INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten conference held its annual Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day had his formal press conference as well as an informal, hour-long meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Day discussed team leadership, defensive expectations and changes, opening the season against Notre Dame, and quarterback C.J. Stroud’s growth. Here are the highlights of what was said.
+ This is an exciting season. “We could have probably brought 10 or 15 guys here today.” Ronnie Hickman has had a really good offseason and gives veteran leadership. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is one of the more competitive guys he’s ever been around. Stroud grew a lot last year, from not throwing a college pass last year at this time, into a Heisman Trophy finalist.
+ “I’d describe the team as ‘edgy’ this offseason.”
+ There is a lot of excitement around this season and this team. “We have to play well in our first game and that starts next week.”
+ On Stroud’s growth, Day said he has always had good leadership but that has grown a lot. This offseason he has taken a lot of guys on the defense over to his house and cooked for them and has approached it like a coach. “It’s great to see.” He has the perspective that it takes everybody and that comes with maturity. “He did a lot of great things last year but I think his best football is ahead of him.”
+ On preparing for the non-conference teams, Day said he never knows what he’s going to get with them. They have to focus on themselves, fundamentals, and make in-game adjustments.
+ On expectations for year one of the Jim Knowles defense, Day said they have to play winning football which starts with stopping the run. The offseason has been excellent as far as installing schematics. Almost the entire Rose Bowl team is back from last year so the experience is there but the schematics are different. There’s an aggressiveness about them. “We expect a top 10 defense and that’s what we want.”
+ On Smith-Njigba’s competitiveness, Day said he’s not a talkative guy, he kind of keeps to himself, but when he speaks people listen. He believes in hard work and toughness. Winning matters to him and he wants to win every rep. “He leads by playing really really hard.”
+ On the offensive line, Day said that’s an area of focus. They have moved different guys around, Dawand Jones has had a great offseason and lost a lot of weight, and Paris Johnson Jr. has moved to left tackle.
+ On team leadership, Day said they did an extensive study on how they wanted to handle leadership this year. They had two different leadership committees who were voted on by the team and they intermingled the team more, staying away from position groups and that brought the team together. They have a good idea of who will be captains this year because of that.
+ On opening the season with Notre Dame, Day said “it’s been real.” The players feel the excitement and they feel the community rally around this game. There’s a sense of urgency. “We have to play really good football in that first game.”
+ Competitive stamina is something they have been focusing on as a team. They have to continue to play well throughout the season and play well through four quarters. “Every game at Ohio State matters.” Consistency across the board is going to be critical.
+ Every year the expectations are high for Ohio State and that is to win it all. “That’s just the way it is. Maybe in some places 11-2 and a Rose Bowl win is a good season, but not at Ohio State.”
+ The players are scarred and callused by losing to Michigan last year. The coaches remind them of that but also realize they have to move on. Every year they have the same expectation and the first goal is to beat Michigan and win the rivalry game. Everyone in the building is reminded of that game, they never want to go through that again, but they also know they have to move forward.
+ Day said he was golfing with Chip Kelly on the 16th hole when they found out they were in the same conference as each other. They both took quick calls from their athletic directors and they were both excited.
+ Coaches have to adapt with NIL and NIL Collectives. “College football right now is very very unique.” Every year there is going to be a lot of change and they can’t throw their hands up and get frustrated, they have to adapt.
+ He was watching the defense in the spring thinking that it was exactly what he wanted. There was great energy, passion, confidence, and players were talking a lot. “That’s what you want.”
+ It is important to have a head coach of the defense and that’s what Jim Knowles brought to the table. He thought long and hard about the changes that were being made to the coaching staff but he’s excited about it and felt it was the right thing to do. Knowles sees the bigger picture.
+ On the linebacker position, Day said they have a bunch of players there fighting for time. “That’s a competition that will be fun to see in the preseason.” But as for who is going to take the next step to earn the starting roles, they will know more in camp.
+ They are currently preparing for both of Notre Dame’s quarterbacks.
+ Mark Pantoni was named the General Manager of the team this past year so that he can handle rosters and transfers and expand his role managing everything else that comes along with college football. The constant changes take a lot of time and thought for head coaches.
+ Day believes Mitchell Melton is the only player who will not be available for preseason.
+ On facing Notre Dame in the first game, Day said there are a lot of similarities between last year and this year with opening last season at Minnesotavin a night game and then following that with Oregon. Day said the preseason was also a lot last year.
+ Stroud and Smith-Njigba have a high-level of chemistry. It was built on the scout team their first year and because of their off the field friendship.
+ “There are some players who run routes from the playbook and there are some guys who just get open” Day said of Smith-Njigba.
+ Building and keeping a quarterback room is very difficult. “We just try to adapt with the times.”
+ On Lathan Ransom, Day said Ransom will ease into things but he will be almost 100 percent. He wanted to get back on the field and he’s had a great summer, especially after a significant injury. He has a lot of versatility.
+ Day is impressed with the teaching going on with the offensive line so that they can run the ball when they need to in short-yard, third down situations. They have to be physical on offense and they have to have balance.
+ They have a lot of depth and experience in the running back room.
+ Jim Knowles will coach from the field. Day said coaches see more of the game from up in the box but they have a better feel for the game from the field and can talk to players, see their responses, look them in the eyes, rally guys, and give them answers. They haven’t decided if Tim Walton or Perry Eliano will be in the box.
+ “We have a lot of guys we want to get the ball to…and that’s a good problem to have.”
+ Ronnie Hickman has blossomed over the last year. “When you see him, that veteran maturity and confidence level is off the charts. He’s poised to have a really good year.”
+ The defensive players have all put a lot of work in. Knowles mentioned to Day that he was impressed with how much the players could handle.
+ On the backup quarterback role, Day said Kyle McCord has put a lot of work in and is always throwing with people. Devin Brown has shown a lot of good things so far. That room is going to be competitive. He is excited to see the preseason.
+ Kicker Parker Lewis is working on getting cleared eligibility-wise. They are hoping to hear more within the next week or so.