Teleconference Bullets: Ohio State’s Seven Team Captains Talk About Leadership, Preparing for an Unprecedented Season, Staying Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Zack Carpenter on August 4, 2020 at 3:42 pm
Jonathon Cooper

For the first time since mid-May, we heard from Ohio State's players as the Buckeyes' seven team captains met with reporters via teleconference on Tuesday.

Before each player fielded questions, Ryan Day spoke briefly to give an update on the health and safety of the players in his program.

“Our players and coaches are doing an excellent job taking care of themselves,” Day said. “They're holding each other accountable because we’re all in this together.”

Day says the policies and procedures implemented at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center is helping to ensure the “the safest environment possible” and that they are “working tirelessly around the clock” to prepare for training camp that begins on Friday. 

Day said it has “been awesome to see and inspiring for our staff” to watch the leadership of his team. 

“The hardest part for this team has been the unknowns,” Day said. “I promise you our leadership has kept this team hungry and we’re training at a championship level.”

When discussing the seven players – Justin Fields, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, Shaun Wade, Justin Hilliard, Tuf Borland and Jonathon Cooper – who were officially announced as captains on Tuesday, Day said “this group is really impressive in so many areas. When you look at their accomplishments, it’s really long and really impressive.”

Day closed by informing everyone that receiver C.J. Saunders was denied a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA but that he will stay on with Ohio State in some sort of coaching capacity.

“He’s got coaching in his blood, and he wants to be part of this season,” Day said. “He’s meant a lot to us, and we’re excited he’s gonna be a part of our program this year.”

Here's a rundown of everything the captains talked about on Tuesday:

Justin Fields

  • Fields said he can see where the players who are opting out are coming from, but said he hasn't thought about it much yet. Mentions he comes from a stable situation financially, so being able to make money sooner isn't a big consideration for him.
  • “Getting to the money as fast as I can isn’t really a priority for me,” Fields said. “Grinding with my team and Coach (Mickey Marotti) is what I’m cherishing the most right now. So just working with them. I’m just trying to stay as optimistic as possible. Opting out, I can see where those guys are coming from, but I haven’t really thought of that.”
  • Fields said there have been some players around the Big Ten have been talking about potentially doing something like the Pac-12 players have done, but that those talks haven't gotten serious yet.
  • “I want to show everybody that I'm the best quarterback in the nation,” Fields said. “Of course I want to win the Heisman, but the team comes first, so if none of that happens, I'll be fine with winning a national championship.”
  • Fields on the Ohio State/Michigan game potentially being moved up: “To be honest, I don't really care when we play the team up north. I just want to play them.” Fields and Wyatt Davis both said Ohio State are going to “beat the brakes off them.”
  • Fields says he has had conversations with his parents about the season and that “they just put me in the driver’s seat for this situation. They know what’s best for me, and they trust me that i’m gonna make the best decision for myself. With everything going on here, all of our players feel safe at Ohio State with resuming training and workouts. The big question is what are other schools doing? My parents feel comfortable with resuming everything.”

Josh Myers

  • Myers says that his “level of comfort in our safety is really high ... There's nothing more our coaches and staff can do to keep us safe. “I personally am confident that we're going to have a season,” and says he believes players should be able to make that choice. Fields agrees with Myers that he feels very comfortable about his safety in the program.
  • “I also think it’s a safe environment here where it’s clean and safe rather than being somewhere else,” Myers said. “I strongly, strongly believe that our coaches are gonna keep us safe through all this thing.”
  • Myers says there are “countless things” that makes Fields worthy of being a captain, including how approach he is to young guys in the program: “Being a Hesiman finalist, it can be intimidating to start a relationship with someone like Justin. ... How approachable and open he is to teaching, regardless of who they are or where they are in the program. And his natural leadership. Some people have it, some people don’t.”
  • When asked about the potential for the offensive line to be one of the best in the country, Myers says that with high expectations comes a lot of responsibility. But he also says that he believes “last year shows proof that the goal should always be to win the Joe Moore Award.”
  • Myers says that there is a lot of competition at left guard and right tackle but: “I don’t think we can put a wrong person in there. I think we’ll be successful whoever we put in there.”

Wyatt Davis

  • Davis says he's very optimistic that there will be a season: “You can only take it one day at a time, because it can consume your mind if you get too negative.”
  • Davis says he has talked a lot with his parents and that “they want a season to happen. At the same time, they wanna make sure it’s a safe environment. With workouts about to start up and with camp soon, they feel very good about how Ohio State has been handling things.
  • Davis says that a mask is required to be at the facility and that players are being tested twice a week.
  • On being prepared for training camp, Davis says that when he was back home he always stayed on top of being in good physical shape and always tried to find different places to work out: “I feel like I’m where I’m always at during this time. During the whole pandemic and being in California for that long, I really took it upon myself – especially when no one’s watching – to do all the workouts our coaches were sending us.”

Justin Hilliard

  • Hilliard said the Ohio State football players understand they're going to have to try to keep their distance from other students this fall in order to keep themselves safe.
  • “I’m real confident we’re gonna have a season,” Hilliard said. “We can’t control many other things that are going on out there, but we do understand what we can control. We can’t have people testing positive for coronavirus so we’ve focusing on social distancing and staying healthy.”
  • On whether he's concerned about contracting COVID: “There’s slight worry … with that worry there’s things that come with it,” Hilliard said, referencing the importance of wearing a mask, washing your hands and practicing social distancing. “People don’t wanna get the virus. With that, I think people are doing everything in their power to not get it.”
  • On working out or practicing with a mask on: “Everyone has a different experience. My experience has been unpleasant. It’s hard to play or work out with a tight mask around your face. Some guys are able to wear that 24/7. I don’t think I’d be able to do that 24/7. If I have to, we’re able to adapt. If the Big Ten says we need that, I’ll do it.”

Shaun Wade

  • Wade said he has “no second thoughts” about choosing to come back to Ohio State for another year. Said he isn't thinking about how the lack of a normal season could affect his chance to improve his NFL draft stock – focused on trying to beat Michigan and win a championship.
  • Wade on whether anyone is standing out to him in Ohio State's secondary during summer workouts: “Everybody, to be honest.” Says he expects this to be a special season and does not expect there to be any fall-off in the secondary.

Jonathon Cooper

  • Cooper said it doesn't matter at all to him when the Ohio State/Michigan game is played, just that The Game happens. “That date does not matter at all. Just that we get to play them.”
  • On players' voices being heard when athletic directors and other decision makers are making the final call on the schedule decisions and whether to move forward with the season: “As you can see across the country, a lot of student-athletes are speaking out for different reasons. I can only speak for myself with my own background. When it comes to me, I feel safe and feel good about everything that’s going on. Maybe across the country players don’t feel that way, but I can’t speak to them. Personally, we feel safe and confident with our leaders and our coaching staff with everything that’s going on.”
  • Cooper says “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating,” about not having a normal offseason heading into his final season of eligibility, “but you can’t focus on any of that stuff. Right now, I’m focused on being a leader for the team and being healthy to be the best player I can be. Putting all my energy to that.”

Tuf Borland

  • Borland on being a three-time Ohio State captain: “There's a huge responsibility that comes with that. All eyes are on you every day.”
  • On adapting to everything thrown the team's way this year: “The name of the game this year will be adapt to whatever rules and procedures are given.”
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