After opening up Ohio State's 11th practice of the spring to the media, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison each met with reporters following practice to provide the latest updates on the Buckeyes with just one week to go – and three more practices next week – until the spring game.
A sampling of what each of them had to say, starting with Mattison:
- On his philosophy on schemes: "It's never been schemes that have won. It's what you teach to the players to run and who's running them." Says he loves what he's seeing from the players so far this spring.
- As a coordinator, Mattison said he views himself as a "coordinator of people's ideas," trying to work with everyone on the staff to incorporate their ideas instead of just telling everyone what to do. Repeats what many other assistant coaches have said that the individual coaches don't have egos.
- Mattison said he doesn't look at what went wrong or what people said went wrong with the defense last year. Instead, he looks at the positives: the secondary is fast, strong and experienced, the linebackers look like defensive linemen yet can also run and Larry Johnson has already built a strong defensive line. Says the coaches' goal is to make the defense simple and let them play.
- Mattison said he wants defensive players to feel like they can ask for a break if they are tired, because he wants them to go hard ("4 to 6, A to B") on every play and believes the next man up can get the job done, as well.
- Mattison said "up north" when referring to Michigan, his former employer.
- Mattison did not want to name names regarding who's playing well because he didn't want to accidentally omit someone who's playing well.
- On Ryan Day: "He's just so far ahead of his time." Mattison also referred to Jeff Hafley as "ahead of time" as a secondary coach.
- On the Bullet position: "That guy can play secondary, he can play middle safety, he can play half-field safety and he can come down and be your old strong safety. And then at the same time, he can be that 9 technique, SAM outside linebacker. And then what takes him to the next step is can he also blitz. And if he can also blitz, he's got the whole package."
- On the interchangeability of the inside linebackers: "The Mike's got to play Will, the Will's got to play Mike." Malik Harrison and Dallas Gant both got reps at middle linebacker today even though they are primarily weakside linebackers.
- Day said Mattison and Hafley have "done a great job" working together to coordinate the defense, with Mattison working primarily on the front seven and Hafley working primarily with the secondary.
- On Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin: "The completion percentage is pretty close right now with those guys." Said those completion percentages are about on par with where Dwayne Haskins was last spring. Said the completion percentages should be a little higher this spring than they were last spring, because they are going against a different style of defense.
- Wyatt Davis was sick today and did not practice.
- Day said he is "really impressed with Nicholas Petit-Frere" and the development he has made this spring.
- Garrett Wilson has shown "tremendous body control" and "excellent ball skills," but is still learning how to play with the physicality needed at the collegiate level.
- Day said the Buckeyes are still evaluating their under-center packages, but said that gives them the opportunity to do some different things with their offense, including two-tight end sets, which he considers to be a strength of the offense right now.
- Day said there will likely be a running clock in the second half of next weekend's spring game.
- Day believes it is important to have a spring game so that the coaches can evaluate the players in front of a large crowd in Ohio Stadium and get the young players some experience playing in the Shoe.
- On Josh Proctor: "He flashes. He still has a lot to learn. It's a slow process, but very, very talented. He's got a lot of range, and a lot of talent."
- On the defensive line: "All the guys up front are doing a great job. There's a ton of depth there. Larry's the best in America at teaching those guys how to pass-rush."
- Day said Austin Mack had a slow start this spring coming off his injury, but he's come on as the spring has progressed and started to step up as a leader.
- On Branden Bowen: "He has to be a leader for us," because of his experience as a fifth-year senior and versatility to play several positions along the offensive line.
- Did Greg Mattison make an impression on you when you were a GA at Florida? "He sure did. I was pretty impressionable at that point ... First off, he's a great man, great husband, great dad." Said he views Mattison as a mentor and someone he looks to for advice, and said he felt it was important to add someone who could play that role on the coaching staff.
- Day said he had conversations with Mattison, Hafley and Johnson to figure out how the defense should look this year, wanting all of them to be involved in leadership on the defense.
- On Jeff Hafley's ability to develop defensive backs: "Jeff's the best."
- On walk-on wide receiver Garyn Prater, who caught several touchdown passes and had a deep diving catch during Friday's practice; "He's showing up every day, he makes plays." Says you never know what playing time might open up for him.
- Day said he expects the middle linebacker competition between Tuf Borland, Baron Browning and Teradja Mitchell to continue into preseason camp. With Borland sidelined with a knee injury, Browning took the first-team reps at middle linebacker today.
- Day said he believes depth is key to Ohio State's success, but "our great players have to be great."
- Jaylen Harris took a punch from Damon Arnette during a scuffle between the offense and defense in Friday's practice. Day said he expects there to be scuffles in spring practice, so he's not overly concerned about that, but wants to see that calm down going into summer camp.
- Chris Olave is battling tightness in his hamstring. He was limited in Friday's practice.
- The spring game capacity will be 76,000, and about 50,000 tickets have been sold already.
Stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for additional coverage from Friday's practice, including full observations from the practice session.