COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spoke with reporters following practice on Wednesday. Day provided updates about the team as a whole, while Mattison answered a series of questions about the defense and how well they have adapted to the new scheme. Here are the highlights.
+ They expect to make a quarterback decision on Monday. They want to get through the weekend and see the scrimmage. Justin Fields is practicing at a high level right now. He feels better than the did last week. Fields has taken strides the last couple of days with ball security and his timing.
+ Chris Chugunov has been here a while and knows what’s going on. He missed a couple of practices with a sprained ankle. He is a good leader and Day has been impressed with his approach.
+ Master Teague hasn’t practiced much so it’s hard to evaluate him. Right now there is no backup running back.
+ Chris Olave looks like he could be a No. 1 receiver. He finished that way last season. “In this offense, we’re looking for ones. We’re looking for starters.” They started six receivers last year and Olave is practicing at that level this year. Austin Mack will be back in the next week or so to solidify that Z position.
+ Olave has great ball skills and tracks the football very well. They had to get him bigger and stronger. He is stronger, and was strong then, just not very thick or heavy. He was 165 pounds when he arrived. It has been gratifying to see him grow as a player after being an under-the-radar recruit.
+ You don’t want to be a paint-by-numbers offense with an athletic quarterback. You want them to ad lib, but stay within the offense. He has to be smart when he’s running and when to get down. You can get a feel for it even in black no-contact jerseys for the QBs. You get to see throws on the move and awkward throws.
+ There is no set depth chart at the linebacker position right now. The three returning starters are being pushed by the young guys. They are all learning the defense together, so they are on equal footing.
+ Thayer Munford has been practicing well and practicing hard. There is no concern that he won’t be ready for the season opener.
+ Chase Young is a more mature player. He is a leader. He gets up in front of the team and talks to the team. Young is the voice of the defense right now. He is practicing hard and leading.
+ When you are out recruiting, you ask high school coaches who the best players in the area are, but you also have to be great at evaluating. You can look at recruiting services, “but you gotta trust what you see.”
+ Asked what Greg Mattison’s impact has been, Day said his experience is critical. Making sure they are fundamentally sound and that the back end is fitting in with the front end.
+ “We’ve messed around a little bit” with going under center, but “we’ll mostly be in the gun this year.”
+ There will be depth chart battles that go into the third week, but after this week they’ll have a good idea of where things are.
+ Marcus Crowley is big, strong, and tough. He still makes some freshman mistakes here and there, but he practices really hard.
+ They want 6 or 7 guys playing at receiver. They have four Zs right now with Chris Olave, Austin Mack, Jameson Williams, and Ellijah Gardiner. At X you have Binjimen Victor, Jaylen Harris, and Garrett Wilson. Wilson and Harris are fighting for that job.
+ Tough love has been preached this camp. They preach love and toughness. Football is a tough game, “we gotta be tough.” The players have to be tough, “and then we have to love them.” This team is tougher than they were when camp opened. This is a new staff and a new team, so they have to prove themselves. They have to fight. “And you also have to learn how to take a punch.” They have to be able to handle adversity. “I know we’re athletic and I know we’re fast, but in the end we have to be tough.”
+ Asked about OSU trying to trademark the word “THE,” Day said the first time the scope of OSU hit him was out recruiting as an assistant with the Block O on his hat or shirt. Everywhere he went, there were Buckeyes fans offering up an O-H. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
+ When players commit penalties or turn the ball over during practice they have to run a lap.
+ Sophomore linebacker K’Vaughan Pope has had a very good camp. He’s a playmaker. He may not always be in the exact right position, but he makes plays.
+ The veterans do an unbelievable job of teaching. When they see something that isn’t done properly, they help the younger teammates.
+ Mattison would not be in favor of HBO filming OSU. He was a part of that at Michigan and he prefers to just coach.
+ Cade Stover is a very talented young man. Big and strong. He gets to watch Pete Werner every day and he learns how to do it the right way.
+ Young guys can make an impact on special teams as well. That’s just as important as making an impact on defense.
+ Pete Werner is the top Sam at his position. Mattison has seen a lot of talented players, and Werner has everything you could want in a football player.
+ The Bullet and the Sam will be interchangeable and gives this defense flexibility.
+ “I like everything about Tuf Borland’s game.” He is extremely intelligent and takes great pride in getting the defense lined up. The linebackers have bought in about the importance of communicating. Borland is tough and physical.
+ Borland, Werner, and Harrison have earned their spots, but the depth chart isn’t set yet. Anybody who is doing well could be a starter. “We better have a first starter, a second starter, and a third starter.”
+ Dallas Gant has made the most improvement maybe of anybody at linebacker since the spring. It looks like he feels comfortable now and he has taken a step forward.
+ This defensive staff has done a great job. It’s like they’ve known each other a long time. They communicate very well and are all on the same page.
+ Baron Browning is in the middle right now, but they can move around depending on what the offense shows. The Mike and Will are interchangeable.
+ The base defense fluctuates depending on the opponent. They can go with a Sam or a Bullet. And when you have a Sam like Pete Werner, that gives you even more options.
+ Mattison needed a position to coach, so he’s got the Sams. He can’t simply just watch over another coach’s shoulder and say, “Okay, good job.”
+ He would never judge what the coaches did last year on defense. They are great coaches. “Stats are stats. I’m not a great stat guy.” He believes in running to the football. If you see this defense not running to the football, then come see him and ask him about it.
+ This is a very, very talented team. And sometimes when you have a team like that, you just say “Go.” “You don’t try to invent things.” This was also a young defense last year.
+ No surprise that OSU practices for Michigan. He doesn’t know if his old team did the same when he was there.
+ Brendon White can be on the field in any number of packages. He can fit in anywhere. He can be a deep safety or a bullet in another package.
+ Chase Young is an outstanding person, athlete, and football player. Good luck triple teaming him because you’ll have other guys that will be singled. “That’s the beautiful thing in our package that I’m excited about. You don’t just have one.” His teammates would be thrilled to see him be doubled because it leaves them one-on-one.
+ It has been tremendous working with Jeff Hafley. They work really, really well together. There are no egos. The only goal is winning. Hafley is as good a secondary coach as Mattison has ever seen. “It’s worked out perfect. He’s a great one, now.” He is intelligent and has coached the best in the NFL.