Ryan Day dropped the knowledge on the assembled media yesterday ahead of Saturday's home date with Maryland.
A battle with the 44-point underdog Terrapins comes on the heels of an open date, Ohio State's second of the season.
Day touched on a range of topics, including some thoughts on how his slew of fifth-year players have made hefty contributions to this year's squad.
Q. You have some fifth-year guys who have key roles on this team. Aside from the games, what do those fifth-year guys do? How important is it to have those guys?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think they bring a maturity level that’s off the charts. I think the work ethic and the investment they’ve put into this place, the seriousness, they know what it’s supposed to look like, it’s huge.
Their ability to step up and challenge some of the younger guys, get up in front of the team, talk to the team, that’s when you go from good to great.
But if you want to make a run in November, you need to have those older guys who have been around, who take control of the team.
Interestingly, 14 of Ohio State's 19 seniors are actually of the fifth-year variety. Day touched on the leadership they've brought to the table in setting the standard for work ethic for the younger guys to follow.
Beyond those contributions, a host of the fifth-year guys have carved out huge on-field roles, delivering the type of production that could help lead Ohio State to a national title.
On offense, K.J. Hill headlines the veterans. Despite Ohio State's passing attack not being quite as explosive as a year ago, Hill still leads the team with 30 receptions, ranks second with four touchdown grabs and slots third with 305 yards.
The offensive line has enjoyed a strong season-to-date from left guard Jonah Jackson, a fifth-year guy who arrived for one last hurrah after leaving Rutgers, along right tackle Branden Bowen.
Jackson's nasty streak sets the tone for the hogs up front and he's probably Ohio State's most effective run blocker behind left tackle Thayer Munford and center Josh Myers. The stability provided by Bowen at right tackle is huge especially as he came off a major leg injury to bolster the line.
The top reserve option at either tackle spot, Joshua Alabi was dynamite in a spot-start against Nebraska earlier this season though he struggled the next week before missing the last two games due to injury.
Another fifth-year offensive guy, quarterback Chris Chugonov, was expected by most to fill the third-string quarterback role behind Justin Fields and Gunnar Hoak but Chugs looks to be the best option behind Fields as Ohio State enters the stretch run.
On defense, nose tackle Davon Hamilton and cornerback Damon Arnette lead the fifth-year guys and both have turned in monster seasons-to-date.
Hamilton is probably the most underappreciated player on the roster and is making a run at being a steal in the back half of next year's NFL Draft. Arnette, who nearly turned pro despite a disappointing 2018 season, returned with a fresh mindset and renewed commitment. Refocused, Arnette teams with Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade to give the Buckeyes three legit cover corners complemented by senior safety Jordan Fuller.
Arnette's resurgence in pass coverage has been fun to watch but maybe even more impressive is his commitment to run support. He currently ranks fifth on the team with 24 tackles which leads the Buckeye cornerbacks.
Back to the trenches, fifth-year tackles BB Landers and Jashon Cornell join Hamilton to give the Buckeyes one of the better interior defensive line groups in the nation. Cornell is easily playing the most impactful football of his Ohio State career and he leads his interior line mates with 20 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Fifth-year linebacker Justin Hilliard has been to hell and back, battling injuries his entire career. To his credit, the former five-star never gave up and it recently paid off as he logged a season-high 18 snaps against Wisconsin as the defensive staff dialed up a bevy of four-linebacker sets to successfully slow the Badgers rushing attack.
Long snapper Liam McCullough has performed admirably. Fellow fifth-year guy, tight end Rashod Berry, finds himself in a crowded tight end room but has still turned in a handful of very meaningful plays.
Kevin Woidke, a backup offensive lineman, and injured H-back C.J. Saunders round out the list of fifth-year players.
Without a doubt, underclassmen like Chase Young, Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins, to name a few, need to show out for Ohio State to make a playoff run. That said, no less than seven of the fifth-year seniors must maintain their current level of play for the Buckeyes to have a legit shot at bringing home the first national championship of the Ryan Day era.