Quick Hits: Gee Scott Jr. Has “Come a Long Way” at TE, Bennett Christian Calls His Suspension a “Lesson Learned” and Caden Curry Says Chip Kelly’s Offense “Makes You Think More”

By Chase Brown, Dan Hope, Garrick Hodge and Andy Anders on March 28, 2024 at 2:52 pm
Gee Scott

After Ohio State’s seventh spring practice, some of the team's tight ends and defensive ends participated in individual press conferences with the media.

Nine Buckeyes – Gee Scott Jr., Jelani Thurman, Bennett Christian, Patrick Gurd, Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson Jr., Jason Moore, Hero Kanu and Kayden McDonald – met with reporters on the Woody Hayes Athletic Center indoor practice field on Thursday.

Among the topics discussed, Scott said he's “come a long way” at the tight end position, Christian called his year-long suspension for a banned substance a “lesson learned” and Curry and Jackson talked about their future as backups for Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau in 2024.

Below are videos and bullet-point recaps from the nine interviews.

TE Gee Scott Jr.

  • Scott considers himself “more of a tight end than ever” as he enters his fifth season with the Buckeyes. Scott said he entered the tight end room at 210 pounds and now – after three seasons in the room – weighs 245 pounds.
  • On his responsibilities as a veteran in the tight end room: “The responsibility, first and foremost, is to lead by example. I can sit there and say all the things I want to say, and I could talk up a storm. But at the end of the day, you got to work the work. You got to do what you’re supposed to do. That will ultimately lead guys in the right direction.”
  • On his development at tight end: “I’ve come a long way. I’d argue that tight end is the most developmental position on the field. It takes a long time to get around to it. It takes a lot of work. It’s a full process. It’s not something that’s a one-year turnaround or a six-month turnaround where you come in and catch it on the fly. It’s something that takes a lot of time and attention.”
  • On former teammates who have helped him develop: “I’m thankful for my great coaching staff and a great unit around me. (I’m thankful for) guys from back then, starting off with (Jeremy Ruckert) and those guys to Cade (Stover). I think there’s been a great example set for how to attack blocking and being a tight end here at Ohio State. I’m thankful to have that example.”
  • On Ohio University transfer Will Kacmarek: “Will’s been great, man. He’s somebody that’s come in and been humble, ready to work. That’s been the only words I have for him. He’s not a man of many words, but he’s here to work, and he’s done just that. We’re glad to have him.”
  • Scott said he looks to embody “peace, patience and kindness” in Ohio State’s locker room. ‘I have a spirit of patience, peace and joy with the guys around me. I am thankful. I am thankful to be here.”
  • Scott said Bennett Christian “showed a lot of perseverance” after he received a year-long suspension for PED use. “I am really proud of him. He came up and he came to show up every single day. He got better. The easy thing to do in that situation is to throw in the towel and be like, ‘Man, forget this’ or ‘I’ll get better next year.’ But he got better. I am proud of Bennett. I am proud of this unit.”

TE Jelani Thurman

  • Thurman said the biggest thing he had to learn during his freshman year was to “know what to do, why to do it and how to do it.” He thinks he’s “better at every aspect of the game now” than he was a year ago.
  • On not playing as much as expected as a freshman: “Of course you want to come in and play, but obviously if you have somebody in front of you that’s doing the job, getting the job done, why not let them do that? I’m here to win as a Buckeye, not just getting plays and trying to be selfish.”
  • Thurman said he’s put on weight and gotten stronger since last year. He weighs between 258-260 pounds now.
  • Thurman said Gee Scott Jr. and Patrick Gurd are “setting the standard” in the tight end room as leaders.
  • What Thurman thinks he can bring to Ohio State’s offense this year: “Versatility. A lot of playmaking. A lot of down and dirty blocks, because I have gotten better at blocking. Just an exciting player.”
  • Thurman said Cade Stover had the success he did last season “because he put in that work consistently, in and out the Woody late nights, early mornings, even with me sometimes.”
  • On his high school teammate Air Noland now being at Ohio State: “That’s my dog. It’s always good getting somebody from back home.” He said Noland is getting a better grasp of things every day.
  • On C.J. Stroud attending practices: “It was a little shocking at first because obviously I didn’t play with him and all you do is get to hear about him. So C.J., he’s pretty cool. I talked to him a little bit. He said he showed love to the tight ends while he was here.”
  • On the number of players from his home state of Georgia now on Ohio State’s roster: “Georgia’s where the dogs at.” Asked if he meant the Georgia Bulldogs, Thurman said, “Nah, not Bulldogs. Real dogs.”
  • Thurman said Caleb Downs is a “competitor.” … “He brings it every day, I bring it every day. It’s Ohio State, you’re gonna get the best of the best every day, so I love it.”

TE Bennett Christian

  • On how he handled his suspension last year: “Obviously, it was challenging mentally and physically, but I made the best out of it. Put my head down, went to work every day. I prayed all the time and I really grew in my faith with my parents. And I grew from it. It’s a lesson learned, for sure.”
  • Christian said he learned he had tested positive for a banned substance last winter before spring practice started. He said there was no appeal process. He said the substance was something he bought at a nutrition store, and the lesson he learned was to make sure he checks with Ohio State’s training staff before taking any supplements.
  • “I was devastated. It really caught me off-guard. It was a rough time, but I moved past it and decided I had three choices: Either I could tuck my tail and run away; hide from it, not acknowledge it; or grow from it and learn from it and make myself better, and that’s what I did.”
  • He said he spent last year on the scout team. That meant practicing against Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau, so he doesn’t feel as though the suspension set him back in his development.
  • What can his role be this season? “Whatever they need me to be. I’m an unselfish player. I can provide a lot in the blocking game and the passing game.”
  • On Will Kacmarek: “He’s a great guy. He fits in perfectly with all the guys.” Christian said they look similar to each other so he sometimes confuses Kacmarek for himself when watching film.
  • Christian played primarily in a gap blocking scheme in high school, so he said it’s been a transition learning how to play in a zone blocking scheme over the past two years.
  • On Ohio State’s spring game being on FOX: “It just shows what we have going on at Ohio State. We’re fortunate enough to have a game on a national program. I think it just shows the power of the program.”

TE Patrick Gurd

  • On being back at Ohio State in 2024: “Being able to come back after last fall is a blessing. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It’s a great group of guys. As you can see, a lot of people have come back as well. Our team is looking awesome. It’s fun to be around the guys. The brotherhood is all here. The competition is awesome.”
  • On the impact Cade Stover left behind at Ohio State: “It’s hard to replace Cade. Cade is an amazing guy. He left some great leadership for us. He left that toughness aspect. We’re just trying to go out there and go 100 miles per hour. We’re trying to hit everyone and leave our mark on the field.”
  • On Keenan Bailey’s passion while coaching the tight ends: “He’s a super passionate coach. I love him. He does a great job getting us fired up. He’s given that (passion) to Gee and me to get the guys going.”
  • Gurd said he wants to be a leader in the tight end room this season, using his experience and knowledge of the program to pass it down to the younger players in the room, such as Will Kacmarek, Bennett Christian and Jelani Thurman.
  • Gurd on Thurman: “Unlimited talent. … He can do whatever he wants. Jelani has just gotta put his mind to it. If he puts his mind to it, watch out.”
  • Gurd’s father, Andy, was a linebacker at Ohio State from 1987-91. Gurd spoke about his opportunity to be a walk-on for the Buckeyes and follow in his father’s footsteps: “I grew up an Ohio State fan. It was always a dream of mine to come here. When the opportunity came my senior year (of high school) to be able to walk on here, I jumped on it. I didn’t know what I was stepping into here, but with my dad, I kind of had that blood in me. … When I got here, I tried to go as hard as I can. I had great people to look up to like Mitch Rossi and Cade Kacherski. … They laid the groundwork for me.”
  • On Bennett Christian: “He went through some hardship. I love that guy. He’s like a brother to me as all the tight ends are. … He’s strong-willed. He’s strong mentally to be able to keep on going through. You can’t take anything for granted. … He knows what happens. He’s terribly sorry. I see him, and I feel sorry for him. But he’s come back and he’s really grinding it out.”

DE Caden Curry

  • On why he stayed at Ohio State: “To be honest, all the people around me here. I don’t really want to chase money or something else. I want to touch greatness. And I feel like coach Johnson is the best coach to do that for me and I’m working with the best guys every day. I like being here and getting better every day.”
  • Curry said Ohio State knows it has a great defensive line this year and a ton of talent and that room is excited about their potential.
  • Curry said Chip Kelly’s offense “makes you think more” and that it’s different from what he’s seen the past two years. He said it’s a more advanced offense.
  • Curry said with likely more games coming this season there will be more opportunities in to get reps on the defensive line and perhaps rotate more guys in.
  • Curry said the younger defensive linemen are picking up the scheme quick and hopes to help them however he can.
  • Curry said he’s not sure if Ohio State plans to use him at fullback sometime this fall.

DE Kenyatta Jackson Jr.

  • On his decision to return to Ohio State in 2024 when he could have entered the transfer portal: “It’s the brotherhood here. I wouldn’t want to go nowhere else. That’s what my decision was.”
  • On the “ups and downs” of his sophomore season at Ohio State: “The downs were just overthinking, my confidence – I was trying to be that guy when it wasn’t my time yet. The ups was Coach (Ryan) Day, Coach (Larry) Johnson, Jack (Sawyer), JT (Tuimoloau), Caden Curry, those guys was around me, lifting me up and they built my confidence back up.”
  • Jackson said his biggest area of growth came “during that last stretch of the season.” He added: “In that first stretch of games, my confidence was going up and down. I was overthinking, as I said before. But that last stretch, everybody was uplifting me, they was talking to me. That’s pretty much it.”
  • On becoming a leader in Ohio State’s defensive line room: “I’m not a talkative person. I like to keep to myself.  This upcoming junior year, Coach Johnson preached to me that I had to be a leader in the room and be more vocal in the room, so that’s what I’m doing.”
  • Jackson said he’s receiving less reps this spring than he was last spring. On where he can improve: “Just working on my technique, slowing the game down even more, becoming a pro at the game.”
  • On whether Jack Sawyer or JT Tuimoloau returning caused him to readjust his plans for his college career: “Not really. Of course, everybody wants to go three-and-out (to the NFL draft), but that’s not the plan. God has a plan for everybody. Jack and JT, those guys decided to come back, and their class has stated multiple times that they haven’t beat the ‘Team Up North’ or won a natty. My class hasn’t either. To do it together, that would be really special.”
  • On Ohio State’s offensive line competing with its defensive line: “We’re getting good work on both sides. Obviously, Coach (Chip) Kelly came in, so the offensive line is learning new plays and stuff like that, but they’re still giving us good work at the same time.”
  • On whether he considered entering the transfer portal this offseason: “There was no doubt in my mind that this is home. When those guys told me (they were coming back), I was excited. Like I said before, their class hasn’t beaten the ‘Team Up North’ and won a natty yet, and my class hasn’t either. Doing that together would be icing on the cake.”

DT Jason Moore

  • On what he’s done to earn the praise of Larry Johnson: “Just coming in every day, just ready to work as hard as I can to make myself better, make my teammates better, our O-line better and just doing extra things on the side too.”
  • While there’s “a lot more work that needs to be done,” Moore is happy to see the time that he’s put in start to bear results. “It just makes me feel great to see that it’s started to pay off a little bit.”
  • On why he’s such a natural fit at three-technique defensive tackle, where Johnson said he’s an “ideal” player for Ohio State: “Of course my size is a factor. My length – it’s kind of unreal to see a guy my size at three-tech, especially my arm length. There’s so many tools that you can (use) to be the best person on the field.”
  • On why having such a long wingspan is an advantage: “Just coming off the ball, being able to create space, make that penetration. Being able to build off of that, so many different moves, different skills you can do. It’s kinda unreal.”
  • On Ohio State’s spring game being on FOX: “Going on national television for a spring game, I’ve never heard of that before. That’s a new thing. That definitely shows the brand that we have here, it’s different than a lot of other schools in the country.”
  • Moore said that he thought he’d play defensive end at the next level during high school, but in his recruitment Johnson started steering him toward defensive tackle. “He was right.”
  • Moore said that, though he’s added weight, he feels more athletic, too. “I feel like I’m moving way faster, quicker and more explosive than I ever was.”
  • On adjusting to the collegiate level as a freshman: “Getting all those reps in practice, scout team, I’m going against the starters every day. That just kind of opened my eyes, this is what everybody goes through, growing pains. I have to really make an adjustment if I want to play more.”
  • On the importance of he and Ohio State’s other depth defensive tackles stepping up this season: “It’s definitely important. We have our top four guys, they came in and solidified what they can do. ... Our goal is to beat the Team Up North, win a championship, we can’t do it just with them. We need guys to come in, get them subs when they need it so they can be the best when they’re on the field. And for us to be able to come in and help the team, that’s very needed for what our goals are.”

DT Hero Kanu

  • On where he’s taken the biggest steps: “Just getting more reps, overall, in a game. I’m just elevating my game every day. Coach J is pushing me to get better every day, to focus on the small things because it’s never the big things. It’s always like, small (mis)step, small technique (issues). So I’m just trying to fix that and overall I feel like I’m improving so well that I’m not worried about anything else right now.”
  • On the need for more defensive tackle depth in what could be an extended season: “Ohio State, every year is about getting better, being ready to play. But obviously with the extended season, it’s going to be a lot more important. You’re going to have like 17 games and imagine having 70 plays each game, just one starter, it’s too much on your body. So we really rely on everybody to be able to play.”
  • Kanu said the ability to get onto the field and make some plays last year has helped him grow as a player who came in with a more limited football background from Germany. “I think that it’s a big part of it, just getting more reps and more game reps overall. Just like, ‘Hey, put Hero in.’ I’m going on the field and then the first game I made a play. That’s what it’s all about. Then that gives you confidence, it gives you experience and I think all that contributed.”
  • On the difference between practice and game reps: “We try to treat practice like a game, but on gameday if you mess up, there’s no going back. There’s no, ‘Oh, repeat the same play.’ In practice there is. So it’s just a difference of pressure. Make a play when your number is called, that’s what it’s about.”
  • Kanu said his confidence started growing from the start of last season, when he made his first career sack at Indiana in Week 1.
  • On Ohio State’s spring game being on FOX: “No disrespect to any TV or something, but honestly, I don’t care. It’s another practice we have as a team. I’m sure the rest of the team feels the same way. We don’t care about the cameras. That’s all nice and flashy but we’re about the grind. We’re about the practice. We’re getting ready to win a championship.”
  • On when football first became a clear route for his future: “After I received my first scholarship (offer). I was still in Germany, I was working with PPI recruits. Shoutout to (PPI founder) Brandon Collier, that was really the turning point. He was like, ‘Hey Hero, You’ve gotta figure something out.’ I said, ‘What you thinking?’ He said, ‘Man, you might have to go to high school in America.’ ‘Alright I’ll do it, but I don’t know how my mom feels about it (laughs).’”
  • Kanu’s first love was soccer, and he said several teams recruited him to play Europe’s most popular sport as a goalkeeper. His size made him a natural fit to American football, and he said soccer’s flopping culture is something that made him gravitate toward the more physical of the two sports.
  • On how football first came into his life: “I lived in a small village, maybe 200 people, 400 people. There’s one guy, he went to high school in Oklahoma, his name is Philip Okonkwo. He worked with Brandon (Collier) as well. He really got me into it. I lived right next to the soccer field and he was throwing the football, he was just playing soccer and I was like, ‘Hey, let me try that.’”

DT Kayden McDonald

  • On Ohio State’s defensive line room: “Really, the veterans, they really get us ready. Coach Johnson brings it and helps us looking at all three levels of our game. What we’ve got right now, the role I have to step into is big and I have to do it early in the season.”
  • McDonald says he feels he has to prove himself on the field every day in practice because you “can’t have bad days” at Ohio State.
  • McDonald said he focused his offseason on getting in shape and getting as strong as possible.
  • McDonald says he feels his number one responsibility is to help stop the run because that’s what he was brought to Columbus to do.
  • On if he may get reps at fullback in the spring game: “No, we haven’t really been talking about it. But I think during the season, we have to save it. Can’t let the opposing teams know what we’ve got planned.”
  • On getting snaps at fullback in the Cotton Bowl: “It was awesome, man. It was like high school days. I’m excited though, man. I’m blocking for guys like Quinshon, TreVeyon and Dallan. I’m going to open it wide for them.”
  • McDonald says he likes competing against Donovan Jackson and Josh Fryar because those are “pro guys” and he feels like they compete with him the best.
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