Presser Bullets: Ryan Day Says Notre Dame Will Challenge Ohio State With "Very Veteran" Defense and "Efficient" Quarterback

By Andy Anders on September 19, 2023 at 12:28 pm

There's a different aura around press conferences before top 10 showdowns like Ohio State has with Notre Dame on Saturday.

Ryan Day feels the contest will come down to "who wants to compete more" and has enjoyed both the growth from his team over the first three weeks of the season and the energy it's shown during early-week preparations for the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame will want to "establish the run" in the matchup and will present a "veteran defense," in challenging the Buckeyes, Day added.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles took to the lectern next and dove deeper into the challenges Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman will present and what he's seen from his defense through three weeks.

Ryan Day

  • On the growth of Ohio State's offensive line last week: "Step in the right direction. You saw him playing hard, and that's the expectation. ... We've got to rock off the ball and finish people. ... We've got to win the game up front in this game, that's no surprise to anybody."
  • Day feels that Ohio State has "got some confidence" entering Saturday. "They have a great team, Marcus (Freeman) has a great staff. We've got to go win a top 10 game on the road. ... It's going to come down to who wants to compete more."
  • There's no one thing that Day feels more comfortable with about Ohio State's offense right now, but rather that it has a "good balance." Defenses can't just focus in on one area because multiple personnel groups can hurt them.
  • On how he would approach a cornerback like Denzel Burke as a game planner: "You always have to know where he is, you have to be aware of that. ... I think that's probably the biggest thing when you're dealing with a great corner, you have to know where he is. Not that you're going to change your game plan."
  • "These are great moments, this is the highest level of college football and all eyes will be on this game. That's how we love it."
  • Against Western Kentucky, Day was most pleased with "the energy and the intensity and the passion that we played the game with."
  • On James Laurinaitis and how he'll help being at Notre Dame previously: "Not as much as you'd think. ... He's played in the NFL and he's got great experience he can share with the guys, the linebackers really appreciate that."
  • On Kyle McCord: "I think he's grown every week. Not that everything's perfect, it never is. ... We've got to do a great job this week to really prepare."
  • On not putting too much on McCord's plate in terms of pass attempts. "We have to do whatever we can to win the game, whatever it looks like. ... We want balance ... but then there's also times where you need to throw it a lot to win."
  • While this will be McCord's first marquee game "Even though Kyle hasn't been on that stage, he's been there, he's been around it, he knows what it looks like. ... It's all there, now it's just time to go do it."
  • On Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman: "You can tell Hartman is a veteran, he's been around, he's played a lot of football. ... (He's) efficient."
  • Defending the Fighting Irish's pro-style attack starts with defending the run to limit the effectiveness of play action, Day said. "They want to establish the run, you can tell that. I think (Audric) Estime has done well, he's running hard. ... We've got to be able to rise to the challenge. ... We've got to be able to run to the ball."
  • On Tyleik Williams: "He's got power, he's got strength at the point of attack. He's very athletic. ... He's doing a better job with his hands ... now it's time for him to go play his best football."
  • Ohio State will need some methodical drives against Notre Dame's defense, Day said. "They're a veteran, very veteran defense. ... A bunch of guys who know what they're doing ... they force you to move the ball down the field, they don't give up big plays."
  • Day is grateful that the Buckeyes got time to gel for three weeks before the top 10 showdown on Saturday. "I'm glad that we went through those three games to get to this point. ... I think we have a pretty good idea of who our team is and where we're at."
  • On the difference in experience between McCord and Hartman and what advantage it might make for Hartman: "I think experience does play a part in it. It's not the No. 1 thing overall, there's other things that play a part in it."
  • Day praised Notre Dame's linebackers and cornerbacks, saying that there's "a lot of NFL players" on its defense.
  • On star Fighting Irish corner Benjamin Morrison: "He's very talented."
  • Day expects a big day from TreVeyon Henderson: "We need him to play great. ... He's a weapon in a lot of areas. ... I thought he ran hard in last year's game, he and Miyan (Williams) both."

Jim Knowles

  • On Hartman: "He's smart, he's efficient, he's experienced. You have a lot of experience as a quarterback, it helps you figure things out, get rid of the ball."
  • On Laurinaitis: "James is just a wonderful person, No. 1, to have around. Two, a legend at Ohio State, so he can relate to what the players go through on a daily basis. ... He's still close enough to their age to where he can be a real mentor to the guys."
  • Balancing the rotation at nickel is a matter of matchups, primarily, Knowles said. "It's a week-to-week plan. We want to utilize the talents of our players, but also get the matchups right. ... We knew it was going to be a lot of true nickel (against Western Kentucky) because of their passing attack."
  • Knowles feels that Jordan Hancock "made some plays" but still has some improvements to make as he adjusts to the nickel this season.
  • On Estime: "It's the running back combined with the offensive line. The offensive line is talented, the tackles are excellent. He's a strong running back, so when you have an offensive line that works well together and they're physical and push well at the point of attack, he can get behind that. ... It's a real challenge for us to get behind our pads and play downhill."
  • The bigger matchup won't shorten Ohio State's defensive line rotation, Knowles said. "No, I think we go with our plan. We want to keep our guys fresh and roll as many as we can."
  • On the balance between blitzing and not being too aggressive against Notre Dame's defensive line: "You take it play by play and situation by situation. You want to always change up and have something to keep them off balance. ... If there was an easy answer to that question, I'd be smoking a cigar right now."
  • On Styles' comfort level at spots other than nickel: "He's comfortable at both (nickel and high safety). ... We're going to keep working him in different ways without overloading him."
  • The biggest difference for Williams has been his health this season, Knowles said. "Extremely athletic. He needs the repetitions, he missed a lot of those during camp."
  • Knowles has liked the play of Ohio State's defensive ends. "When you watch the tape, (WKU quarterback Austin Reed) was under duress all the time."
  • On JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer: "I think they're playing excellent. They're talented, coachable, Ohio State-type men. ... I'm just really pleased with both of them."
  • On Chip Trayanum: "He's very athletic and he's physical. I was looking forward to a chance to work with him. ... There was a lot of potential there, but Chip's a team guy, he's going to do whatever the coaches ask him."
  • Hartman makes a difference for the offense through his choices and guidance, Knowles said. "Decision-making is huge and leadership as a quarterback. He's an impressive guy to come in there and be a captain as a transfer."
  • Defending the play action will be important against Notre Dame's offense, and Knowles likes what he's seen so far from his group in that area. "What I've seen so far is good. There's an understanding of how to be on top, of how to play those giant crossing routes."
  • "It still always comes back to habits, what kind of habits do you have, and your training."
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