The Buckeyes were back on the practice field on Thursday morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Unlike Tuesday, reporters were not allowed in to watch any of the action, but we did get to talk to the players and coaches from the defensive line and wide receiver units after it was over.
Tony Gerdeman and Tom Orr share some of the more interesting things they heard today from the Buckeyes.
So far the experiment with Jashon Cornell at defensive end is working. He had some injuries early in his career, but this is the best Johnson has ever seen him. He could be part of the Rushmen package as well. When Cornell arrived as a true freshman, he wasn’t in the best shape he could have been, and combined with his injuries he got a slow start as a Buckeye.
Moving Cornell was possible because Johnson really likes where things stand with the defensive tackles.
Chase Young is going to get a lot of reps this spring and is going to go from a 25-play guy to 50-60 plays per game. They want to keep the players healthy this spring, but they are going to work Young and Jonathon Cooper hard.
“To lead the pack, you’ve got to be good every day.” That’s what Robert Landers and the older guys are learning as the new leaders.
Jonathon Cooper has done everything he can to get on the field and Johnson thinks he can be an impact player this season for the Buckeyes.
“I think I’m well prepared.”
Young had a fantastic winter and feels “way more explosive” than he did last year.
He is playing with a chip on his shoulder because he knows there is a bunch of hype on him, so he doesn’t want to come up short of that.
It is possible for the defensive line to be better this year than it was last year. Yeah, the group last year set a high bar, but he thinks there is enough talent on hand to excel. Plus, they learned from the best and now he’s trying to be better than the best.
Cornell said he is bringing aggression to the defensive end position. “That’s what I’m here for.”
His job is to beat up the offensive tackles and the tight ends.
Cornell said he had a feeling once Adolphus Washington left for the NFL that he would be moving inside to tackle. But playing three technique as he did still allows him to rush the passer and it’s not that much different from being a defensive end.
Being back at defensive end feels natural for him because it’s what he’s done his whole life.
Cooper isn’t worried about being overlooked by people who are focused on Nick Bosa and Chase Young.
He can’t wait to see Chase Young out there in the rotation. “Chase is an amazing player.” Cooper considers him his little brother.
Cooper gained about 20 pounds in the offseason and is now at 258, which is helping a lot.
Michael Thomas was the most ritualized player he ever coached. He ate at the same restaurant every Thursday. He did the exact same thing before practice every day, and if he got thrown off his routine he basically couldn’t function.
From day one, Austin Mack has tried to do everything Michael Thomas did exactly the way he did it. He came in asking Smith how Thomas did everything, and then doing it the same way.
Ryan Day is involved with the wide receivers, but it’s basically the same way any offensive coordinator is. He’s not directly coaching them. Smith made it sound like less of a change than Urban Meyer did.
He said they really need a fourth defensive end to step up to play. They don’t want it to just be Bosa, Jonathon Cooper, and Chase Young. Right now, the fourth guy is Jashon Cornell, and Bosa thinks he has the ability to be that guy this fall as well.
Bosa said that they don’t line up on a specific side of the line – whether it’s strong side or left side or field side. They just go out there and decide where guys will go on certain plays. In fact, he said they make sure guys don’t play on only one side. They try to be as close to 50/50 as they can in order to stay flexible positionally.
Bosa is not a vocal leader, but he is working on it because he knows it is his time now.
He thinks it would be distracting to the team to come out right now and say he was leaving for the NFL. “I’m just playing this year and seeing how this year goes.”
Bosa said Jashon Cornell has some of the best explosion and twitch of anybody on the defensive line, but has to get used to being on the outside.
He is working on his conditioning. He knows that’s going to be crucial for him to play all season as a starter.
The young guys in the room, including true freshman Tommy Togiai and redshirt freshman Jerrod Cage have been working hard and making big strides.
Davon Hamilton is the guy who has made the most impressive strides since the end of last season. Landers sounded very impressed with what Hamilton has done.
He talked a lot about the idea of “Being a 5” which means you’re doing everything right and going as hard as possible all the time. A “0” is useless, and then the scale goes up with each number meaning something slightly better. A “3” is about average. A “4” does almost everything right, but Landers says even if you go as hard as you can 99 times out of 100, you’re not a “5” which is the ultimate goal.
His injury was suffered during the Cotton Bowl on a punt return when he was chasing a fumble and a player landed on his shoulder.
Hill isn’t able to practice, but he is able to do this…
This tire appears to be broken. pic.twitter.com/bRTgizratG
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) March 8, 2018
He is roommates with Dwayne Haskins, but he says he tries to work with all the quarterbacks when he comes over to the WHAC during off-hours. Mack doesn’t just come over with Haskins, they reach out to everyone to come with them.
He says Haskins is the same funny, relaxed guy away from the facility that he always has been. The possibility of being the starting quarterback this fall hasn’t changed him at all personality-wise.
Building a rapport with the quarterbacks requires more work than just what is going on in practice because of the way the reps are split up. Extra work on their own helps a great deal in that regard.
Improving as a returner isn’t easy in practice because they don’t really do live returning, so you have to visualize a lot. A good returner can’t dance, they have to get upfield quickly. Demario McCall is a natural returner.
It was very frustrating not being able to play last year because of injury. He had surgery for his groin injury after the spring, but was never fully healthy. It has been an issue he has had since high school, but this is the healthiest he has been since high school.
McCall is very comfortable returning punts and kicks because that’s what he’s been doing since high school. Plus, he believes his vision as a runner helps him. A good returner is also somebody who trusts their blockers.
He needed to add weight and strength, and as he does that the rest of his game can improve.
Saunders always told himself that he could play here, and for a lot of people who tell themselves that, it never happens. It was important for him to prove that he could, and he did that several times last year.
The receivers are loaded and you figure out where you can fit in during the spring. What is he good at, what is K.J. Hill good at, what is Parris Campbell good at? You figure that out and then you put those pieces in place.
He takes pride in being a reliable receiver for his quarterback. That is how he began to separate himself as a walk-on. “That’s really important to me.”