The sound of silence finally ended on Monday as Ohio State’s acting head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano spoke with the media about what the last month has been like, and they also answered a ton of personnel questions that have been brewing since Spring ball ended.
There was a lot said and plenty of it stood out, but some things stood out more than others.
Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from Monday’s press conferences.
1. Ryan Day could not have done any better today.
Day set the tone with his opening statement and then proceeded to answer every question without a dodge. He spoke with the knowledge and authority of the head coach, but didn’t show any arrogance, even acknowledging his early struggles and on-going reliance on Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano.
2. Pete Werner is a starting linebacker.
The coaching staff is very excited about the potential of sophomore Pete Werner, and they’re apparently ready to see that potential unleashed on defense. Based on the process of elimination, Werner should be at the Sam, which is where he was last year and half of the spring. He then moved to Will towards the end of spring and admitted to struggling while learning the position. Regardless, 25 practices over the last 30 days should have him ready to go.
3. Baron Browning is a starting linebacker, but for how long?
Sophomore Baron Browning will get the start at middle linebacker for the Buckeyes, but unless he Wally Pipps — or J.K. Dobbinses — Tuf Borland, he will either be stepping out of the starting lineup or stepping into a new position when Borland returns. Still, it is going to be fun to watch a player that came to Ohio State with rare expectations. He’s going to have an opportunity to show what he can do likely in the first two games, especially with the way Greg Schiano kept talking about how they needed to be careful with Borland.
4. The health of the program seems fine.
While Ryan Day or Greg Schiano were never going to share concerns or worries about the state of the program, they did say all of the right things when it came to how the players have reacted to the last month.
5. The offensive line is set, for the most part.
Michael Jordan was finally confirmed as the starting center, but the left tackle job is still up in the air due in large part to sophomore Thayer Munford being saddled with dings and nicks during camp. Fourth-year junior Josh Alabi — a former defensive tackle — could be getting the start at left tackle for the Buckeyes. Fifth-year senior Malcolm Pridgeon steps in for Jordan at left guard, while the right side remains unchanged with Demetrius Knox at guard and Isaiah Prince at tackle. Branden Bowen is still dealing with health issues. Brady Taylor will provide depth at both guard and center.
6. There is some déjà vu at safety.
Greg Schiano said that both Jahsen Wint and Isaiah Pryor will get snaps at strong safety early in the season, just as Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith did last year. The hope is that one of Wint or Pryor will take the job over, just as successfully as Fuller did a year ago. That’s a tall order but we’ve seen it happen.
7. They worked to make Dwayne Haskins stronger.
Ryan Day said that they had to remake Dwayne Haskins’ body a bit and make him stronger. Why? Because being a quarterback at Ohio State is a tough job. And, even though Day didn’t say it, the stronger a player is, the better he is on third and short. (I hope I didn’t just ruin your day.)
8. Something doesn’t add up with the numbers.
Ryan Day channeled his inner Norman Dale when asked about grad transfer quarterback Chris Chugunov being on scholarship. The Buckeyes entered camp with 85 scholarship players, and when asked how it was that they are still at 85 with Chugunov, Day replied, “We’re at 85 with Chris, yeah.” What that means is that somebody is no longer on scholarship. Perhaps somebody has been medically disqualified during camp at some point. Keep in mind, the media has talked to no coaches during camp until Monday, so there is still information to suss out.
9. There are new ideas on defense.
Greg Schiano said that one of the positives of coaches leaving is the new ideas that come from their replacements. The Buckeyes have two coaches on defense bringing in new ideas in Taver Johnson and Alex Grinch. The process has been a good one for all involved and it will be interesting to see their tweaks infused with Schiano’s defense.
10. The strategy regarding playing freshmen is interesting.
Greg Schiano talked about the new redshirt rule and how they are going to approach it. While much of it is still up in the air, it was interesting that he said a freshman is a much different player in November compared to June when they arrived. So conceivably they could hold some players back — call them ‘November call-ups’ — when they are almost no longer freshmen. There would be no film on the players and each of them would be a surprise. The depth chart will still make playing time difficult, but it is an interesting thought process. Schiano also said that some freshmen are ready to play right away and those guys won’t be held back.