Presser Bullets: Ryan Day and Jeff Hafley Preview Ohio State's Big Ten Championship Game Against Wisconsin

By Dan Hope on December 3, 2019 at 12:36 pm

With four days to go until Ohio State's rematch against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley met with the media on Tuesday to wrap up the Buckeyes' regular season, look ahead to this week's conference title game and answer other questions from the media.

Updates from Day and Hafley's press conferences are below. Quarterback Justin Fields, wide receivers K.J. Hill and Austin Mack, defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton and cornerback Jeff Okudah are also set to appear at Tuesday's press conference, and updates from what they had to say will follow in a separate article.

Ryan Day:

  • On when Justin Fields went down in the third quarter of Saturday's game: "I was kind of numb at that point." Seeing Fields come back into the game and make the play that he did on the 30-yard touchdown pass to Wilson was "one of the coolest things I've been a part of."
  • Day said director of player personnel Mark Pantoni is working hard on planning out how the Buckeyes will recruit over the next two weeks following the Big Ten Championship Game and how they will balance that with everything else on their plate for the rest of the month.
  • Day said the plan for Jonathon Cooper to redshirt the rest of the season and return as a fifth-year senior in 2020 "won't change ... He deserves to play a full senior year, and I know he wants to."
  • On staying focused on the Big Ten Championship Game rather than looking ahead to potential College Football Playoff games: "The end of the first race is coming on Saturday night at 8 o'clock, and we have to accelerate through that finish line."
  • Day said the Buckeyes are in regular communication with Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo about calls or non-calls they see in games that they disagree with but overall, he thinks the officials do a good job.
  • Day said he thought Chase Young's presence mattered and he made an impact on the game even though he didn't record any tackles against Michigan.
  • Day doesn't want to speculate about potential College Football Playoff scenarios right now. All focus is on trying to win the Big Ten Championship Game. He doesn't want to reflect on what's happened so this year yet either for the same reason.
  • Day said he felt more relief than happiness after Saturday's win over Michigan. "It wasn't even close."
  • On preparing for a rematch: "Giving them a good, clean plan, with enough wrinkles, is critical."
  • Winning the Big Ten Championship and improving to 13-0 would be "huge," Day said. "To go win this thing undefeated would say a lot about our team."
  • Day said Wisconsin "kicked our tails on offense" in the first game, in which Ohio State only scored 10 points before halftime, so it was a tough game and the Buckeyes are expecting another one on Saturday.
  • Day recognizes that Ohio State opens the door for assistant coaches to pursue other opportunities, so he doesn't want to restrict them from that, but wants them to get through the finish line of the year first. "Most people who are looking for coaches would understand that."
  • "If you want to make a run at this thing, you have to be great ... if you come out and lay an egg, you put yourself at risk."
  • On the interior offensive line of Jonah Jackson, Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis: “They're the tip of the spear on our offense. Everything goes through those guys, and their approach has been off-the-charts.”
  • Day said the performance of the offensive line in both pass protection and run blocking speaks to the job that Greg Studrawa has done coaching them.
  • Day said he has not given any thought to resting Justin Fields this week because of his knee injury. "We'll use him all 60 minutes."
  • On playing Wisconsin: "It's very hard to find an inch on them ... because they're so sound. They're not going to run bad plays into bad looks."
  • Day on how well Ohio State has played after not being picked to win the Big Ten in many preseason projections: "In the preseason, they didn't think much of us ... a lot of people don't give these kids enough credit, in my opinion ... they're not just talented. This is a team of great talent, great toughness, great chemistry. There's so much that goes into it, and I think they deserve the credit."
  • Day said he believes the coaching staff has done a great job on offense, defense and special teams, but the player-driven leadership has been the biggest key to the Buckeyes' success.
  • On the transfer portal: "It has changed things for sure." In general, though, Ohio State's recruiting strategy won't change substantially because they're looking for players who want to be Buckeyes from the beginning. He doesn't expect them to make a big push for many recruits who might become available late in the cycle because of coaching changes.
  • Day said he doesn't think Ohio State needs to spend too much time campaigning for its Heisman Trophy candidates, because what they do for Buckeyes speaks for itself, but he does want people to recognize that they haven't played as much as some other players or had as many opportunities to build their stats because of how much lopsided games the Buckeyes have won.
  • "Our first goal is to win the rivalry game, but this is a huge goal of ours as well. If we win the Big Ten championship, we know that a lot of things have gone well."

Jeff Hafley:

  • On the win over Michigan: "A game like that is what you dream about. A game like that is why you coach college football." Hafley said he kind of understood what the rivalry game was all about when he arrived at Ohio State, but experiencing it for the first time and getting his first pair of Gold Pants was a special moment.
  • Hafley said his full focus right now is on this week's Big Ten Championship Game, not on potential job opportunities that his name has been connected with.
  • Hafley said halftime is so fast that you don't have a lot of time to make adjustments between halves. You have to continuously make adjustments throughout the game.
  • Hafley thought Amir Riep, who filled in for Shaun Wade at slot cornerback against Michigan, did "better and better" as the game progressed. He had a pass breakup and an interception in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Riep has been Wade's backup all season and has played slot cornerback in practice, so he deserved the opportunity to play as much as he did.
  • "I believe Jeff Okudah's the best corner in the country ... Jeff's as talented as any corner that I've been around." He said he would be "disappointed" if Okudah doesn't win the Jim Thorpe Award.
  • Hafley said the way Marcus Hooker has practiced over the past couple weeks, he deserved to play, which is why Ohio State felt comfortable putting him in the game in the second half against Michigan.
  • Hafley said he is proud of the way Damon Arnette has played through the pain with a cast on his wrist. Some people in Arnette's situation wouldn't be playing, but Arnette wants to be on the field.
  • Hafley was proud of the way the Buckeyes responded after Michigan scored on the opening drive on Saturday. They "didn't flinch" and kept fighting, he said.
  • On J.K. Dobbins: "J.K.'s a really good player, and he's an unbelievable person ... Even being a defensive guy, I love being around that guy."
  • Hafley said he thought Chase Young "had some good rushes" in Saturday's game even though he wasn't credited with any tackles. "He had a ton of pressures."
  • "Throwing the ball in the middle of the field against us is not easy, because if you catch it, you're going to feel it."
  • On being named a Broyles Award finalist: "It's an honor to be on that list ... I appreciate those who voted, and we'll see what happened."
  • Hafley, unsurprisingly, thinks Ryan Day should be Big Ten Coach of the Year. "I don't think there's a better coach in the country."
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