Monday marked the start of game week for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes prepare for a season-opening week night road trip to Minnesota.
Head coach Ryan Day and a handful of Buckeyes addressed reporters at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the final time prior to Thursday night's game, discussing team updates and the challenges posed by the Golden Gophers, among other things.
Here's a bullet-point breakdown of everything Day said on Monday, with players to follow afterwards.
- Day on opening on the road: "Going on the road is gonna be a challenge for us. First time in a while we've played in front of a packed house."
- No backup quarterback has been named for the Buckeyes. "It would make my life a lot easier" if there was a clear-cut No. 2, Day says.
- Day says he's "very, very impressed" with Dawand Jones' development and excited to see how he plays.
- No update on Palaie Gaoteote. The NCAA asked for additional information, so the process has been delayed. Day said he's still optimistic about hearing back. "If he is eligible, then he has an opportunity to be on scholarship. If he isn't, he has to figure out what the next step for him is."
- On starting against a Big Ten opponent, Day says he "feels good going into this game, but you don't know what you've got until you get out there."
- In terms of recruiting visit protocols, Day says things will be very similar to how they were in June.
- Day is most excited to "solve all the things that need to get fixed," but says the hard part going into this week is that the expectation is "you can't lose here."
- What stands out about Minnesota? It's a veteran team with a lot of experience, Day says, and a lot of the same players that were on the 11-2 2019 team are still around.
- On Gopher running back Mohamed Ibrahim, Day says "he's a very good running back who runs hard ...we're gonna have to tackle well."
- Day says he feels good about Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon, Dallas Gant, Steele Chambers, Teradja Mitchell and K'Vaughan Pope at linebacker. Day says Pope could play in a couple different spots for the Buckeyes.
- Thayer Munford received the Block 0 jersey because he's from Ohio, wasn't a highly-rated recruit, has overcome a lot, returned for a fifth season, Day says. Munford will be available for the season opener after missing some practice time with injury during camp, Day says.
- Day says all four OSU running backs in the mix are unselfish. Days says the Buckeyes will lean on the players that have played the most early on, and listed Master Teague and Miyan Williams as the players with the most experience.
- Day said the coaching staff tried to make practices more difficult than games for the Buckeyes' quarterbacks this camp.
- C.J. Stroud has had "good days, he's had bad days," but he's had an edge to him and has grown, Day says. "I think the team believes in him."
- Will we see Jack Sawyer Week 1? "Yeah, I think so." Day says Larry Johnson will travel 12-13 defensive linemen. Day is impressed with the depth of Johnson's line.
- "It's time to play. ...It's time to go put it on the field." Day says the team is game ready, and tired of hitting each other.
- Day says his beard will be shaved off within the next 24 hours due to superstition. "Especially starting with a conference game, the beard has to go." Says he even discussed the matter with his wife.
- Day says he needs Sevyn Banks and Josh Proctor to step up for the Buckeye secondary.
- Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka will be in the rotation "for sure" for the Buckeyes. "They're all gonna play, and they deserve to play."
- "It's gonna be hard to win this game, and they have to understand that. ...A conference game out of the gate, a young quarterback, it's gonna be hard."
LB Teradja Mitchell
- "Regardless if there's fans or not, we bring our own juice." Mitchell on playing at a packed stadium on the road.
- "There's definitely no uncertainty" about the linebacker depth at Ohio State, despite no official lineup being named by coaches.
- Mitchell on the linebacker group at Ohio State: "We got something to prove, definitely."
- Mitchell says the Buckeyes won't be able to arm tackle Ibrahim, and that they will have to wrap him up.
- "It's a great offensive line they have there, definitely can tell they are an experienced group." Mitchell says the Gophers' line is aggressive.
- On starting for the first time, Mitchell says he's ready and confident. Mitchell says he's been around the program and knows what the standard is, so he feels like he's a veteran despite not having prior starting experience.
- Mitchell is trying not to get "too hyped" for Thursday, but says he's game ready and anxious to get on the field.
- Mitchell says Miyan Williams has a similar playing style and body type to Mohamed Ibrahim at running back, and that he helped the team prepare for the coming challenge.
- Mitchell said it was a big deal for his dad for him to be named captain.
- Mitchell says it's been a tough time for Palaie Gaoteote due to his ongoing NCAA eligibility issue, but that the team has tried to help him keep his head high.
- All three quarterbacks "balled" in spring and fall, but Mitchell says C.J. Stroud has stepped up as a leader in the room.
OT Nicholas Petit-Frere
- Petit-Frere on C.J. Stroud: "He's taken that job in full stride." Petit-Frere says are certain players that rise to the top and inspire the team in hard moments, and said Stroud was one of those players consistently during camp.
- Petit-Frere says he's "pretty sure" he's going to be playing left tackle on Thursday.
- On Dawand Jones, Petit-Frere says he's been a "big juice guy for us" with the passion he has for the game. Says he's "pretty confident" in his Jones' abilities.
- Petit-Frere said the offensive line proved last year that there was no drop-off in quality despite departures from the unit. "Everyone needs more reps to get better, but we always make sure everyone has ample reps for any situation."
- Petit-Frere says the Buckeyes have more than five players ready to roll for the Ohio State offensive line.
- When did Petit-Frere start feeling like more of a left tackle than a right tackle? "The day they switched me." Petit-Frere said there was a bit of an adjustment period for him.
- "Thayer's been a leader for this team even before I got here. ...We see him as a staple of Ohio State football right now." Petit-Frere says Munford getting the Block 0 jersey is "great for us as a team. ...I couldn't be happier and I couldn't be more proud."
- Petit-Frere lauds the work ethic of the Buckeye running back and says they don't get enough credit for being great off the field.
- "We're gonna treat them like they're one of the biggest games of the year, because every game is one of the biggest games of the year." Petit-Frere said the Buckeyes aren't taking Minnesota lightly.
- Petit-Frere said the Buckeye offensive line learned from last year's Michigan State game that if they all work hard, communicate and believe in each other, "we can accomplish anything."
- What is Munford like at guard? "I feel like he's one of the best guards in the nation as well." Petit-Frere says Munford is one of the best offensive linemen in the country overall. "You'll see great strides from him."
- Why did this camp feel more physically taxing this year? Petit-Frere said that is because there wasn't spring ball or a true fall camp last year. "We competed so hard during camp against each other. The defense got the offense better and the offense got the defense better."
- Petit-Frere says "of course" the Buckeyes are still taking precautions in order to not get COVID-19, even though most of the team is vaccinated. Petit-Frere said the team is extremely close this year because of the bubble it had to stay in.
DE Zach Harrison
- "They're big, that's the first thing I noticed." Harrison on the experienced Gophers' offensive line. Harrison said playing against Dawand Jones is good preparation for some of the big bodies he'll be going up against on Thursday.
- Harrison said he trusts both Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau to "get the job done" when he's not on the field.
- Harrison says Dawand Jones has good feet and can move, and referenced his acumen as a basketball player when discussing his athleticism.
- Harrison says he doesn't watch the Buckeye quarterbacks practice, but says he has "100 percent faith in C.J.," and thinks he can get the ball anywhere on the field at any time.
- Harrison says Antwuan Jackson has stepped up as a player and a leader, and says he looks up to him and relies on him off the field. Harrison adds that Taron Vincent can make plays, and is aggressive at the point of contact.
- Harrison says Day and the coaching staff has been emphasizing the importance of opening the season with a conference opponent ever since the team got its schedule. "We're just trying to go 1-0, that's what coach Day talks about."
- On Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Harrison said he's taken "the biggest jump of everybody in the room." Harrison says he's actually implemented some moves he learned from Jean-Baptiste into his own game this offseason. Jean-Baptiste has put weight on and is carrying it, Harrison says.
- Harrison says he thinks Day should his beard, and not shave it.
- "I think a lot of people put too much emphasis on (recruiting) stars," Harrison says. He says he's seen himself get better every year and that "the process is working" in terms of his development.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
- "We're excited for (C.J. Stroud), he's built for the moment." Ruckert says they're not looking for much out of the new Buckeye quarterback besides "just being himself." Ruckert says Stroud stuck his nose in the ground, worked hard and proved reliable for Ohio State during camp.
- On being back in front of fans on the road, Ruckert says it will be a lot different than last year, but that the Buckeyes are looking at it like a business trip.
- Ruckert says the Buckeyes are focusing on fundamentals in their preparation for Minnesota.
- "Not many people believed in me when I came here, they kind of thought I made a mistake." Ruckert said Ohio State molds young players into the most well-rounded tight ends in the country.
- Ruckert said Stroud throws a very "catchable" ball, and that it doesn't feel "zipped in there" even though it is.
- Not much is different in the offense, although Ruckert says Stroud does not run the ball quite as much as Justin Fields. Ruckert says we will see a balanced offense, and that the team put in a lot of plays over the offseason.
- "It's pretty impressive looking at that group of guys come on the field. ...It's an honor to be next to those guys." Ruckert on the Buckeye offensive line.
- Ruckert said he's doing a good job of "playing free" when it comes to blocking, and playing as fast as he can.
- Ruckert says he knows what it's like to lose a surprise game on the road because he was there for the 2018 Purdue game, and that the team knows it doesn't want to experience that feeling again.
- Ruckert says when he plays next to Cade Stover, he feels comfortable that he has his back. Ruckert says it's exciting to have as much depth as the Buckeyes have at tight end, and that different guys will play in different situations.
- Ruckert says he cannot and will not say for sure that he'll break the Buckeyes' tight end receptions record this season.