Nearly a week has passed since spring camp has begun.
In that time, Ohio State has gone through several practices, including its first with pads on Wednesday. To offer updates on how spring practice is going so far, linebackers coach Al Washington and two seniors at his position – Teradja Mitchell and Dallas Gant – joined the media on Thursday.
A bullet-point rundown of what they said (with video coming soon):
- "The best thing we have is competition." He says you can see the growth every day, and the goal is to be better in every way by the end of spring camp.
- He doesn't remember being in a similar situation of losing four starters.
- He says Tommy Eicheberg wasn't a blue-chip guy out of high school, so he has always had an attitude. "That's what's going to make him an elite player." Washington wants Eichenberg to become a leader, making himself seen, heard and felt by his teammates. Also expected him to turn into a better technician. "He's hyper-competitive."
- On the Tennessee job talks becoming public: "I was extremely disappointed and frustrated. That was a private situation that was made public. That was very discouraging. First time in that situation. That was obviously something that irritated me."
- Washington has stolen a Mike Tomlin phrase a few times to discuss the linebacker play at Ohio State: "The standard is the standard."
- He says being at Ohio State puts him in a position to actualize his goals of becoming a defensive coordinator and head coach at some point in his career. But he's young... "Timing is important."
- On staying at Ohio State: "I just felt for me personally, it was the best decision for me to be where I'm at."
- Washington says he doesn't have a depth chart right now.
- On the Sam linebacker spot: "Whatever skillset that guy has, you play to it. That's kind of one that you can mold around the player."
- He says Gant not participating in the spring isn't in "the good category." ... "But there's still ways to get better."
- Washington calls Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton "young studs." He says they were impacted by the now-gone seniors. "They just need reps. They need those repetitions. They need to be coached. They need to be evaluated. They need to be pushed."
- He won't be practicing in the spring due to a foot injury. He'll be back by summer.
- "Me and the older guys now have been waiting our turn for a while." He says sitting behind the others, whom he called "Buckeye greats," was frustrating at times but he learned a lot. "It's our time to take over now."
- On Al Washington's flirtation with Tennessee: "Whatever route he took, I was in support of. But he said firmly he wanted to stay with us."
- Missing spring: "Obviously it's hard. Spring is a time to develop your skillset and things like that." He says he'll spent the time watching film and doing off-field work.
- Gant says the linebackers don't have set positions in practice because guys are moving around. He uses the example that Pope sometimes moves around between all three linebacker spots.
- He says he's watching film and trying to help the younger guys like Reid Carrico and Tommy Eichenberg.
- On if he'll play middle linebacker: "Right now, I'm not totally sure. But yes, I think I will be playing middle linebacker."
- He thinks he, Mitchell and Pope have to be leaders as the veterans in the room.
- Chris Olave has stood out to him this spring: "That dude can run."
- On the quarterbacks: "Those guys are slinging it. I wouldn't say one in particular or anything. They can all sling the ball."
- On leadership: "There's been a blueprint set out by those four guys that left us." ... "We've seen what it takes to lead the unit."
- Waiting for his turn: "It's been very difficult, but it's a commitment I made to this program my junior year when I committed."
- "It's a blessing to be here. I'm happy to be in this situation."
- "Now that I'm here, I'm ready to showcase. I'm ready to ball."
- Mitchell says he's playing weakside linebacker again. He calls himself a contact-seeker: "I love contact."
- He says he hasn't thought about whether this will be his last season or if he'll use the extra year of NCAA eligibility to play two more seasons as a Buckeye.
- On Washington staying at Ohio State: "I think he's the best linebacker coach in the country without a doubt."
- Mitchell on how he played last season: "I'm very hard on myself, so I definitely had a lot of work to do."
- He says he has been as heavy as 255 pounds in his Ohio State career. He switched to a vegan diet last year and is now a pescatarian. That helped him drop weight. He's now listed at 238 pounds. His favorite fish is salmon. "When I wake up in the morning, I feel good." He says he feels faster and quicker with more energy."
- "I struggle with performance anxiety. I've always struggled with that." He says he has sought help at Ohio State, talking to players and coaches. "That's why I came here. You get developed in all areas at Ohio State."
- Mitchell followed in the footsteps of Justin Fields with his vegan diet.
- On the blueprint left by past linebackers: "We have an expectation to be the toughest and the baddest unit on the team."