Plenty of Bonding Time
With five new assistant coaches on Ryan Day’s Ohio State staff, there was some unfamiliarity that had to be resolved.
When the new coaches were brought on, however, the staff was out recruiting for the first month that they were all “together.”
Eventually, things settled down for a few weeks before spring ball began and they’ve settled again since the summer began.
Several times this spring and winter, the assistant coaches were asked how they were meshing, particularly the defensive coaches. Every answer was in the positive, but that’s what you would expect because no coach is going to air any dirty laundry in public.
While the team and the position groups will have team-building activities which allow them to bond, the coaches have their own ways in which they bond.
“The bonding part of it is when you come in at six in the morning and you leave at six at night,” co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “When you have the kind of staff we have with so much experience and success and everybody wants to be the best they can be. Everybody wants this to be the best defense its ever been and you’re all working together on it.
“The thing I’m so proud of is there aren’t egos. It’s all about Ohio State, it’s all about our defense. It’s all about how good could we make this defense, and that’s every guy in that room. I said to my wife after I was here for a while, ‘Man this is a great defensive staff and these are guys you really enjoy coming to work with every day.’”
CJ Is OK
The Buckeyes lost three senior receivers last season in Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin. They set the example to the younger receivers on the team about the kind of effort and efficiency that was required in order to play.
This year, there are four senior receivers on the Ohio State roster, and together they will do what Campbell, Dixon, and McLaurin did a year ago.
While Austin Mack, KJ Hill, and Binjimen Victor get the bulk of that attention, the fourth senior — CJ Saunders — is constantly held up as an example by Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline.
“It’s really hard for me to find a lack of effort on a test,” Hartline explained. “And I don’t try to. It’s not like I’m trying to put him on a pedestal, but I can grab his test and put it on the overhead and be like, ‘Alright, let me grab somebody else’s test,’ and then nobody wants to put their test up there.
“So that’s the expectation. Our expectation is to be different, to be the best in the room, be the best on the field, and all the time trying to be great. But I didn’t tell guys how hard to go all the time. I can’t find a half-speed rep from CJ Saunders on film. It’s impossible. So he’s really done a great job to help leading the room by example. I need some more guys to step up and command, but we’re doing a really good job.”
A Branden Of All Trades
Versatility is a necessity on the offensive line.
No, not every lineman needs the ability to play multiple positions, but there is a need for every offensive line to have a couple of guys who can play more than one spot on the line.
Ohio State has a few of those guys, and their most prominent Swiss Army Knife is fifth-year senior Branden Bowen.
Bowen played both tackle and guard in the spring, and has played on both the left and right side throughout his time as a Buckeye.
In 2017, he won the job as the right guard. This spring, he may have done the same at left guard. And this was after he started camp at tackle.
Even if he doesn’t end up starting this season, his value will not diminish. The importance of his ability to become whatever is needed whenever it is needed is something that can’t be overstated. And if he does win a starting job, he would still be the first player to volunteer his services somewhere else should somebody suffer an injury.
“He is so versatile. He can play any position. The only position I’ve never seen him play is center,” said Buckeyes’ starting right guard Wyatt Davis.
“I know when I was out, he filled in at right guard. He’s playing right tackle. Left guard. Left tackle. Having a guy like that is a huge part of our offensive line because if someone goes down, he’ll be the first guy up to say, ‘Hey, I can go in there.’ And not just go in there and do okay, he can go in there and do a good job. He’s super-versatile and is someone I truly respect.”