COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive line coach Larry Johnson met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the Buckeyes’ performance against Tulsa and preview the game against Akron this Saturday.
Here are the highlights of what was said.
+ On Matt Barnes calling the defense from the field, Day said interaction with the players and sideline adjustments are huge but it’s give and take. The defense has a lot of people involved. “We’re headed in the right direction in terms of game day operations.”
+ On the turf in the stadium, Day said the team looked at the cleats to make sure they have the right footwear in the game because they have had players go down on the field.
+ On TreVeyon Henderson, Day said he has to grow in his reads and running through contact and finishing runs but there were a lot of good things that happened. He is still building and still has a long way to go but that performance was good to see.
+ On getting backup quarterbacks playing time, Day said he will look to see if they can get that done if it works out but it depends on their preparation. “It really is week to week.” It is all about how they prepare and practice but if the opportunity is there they would like to do that this week.
+ There’s no excuses for not playing at a high level. But a lot of experience walked out of the building after last year and typically the players that step into the roles have game experience and reps but the players this year didn’t get that. “We have to fill that gap and catch up.” The more snaps and experience the more confidence the players have.
+ On Ronnie Hickman and Cam Martinez, Day said it’s exciting to hear those names because they are starting to find the players who make plays. “We saw some guys making some plays and I think that will go a long way.” They changed up the looks a bit and it’s putting the players in positions to be successful.
+ On Bryson Shaw, Day said he is getting his feet wet and is getting reps under his belt.
+ “You don’t just walk out with an Ohio State uniform and think you’re just going to win.”
+ The other younger quarterbacks have to keep coming along.
+ It is a challenge balancing resting C.J. Stroud but also making sure he takes the reps that he needs. It is something they are talking about a lot and are trying to figure it out.
+ On the lack of pass rush, Day said it needs to improve. There are some one-on-one situations they have to do a better job of executing. They will spend a lot of time on that this week.
+ On Kerry Coombs’ role, “he is a professional.” He is still a big part of the defense. They adjusted roles but he is a pro and is working through it.
+ On the inexperience of the team, Day said he didn’t have many expectations coming into the season because there were so many unknowns. “I didn’t know what this year would bring and here we are, it’s a whole new journey.” He has seen a lot of growth.
+ On the lack of pass rush when in zone coverage, Day said when it doesn’t marry up it’s a problem. They need to rally and be great tacklers and avoid big plays. But that only works if they get a pass rush from the four up front.
+ Some players can play the game in their mind and others need physical reps to improve. They focus a ton on being able to visualize the game because it closes the gap. As much work they put in physically, they put in mental reps too.
+ On the depth at running back, Day said especially as they get into the meat of the season depth there is critical.
+ On C.J. Stroud’s health and potential benefits of him not playing this week, Day said his plan is to practice right now. If it works out they will get other quarterbacks out there but they also want Stroud to be able to execute the offense and find balance and get in a rhythm.
+ “There’s a lot of great football ahead for C.J. Stroud.”
+ Stroud is very intelligent. He can take a meeting to the field. H comes off the field and knows he makes a mistake and understands it.
+ On young players stepping up and the veteran players’ responses, Day said whether it’s a young or older guy making plays, being a good teammate matters. “Guys are pulling for their teammates. There’s a lot of pressure on these guys.”
+ He thinks the defensive issues have come from scheme, coaching, and personnel. “We gotta tighten up in all of those areas.”
+ On not having an identity yet, Day said he thinks he has an idea of what it will be and they aren’t far off but it can’t be fake confidence. In conference play, “it’s going to get real.”
+ The focus is this week is” to be the best version of you and the best version of this team.”
+ On Stroud handling the outside pressure, Day said it’s a work in progress. “It’s real.” But if he can get through the growing pains then Day thinks they have “something good for a long time.”
+ On the turf, Day said up until recently he hadn’t given it much thought. But it’s hard for him to tell and there’s so much on his plate he is leaving it to the experts but it is certainly something they are looking about. [Note: A spokesperson from OSU said the plan is to replace the stadium and Woody Hayes Athletic Center turf next year as they are in year eight of the turf and that is its life expectancy.]
+ Having good young quarterbacks is not a problem but finding the right balance of reps is challenging.
+ Thayer Munford’s injury is “not long term.”
+ On the pass rush, Johnson said there’s a lot of things they have to improve on. The biggest thing is they have to win one-on-ones. “We’ll get better.” They do that by improving their technique and executing.
+ On Tyleik Williams, Johnson said he has been a work in progress. He lost about 25 pounds (317 pounds now) and is starting to turn into a really good player. Johnson hopes to increase his snaps.
+ On his responsibilities changing in the defense, Johnson said he has more input in the game plan and in stopping the run. Day asked him to be more involved and that is what he’s doing.
+ He hopes Zach Harrison “will be fine for this weekend.”
+ Johnson has liked what he has seen from JTT and after easing him in, he hopes to increase his snaps. JTT is a bigger guy and can play on a tight end whereas Jack Sawyer cannot. They are two different players. Sawyer is a finesse player.
+ On the veterans of the defense not grading out as champions, Johnson said it’s hard to be a champion. He felt that some players were close but he needed to see more.
+ Ty Hamilton is a big, strong guy. He played really well on Saturday and his role will increase going forward. “I like where he’s at right now.”
+ Tyleik Williams stands out right now as a player who is going to get more playing time consistently. He hopes the young defensive ends will get more. Jerron Cage is back in the mix now too.
+ “Everything starts up front.” They have to get to the quarterback, there’s no excuse. He doesn’t sleep well when they don’t get pressure on the quarterback. He knows when they do, it will change the game.
+ On playing Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent together inside, Johnson said it changes the flavor up front and builds depth.
+ “We’re not where we want to be. That’s obvious.”
+ Johnson thinks they have those “first round draft picks” here but they have to continue developing them.
+ Tyreke Smith has the talent but it’s a process. Smith plays very hard and Johnson loves the way he plays. He runs sideline to sideline every play, hustling to the football.