Illinois week has kicked off.
Still unbeaten after getting past Indiana, Ohio State looks to move to 5-0 this weekend. To reflect on Saturday's win versus Indiana and preview the upcoming game, head coach Ryan Day, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, defensive end Jonathon Cooper, offensive tackle Paris Johnson, linebacker Tuf Borland, linebackers Pete Werner, center Josh Myers and wide receiver Chris Olave joined the media on Tuesday afternoon.
A bullet-point rundown of what they had to say (with videos on the way):
- Asked about his communication with the defensive coaches: "We meet every day. Certainly meet on Sunday after the game and go through every position group and each player and talk about their performances and finish it up and talk about things schematically." He says most of his time "goes toward the offense" but has "constant communication."
- On the defense: "The glaring issue was the big plays." He says this defense is designed to avoid that and force teams to work their way down the field. "We have to get a couple things changed."
- Day says there are "some guys really playing at a high level" on this team. Says he doesn't think Ohio State is "that far away."
- Mentioning the second-half letdowns, he says they have to "keep hammering that home."
- On the defensive line's pass rush: "I think they're getting a lot of hits. I think they're getting a lot of hurries." He says they are pushing the pocket and getting good push.
- He says the coaches will play young guys who practice well.
- Day says they can improve in all three areas: Coaching, players and scheme. He says Ohio State will explore this week whether there are different combinations of players that could work better in the secondary.
- He says Kevin Wilson gives Day information before reviews.
- On Justin Fields' three interceptions: "He's his worst critic. He's very hard on himself. That's what makes him great." Day says Fields can't afford to make bad plays worse, and that's what happened at time. "That's hard. He's so competitive." Fields knows he has to get better in that area, he says.
- With a smile, Day responds to a question about Fields' three interceptions: "I would say as a team and as the head coach, we do not want this to happen." But he does say it could help to go through some adversity and learn from what happened.
- Day says it's important for Fields to always trust his instincts and always have a plan to throw the ball away.
- On seeing Fields' develop in his ability to his understanding of the game: "It's rewarding. That's one of the best parts of coaching quarterbacks." As they develop, he says, quarterbacks "have an opinion" which Day likes because it allows him and the coaches to better understand what might work.
- Day says "it's really hard on all the families and these young men" to be away from each other for Thanksgiving. He says they aren't telling parents not to see their sons but they know the risk of exposure.
- "Absolutely." He says they've backed off on some times when they'd usually be serious . "If they're not having fun when they come to the building, the product's not going to be very good."
- He says all the defensive issues are in the pass game and are correctable. He says the 2018 issues were a combination of pass and run game.
- On Jordan Fuller: "Jordan was really good. You saw what he did last night." He says free safety is a "very, very important position."
- "Marcus has had some good moments. He's also been a little inconsistent." Asked if he might make a change at that position, he says the coaches will look at many different personnel combinations.
- Day theorizes that not having fans is something that hurts defenses. "That's not here this year." He says he's not sure if that plays into it or not, mentioning it comes down to executing. Ohio State made some mistakes offensively in the second half.
- The "art of playing quarterback" is decision-making. "It's always part of the conversation, week in and week out."
- "I like what we're doing. I think we have the right stuff in. Just have to execute it a little better." He doesn't think there have been anything bad schematically. "I just think we need to execute a little better."
- Day says he threw five interceptions against a Don Brown-coached Northeastern team once. He says this weekend was the first time Fields had to work through something like that. "When those moments happen, you just have to erase what happened and work your way through it."
- He says he hasn't been much around his family much this fall, which has been a major sacrifice.
- He talked to the players at dinner the other night about how there are millions of Buckeye fans out there and to keep perspective on some of the online criticism. "If you put 200 people in the Shoe, you wouldn't even notice them." He says the parents "hurt so much" when criticized.
- On Fields' ability to extend plays: "He's strong. He's powerful. He's really athletic. That the give and take."
- Day says they have recruited to a four-down scheme and have been able to get a rush from those four for a long time. They talked a couple of years ago about keeping that scheme. "We also have to be opportunistic about blitzing."
- He was "very, very upset" with missing the targeting penalty on Fields. "They missed that one."
- On the defensive scheme: "I think there's constant questions about how we're doing things. You're always evaluating what you're doing and how you're doing it. That's exactly what we're doing." He says he agrees with Day that most problems have been execution-based.
- On the pass rush: "I think we're getting very good pressure." He says they had 28 pressure and 10 knockdowns. He'd like there to be more sacks, but he credits Michael Penix Jr. for getting the ball out quickly. "I do think they're putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."
- Coombs says they "have to fix the big plays". He thinks players have sometimes pressed and tried to make big plays. "We don't need to necessarily go make all the big plays." He says they can't afford to chase making big plays.
- Four big plays: "Those four plays in particular, those are egregious." He says there were a "lot of really, really good plays," but the focused has been all about the big plays given up. "Those are fixable errors that have to be fixed. That's our job and that's my job."
- Coombs says he'd like to play more guys on the back end of the defense. "We're constantly looking for opportunities to get more guys on the field."
- On the big play hit on Sevyn Banks, he says Hooker should've been deeper and Banks should've played better.
- "I think I have to do everything better." He says whatever you see on the field is a reflection of what you've taught and how you've taught. He says he takes it personally when a player he's coached makes a mistake. "It's my opinion, when we make a mental mistake, that's my fault."
- Coombs says they will continue to try to enhance what they do with the linebackers.
- He says it's easy to sub an interior defensive lineman and let them get experience but it's much harder to do "on the islands of the secondary." He says they're practicing a lot of depth but not playing a lot of depth. "Some of that is a function of how the second halves have gone."
- On being relentless in getting after Penix: "During a game, you've got to keep going." He says he told his fellow defensive linemen to keep rushing because he'll hold onto the ball longer than expected .
- On getting sacks: "We have to figure out how to get home faster." He says they talk about getting 0.1 seconds faster because they know what a difference that could make.
- Evaluating his own play: "I feel pretty good. It's hard to answer that right now because you're in it." He says his goal is to get better every single week.
- Cooper says he doesn't feel like it was similar at all to the 2018 defense. He says he trusts his teammates to get the job done. "That's what you do as a captain."
- Says his teammates are the "only reason why they make this OK."
- He says he tries to have perspective that they're not the only people going through obstacles right now.
- On Tuf Borland: "I think his play has been amazing this season. He's playing the best ball of his career."
- He says he's had several other players both at Ohio State and other colleges about starting foundations, which Johnson has done.
- While in high school, Johnson attended a Special Olympics event for disabled veterans and heard many stories from them which inspired him. Read the full story from our own Zack Carpenter here.
- He says his foundation is giving away 71 turkeys today and will hold a toy drive before Christmas.
- Johnson says this team has become a family to him. "It's a good experience because we're never alone because we're always with each other every day."
- He says he gets excited about making mistakes and seeing success when he addresses them. Says he has gotten so much better since arriving.
- Johnson says he doesn't know when the Name, Image and Likeness reform will arrive, but he only sees positives with it. He says he's excited about using it with his foundation, beyond just monetary gain.
- He says all of the defensive mistakes that have been made are correctable. Borland says he has confidence in his teammates. "Like I said, these mistakes are all very correctable."
- If playing in his home state of Illinois means anything extra: "I don't know. It's about two hours south of my hometown. It'll be cool to have more family there and feel their support, obviously from afar. I'm just looking forward to another opportunity to play the game."
- Borland says Illinois has "two extremely good backs."
- On Baron Browning: "I'm just so happy for him and how he's playing."
- "The one thing we can't do is point fingers. This is a collective problem as a whole defense."
- On Illinois: "They're definitely a solid team. They are well-coached. They have talent. They've given people problems throughout the season. As Ohio State, we're going to get everyone's best shot every week, so we're going to be ready for that."
- "I think that me, personally, I'm playing at a high level now." He credits the coaches and teammates for pushing him.
- "I just credit Tuf, the way he comes out to practice, the way he shows up every single day." He says if you put so much time and effort into little things, you'll see great things on the field. Also mentions you rarely see a run get past the linebackers in practice.
- Werner says it's important to prove to the nation that they're the best defense in the country, which he thinks was more emphasized last year. He doesn't think the energy and passion in the second halves hasn't been there.
- He says the coaches knew it wasn't the best decision to match Baron Browning up with a slot receiver and said so.
- He likes playing on the inside because he can be more aggressive. "It's a good feeling knowing you're going in there and blitzing." He feels like he's good at it.
- Werner says he mentally tells himself he knows the ball is coming his way when he's in man-to-man coverage o the outside.
- He says the biggest problem in college football is staying healthy and coronavirus-free. "I'm so happy the way our team has responded." Says he thinks the leaders and coaches have "done a great job."
- He says Indiana threw multiple blitzes at Ohio State that the Buckeyes had never seen before. Multiple time, the Hoosiers brought more blitzers than the Buckeyes had blockers. "I think, all things considered, we did a pretty good job."
- On Master Teauge's 41-yard touchdown: "I was juiced about that play. I was excited for so many reasons." He says he thought the game made the players feel better about the run game.
- "We get blitzed constantly." Says this was even more blitzing and new blitzing than he was used to.
- "I enjoy the mental aspect a lot." He says he's grown to love that over the years.
- Myers says they had to adjust to them bringing the safety on blitzes.
- "Tuf is a leader of this football team and he has been basically my entire career here." He says he's a leader in everything he does. If they were finger-painting, Borland would be a leader at that, Myers says.
- On him changing his number to 50 to honor his grandfather on Saturday: "She was excited. She told me she went through about a whole box of tissues."
- Myers says they kept coming back to the run game and had to rely on it a little bit more. "The way their defense was playing, they were running those linebackers through the A-gap constantly."
- He thinks it was good that a lot of the internal blitzing was for either him or the running back.
- He says he wanted to take a lot of snaps and reps this year, and it's not wearing on him.
- "We've got 100 percent confidence in Justin. Just a bump in the road."
- Olave says it was "just an uncomfortable situation" on Saturday that led to three turnovers. "I felt we reacted to it good."
- He says they all know Fields will bounce back. "We're not worried about him."
- Olave thinks Fields will "be the same" and "bounce back better than ever."
- He says not having family around for Thanksgiving is a sacrifice everybody has to make. "We're all comfortable making it."
- Olave says they haven't gotten a lot of man-to-man coverage this year. "In the back end, we've just got to find our spots and get our eyes to the quarterback."
- He says older teammates showed him the way when he arrived. "They set the example and I just followed it."
- Olave says when he's being bracketed, he just has to beat the defender who's covering his route.
- "I don't really care about stats."
- Olave says Julian Fleming's forced fumble was a "huge" play.