COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, defensive end Zach Harrison, defensive lineman Haskell Garrett, offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere, and wide receiver Chris Olave met with the media on Tuesday to preview the Buckeyes’ game at Michigan this Saturday.
Here are the highlights of what was said.
+ On Michigan’s defense schematically, Day said they are more NFL-oriented the way they are structured. It is significantly different.
+ Day agrees that you don’t really know what the intensity is like in this game until you are in it. Every year it’s a battle.
+ On Craig Young at cover safety, Day said it was using his skillset based on the personnel. He has had a great attitude all year and because of that he’s playing late in the season. He’s a big part of the defense.
+ On Denzel Burke, Day said they knew he was talented but didn’t know that he would make such a big impact. He has learned the position well and he’s very competitive. He’s been consistent. He showed up early in the spring practices and made a few plays early on. “When young players make plays early on, you know you have a good one.”
+ On Thayer Munford being the only starter who has started against Michigan before, Day said they work this game year-round, in the off-season and in the weight room. They understand the magnitude of the game and they know that everything is on the line with this game. But they also can’t make it bigger than it is, they have to go out and do what they have done all season.
+ “Now that we’re 11 games into this, we know who we are and we know what to do. When we’re all playing together, we’re dangerous.” But the team that plays the best wins. The competition is on this week to prepare as much as they can, and then that just gives them a chance.
+ Cade Kacherski’s injury is long-term. Cody Simon’s injury does not look like a long-term deal.
+ This will be the toughest defense they have faced all year. “We have to bring it.” The preparation this week is very important.
+ One being in Michigan’s tunnel, Day said “you hear a lot in that tunnel.” Everybody is barking at each other, but that’s how they like it.
+ The adrenaline has already hit, today.
+ Day watched the 2016 Michigan game highlight video with his son R.J. that was playing in the facility and he knew he wanted to be a part of The Game. He knew how much it meant to so many people and he grew up watching the games. He has embraced that over the years. Growing up loving college football, across the country, he still understood the magnitude of the game, it was on the center stage.
+ Thinking that everything is on the line is overwhelming. They focus on grinding and preparing for Saturday at Noon. There is a lot of pressure, with everything riding on it, but that’s how they want it. “That’s why you come to Ohio State.”
+ They don’t need extra motivation for a game like this and they stay focused on themselves but the players do have social media and they see comments that are made from Michigan coaches or players. It sometimes shows up on the TV (it’s no longer a bulletin board) in the Woody Hayes or maybe in a speech.
+ They are hoping to have Emeka Egbuka available for Saturday but Julian Fleming wanted to get in returning, he has the big play ability to take one back. He’s another weapon back there.
+ They always have one eye on Michigan. That’s just how they do their business. They can’t be crazy about it and get distracted but they always have an eye on them. They always have things they do in practice or in the weight room that goes along with this game.
+ Day hasn’t implemented anything special for this, but he tries to uphold all of the traditions that were in place. He talks to the players a lot about how to manage this week with everything going on.
+ On how to prepare C.J. Stroud for this game, Day said it’s a huge game for so may reasons but the game itself it just playing against a good opponent. There’s a lot riding on it but he’s still playing football. There’s certain things they talk about but Stroud also has to go out there and do what he’s done all year and be confident in that.
+ Their preparation is staying the way it is. They have a standard and they focus on themselves but they also have to do their homework on Michigan.
+ He appreciates the unselfishness of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson. Going into the game they never know who is going to get the touches but they handle it well.
+ Every week there has to be an upgrade with the offense.
+ “You have to maximize every single second this week.”
+ National individual awards should go to the best players, not necessarily the best statistics.
+ On having Tyreke Smith on the other end, Harrison said his game is better when Smith is playing. They both can win their one-on-one matchups.
+ On Michigan’s ability to prevent sacks and tackles for loss, Harrison said they are emphasizing affecting the quarterback in many ways. If they can’t get through, get home, they put their hands up and bat down a pass. That is something they work on everyday in practice.
+ On not playing last year, Harrison said this game is as big as it gets. They don’t need any extra motivation. But it was tough not having this game last year.
+ On helping the younger guys prepare for the magnitude of this game, Harrison said “they know.”
+ Confidence has been the biggest difference for the team. They really clicked after the Tulsa game. They felt like they had to make a statement after that. “When we’re firing on all cylinders, it’s a tough challenge.” He feels like the offense just has to pick their poison.
+ On considering Michigan in his recruitment, Harrison said he imagined playing in both sides but he’s here now and is a Buckeye. “We have a job to do.” He doesn’t think about that anymore.
+ It’s a dream come true and a huge honor to play in the game. Being from Columbus, he doesn’t take that lightly.
+ On why this is still a big time rivalry, Harrison said it’s the biggest rivalry in all of sports. “You just feel it. It’s always been there and it always will be there.”
+ Defensive energy builds. When they are having fun and celebrating and making plays, that’s what a defense is all about. Haskell Garrett brought that early against Michigan State.
+ On Michigan getting rid of the ball quickly, Garrett said they try to get their hands up and hit the ball. “We have a big challenge.”
+ “There are a lot of feelings that go into this game. They prepare for this 365 days a year. It’s rivalry week. We know how important it is to get this win.”
+ On managing emotions in this game and this week, Garrett said he tries to keep it as normal as possible. There’s a lot that goes along with this week with Thanksgiving and this game. Being able to flip the switch is key. Ryan Day talks a lot about being able to handle that.
+ There are a lot of new faces who didn’t play in this game two years ago. There’s a lot of pressure but they thrive under pressure.
+ On keeping players from not going too far, Garrett said defensive line coach Larry Johnson teaches to play with emotion but not let emotion play with you. He needs to control his emotions, win the plays between the whistle, and the younger players will follow his example.
+ When he walked in the building as a freshman, there were no blue pens, and he couldn’t wear blue. Coach Urban Meyer emphasized it all the time.
+ On giving away meals for Thanksgiving, Garrett said he’s using his NIL funds to help others in Ohio and in the community. He has memories of being outside and preparing the Pig with his family. A lot of things are based around meals in Hawaii.
+ Everything being on the line this week is what they love about Ohio State, it’s why the players come to Ohio State. He is excited for Saturday, back to back College Gameday games.
+ On going through Senior Day, Petit-Frere said he graduated with his degree in business marketing, so he wanted to walk. It was important for his mom. He wanted to be the first male in his family to get a college degree. He wanted to have her see that and give her that opportunity. He thought Senior Day was the chance to do that.
+ He graded out a champion last week, even though it wasn’t reported.
+ On this being the toughest game because they are going against a top 10 defense, Petit-Frere said it’s the biggest challenge because it’s against the Team Up North, not necessarily because of the statistics.
+ The offensive line bas been executing better. The things that can stop them are things they do if they don’t prepare well or make mistakes.
+ On the confidence in C.J. Stroud, Petit-Frere said he’s seen how much Stroud has developed into his role, how much he has learned, and how much he prepares. Stroud has grown a lot throughout the season and has handled the pressure. Everything that he has worked for is showing up.
+ “It’s everything” to have his first start against Michigan. “It’s an honor and a blessing.”
+ On The Game bringing out the best in him, Olave said all the preparation comes down to this week, and everything is on the line. It brings out the competitor in him. His freshman year, he just kept his head down and kept working and he knew his opportunity would come. It was great that it came in that game. That game boosted his confidence and it was huge for him, it changed his career.
+ On not having the Michigan game last year, Olave said he’s just glad they get to play in it this year.
+ On Michigan recruiting him, Olave said he has a lot of respect for their program. They talked about the rivalry a little bit during recruiting but he didn’t get too deep into it with Michigan.
+ Clicking on all cylinders on offense has boosted their confidence a lot.
+ The record breaking ball is in his house. His dad wanted to take it home but he wanted to cherish it more for a while.
+ The offense feels that the only thing that can stop them is themselves. They have so much talent and they try to keep spreading the ball around.
+ The team has a lot of respect for Michigan.
+ When the other team has great pass rushers, it speeds things up. They have to focus on getting yards after the catch. It impacts the long-developing routes, But he trusts his offensive line, C.J. Stroud, and Coach Day.
+ Michigan is good at every position and they have a good scheme. “At the end of the day we just have to compete.”
+ Playing in this game one more time factored into his decision to comeback for another year. He wanted to play in this game again.
+ The freshman have been preparing over 700 days for this game.