Greg Schiano is excited about Ohio State's defense.
You can tell that by the way he carries himself, the way he talks about his players and the love he shows for the game of football. He's also excited to get back to just that – football.
The Buckeyes' third-year defensive coordinator spoke with media for about 30 minutes Monday morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where he was peppered with questions about defensive starters, position battles and, yes, his relationships with acting head coach Ryan Day and suspended head coach Urban Meyer.
But while answering each inquiry, he made sure to note that Ohio State's focus is, finally, on football.
"We have some great leadership and all that combined, I think is what's going to allow us to be successful," Schiano said. "So I'm looking forward to going out and coaching football again in a game. It's been awhile. This has certainly been something that as much as we have worked to stay focused, when it's people you care about, it's hard."
When asked about the Buckeyes' defensive line, one that boasts of All-American Nick Bosa and former five-star Chase Young at its ends, Schiano flashed a smile.
"Well, Nick will certainly get his share (of snaps). You have to. He's a dominant football player," he said. "But Chase is an excellent player. Jonathan Cooper. I think those three will rotate and then from there we'll see Jashon Cornell, and whoever else may get in the game at defensive end. But excited about that group. They're really, they have a chance to be special."
“I'm looking forward to going out and coaching football again in a game. It's been awhile.”– Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano
However, the linebacking corps isn't a position that's been labeled in such a way. In fact, coming into the spring, it was a group that many said to be the team's weakest link.
Schiano announced his starters Monday, saying sophomore Baron Browning will start in between junior Malik Harrison and sophomore Pete Werner.
"What's happened in the competition in the spring and then into training camp, the guys that will start the game are going to be Pete Werner, Baron Browning and Malik Harrison," Schiano said. "From there I think more people will play.
Werner had been battling with Dante Booker for a starting gig. When asked why Werner was the Buckeyes' first choice, Schiano was happy to answer.
"Well, I tell you he's made a quite an ascension, right? You saw him kind of grow up on the special teams last year," he said. "He had a great spring, he really, really worked hard to change his body, to mature his body and he's a much bigger man now than he was as a freshman and I think with every rep he gains valuable experience. He's getting better and better. So his arrow is certainly pointed up."
Browning's role could change when sophomore Tuf Borland returns from an Achilles injury, and that could be sooner rather than later.
"He may be back this week. It's amazing the way he has rehabbed," Schiano said. "Tuf is such a committed young man to what he's doing. And he's made incredible progress. As a coach and as a father I kind of am hesitant, because that's a serious injury, as you know. But you have to trust the medical people and if they say he can go. So we'll see by the end of the week, we'll figure out what he can and can't do or what he should or shouldn't do. But he's ahead of schedule, well ahead of schedule."
Saturday's season-opening kickoff against Oregon State is set for 12:07 p.m. at Ohio Stadium. It's the first time the Buckeyes have opened their season with a PAC-12 opponents since beating Washington 28-9 in 2003.
Schiano will have his defense ready to face the Beavers' offense.
"We'll go in with a blueprint but we're not married to anything because we have a menu we can use certain things," he said. "If they change, we can change. They line up in a formation, we don't tell them how to line up and then we have to react to that. So it starts with that. In games like this, new head coach, offensive head coach, has an offensive coordinator, you really have to spend some double time studying both, but not marrying yourself to either. Because you may get a third, you may get a hybrid of both."