While the Buckeyes don’t have a game this weekend, the work won’t stop this week for Ohio State’s football coaches.
For one, they’re hitting the road this week to visit recruits all over the country. Secondly, the Buckeyes will still be preparing and practicing this week as they get ready to start their second half of the season next week against Iowa, who also has a bye this week. And four of the Buckeyes’ coaches took some time to meet with the media Tuesday in what will be Ohio State’s only press conference of the week.
Ryan Day started Tuesday’s festivities, and he was followed by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and offensive line coach Justin Frye.
- Day said he thinks the bye week is coming at a good time because it will allow the Buckeyes to get some more players healthy before the Iowa game. While he says there have been times in the past where he hasn’t wanted a bye week because Ohio State was in a good rhythm, he’s not sure that’s the case this week.
- Day says the Buckeyes will work on fundamentals and techniques in practice this week. The Buckeyes will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- Day says Ohio State needs to do a better job of fielding the ball on special teams after Chip Trayanum dropped his second kickoff of the season last week.
- He said he wants to get Kyle McCord late-game reps at quarterback but also wants to respect the game.
- “I don’t think it’s any mystery that one of the things we gotta do is finish some plays at corner.” Day said he thought Denzel Burke played his best game of the season against Michigan State.
- On Lathan Ransom: “I think you’re seeing what he’s capable of. He’s very intelligent, he’s very athletic.”
- Day said Ohio State was hoping going into the season Jordan Hancock would be battling for a starting position at cornerback. But after missing the first half of the season, Hancock has to start by just getting healthy and getting some games under his belt. “We'll be better if he's in the lineup.”
- Day said he thinks C.J. Stroud’s red zone play has been excellent. Overall, Day has been impressed with Stroud’s leadership, vision and accuracy. He said Stroud isn’t concerned about statistics, just winning, and that’s rubbed off on his teammates.
- Day says he has been impressed with the way depth has stepped up at various positions with all the injuries Ohio State has had.
- On TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams: “They understand that they need each other ... and I think they make each other better.” Day said “there may even be a couple packages where they’re both in there.”
- Day said the expectation is most of Ohio State’s currently injured players will be able to play against Iowa.
- Day said Ohio State is hoping to have Kamryn Babb back at some point this season, but probably not for the Iowa game. Other than Mitchell Melton and Evan Pryor, Ohio State remains hopeful all of the players who have been unavailable will be able to play again this year.
- Day said he thinks live game reps are important for young players even if it’s at the end of a blowout game, but he doesn’t believe in running up the score at the end of a lopsided game.
- On what this week will be like for the cornerbacks: “I think these three days are great days for them to get better.”
- Knowles agreed with Day that the Buckeyes want to try to simulate games in practice and get the players as many game-like reps as possible.
- On the defensive line’s performance: “Our front is productive and strong and attacking and confident.” He says the defensive line up front helps the defensive backs cover on the back end, and vice versa.
- Knowles says the Buckeyes “have a much larger arsenal” of blitzes than they have displayed because of how well the defensive line has played, but they need to have the ability to bring more pressure from elsewhere as the competition gets tougher.
- On Lathan Ransom: “He just shows up. He’s the guy that jumps off the video.” Knowles said Ransom has the physical skill set to play the bandit position but sees the game like an adjuster.
- Knowles said position coaches usually make the determination for how many reps players will get in games, but Knowles and Ryan Day also weigh in on that.
- Knowles said he is pleased with the way the Buckeyes are fitting things defensively and how fast they‘re playing. He thinks the Buckeyes are “just starting to approach the level we want to be at” on run defense and third-down defense. He says the Buckeyes have to be better at defending 50/50 balls in pass coverage.
- Knowles said the decision to play Mike Hall only seven snaps against Michigan State was because he is coming off an injury. “His production for seven plays was exceptional.”
- On Steele Chambers: “He’s just making continual progress all the time. Smart, enjoys playing, has picked things up well.”
- Knowles said Tommy Eichenberg’s understanding of the defense is “advanced.”
- Knowles said Ohio State has already installed defensive concepts weeks in advance that it hasn’t shown yet, so it will continue that process during the bye week but won’t necessarily ramp it up during the bye week. He never wants to have to use brand new concepts in a game.
- Knowles says he coaches his players to make a stop on any given play no matter what the score is. He doesn’t want them to assume the offense will score a lot of points, though he thinks if he was a player it would help him play with more freedom knowing how good Ohio State’s offense is.
- The competition between Ransom and Josh Proctor to start at bandit is “week-to-week.” Knowles said it all comes down to who’s more game-ready that week.
- Knowles said he hopes opponents are saying “Oh no, not that guy” when Mike Hall comes in the game, but “for me, he’s the ‘Oh yes’ guy.”
- Johnson said the defensive linemen have spent more time attacking sleds in practice to make sure they’re more physical at the line of scrimmage.
- Johnson said Taron Vincent dedicated himself this offseason to making sure he’s in great shape, and that’s led to him playing at a high level.
- On Caden Curry: “He’s a football player. Get him on the field, and he’ll find a way to make a play.”
- Johnson said he teaches the defensive linemen that it doesn’t matter which individual makes the play as long as the team makes the play.
- Johnson acknowledged J.T. Tuimoloau seems to be getting held more than the other defensive linemen.
- Asked which defensive linemen are doing the best job of getting off blocks with hand-fighting, Johnson listed Vincent, Zach Harrison and Jack Sawyer.
- On the Jack position: “There’s still a lot on the table that we haven’t done yet in the Jack package.”
- Johnson said the game plan all along was to limit Hall’s reps against Michigan State to get him healthy for the second half of the season. It worked out the way the Buckeyes hoped.
- Johnson said he can’t compare this year to last year because “it’s a whole different scheme.”
- Does Mike Hall have a great get-off? “Yes, he does.”
- Asked whether Mike Hall was the “alpha dog” he referenced before the season, Johnson smiled and said “I think we’ve got some dogs left.” He said he wouldn’t want to say right now who the alpha dog is when there’s still six weeks left in the regular season.
- Frye said he thinks the Buckeyes have had good situational awareness of when it’s a short-yardage situation and what they need to accomplish on those plays.
- Frye said he thinks the game has slowed down for Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones now that they have more experience.
- He said he is pleased with the offensive line's weekly approach in practice. Frye said the unit is looking to improve every week and hasn't rested on its laurels after six games.
- Frye said all the credit for the offensive line’s improvement belongs to his players, not him. “I haven‘t taken a snap in 16-17 years, thank God.”
- Asked if his offensive linemen hold J.T. Tuimoloau in practice as much as opponents do, Frye smiled and said, “No, we never hold.”
- On Paris Johnson Jr.: “Every week, he’s challenging himself to be better ... I think he’s playing really good ball right now.”
- Frye said he thinks the Buckeyes have done a good job of turning negative plays into ugly 1-2 yard runs this year.
- On Matt Jones being a full-time starter for the first time and dealing with injuries: “Matt’s learning what it feels like to really be the guy for the first time ... It’s not hampering him at all. He’s playing really well.”
- Frye praised Enokk Vimahi for being ready to step in when his number was called when Matt Jones had to leave the game against Notre Dame and Michigan State.
- Frye says the offensive linemen have “graded well every week,” but “we have to bring that every week.”
- On collaboration between the offensive coaches: “We all see it through the same lenses and we all speak the same language.” Frye said he thinks the mix of experience between all the coaches helps them come up with new concepts each week and that they don’t care who gets credit for the ideas.
- Frye says he tries to tailor his approach to each of his offensive linemen individually to help coach them in the way that works best for each of them.
- On Dawand Jones: “I think he’s playing football at a higher level than he ever has.” He thinks being able to keep his weight down so he can play faster and isn’t fatigued late in the game has been crucial for him.