Presser Bullets: Ryan Day Still Likes the Way Parker Fleming "Teaches," Running Game Looks Better For More Reasons Than Just TreVeyon Henderson

By Andy Anders on November 7, 2023 at 12:41 pm

Special teams is a major point of conversation for Ohio State coming off its win against Rutgers.

With a punt fake being run that wasn't called against the Scarlet Knights, essentially handing them three points in the first half, Ryan Day fielded direct questions about the effectiveness of special teams coordinator Parker Fleming. Day said that he "likes the way he teaches" and that everyone on Ohio State's coaching staff needs to do a better job with special teams.

Day also touched on Kyle McCord's progression, TreVeyon Henderson's boost to the running game and why Jermaine Mathews Jr. has emerged so quickly.

Jim Knowles took to the lectern next and touched on the defense's success in the red zone and evaluations of both the starters and depth in Ohio State's secondary.

Ryan Day

  • On whether the offensive line is blocking better: "Yeah I think so ... but it makes a big difference when (TreVeyon Henderson) is back there. ... But the efficiency certainly starts with the offense line, and I think you certainly saw some steps forward."
  • On Jermaine Mathews Jr. stepping up in spots this season: "When we recruited Jermaine, we felt like he was a really competitive player. ... Once the competition started, he was at his best. ... It seems like the bigger the stage, the more he likes it. He is nowhere near a finished product, but the physicality is there."
  • Jelani Thurman remains a depth option at tight end long term, but Day also praised the efforts of Gee Scott Jr. and Patrick Gurd against Rutgers. "We're trying to build as much depth as we can. ... We think he has a great skill set and a bright future in front of him."
  • On the botched punt against Rutgers that wasn't a called fake: "The ball should have been punted, it never should have been run in that situation. ... As a head coach, it's on me. The communication has to be better."
  • On Parker Fleming's extension and raise: "I watch Parker every day ... I like the way he teaches ... no one works harder in the building. ... Everyone's being evaluated every day."
  • On whether he's considered a coaching change on special teams: "No, not right now. ... If there was something I feel isn't being taught right or done right, I would (step in). ... But I'm there in those meetings ... we all just need to do a better job."
  • Ohio State's two running back package with both Henderson and Chip Trayanum stresses defenses in different ways, Day said. "They have to at least defend you a little bit differently."
  • On what it takes to win games in November: "It goes to your consistency, it goes to your maturity ... nobody's entitled to winning. We win a lot of games around here, but it's because of the hard work of the players on the field."
  • Day and Ohio State still aren't paying much attention to playoff rankings, he said. "At the end, they're going to rank us, but we're just going to try and win them all."
  • On C.J. Stroud's success with the Houston Texans: "I think he deserves all the success that he's been receiving. ... A lot of people questioned him in different ways (during the draft process) ... he walked in an endeared himself to that organization."
  • Talking about Kyle McCord's performance, Day felt that McCord didn't miss many throws "down the field" due to Rutgers keep two safeties deep. Felt he played an efficient game outside a poorly-layered throw on the interception.
  • Day was very pleased with the performance of the offense in the red zone. "I thought there was precision down there."
  • On what he recognizes when Kyle McCord is playing well: "The only thing I can recognize is that when his feet are right and his eyes are right, that's when he's at his best."
  • Everyone is "struggling" with bumps and bruises this time of the year, Day said. Tommy Eichenberg is practicing after exiting the game late against Rutgers.
  • Denzel Burke is expected to have "a good week of work" while the Buckeyes are still in the process of identifying where Lathan Ransom's health status is at.
  • The ability to leave most of the defensive worries to Jim Knowles and his coaches and continue to play more of a CEO role for Day has been big, he said. "It's huge. Jim and his staff have done a great job."
  • On the running game looking "cleaner" with Henderson involved: "It's everybody involved. It's the receivers getting in there and digging people out, it's the tight ends. ... It's more of a confidence, and that's probably what you're recognizing."
  • Despite rumors denied by later reports that have implicated and affected his family, Day still isn't leaning into Michigan's illegal sign stealing and advance scouting scandal publicly. "All you can do is focus on what's important, and what's important right now is Michigan State. We always say, 'Ignore the noise.'"
  • On Jordan Hancock: "Jordan is extremely competitive. Extremely competitive. ... The second thing is, he has a tremendous work ethic. He's in here all the time watching film. ... You combine those two things with his ability, you're starting to see some production."
  • There's nothing wrong with Kyle McCord throwing the ball away or taking a sack if a defensive coordinator dials a great play up, Day said. "Sometimes when you get you schematically, you've just got to take care of the football and hang in and cut your losses."
  • On why Ohio State still hasn't had a complete offensive game start to finish: "I don't know. One of things we've tried to do this year is establish the run game, probably more than we did in previous year with C.J., and it takes a little time to establish the run game. ... But there's no question that we want to be faster. ... I think it more has to do with being more efficient on third down, especially early in the game."
  • Day believes that Josh Proctor will be "ready to roll" on Saturday after exiting the game following a big collision while breaking up a pass that was intercepted by Hancock and returned 93 yards for a pick-six. "Tough player. ... That was a great play."

Jim Knowles

  • Mathews has shown he can be ready to play this season "since camp," Knowles said. "He has that confidence that you need out there, particularly as a young guy."
  • On his comfort level with secondary depth compared to last year: "You just see it out there on the field. Comfortable, uncomfortable, you're playing with your guys. But when you can do it and see the production and not hold your breath every play ... that speaks for itself.
  • On Rutgers' 4th-and-1 double-snap trick play: "You've got to take responsibility. There's no tipping of the cap, or if you do it, you do it while you're gnashing your teeth. ... You go back to your teaching ... ultimately that's my responsibility. You take the blame for it and you fix it."
  • On what he's seen from his defense in goal-to-go situations: "Confidence. Confidence only comes one way, unless it's false confidence. Real confidence comes from practice and doing it the right way over and over again."
  • Kye Stokes did enough behind the scenes to earn some playing time as depth thinned in the secondary against Rutgers, Knowles said. "He's always been a worker, he's always been a positive attitude guy. I think in the past couple weeks in practice, I've seen kind of a lightbulb come on with him where he's recognizing more plays and how he fits and what he does in the defense."
  • Tommy Eichenberg's status will be up to Ohio State's training staff, Knowles said. "They'll make the decision for him, because he'll play. If we let him play, he'll play."
  • On Gabe Powers: "Gabe is close, I'm glad you brought him up. ... He does more and more things right."
  • Ohio State allowed a season-high for rushing yards against Rutgers, but that's not dictating Knowles' evaluation. "I'm not as concerned with statistics as I am with progress and getting better."
  • Mathews was at one time asked to be the lone defender left to slow a run on one play against Rutgers and helped make the stop, which Knowles felt was another great positive sign for the freshman's development. "It's a big deal."
  • On whether Sonny Styles looked uncomfortable in his new deep safety role: "I didn't think he looked uncomfortable at all when you look at how he fit and managed the game from the deep safety position. ... He acts like a veteran."
  • On Jack Sawyer's rising draft grade: "He's just getting better. It's all the hard work that a lot of people don't see ... he's controlling blocks, getting off blocks, making tackles, affecting the quarterback even if he doesn't make the sack or the hit."
  • It's not easy to get players that can be as versatile at nickel as Hancock, Knowles said. "It's difficult to find guys, and you really don't know until you put them to the test. It's almost equivalent to a quarterback who can run and throw. When he has to play nickel in the run fit, you can get beat up ... then you have to go out there and cover the slot."
  • Ohio State's seven runs of more than 10 yards allowed against Rutgers were a mixture of incorrect calls by him and shortcoming on execution, Knowles said. "We had seven explosives, which is I think is only the second time we didn't reach the goal we have (of five explosive plays or less). ... Rutgers is an improved team, they really are down there. ... We certainly can learn from it, but you do, you have to go through it play by play and say, 'This is why it happened.'"
  • On how Day is always building toward the Michigan game: "He does a great job of having a handle on the big picture and always working toward that."
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