Football

First Impressions Are Important But Not Everything

COLUMBUS – National Signing Day 2022 is in the rearview mirror and attention shifts to the upcoming 2022 season. Well, the players immediately made that pivot after the Rose Bowl concluded as the Buckeyes pulled out the 48-45 win to end the ’21 season on a big win.

For Ryan Day’s staff however, recruiting took center stage for the holdover members of the coaching staff along with the four new hires to fill out the coaching ranks.

That time on the road came to an end over the past weekend and Monday marked the first day that the entire staff spent time at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as a unit. It was an opportunity for Day and his staff to go over the entire roster of players with the team after coaches had found time to meet with their players individually between recruiting visits and time on the road. In many ways this is a first impression, but that impression is far from a fully-formed opinion.

“We really spent a good portion of (Monday) talking about our roster, and just going through each of the guys,” Day said. “A lot of them have a clean slate, which is great for them.”

RELATED: A long way to go and a short time to get there for Jim Knowles?

The message over the offseason may read that no job is safe, just because you were a starter in 2021 does not mean anything is promised for 2022, but we know there are a few positions that are locked in.

But other positions will be wide open with several players on to the next challenge, either the NFL or out to the portal. Players who may have been buried on the depth chart or potentially passed over will now have a chance to reaudition, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

This is going to be more than just putting in game tape on some players from 2021 with some players logging very few snaps or just truly because game tape only tells a limited part of the story, once again getting back to that whole first impression stage.

“It’s going to take a lot of study and a lot of hands on — there are even things that sometimes when you watch video, if a guy isn’t playing up to par, or what you think or he thinks he should be able to do, you don’t know what the reason is,” new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said.

That does not mean tape will not be important but there is plenty of tape with Ohio State recording every rep in all its practices, a common practice among all college football teams. But with coaches who were at other programs or even different leagues (in terms of Tim Walton being in the NFL), while you may see the rep on tape, you may not understand everything around it from videotape alone.

“Sometimes there’s a reason why you saw what you saw on tape,” new Ohio State safeties coach Perry Eliano said. “Until you’re around a young man day in and day out, to understand the habits, the work ethic, the ‘what was he asked to do? What was he not asked to do? How was he in the film room?

“There’s so many variables, that I think if you do come into the situation with a preconceived notion, you’re going to miss the mark.”

Ohio State’s defense in 2021 missed the mark with the Buckeyes playing their worst games on that side of the ball in three of the biggest games on the schedule. Changes were made and while everyone understands that the 2022 defense will not suddenly perform a 180 on day one, expectations are high.

One thing is not up for debate however, the Buckeyes have players who are more than capable of living up to the lofty expectations.

“From what I’ve seen, I don’t feel like we’re far off,” Knowles said. “I think the guys that were here did a good job.”

Attrition really hurt the Buckeyes last season with the losses within the linebacker room along with the season-ending injury to Josh Proctor. But there were other injuries along the way that went under-reported as players gutted through it.

“There are guys who played through injuries, and they’re tough, I’m figuring that out,” Knowles added. “We got a lot of good tough guys.”

It is hard to say who has been more excited about the start of this week, the coaches or the players.

“They’ve been anxious the last couple of weeks to get the coaches back in here,” Day said.

The start of spring practice and the 15 practices that go along with that is still more than a month away, so for now it is going to be reports back from the strength staff as well as conversations with the players and tape from 2021 that will create those first impressions.

“You just got to come in with an open mind and really mean that,” Eliano said.

First impressions are great but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to cross the goal line.