Quick Hits: Emeka Egbuka Has “Full Confidence” in Kyle McCord, Tommy Eichenberg Thinks Ohio State's Defensive Ends Are “Doing a Great Job” and Tim Walton Says Denzel Burke is “Dialed In”

By Chase Brown, Dan Hope, Garrick Hodge and Andy Anders on September 13, 2023 at 9:00 pm
Emeka Egbuka

A variety of Buckeyes met with the media on Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, as two coaches and four players held individual press conferences.

Justin Frye and Tim Walton represented Ryan Day's staff on the indoor practice field, while Emeka Egbuka, Jordan Hancock, Tommy Eichenberg and Gee Scott Jr. spoke for the players. The six Buckeyes broke down the team's collective performances in the first two weeks of the 2023 season and how the program is preparing for its Week 3 matchup with Western Kentucky on Saturday.

Among the many topics discussed in the interviews, Frye mentioned the need for consistency on Ohio State's offensive line, Egbuka shared his confidence in quarterback Kyle McCord and Eichenberg expects the Buckeyes' defensive ends to make an impact against the Hilltoppers.

Videos from all six media sessions and bullet-point recaps of what each of those Ohio State coaches and players had to say can be found below.

Offensive Line Coach Justin Frye

  • While Ohio State has tape to look at and make corrections with on the offensive line, Frye also doesn’t want his players overthinking when it comes to their play. “The emphasis of effort, execution, demeanor is pressed, but those fine details, you can never get away from them, but you can’t have the guys doing paralysis by analysis.”
  • On how he evaluates the first two weeks up front: “We did some things really well. Communication, protection, when we know where we’re going and what we’re doing and we’re on the same page, it’s been good. ... The learning part of the game, we’ve seen now what hurts us and we’ve seen what we do really well. So with that, just learning and growing from those is what we’ve got to take into this week.”
  • A better conversion rate in short-yardage will come from Ohio State’s “run unit” being “efficient,” per Frye, starting with the offensive line then going to the tight ends and running back.
  • Frye doesn’t feel as though the offensive line is making a lot of “mental mistakes,” but rather needs to up its level of violence at the point of attack. “Let’s be violent in executing our job because we’re pretty good at communicating and knowing where we’re supposed to go.
  • On holding, illegal hands to the face and other hand-placement type of penalties: “Why are those happening? Well, it’s because my technique or something wasn’t taking me home, or I wasn’t fixing that. You’ve got to feel that, you have to learn from them and you have to grow. We have to grow fast because there’s no room for error. ... We have to be cleaner that way.”
  • “When all five dudes know what’s going on, it just looks like a wall. Whether that’s here, whether that’s my sons playing in high school, middle school football. When they know what’s going on, those five guys that don’t know much are just rolling off the ball on a run play. You’re protecting the right guys, you’re able to do that and play fast.”

Secondary Coach Tim Walton

  • Walton says Josh Proctor has returned to practice and “is doing well.”
  • On what makes Jordan Hancock a good fit for the slot cornerback role: “Smart, tough, he’s a physical player. He understands the game, he processes things well, he has good cover skills. And he brings some toughness and competitive attitude to the secondary.”
  • Walton says Ohio State’s defense has to be disciplined because Western Kentucky does a good job of shooting the ball down the field off of run-pass options, while Austin Reed is also a threat to run the ball himself.
  • On defending Western Kentucky receiver Malachi Corley, who led the FBS in yards per catch last year: “We got to make sure we’re tackling well … he’s a big guy, he’s 210 pounds, they move him around, he’ll be in different locations, we gotta know where he’s located and we gotta make sure we’re wrap-tackling well and we gotta make sure we’re contesting all the throws, because we know they’re gonna try to get him the ball.”
  • Walton said it is unusual to face a team like Western Kentucky that frequently uses four-wide and five-wide sets, but “that’s part of the game, you gotta adjust and go play ball.” He says the Buckeyes have to prepared for WKU to run the ball as well.
  • Walton thinks Denzel Burke has performed well through Ohio State’s first two games. He says Burke is “focused and dialed in on trying to be better every day.”
  • Walton said he thinks Burke recording the first interception by an Ohio State cornerback since 2021 against Youngstown State gives confidence to all of the cornerbacks that they can feed off of.
  • Asked about the possibility of redshirting Lorenzo Styles Jr. this year after he did not play against Youngstown State, Walton said, “We’re just trying to take it a week at a time and see how things play out.”

Wide Receiver Emeka Egbuka

  • On if the team feels more settled in now that Kyle McCord is the full-time starter: “It’s good to have your dude and know who you’re going to be rocking with for most of the snaps this season. But our No. 2 guy is ready as well. We have full confidence in him and the guy that’s taking the No. 1 reps. Both are great talents and we’re excited to be moving forward.”
  • On if he noticed any difference in Kyle McCord in practice this week after he received more reps: “Not much change. He approaches the game very professionally and has done that since we were freshmen. He’s going about his business like he normally does.”
  • On if it helps the wide receivers to get more reps with McCord this week: “Yeah it does. We get reps with him, but you’d be surprised at the limited amount of reps that you do get in a week. If you calculate all that up, it’s not that many. You might not get every look you want every single time, so being a student of the game and taking more mental reps is a huge part of it as well.”
  • On his standout Week 2 game: “It was good. You love to make plays out there on Saturday, but even if the ball’s not coming my way, I’m going to give my best effort. Whether that’s blocks on the perimeter or running clearout routes for my other dudes trying to get the ball, we’re just looking to get wins.”
  • On if Ohio State’s offense feels the game go faster because of the new clock rules: “Yeah, absolutely. I’ll say I was aware of the rule going into Indiana, then I felt like the game was over at halftime with respect to last year’s clock rules. So it just knowing that, you have to play with a little more sense of urgency and you have to execute better on every single play because you don’t get that many opportunities.”

Cornerback Jordan Hancock

  • On how he performed in an extended look at nickel against Youngstown State: “It went well. There’s some stuff I need to work on. I feel like I still have room for improvement. I don’t ever want to put a ceiling on myself. But it’s a lot of fun, I love that spot.”
  • On areas where he can improve: “Just eye control, motions, stuff like that.”
  • Western Kentucky star receiver Malachi Corley’s football intelligence and athleticism stand out to Hancock on film. The pair could match up a good bit on Saturday.
  • On how to limit yards after the catch as a secondary: “We’ve got to gang tackle. (Corley) may catch a pass, but it should be bang-bang. He shouldn’t get too many yards after that catch. We’ve just got to wrap up and tackle, everybody swarm.”
  • Hancock feels that “everybody knows every single position” in the defense this year, and that allows them to understand the reasoning behind many of the checks that happen at the line of scrimmage and make plays.
  • More on playing nickel: “It’s fun. You guard the fastest people, so that’s always a challenge.”
  • Hancock feels that interceptions like the one Denzel Burke made last week are contagious. “I feel like that one takeaway is going to set up a lot for the upcoming weeks for us. Thank you to Denzel.”

Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg

  • When Eichenberg blitzes, the veteran linebacker said he has one goal in mind: “Get to the ball. I try not to think about it too much.”
  • Eichenberg praised Steele Chambers for how he continues to develop at the linebacker position. As for what makes Chambers special, Eichenberg said, “He knows the defense so well. He anticipates well, too. He is really fast.”
  • Against a pass-heavy Western Kentucky offense, Eichenberg said Ohio State’s linebackers need to be prepared for whatever the Hilltoppers throw at them. “It comes down to doing your job. Whatever Coach Knowles asks us to do – the defense to do – we have to do it.”
  • On JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer and Ohio State’s defensive ends, which have been a highly-discussed position this week due to their lack of sacks: “I think they’re doing a great job. I don’t think they’ve had a lot of opportunities to get sacks, honestly. Indiana ran the triple option. … I think they’re doing a great job and are taking the pressure off the linebackers.”
  • On whether Ohio State’s defense can expect Western Kentucky to be as pass-oriented as advertised on Saturday: “You don’t know. You have to play against what you see. Teams typically do things that they don’t show on film versus us.”

Tight End Gee Scott Jr.

  • Scott said he hasn’t been focused on stats or filling the box score for the Buckeyes. He’s been more focused on doing whatever Ohio State asks him to do this season. “I’m just going out there and doing my job.”
  • Scott said one area where he has improved this season has been his mental approach to each week, preventing a performance – good or bad – from impacting his efforts in the next game. “After each week, you reset. … I am only as good as my next game. I want to put one foot in front of the other.”
  • On being one of the Buckeyes’ top tight end options behind Ohio State captain Cade Stover: “It’s exciting. It’s a blessing to be out here, contribute to the team and do the best that I can.”
  • To continue his upward trajectory, Scott said he must focus on developing his soul, body and mind. “It starts with my personal life and working on being the best version of myself. … My whole quest is becoming the best version of myself.”
  • Scott said he has confided in his father, Gee Scott Sr., at different points in his Ohio State career. He said it has been good to have someone “outside of football” and the Ohio State program that he can talk to about his performances and the life he wants to lead.
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