COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 2 Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with the media on Tuesday to preview the Buckeyes’ game against No. 3 Michigan on Saturday.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and a handful of Buckeye players also answered questions from reporters on “The Game.”
+ Michigan’s defense is similar but they’ve made a few tweaks. They’re playing very hard and are clearly one of the best defenses in the country.
+ Dallan Hayden stepped up last week and it was encouraging as they move into “Rivalry Week.” He will need to have a good week of practice and Day knows he will prepare hard to play this week. His film speaks for itself and it’s worth a conversation when it comes to putting the best player on the field. His number one job is to take care of the football because turnovers will be huge in this game.
+ Michigan’s running back Blake Corum is a great player and they are preparing for him to play. They are expecting him to play but are preparing for all.
+ This game means a lot to a lot of people and they understand that. “There’s nothing quite like The Game.”
+ This team was shaped by what happened last year. They had scars, it motivated them all off season, and they have worked hard to get back here. “Physically and emotionally this will be the hardest game.”
+ If TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams aren’t fully able to practice, Day isn’t counting them out for the game. They are both veteran players and if they miss a few things to get healthy, then they’ll adjust accordingly. But obviously he wants them to practice.
+ They’ve worked all year for this moment. Up to this moment they’ve done everything they can to be ready to go. They want to play with confidence on Saturday because they’ve prepared well and built up to this.
+ On the offensive line if Matt Jones is unavailable, Day said they have a few options on if they need to go to depth. When asked about Josh Fryar, Day said he has mainly been with the tackles but he has played at tight end and guard, he has some experience going inside and out.
+ Day said he can’t give a number on how many coaching changes were as a result of the loss to Michigan last year. But Day said they are judged by the big games and they know that.
+ The players felt the pain last year, they let it simmer, and had to sit on it for a whole year which was a long time. “I know you’re going to get an excited team.”
+ On not doing senior tackle this week, Day said last year they felt it was rushed. They decided to move that to allow them to have time with their family on Thursday but also spend more time focusing on The Game.
+ “Not a lot of sleep this week.”
+ On playing with emotions, Day said they have to build up to it and have a great week of preparation. They have to play with emotion and not let emotion play with them. Toughness, discipline, and skill are what they focus on, and the players know that if they play tough but without discipline, that’s not good.
+ On being 11-0 and not having completed one of their three goals yet, Day said that’s the standard they hold themselves to. They are proud of what they’ve done to get here but they know their goals are still ahead. That’s why competitive stamina was a huge theme for them this year. “We have to go put a great week together and try and accomplish this first goal.”
+ This has nothing to do with anything other than this team and getting the team a good game plan and having a good practice.
+ On what tells Day this team is tough, Day said he talked to other coaches after games and has got a lot of great feedback in that area. It means that they’ve done that and made it a part of their identity. But also the fourth quarter games show resilience.
DC Jim Knowles
+ On Tommy Eichenberg’s toughness and playing with two broken hands, Knowles said Eichenberg is “as tough as they come. He epitomizes what we want to be as a defense and as a program because nothing is going to stop him, he’s going to show up.”
+ On the rivalry, Knowles said it’s a privilege to be a part of it. He has worked his way up to get to this spot. There’s no time for reflection right now, but it was the pinnacle of competition when he was looking from the outside and he’s privileged to be a part of it now.
+ He doesn’t hear or talk about or think about the “toughness” comments from last year. He knew what he had to do coming in and he’s embraced it.
+ There’s a similar thread through any rivalry and that is intensity, but this is the biggest stage there is, so it’s ramped up by 1000. “There’s a job to do.”
+ On J.J. McCarthy’s mobility, Knowles said they have an aggressive, hard-charging defensive line and scrambling can be an issue. They continue to work on it and keep practicing. There are plans to scheme mobile quarterbacks and they do everything they can to put players in their best positions, but it does become controlled chaos.
+ On planning for Michigan’s rushing attack, Knowles said it’s difficult to simulate how they run the ball. It goes back to training, a mentality that everybody should be tackling, and putting players in the best positions. Michigan is a complete offense that challenges teams in a number of different ways, so they have to have different things they go to at different times to keep the offense off balance.
+ The preparation for this game is “constant.”
LT Paris Johnson Jr.
+ Last year has been on their minds since it happened and all year in the off season. It has been on their minds every day but they have changed a lot since then. He took that loss very hard. When they lost and he looked up at the scoreboard, he felt like he failed their number one goal but also everyone else who have kept the tradition of beating them. He has been holding onto that.
+ On controlling the pressure, Johnson Jr. said being a tackle, how they set can help take some pressure off the guards and the center. Being mindful of that is key but they have different players on the inside who are strong and can help control the line.
TE Cade Stover
+ He doesn’t care about what others outside the program say about their toughness. He knows what they put in. But toughness is one of the most important pieces of the game, “you can see it, hear it, and feel it. Players are either about it or they aren’t about it.”
+ He hasn’t thought about making an NFL decision at all. Stover said that’s the last thing he’s worried about right now.
+ On being the first tight end in 19 years to reach the 30 caught passes, Stover said he is happy with that but wants to keep building. It means a lot to be an integral part of the offense.
WR Emeka Egbuka
+ They didn’t take care of business against Michigan last year and that is their No. 1 goal. They made the adjustments that they needed to make.
+ The main goal for him this week is to get his body right by Saturday. He has spent a lot of time in the training room taking care of his body so he can perform fully. This season has been a battle for a lot of players physically and they haven’t shown that.
DE Zach Harrison
+ It’s hard to put the intensity into words. He watched it growing up and he’s living it. It’s surreal but he has a duty to win this game for everyone. Everybody on both sides knows what this game is about.
+ Everything changed after the loss last year. Players have stepped up, addressed the issues, opened their eyes, and cut their hearts open. On the outside noise, “yeah, we heard it.”
+ On preparing for Blake Corum, Harrison said he has a great contact balance and doesn’t go down with the first hit. He has good patience and vision. They respect him and will treat him as such. They take pride in stopping the run and being physical.
LB Tommy Eichenberg
+ They are playing with more confidence this year. Jim Knowles has helped a lot, he’s a great teacher. Players focus on doing their jobs.
WR/RB Xaiver Johnson
+ He found out Oregon week last year that he would be earning a scholarship. He kept it quiet because he wanted to keep the focus on the team. But coming in it was his goal to show that he could add value to the team.
+ On his breakout year this year, Johnson said it has been a dream. He always had this idea growing up that he could do this but he had to mature a lot to get through it.
+ Last year hurt, and it still hurts. They feel the pain of the loss, the state having to go through coming up short, and that fueled them day in and day out. They take it seriously. Everybody changed after the loss last year, there was a shift in the program from top to bottom. There was no more “lax.”
+ “We need everybody for this game. It’s a matchup game and there’s no room for error.”
+ Every time he touches the ball he is trying to make a play. When the ball is in his hands, Day tells him the game is in his hand. He wants to help his team in any way.
SAF Ronnie Hickman
+ Last year’s loss was a lot. It impacted everybody on the team and across the state. They used that as motivation by reminding themselves how they felt walking off that field. Nobody wants to feel that ever again. It sucked living with it for a year.
+ Tommy Eichenberg is the toughest guy he’s ever stepped on the field with. People follow him and they need that leadership on the defense. He brings it every day.
+ As a safety, Hickman knows that he is the last line of defense when it comes to the run game. They have to be prepared to make the tackle otherwise they assume it’s going for six.