Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington spoke with reporters on Thursday. He answered all kinds of questions about replacing four seniors and how the process is going. Also speaking were senior linebackers Dallas Gant and Teradja Mitchell. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
— The linebackers have had a great attitude this spring. The group has been competing. Just three practices in but you can see the growth every day. The message has been that they need to be fully conscious every day and hard on themselves on how they can improve.
— He doesn’t recall losing essentially four starters like he has this year. You coach long enough and these things happen. Fortunately, the four guys who left have set a great example. The young guys learned how to develop and grow. “Our standard is our standard.”
— Tommy Eichenberg works so hard. So much about being great starts with energy and passion. He loves being at Ohio State. “He wasn’t a blue chip guy and he’s always had a chip on his shoulder.” That’s what’s going to make him an elite player. He’s trending that way. He needs to lead by example and leads by communication. As leaders, you need to be heard, seen, and felt. He also needs to continue to be a technician this spring. A lot of those skills can only be harnessed through playing and getting reps. The young guys didn’t get spring ball last year and preseason camp, so this spring will be a time for them to get better at technique.
— Ryan Day is a very influential person to him professionally. He’s a great leader. He’s an elite person to mold yourself after because of his habits and the way he holds himself. Ohio State is special because of the people you get a chance to work with. And everybody makes you better. The expectatiaon is to be excellent. This is home for him. His mom came over Sunday. A 20-minute drive instead of 12 hours. They get to see their grandkids.
— He was extremely disappointed that the Tennessee stuff came out and became so public. It was a private situation. That was very discouraging and irritating. He’s moved on now and he’s at Ohio State and he’s rolling.
— Coaches love to develop. Wanting to develop his guys is another reason he wanted to stay at Ohio State.
— His father was a linebacker at Ohio State so the standard goes well beyond Al Washington the coach. They talk about it all the time in their room. “The standard is the standard, so that’s non-negotiable.” The guys in the room now have worked hard to earn their positions. They have to keep doing it though. Every day has to be better.
— For him personally, it was the right move to stay at Ohio State. It will help him become a oordinator and a head coach. But timing is important too. He doesn’t have to jump at anything right now. He is fortunate to be at Ohio State.
— Dallas Gant has been here since Washington has been here. He’s been one of the leaders in the room. “I wish he would have been able to participate as much as everybody this spring.”
— Only one day of pads. No telling on the depth chart. He’s got a room full of guys who are eager to prove themselves.
— Asked about the Sam, two years ago it was Pete Werner who had some coverage skills and could impact the defense in that way. Last year it was Baron Browning who was a dynamic rusher. So whatever the skill set that player has, you mold the Sam to that guy.
— Not being able to participate this spring isn’t good for anybody. Dallas Gant could have benefited from this spring. But there are still ways to get better and visualizing what they are being asked to do. But it’s not damaging to Gant, but it’s something he’ll need to overcome.
— Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton are young studs. They handle themselves like pros. They learned from Tuf Borland how to study and prepare. They were impacted by Justin Hilliard’s resolve, but Pete Werner’s toughness, by Baron Browning’s selflessness and playmaking. Simon and Melton got schooled on what it looks like to be a linebacker here. “They just need reps.” “When it does callous over and it clicks, those guys are gonna be good.”
— He’s out this spring with a foot injury but will be back for fall camp.
— He can’t speak about the Sam linebackers and who is there because they preach versatility and anybody could be there on any given day during the spring. This is a time for concept teaching.
— He’s watching film and watching practice to help guys.
— Right now he’s not totally sure where he’ll be when he’s healthy but he thinks it will be middle linebacker.
— Losing the four seniors, those were four big leaders. That role has been put upon him and Teradja Mitchell and K’Vaughan Pope to be leaders. As much as they need to step up on the field with production, they also need to step up as leaders. Spring and winter are good times to do that.
— He’s able to help guys on the side with what he’s seeing while watching during practice.
— Chris Olave continues to look good on offense. “He came back for a reason. With a purpose.” “Those guys are slinging it.” Not one QB over the other or anything like that. They can all throw it. “I think we’re in really good hands.”
— The three seniors have bonded over being patient and working. It’s here now so they need to work and show out. It makes it easier to go to work now that there’s a road toward playing time.
— There has been a blueprint left by the linebackers who departed. He’s followed that and the path left by the departed seniors and it’s been an easy path to start leading.
— It’s been very difficult to be as patient as he’s had to be but he made a commitment to Ohio State and now he’s ready to go.
— He’s playing the Will. “I’m a very aggressive linebacker. I’m a contact seeker.”
— He hasn’t thought about the free year that he still has. He’s just working and whatever happens, happens. He’s only worried about the process right now.
— It was very exciting when Al Washington told them he was sticking around. He’s the best linebacker coach in the nation so of course other schools are going to come calling.
— It hasn’t been frustrating to wait. He came in humble and wanting to learn. Being a natural leader he has developed his leadership even more.
— He has a lot of work to do. He’ll be putting in the work. He’ll be ready.
— He’s playing at a lighter weight right now at 235. He switched to a vegan diet but has recently added fish, which has helped him drop weight. He has played as heavy as 255.
— His mental preparation has changed now that he has this opportunity. He is watching more film than ever. “Constantly watching film.”
— His favorite fish is salmon. His diet makes him feel better when he wakes up in the morning. He has more energy. He feels faster.
— He struggles with performance anxiety so you have to study as much as possible to feel comfortable playing the position. He’s talked to players and coaches about it and they work on that with him. That was one of the reasons he wanted to come to Ohio State.
— Justin Fields is his guy so when he saw him do it, he saw how it thinned him out. He went cold turkey.
— Everybody is playing well at every linebacker spot.
— Al Washington gets the best out of them. He’s invested in them mentally and their thought process as linebackers. That’s what separates him. He’s passionate about the game.
— “We just have the expectation to be toughest and baddest unit in the room.” Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard taught them how to work.