COLUMBUS – As a part of the College Football Playoff National Championship game, Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and players on the defensive side of the ball spoke at a virtual media day.
Here are the highlights.
DC Kerry Coombs
+ This has been the most rewarding year because of the commitment on the part of the players and their ability to adapt, adjust, overcome, play different spots, and do whatever it takes. He focuses on his gratification for the players rather than how hard it has been.
+ Alabama has a great, complete offense. They have five All-Americans, the Heisman Trophy winner, and the runner up. They have great players but also great scheme. They always have an answer. This is the biggest offensive line they have faced. It’s going to be important for them to be fitting the gaps property and do a great job in coverage.
+ Lathan Ransom has continued to improve every day. He was short-handed on time and preparation and didn’t play much in the earlier games to get valuable game experience, but he showed up and played big when they needed him to and he has continued to develop.
+ Ryan Day brought a new feel to the passing game. He brought challenging aspects to the passing game. He’s creative. It’s gotten better and better. “He’s a brilliant offensive mind and a gifted leader of young men.” He enjoys watching him lead this team.
+ Alabama has always had great players, they’ve always been physical, those things don’t change. “That’s the Alabama way and the Nick Saban way.” But the evolution of the passing attack is exceptional, they have evolved from 2014 by having a lot more wrinkles in the offensive attack.
+ The 2014 game against Alabama and that post-season run was a game-changer for the future of Ohio State.
+ They prepare like Jaylen Waddle is going to play. He is gifted as a route-runner and he catches and makes big plays. He is a great player. They aren’t going to play a game scared, but they acknowledge how good Alabama is and they accept the challenge.
+ Justin Fields is one of the best quarterbacks he has ever seen. He has command of the offense, he understands where they want to get the ball, and he is one of the best he has ever been around, and a lot of greats have got through here. “He’s truly gifted.”
+ Playing the deep ball is an art. It’s a skill set that only gets better by doing it but that’s hard to do because you can only get 2-3 of those a day, full speed, 50-60 yards a day, it’s one of the hardest things in sport.
DE Jonathon Cooper
+ Mentally it’s still tough, but they have to finish strong. They have one more, and that’s it. This game is why they play football and why they come to Ohio State. “If you can’t do it for one more than what was the point of doing it all in the beginning.”
+ His play in the Sugar Bowl was what he has been working towards. He played pretty well against Clemson, but there are things he can get better at. Winning was just the goal and he came back to make it this far and win a National Championship.
+ Success is winning, winning that game. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how it gets done or plays missed, calls missed, penalties, sacks, it doesn’t matter. What matters is winning.
+ Alabama has a very good offensive line. They have to attack it like they do every other opponent, but it’s a big challenge.
+ “You come to Ohio State to play against these types of opponents and it’s no different than going against our guys everyday in practice.” Cooper said Clemson and Alabama have great lines but he feels they go against a great line in practice everyday too.
+ It’s special being from Columbus and being an Ohio State fan and watching guys play growing up, but the job isn’t finished. He will reflect later but the focus is on playing their best game as a defense and beating Alabama.
+ On the depth of the defensive line, Cooper said he feels like they have a lot of guys across the board. They are all great players and that’s what makes them different, they can sub guys in and there will be no drop-off.
+ They have to put pressure on the passer in any way they can. They have to make the quarterback uncomfortable.
+ On Chase Young, Cooper said he is an amazing player. What he is doing in the NFL was to be expected. He learned a lot from guys that have gone through Ohio State. He watched and learned from a lot of them.
DT Haskell Garrett
+ On going against Ohio State’s offensive line every day, Garrett said “iron sharpens iron.”
+ He and Jonathon Cooper keep the spirits up on the defense and be the “Energizer Bunnies.”
+ Taron Vincent gives them his all. “He came off of an injury and started playing right away, he had a major surgery and then had a little time to get ready and rehab. He’s doing an outstanding job.”
+ On stopping the run, Garrett said Najee Harris is a great running back. He remembers seeing him at The Opening when he was in high school. They have a challenge ahead of them.
+ On playing against the best offensive line in the country, Garrett said that makes him more excited because he wants to play the best. They are fast, big, and athletic.
+ “The game will be won in the trenches, no doubt.”
+ Larry Johnson puts a flavor on the defensive line. “He touches your soul.” He trusts him in anything and believes in everything that he says.
LB Justin Hilliard
+ This year especially playing in this game means so much more. Things have come full circle for him. This is his last game and last week of preparation and he is pouring everything into it.
+ They haven’t taken Najee Harris’ ability lightly in practice this week.
+ It would mean so much to bring a National Championship home to Ohio. That was one of the motivations for him and how he pushed through everything. He had so many times in his journey where he didn’t know if he would be able to push though, he had a lot of doubts. He is so thankful for his teammates, the coaches, and his family for pushing him through.
+ On a potential year seven, Hilliard said even some of his family asked him about it but he said at this point, he has intentions of this being his last game. It has been an incredible journey but he’s not sure how much more he can give to Ohio State.
+ He doesn’t think he was a spark in the defense and a main reason for why they have been playing better, but his mindset is to make an impact in any way he can. He thanks his teammates.
CB Shaun Wade
+ He is motivated to win a National Championship.
+ Sevyn Banks gets better everyday. He is really proud of him.
+ He remembers when Ohio State beat Alabama in 2014. The story repeats itself. It’s crazy how everything works and he is really looking forward to this game.
+ “Money Making Mac” is what they called Mac Jones when they used to play 7-on-7.
+ Lathan Ransom will be a great player at Ohio State in the future.
+ On Alabama’s receivers, “you already know who I want to go up against” [DeVonta Smith]. But whatever they have to do to win at the end of the day.
+ “DeVonta Smith can do everything in the book as a receiver.”
+ Marcus Williamson coming back is a good thing for him and that DB group having a leader like him.
+ Chris Olave is one of the greatest receivers in college football. They make each other better.
+ On Alabama’s offense, Wade said “teams like this are going to score.” They just focus on getting their stops especially on third down. They focus on each play one at a time.
LB Pete Werner
+ On playing alongside Justin Hilliard, Werner said he’s a guy who welcomed him into the university and they have had fun times together. To see the way he’s playing is crazy to think about considering the adversity he has gone through. “It’s great playing alongside him.”
+ Miyan Williams is a guy who has worked really hard in practice. He is excelling really well against their defense. “When he runs the ball as well he has in practice, you have to put him in the game.” He’s going to keep excelling as a big back-up.
+ On Najee Harris, Werner says he compares to Travis Etienne. Harris is more of a physical guy. They have a great game plan on offense to get him the ball and he’s a patient back who finds the holes. But they have a plan in place to stop him and as long as they do what they did against Etienne, he thinks they will do well stopping Harris.
+ The linebackers have improved a lot because they have taken coaching well. He credits the coaches for their success and for showing the country that the linebackers are a strength.
+ They are thankful to be in the position that they are in right now. The team stayed together to get to this goal.
+ They like to compare their offensive line to Alabama’s offensive line. They are very similar. They have seen it and they know what it is like.
+ He’s gotten closer with Larry Johnson over the years.
CB Marcus Williamson
+ It has been a weird year but as a group they have grown. They trust in each other and know they have great players around them which helps them play more comfortable and free on the field.
+ “There won’t be bad players on the field.”
+ He does plan on coming back to Ohio State next year. He is still enjoying being a Buckeye. He wants to come back and help the unit. He is too happy to be a Buckeye and is not ready to leave yet.
+ As a group of competitors, they look forward to the biggest stage and the opportunity to compete against a great offense. They are excited to play against a great Alabama team and show what they can do as Buckeyes.
+ Lathan Ransom, like Sevyn Banks, is such a great athlete. He has found a comfort level and he is a smart player to be so young.
+ “You can’t write a better story than this.”
+ On playing at safety in the Sugar Bowl, Williamson said it was a great game-plan to beat Clemson. He practices there, and as a unit every body knows every spot in the secondary. For that game that was his best role and he thinks it worked out.