Week 3 is upon the players and coaches within the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
With Ohio State taking on Western Kentucky in its last nonconference matchup that isn't with a top 10 team, Ryan Day took time to address the team's media Tuesday.
After naming Kyle McCord the Buckeyes' full-time starting quarterback, Day discussed what ultimately separated McCord from Devin Brown at the position. He also touched on the team's inefficiencies on third down and the challenges that the Hilltoppers present.
Following Day, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles took to the lectern and discussed the looks Western Kentucky's offense will present, his own thoughts on McCord and his shifted philosophy on defense this season.
- Ohio State's third-down efficiency hasn't been up to the standard Day expects. "We've found ourselves in some 3rd-and-2s and 3rd-and-3s that we haven't converted, we have to do a better job on that."
- Day said that Ohio State still plans on playing Brown, but after reviewing film it felt right to name McCord the starter.
- McCord's "consistency" is what won him the Buckeyes' quarterback job, in the end. "He came out of the gates playing efficient football."
- Day feels McCord was much more "poised" against Youngstown State, but added that there's far bigger challenges ahead.
- The offensive line's "effort and finish" was much better against the Penguins, as was its pass protection, Day said. The unit still needs to improve its overall consistency though, he added.
- On Western Kentucky: "This week you're going to see a team that throws the ball a lot more. ... It's a different challenge. ... We have to adjust and adapt based on who we're playing."
- On whether certain offensive lines are better with gap blocking schemes or zone blocking schemes: "Some guys are built more for gap schemes, the size of the guys, usually the bigger, stronger guys are more of the gaps schemes and the more athletic teams are more zone." Day said he feels Ohio State's offensive line is capable of running both, though he reiterated they're still "not nearly consistent enough" as of yet.
- The team's inefficiencies on third down aren't on any one position group or player, it varies play to play, Day said. "I don't think you can point to one thing. But that's what happens when you have some inexperience (on offense), it's one thing here, one thing there."
- Youngstown State's slow-tempo game plan limited a lot of what Ohio State wanted to accomplish on offense as well, Day said. "We've got to come out of the gates and be efficient. I thought we did that in the first quarter. ... We tried to get as many plays as we possibly could."
- While it's important the defensive ends start generating some sacks, Day feels they'll get a shot this week. "I think it's going to be a different situation this week with Western Kentucky. ... I think we'll have a better feel for that coming out of this game. ... Because of how much they throw the ball, they have a really good quarterback."
- Ohio State has to keep stacking games and can't look ahead to Notre Dame, Day said. "We're not there right now, we've got to keep growing and building in all three phases."
- On Western Kentucky: "You can clearly see there's a plan on both sides of the ball, they know what they want to do. They want to throw the ball a lot and score a bunch of points."
- McCord's game management abilities and accuracy, as it improves in games, have the potential to be special, Day said.
- While Ohio State is scheming for its best players, its game plan revolves around what will work against certain defenses, not getting certain players a specific amount of looks. "What we're not going to do is compromise what's best for the team to get a guy a certain number of touches in a given game."
- Jim Knowles' background in the Big 12 facing air raid offenses should help him against the Hilltoppers, Day said.
- Day said he believes Western Kentucky is a good challenge to build toward the Notre Dame game in Week 4.
- Third down stands out statistically as the area Ohio State needs the most improvement, but he still feels the Buckeyes aren't a finished product in any area.
- While he works as McCord's backup, Brown will need to work on his consistency, Day said. "Devin's a competitor, he wants it really bad."
- Day's done a better job spreading his voice around the building this season, he feels. He credited his offensive assistant coaches, analysts and support staff with helping him keep eyes everywhere.
- Day said he felt that McCord had emerged as the full-time starter after the Youngstown State game, but didn't feel it was the right time to announce it as he wanted to review film first.
- Tommy Eichenberg, Mike Hall and TreVeyon Henderson are players that Day can "feel" as leaders on the field for Ohio State.
- Perimeter blocking from receivers and tight ends is what can turn a good play into a great play, Day said.
- McCord didn't "jump up on the table" with excitement when Day told him he was officially the full-time starter, Day said. "It was more of a confirmation, he felt the time was right and it was."
- Ohio State's defensive ends have done a good job, Knowles feels, but just haven't had a chance to get after quarterbacks like they will against Western Kentucky. "We've faced two games where there really weren't a lot of opportunities to pass rush."
- On how to defend the RPO: "A lot of it is about eye discipline. But the answers are there, they're in the system."
- On Jordan Hancock at nickel safety: "He's an athletic, competitive, guy who's shown also, from that position, a willingness to tackle. ... He's shown toughness with having the footspeed from corner, which is what you look for."
- Knowles has adjusted his philosophy from Oklahoma State to be less aggressive and chase less big defensive plays, because it hurts the Buckeyes in "matchup games." "When you're at places where you need to live in that world, feast or famine type of world where you need to take a lot of chances, do a lot of things to take an advantage – I think I've adjusted my philosophy here."
- Ohio State's defensive coaches have to ensure its players aren't "trying to do too much" and "losing leverage," which Knowles feels happened some against the Penguins. "We have guys who want to make plays, and I think at times that leads your eyes to being in the wrong place."
- On Western Kentucky's air raid: "They're very similar to a Big 12-type of offense, throwing the ball downfield. ... Get you going sideways to try and create eye violations then go up top."
- Knowles said he opted for Ja'Had Carter's "experience" at free safety after pulling Malik Hartford after the first series against Youngstown State. "Malik just looked like he struggled a little bit on the first series, and that's natural for a true freshman. He'll still play."
- If Josh Proctor is healthy and is able to practice well, he will likely be Ohio State's starting free safety this week, Knowles said.
- Western Kentucky will be the first chance to see if the Buckeyes' defensive improvements are real, Knowles said. "We've gotten better our first couple games against big plays, minimizing that. But we have really been tested yet. This will be important for that."
- Even against lesser opponents, big plays were on Knowles' mind all throughout last year, then those concerns were amplified against Michigan and Georgia.
- Knowles said "understanding" from a player is important in determining who will play nickel safety when. "You're balancing how much man you're going to play vs. how much zone, how much disguise you want to have. ... Man is man, you certainly want a corner there, but you have to have looks off of it so he has to understand."
- Planning when to be aggressive and when to stay back on defense is a delicate process, Knowles said. "To me, it's all about balance and unpredictability."
- On when he saw Denzel Burke take the next step: "I've seen it starting last spring from him, just his demeanor, his attitude, the way he takes care of his body. The brightness in his eyes."
- On whether Davison Igbinosun should stay aggressive on defense: "More aggressive, stay aggressive, keep throwing punches. ... He's doing a good job."
- Knowles felt Ohio State's third-down efficiency on defense "was not good enough."
- Knowles doesn't know Arvell Reese's status for this week.
- On Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed: "He operates with impunity. He has a catch the ball, sling it around mentality. ... Never seems under pressure. ... Doesn't make bad throws."