As Ohio State continues its preparation for Saturday's season opener against Nebraska, co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison met with the media for the first time this year while a quartet of players – middle linebacker Tuf Borland, left tackle Thayer Munford, wide receiver Chris Olave and cornerback Marcus Williamson – are also meeting with the media on Wednesday to talk about their anticipation to finally play and the challenge they're expecting from the Cornhuskers.
Below, we round up what each of them had to say during their Q&A sessions, starting with Mattison and continuing with players.
- On Ohio State's linebackers: “This is a special group ... It starts with leadership.”
- On defensive end Jonathon Cooper: “This guy's been just waiting to play. Every snap he takes is 100 miles an hour.”
- Mattison said Ohio State is “really well aware“ of the different things Nebraska can do with slot receiver/H-back Wan'Dale Robinson. The Buckeyes have been practicing to prepare for those things.
- Haskell Garrett is “day-to-day” in his recovery after he was shot in the face in August. Mattison said he has been in every meeting and every walkthrough and doing everything he can be ready to play, but he doesn't know right now when Garrett will be cleared.
- On Tuf Borland: “This year, he is a totally different linebacker than last year in my opinion.” Said Borland is faster, stronger and more vocal because of his confidence. “I think the sky's the limit for him.”
- Mattison said that while Baron Browning could do a lot of things in the Buckeyes' defense, he is focused on being a Sam linebacker in the base defense first.
- On Kerry Coombs becoming defensive coordinator: “He brings us some different ways of playing defense, but we still have our defense. We're still doing what Ohio State does.”
- With Coombs coaching from the field, Mattison will coach the game from the press box, which he says will be the first time he's coached from the booth since he was at Texas A&M in 1990.
- Mattison said the great thing about Ohio State's coaching staff is that “there are no egos.” They all work together on putting together the best possible defense; it's not about who's in charge or who does what.
- On the dynamic between him and Coombs as coordinators, Mattison said he primarily focuses on the defensive front seven while Coombs primarily focuses on the back end, since those are each of their specialties.
- On Pete Werner's move to Will linebacker: “Pete's done a phenomenal job.” Said that teams often run away from the Sam linebacker, but “We felt Pete was too valuable, and too good of a football player” to allow opponents to be running away from him.
- Mattison said freshman linebackers Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton “really have looked good.”
- Asked whether Ohio State would be more likely to sub out the Sam linebacker this year with Werner moving to Will, Mattison said “I'm not sure we don't have a cover guy there right now.” Said Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning have been doing well in that capacity.
- Borland said the Buckeyes felt like they needed to do something to address social injustices that have happened in the United States, and they ultimately decided that an “EQUALITY” sticker on their helmets was the best way to do it.
- On his motivation entering the season after the College Football Playoff loss last season: “That motivation comes from not finishing the job.”
- Borland said Josh Myers is the player he's “bumped heads with” the most during preseason camp.
- On Wan'Dale Robinson: “There are multiple ways he can hurt you, so we've got to prepare for it all. That's our job, that's what we've been doing.”
- Borland said he thinks being able to communicate effectively is crucial for all players on the defense.
- On freshman linebackers Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton: “Both unbelievable players, great athletes and I think the most impressive part about what they've been doing is how fast they've picked up on our defense.”
- “There's no room for error. You don't have a few games to get under your belt before you go out there in Big Ten play. So we know that, we understand that. Our focus is on Nebraska.”
- On Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez: “His skill set gives us challenges, gives everyone challenges, any time you have a running quarterback.” Borland said the Buckeyes have to be prepared for both Martinez and Luke McCaffrey at quarterback.
- “You can always fall back on the work you've put in and the preparation ... when you know your opponent, you should have the utmost confidence in what you're doing.”
- Williamson said he is feeling “real comfortable” at slot cornerback and feels he has been able to bring a veteran mindset and presence to that position. “I've prepared for this moment for a long time.”
- There's always nerves going into every game, Williamson said, but there's ease and comfort in knowing how long he's been training for this moment.
- On Ohio State's defense: “It's the same defense we've had in the previous year ... it's just Coach Coombs calling the plays.”
- On Ohio State's wide receivers: “It's a great group, great unit top to bottom.” Said he lines up against Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba a lot in practice as the slot cornerback.
- On Shaun Wade helping him learn slot cornerback: “Shaun's helped me a lot. He's definitely helped bring some of the nuances to the position that can't always be found in the playbook ... I can't say enough about how much Shaun's helped me.”
- Garrett Wilson is an “amazing athlete,” Williamson said. “Garrett brings a different level of speed that you don't always see on the inside generally.”
- Freshman slot cornerback Cam Martinez has been a quick learner, Williamson said. “We're excited to see him out there.”
- Williamson said he tries to learn from all of Ohio State's assistant coaches and the knowledge they bring to the defense.
- On right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere: “He's going to work, and he's going to protect Justin as well as anyone here ... by the time he's done here, he's going to be one of the best offensive tackles in his class.” Munford said Petit-Frere is “a lot bigger” than he used to be.
- On battling injuries last season: “Everybody knew that I wasn't the best last year at all ... but you gotta fight through it.”
- Munford said after watching his film from last year, he knew he wasn't as powerful as he should be in the run game or as fluid as he should be as a pass blocker, and “that motivated me so much.” Said everyone is motivated going into this season, but “It's business for me.”
- The adversity Munford went through with his injuries last season motivated him even more to be a leader for the Buckeyes this year.
- On Baron Browning: “He's going to be a destruction to other offensive tackles ... don't sleep on him at all. He's going to be a problem on the outside.” Munford noted Browning's quickness and how powerful he is.
- Munford said he thinks was only at about 70-80% last season, but he never wanted to sit out. He wanted to show how tough he was and that he would ”do anything for his teammates.”
- On what people will see from him this year: “I'm going to be a lot more powerful, I'm going to be finishing and sustaining my blocks, too.”
- Munford said he feels “a lot stronger” and he's been able to lift a lot more this offseason because he's fully healthy and not dealing with a back injury like he was last offseason.
- On this year's offensive line: “You're going to see a different Thayer. You're going to see a different offensive line, too ... we are a force to be reckoned with right now.”
- Munford said the feedback Ohio State got from NFL scouts was that he needs to sustain his blocks more, which he wasn't able to do as well as he should have been last year because he wasn't fully healthy.
- Munford said the challenging of preparing for Nebraska's defensive line is the Buckeyes don't even know who their starting defensive linemen will be since it's the first game.
- “I do think we are going to be the best offensive line in the entire country this year.”
- Munford said he had a weak core before last season, which played a part in the injuries he suffered, so he worked on strengthening his core, while he's also improved his diet, to hopefully avoid injuries going forward.
- Munford said he doesn't expect any drop-off at running back with Trey Sermon and Master Teague.
- On Ohio State's new starting left guard: “Harry Miller is going to be something special.”
- On playing without a full crowd of fans: “It's gonna be real weird at first. We don't really know how it's going to feel ... but there's going to be millions of people watching on TV, so we've got to adapt to it, and just have fun out there.”
- Since players are allowed to have guests, Olave said his mother and brother are making the trip to California to be at Ohio Stadium.
- Olave said him and Jameson Williams have gotten really close this offseason and they “push each other every day.” Olave described Williams as “one of the most talented dudes on the team ... His speed is off the charts, his talent is off the charts.”
- Olave said Shaun Wade is “probably the best corner in the country.” He said Sevyn Banks had a “little injury” early in camp, but he's come back and Olave thinks Banks is going to have a “huge year,” too. Other than Wade, Banks is the toughest cornerback to go up against in practice, Olave said, along with Cam Brown.
- On Justin Fields: “In this building, we think he's the best player in the country.”
- Olave said he has a lot of respect for Marcus Williamson and he can't wait to see him play slot cornerback on Saturday. “Hopefully he balls out.”
- How have you gotten better this offseason? “Just trying to be consistent. Trying to lead on and off the field.” Said he's also been working on his route running and his feet. “Trying to be the best in the country at what I do.”
- Olave, who was a three-star recruit out of high school, said he doesn't think recruiting stars matter. “At the end of the day, you just gotta come in and work.”
- On Garrett Wilson's move to slot receiver: “Hopefully he'll get more touches so he can show the world what he can do.”