COLUMBUS — Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley met with reporters on Tuesday. He provided some insights into the Buckeyes’ adjustments on defense against the Wolverines and also previewed this weekend’s matchup against Wisconsin. Also speaking with the media were quarterback Justin Fields, cornerback Jeff Okudah, receiver KJ Hill, and more.
+ On beating Michigan: “I don’t know if I would call it relief. A game like that is why you coach college football. Beyond happy.”
+ Walking past the videos and signs about Michigan, he doesn’t know how he would have done it for the next year if OSU would have lost.
+ The OSU defensive line played really well against Wisconsin last time.
+ Hafley understands the curiosity about his job future, but he won’t get into it.
+ Pete Werner has been really important in this defense’s success. “He’s so versatile and he’s so tough.” He’s fun to be around because he loves football. He asks question. “He’s the type of guy you dream about coaching.”
+ They changed up coverages in the second half. Michigan had a bunch of grouping and packages in the first half that they haven’t shown, so they had to respond to it.
+ It’s how you install your defense that determines whether players can do it or not.
+ Adjustments are all part of the game. If you wait to do it at halftime, you have no chance. You have to adjust throughout the game. It’s a credit to the players.
+ Amir Riep got better and better during the game. His performance is one of the reasons college football is great. He had the game of his life in a tough moment.
+ They had to move things around all game long to find spots where players were comfortable. “I believe Jeff Okudah is the best corner in the country.” He’s as talented as any corner Hafley has been around. He is taking guys out of the game. “I’d be disappointed if Jeff didn’t win [the Thorpe Award] next week.”
+ The defense didn’t flinch when Michigan was having success. It says so much about the players to have gone through that in the biggest game of the season and step up and respond.
+Marcus Hooker has been practicing hard and well, so he deserved to play last week. It just so happened it came in a very big game. “He almost had a pick.”
+ Damon Arnette plays with the confidence you need in a great corner. He’s played with one hand all year. “I just appreciate him so much.” “You want to talk about toughness? That’s what this place is all about.” “Damon’s good, he’s just got to deal with the pain, and he has. I appreciate him.”
+ Michigan had multiple guys dealing with Chase Young, which allowed other players to step up, especially when Michigan started throwing the ball every down.
+ The OSU offense and defense work well together. If they can get three-and-outs and get the ball back to the offense, Day stays aggressive and it just creates a cycle.
+ The DBs have done such a great job of not having miscommunications, so when they happened against Michigan they addressed it quickly and got it fixed.
+ “Every game you evolve a little bit.” You can’t look at everything when it comes to Wisconsin. You have to stick to what you do best, just as they will.
+ “I love being around [JK Dobbins].”
+ He wishes they would go with one blocker on Chase Young every time, but knowing there are double-teams, they have to scheme it to take advantage of those decisions.
+ Teams have tried to do what Michigan did against Chase Young, but Michigan did it better. But he was still getting pressure and hitting the quarterback. “I don’t think they stopped Chase — I think they felt Chase.”
+ It’s an honor to be a Broyles Award finalist. It’s an honor for the entire staff.
+ Ryan Day deserves to be the Big Ten coach of the year. First-year head coach, goes undefeated through the regular season. Had adversity he needed to handle. The way his players play for him and the way he treats him, throw out the records, he’s the best coach in the country.
+ Ohio State’s offense is explosive. They can throw it, run it, the QB can keep it, and they can score really fast. If you take the explosive plays away, then Day’s offense can just pound on you. He doesn’t care.
+ Can they do better against Wisconsin this time? There are always things they can improve upon.
+ Putting up numbers this year? Just blessed to be able to do that. He works hard on it every week and during the offeseason.
+ On Jonathan Taylor: “He’s really quick and he reads the holes well.”
+ How have they stayed focused each week? Mental toughness and mental discipline. Comes from the coaches and the preparation all year long.
+ He had no sack goals for the season. He was just trying to be as good a player as possible for his team.
+ When they first heard Ryan Day was taking over, they were excited about it. He’s done some spectacular things this year. He made the transition easier.
+ When he saw Justin Fields down and hurt, Mack knew Chugs would be able to come in and hold it down. But it was just a little bit scary at the time.
+ It will be exciting to play indoors finally.
+ His season has been a ride up and down, but the Buckeyes are 12-0 and he’s done everything he can for this team. Being able to score against Michigan was great.
+ Playing out of the elements will be beneficial for the offense. They should be able to score some points.
+ Ryan Day is a great person. They talk all the time. There is an open-door policy to come in and hang out. “As a coach, he’s a fighter.” He’s inspirational. “I love being able to play for this game. He’s a great coach.”
+ The weather has hampered the passing game a bit this season. “It makes it challenging.” But with no weather, it’s great. “It’s going to be fun.”
+ This is Ryan Day’s program. “It’s crazy to see how he’s developed in his first year as [head] coach.”
+ It’s great to be undefeated against Michigan. “It’s bragging rights. I love it. It’s dope.”
+ There’s always going to be people who doubt you, so he doesn’t worry about them.
+ Reflecting on his season? “I still have room to improve.”
+ He comes in every morning to do different exercises with the trainers. He ices the knee a lot as well.
+ When you’re in the game, you can’t think about your knee. When you’re in practice, you can.
+ When he was down on the field, he was focused on getting off the field, which is something his dad always told him. He couldn’t walk on it though until the pain went down. He didn’t have negative thoughts, he knew he just had to get back on the field.
+ He wore the big brace in Tuesday and Wednesday practices, but then went to the smaller one. The bigger one limits his running but it keeps him safer.
+ He doesn’t think the weather affects the offense. If it rains, they may run more. He doesn’t think playing indoors will change the way Day calls the plays.
+ His knee hurts right now. “In my mind I’m playing on Saturday. I don’t care how much it hurts.” He will be wearing the bigger brace.
+ The deep ball to Garrett Wilson was impacted by the wind last week. They won’t have those same issues this week indoors.
+ “I just feel more secure with [the bigger brace] being on.” He won’t be as fast or mobile.
+ During his touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson he didn’t think much of it. Afterward when he could reflect, he realized that was a pretty good play for his first snap back in the game.
+ His knee injury doesn’t affect his throwing at all.
+ It’s been great this year playing with Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller for their last year. He expects Shaun Wade this week. He didn’t like sitting out last week.
+ Jeff Hafley preaches toughness and that opponents have to feel it when they throw it over the middle and down the seam. You saw that as Michigan receivers started to shy away from contact and drop the ball.
+ Damon Arnette has been in a lot of pain this year and he’s had his best year. He sets the mentality for the whole team.
+ Day told them before Saturday’s game that they were in a heavyweight fight and they would get punched, so they just need to punch back.
+ Ohio State is always ‘next man up’ mentality so they had a lot of young guys step up and they played better as the game went on.
+ They aren’t surprised by how well they have played this year as a team. It speaks to the work they’ve put in. Now it’s about finishing.
+ Does Ohio State have an intimidation factor? “Yeah. Teams watch film just like we do.”
+ Hafley has seen a lot of DBs, so to have him speak so highly of him makes him proud. It would be big to win the Thorpe Award with Antoine Winfield and Malcolm Jenkins as the other winners from Ohio State.
+ He’s glad he made the decision to come to Ohio State. His 2017 class is kind of successful. It shows that you can travel and take that risk and it can pay off.
+ Wisconsin is talented, your technique has to be on point, and you have to expect the unexpected.
+ This week they have to really rely on the coaches because Jeff Hafley will have a really good gameplan for them.