The Power of the Block O
One of the fun things to talk about with every new coach when they come to Ohio State is recruiting. Many of them come from schools that don’t quite carry the same weight as OSU in recruiting circles, so the answers they give are always enlightening.
During his introductory press conference a year ago, new (and now former) safeties coach Alex Grinch said the doors open easier.
“I think the initial conversation is certainly different,” he said. “The initial phone call and getting guys to call you is a little bit easier than in some of my past stops.”
This year, new special teams coordinator and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes echoed some of those same sentiments. Barnes’ only real exposure to major college recruiting has occurred at Maryland, which is where he was for the previous three years.
At Ohio State now, he has found that the Block O is a great conversation starter.
“Yeah, people were all of the sudden a lot happier to see me. So it was definitely a difference, I can tell you that,” he said.
The logos, however, eventually fade into the background and the real work still needs to happen.
“I think some of that stuff wears off over time and then it really becomes about the relationship that you’ve built with each individual player and then just making sure you’re communicating regularly, and building trust, and rapport, and things like that,” he said. “Definitely that little Block O goes a long way for you when you first walk in the door, but after that it’s more about the relationships you’re able to build.”
A New Day, But Same Old Day Offense?
Before last season, a 5,000-yard passing offense at Ohio State seemed impossible. Or at least remarkably unlikely.
The Buckeyes have always been run-first, and while they were still run-first last year, they were pass-second and then maybe pass-third.
The running game also struggled last year, which maybe contributed to the need to throw the ball.
The loss of three senior receivers and a first-round NFL quarterback may tilt the offense back to the running game this season.
If fifth-year senior KJ Hill and his fellow receivers have anything to say about it, however, the passing game will still be just as dangerous as it was a year ago.
“It’s not going to be a drop-off,” he said. “We have the same standard here at Ohio State on the offense. And now with Coach Day as the head coach, he emphasizes it a lot. It’s just one of those things, this time last year we didn’t know we were going to do that, that we were going to set records. We weren’t even looking like we were going to set records. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of grinding.”
Still Work To Be Done
With Matthew Baldwin’s transfer out of the Ohio State football program, all eyes turn to sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, which is where all of those eyes were originally anyway.
Fields has spent the spring and winter working with head coach Ryan Day and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich to get ready for this season, and that work will continue through the summer and beyond.
How has working with Yurcich gone this spring for Fields?
“It’s been great,” Fields said this spring. “I mean he’s a great coach. He definitely has a lot of energy, so he brings a lot of energy to the table, but it’s great learning from him and his view and perspective on the game.”
With no apparent depth chart obstacles in front of him, it is now imperative that Fields is ready to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback when the Buckeyes kick off this August.
This spring was his first opportunity to attack a defense by applying what he’s learned. It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t need to be. Fields knows he still has room to grow.
“Yeah, I mean I’m kind of hard on myself,” he said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist. So in terms of my practice and I guess the report, I guess I would probably give myself… well… not where I want to be. I definitely have some more things to improve on and just keep getting better.”