There are some good running back coaches out here. Everybody’s different. There’s some great coaches out here,” Locklyn said this spring. “I just want the head guys to see that, on these jobs, to not just hire guys — because all coaches on your staff should be great recruiters. Not just the running back coach. We coach the position, we develop players as well.”

In hiring “recruiters,” head coaches are short-changing the players who have come to a particular school to be fully developed.

“I just want the coaches to realize, like, ‘You know what, let me look and be thorough about this guy that I’m hiring for this job. Is he teaching the position? Is he developing the position?’ Because you’re not gonna hire just anybody to coach quarterbacks, are you?” Locklyn said. “Well it shouldn’t be different for the running back position either.”

While Locklyn has only been coaching in college for a handful of years now, he still comes from a place of embedded experience.

“I’m only passionate about it because I played it. I love it,” he said. “So this is the only position I want to coach. Could I coach other positions? Yeah. I played DB in college, too, but I love the running back position. I just want to see it coached well.”

Black Stripe Life

Much was been said of Ohio State freshman quarterback Julian Sayin this spring, and much was said when he lost his black stripe earlier than any other Buckeye freshman quarterback before him.

When it happened, OSU head coach Ryan Day was asked if there was a danger in removing the stripe so quickly considering how it may be taken by other quarterbacks on the team in the transfer portal era.

“He’s been in there and competing and he’s making plays. The guys know,” Day said. “And a lot of times with the black stripe, it’s the players [suggesting it]. They know, they see it. A guy makes a play or shows up over an extended period of time. Nine practices in and you can see that he was making a lot of throws in big spots. Even against the ones and so the play speaks for itself.”

What Sayin did was impressive for a number of reasons. One, of course being that he was just a true freshman who enrolled early and was able to operate well. Another was the conditions he was operating under.

“[Offensive coordinator] Chip [Kelly] really rolls them. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ones, twos, or threes, so you get an opportunity to see what guys look like,” Day said. “I think sometimes maybe when you’re young, you get the three work, and sometimes it can look a mess out there. And so this has been a really good sample size to figure out where guys are at, but Julian’s gonna compete his tail off, and he’ll continue to do that. He’s got a very bright future and he’s gonna have a really good summer.”

Nine’s Route

Each of the past few springs, one of the questions that would come out of Ohio State football camp was if this was the year that wide receiver Jayden Ballard would be able to establish himself in the Buckeye offense.

Ballard is now entering his fourth year at Ohio State, and with the Buckeyes losing four receivers from last year’s team, the time to step up has never been more necessary.

The star of spring ball was true freshman receiver Jeremiah Smith, but Ryan Day was pleased with the way Ballard closed things out as well.

“I think Jayden took a step here this last week,” Day said after the spring game. “We’ve been challenging him. There’s been a couple plays — one in particular. He needed to make some plays to say, ‘Okay, I’m here and you can count on me.’ There was a really contested play in the red zone that he made. He made a big play on a post out here the other day. You’re starting to see him make those plays.”

Ballard claims to be the fastest Buckeye on offense, and it’s difficult to find anybody to disagree with him. The speed has never been the issue, however. The coaches have been looking for playmaking consistency, which they got a glimpse of down the stretch last month.

“If he can do that for us, with his deep speed down the field — he can really stretch the defense,” Day said. ” And so we’re gonna need him to, and we did see things in the last couple of weeks that led us to believe that he can.”

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