COLUMBUS — Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti met with the media on Wednesday. He provided updates on where things stand with the Buckeyes as they take part in winter workouts. He answers a number of questions about personnel, standouts, and what it’s like having Kerry Coombs back.
+ Impressions of the early enrollees? This is the largest mid-year group he’s ever been a part of. From a togetherness, serious standpoint, “these guys are ready.” They came ready for what they’re facing. They’ve even had meetings among the staff about how well the freshmen are doing.
+ All of the freshmen receivers are different, but they have a great work ethic. “I think they can be as good as they want to be,” but they have to follow the culture that has been in the receivers’ room before. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is good to go after suffering a slight injury at an all-star game.
+ They use the loss to Clemson as motivation. There is a sign with the score in the weight room. Those kinds of things can be very effective, depending on what kind of team you have.
+ Justin Fields is completely different than what he was a year ago because of what he went through this season. Last year when he showed up he was quiet and wasn’t sure where he was going or supposed to be and he didn’t know anybody. Now he’s a starting quarterback, a leader, he knows what the offense is doing. He knows he has to lead the team and young players. He is not restricted at all by his knee injury in 2019.
+ The players were all given a six-question list about what motivates them, goals in the offseason, and things like that. Those goals were then put on their lockers for everyone to see, so if a player is falling short, others can point it out and hold them accountable or help them if need be.
+ Paris Johnson has been training at a different level than most linemen since he was in the eighth grade.
+ Javontae Jean-Baptiste weight 195 pounds on his recruiting trip. Now he weighs 248 pounds. They understood that his frame would be able to handle the weight.
+ The coaches lean on Marotti to know if a guy is going to grow into a different position.
+ Right now they are focused on general training. They are in three groups: freshmen and inexperienced sophomores; advanced group who are the starters from last year; and then the mid-year enrollees. February is when things come together because it’s dark out and it’s hard. It’s perpetual development here.
+ The offseason is for individual development and that takes precedent over everything else.
+ Leaders emerge naturally in the offseason. “It just kind of happens.”
+ Kerry Coombs brings credibility with his time in the NFL.
+ Marotti always wants his assistants to want to take over a program for themselves and his job is to help make that happen.
+ The quarterback room is bigger and better. You’re able to find more leaders in a bigger group and they are better able to drive each other.
+ Third-year receiver Kamryn Babb is full go after missing his first two seasons due to injury.
+ Marotti isn’t sure if Marcus Crowley will be full go in the spring.
+ The freshmen quarterbacks are hungry and you can see it. They have to improve in some things physically, so they’re working towards that.
+ The worst part of the job is seeing players deal with injuries because you see how much time and effort they put in and how much they sacrifice. Jonathan Cooper was an example of that last year, but now he’s brought another spark to the team this year.
+ You need Tuf Borland. “He’s one of the most dependable players I’ve ever been around in 30 years.” When it’s easy, it’s great. When it gets hard is when you need a guy like Tuf Borland. Teammates rely on him. He is the epitome of what a collegiate athlete should be.
+ “Being a leader is hard.” If you’re going to be a leader you have to be seen, felt, and heard. Anybody can cheerlead, that doesn’t mean you’re a leader. You need to be seen, felt, and heard.
+ Chris Olave is a leader now.
+ It’s good to have Kerry Coombs back because he brings so much energy. He’s in the weight room at 5:30 in the morning working out.
+ The young defensive backs have a lot of work to do, “there’s no doubt.” Shaun Wade knows what he needs to do. The younger players will learn. “This is a big winter for them.” It’s going to be peaks and valleys every day because these are all young men. “That’s the really fulfilling part of my job…to see that mental and emotional development over time.” Young guys had to step up in 2016 so hopefully this group can step up like that group did.
+ The mid-year enrollees will workout separately from the team all winter because there’s just so many of them.
+ “I don’t have to be nice to anybody.”
+ Master Teague, there are very few out there as physically fit as he is. But he has to take a leadership role like JK Dobbins did. Dobbins is outgoing, but Teague is the complete opposite. So that’s hard to get players out of their comfort zone when it’s time to be a leader. “Once you jump over that river, you can’t go back.”
+ Zach Harrison was quiet and awkward during his recruitment and Marotti wasn’t impressed and wasn’t sure he would be able to do anything with him. Then he signed and was a completely different person because he hated the recruiting process.
+ He has only ever had one kid as big as Dawand Jones. “I love him. He’s a great kid. He smiles all the time.” Even when you try to coach him really hard he still smiles. They have to be creative about keeping his weight down. His body fat isn’t really high. He doesn’t need to weigh anymore, he just needs to continue to get flexible and work on his bending.
+ Nicholas Petit-Frere is over 300 pounds and is doing great.