Justin Fields' opportunity to play his second season at Ohio State will finally begin next week, and Corey Dennis is helping him prepare for that opportunity while also getting his backup quarterbacks ready to play if needed.
Ohio State's starting quarterback and quarterbacks coach both met with the media on Tuesday morning, and we've written up some excerpts from what each of them had to say below. Ohio State coach Ryan Day also met with the media on Tuesday morning, and his comments follow those of Fields and Dennis.
- Fields said there will be some new plays in the offense this year, but he didn't want to reveal to the public what those new plays will be.
- Fields said he and Day got together for meetings every weekday Monday through Friday during the offseason when he was in Columbus.
- Fields said this year will be his first time voting, and the football team realizes how important it is for them to vote this year.
- Fields said he's asking Day more questions this year about why he's calling certain plays and why the Buckeyes do certain things in their offense. He's trying to become “a coach on the field,” and he feels he has more confidence to ask those questions now than he did in his first year at Ohio State a year ago.
- On freshman quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, Fields said he believes they're great players and great people and he's looking forward to seeing how they continue to grow over the course of the season.
- “I know I've said it 10 times, but y'all don't know how excited I am to play.”
- On the Fiesta Bowl loss against Clemson: “I feel like everything happens for a reason ... we're all human, and we all mess up, so at the end of the day, it is what it is, but the way it ended, I feel like it fueled our team in the offseason.”
- “I think all the guys on our team are ready to go now, so I'm not doubting that, but we're just going to use these next two weeks to focus on Nebraska.”
- “I think Coach Day's the best quarterback coach in the country. I might be biased, but that's just truly coming from me. He's just one smart guy ... Coach Day, he's second to none.” Fields believes having Day's experience as an NFL quarterbacks coach has helped prepare him to not only succeed at Ohio State but prepare for the next level.
- Dennis said it has been a challenge to recruit quarterbacks without being able to do so in-person, but they've adapted to meeting with players through Zoom calls and finding new ways to evaluate players. He said recruiting is always changing, so the ongoing dead period doesn't necessarily change the timetable for when Ohio State will look to land its next commitment at quarterback.
- Dennis said every quarterback in the room has to prepare like he'll be the next starting quarterback at Ohio State, because you never know what will happen, especially this year with the possibility of players missing time due to COVID-19.
- Dennis said Fields wants to know not only what he has to do on a play, but what everyone else on the offense is doing and what the opposing defense will be doing as well. “He truly doesn't want to leave a stone unturned.”
- On C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller: “They both have good days, they both have bad days, but those guys are grinders.” He said they have a great model to look up to in Justin Fields and are trying to emulate him.
- On Stroud, Miller and Gunnar Hoak: “All three of those guys are just doing an unbelievable job, and they're really grinding.” He said he's confident any of the three backup quarterbacks would be ready to go if any of them needed to play in a game tomorrow, but wouldn't say who would be the No. 2 quarterback right now.
- Dennis said “knowledge of the offense” is the biggest area in which he has seen the freshman quarterbacks grow since January. “We have a pretty complex offense, as you guys know.”
- Fields is the type of player who is never satisfied with where he's at, so he's always looking to get better in every area, Dennis said.
- On Fields: “The guy's always been a smart guy. That's never not been the case. He's always understood the offense ... but I just think in all aspects, he's tried to get better, and we've had a little bit more time than we've had in the past.”
- Dennis said Ohio State doesn't have a specific plan yet for how it will split reps among the backup quarterbacks if the Buckeyes have the opportunity to play them in blowout games.
- Day said Ohio State has worked hard to build an offense that will put its quarterbacks in the Heisman Trophy race year in and year out, so it's an exciting time for a quarterback to come be a Buckeye.
- Day said the most important things they've been working on are taking care of the football, tackling, pad level, avoiding penalties and playing clean football.
- On the youth of the defense: “You stay up late at night worrying what that's going to look like, but you can't change what you do. You just gotta make sure the guys can play fast, that they're prepared.” Day said it's just as important for the offense to do its job so it doesn't put the defense in bad situations.
- Day said the Buckeyes are paying attention to the tackling issues that have happened around the country in college football and trying to do everything they can to avoid having those same issues when they start playing next week.
- On Justin Fields: “He's a young man that I've grown very close to. I think the world of him, and I'm just so glad he's going to have a chance to play this year.”
- Day said Ohio State's offensive playmakers can't be selfish, because there are so many talented players, but they can't get overconfident and ahead of themselves, or they'll “get knocked out in the first round.”
- Dennis works with the quarterbacks most of the time, but Day said he will sometimes split up the work with him and work with quarterbacks individually.
- On replacing Jordan Fuller at safety: “Jordan was probably the most unsung hero of last season ... That's a big void there that we need to get filled.” He wasn't ready to name a starting safety for this season.
- On freshman receivers Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper: “They have talent. They've improved. They've shown that they care about doing things the right way ... They've all made big plays.”
- Asked about what the six-man receiver rotation could look like, Day wouldn't say but did mention that the Buckeyes could also have multiple tight ends or multiple running backs in the game in certain packages, as well.
- On the ongoing recruiting dead period: “I feel really bad for the recruits and their families ... there's just been some guys that haven't had the opportunity to come spend time in our culture, around our campus, around our players ... but I think, when they do get here, they're just going to love it even more.”
- Day said the coaches immediately call Justin Kume, Ohio State's associate athletic director of compliance, if they hear about recruits organizing their own visits like the Buckeye Bash, to make sure everything is happening within the rules, but the coaches have to stay completely out of arranging those visits.
- Day said Ryan Stamper has met with the team's player leadership committee about putting a social justice message on the back of their helmets this year.
- Day said that while it would be easy to say “everything” is different this year from last year, because of the unusual schedule and how different this offseason has been, but it's still football, and the Buckeyes still need to focus on the same fundamentals they do every year.
- On Ohio State's defensive tackles: “I would say probably the inside tackles are the biggest concern in terms of depth.” He says he's hoping to get some guys healthy. “We'll solve the problem. But it's definitely a group that has to step up and has to create depth.”
- Day said Nicholas Petit-Frere and Paris Johnson Jr. are both “doing great” at right tackle and “they'll both play.” Day said Petit-Frere has taken most of the first-team reps at right tackle, and said he is “very impressed” with the way Petit-Frere has developed this offseason, but stopped short of naming him the starter.
- On Justin Fields: “One thing about Justin is he doesn't get rattled. He stays composed. Doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low.” He says Fields and other Ohio State veterans like Chris Olave, Jonathon Cooper, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner and Josh Myers have shown an extra level of motivation coming off the way last season ended.
- “We're going to play depth at every position.” He said Justin Fields will play every snap when the game is on the line, but that's about it – even Shaun Wade probably won't play every snap at cornerback.
- Day said that while he has enjoyed being able to watch some other college football games on Saturdays while not playing, “Most of it's been torture.”
- Day said Dennis is “very loyal,” he believes in what Ohio State believes in, he's very smart, he relates well with the players and has “a bright future ahead of him” as a recruiter.