Ohio State coordinators Kevin Wilson and Kerry Coombs met with reporters on Friday following the first spring practice of the year to preview the next month of football for the Buckeyes. Also joining the session were left tackle Thayer Munford and defensive end Zach Harrison. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
— They had a strong winter session and leadership development. They also have so many players right now that will allow for a good number of reps for the quarterbacks. The offense never changes, but you can alter it to play to each QB’s strength depending on who wins the job.
— It’s too soon to say what the strengths and weaknesses are of the three quarterbacks. Justin Fields got 80% of the reps last year. “All three are talented.”
— Losing Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell is tough. People don’t appreciate how good Farrell is and was for this team. Jeremy Ruckert has a strong skill set and hopefully he can be found earlier in the progressions this year. He’s got great range and he can block and run routes. He’s about 248 right now and strong enough to handle the blocking. “I think he sets up to have a great year.” “He is an elite player.”
— It’s huge to find a second tight end. “The second guy has got to play a little bit.” Cade Stover was recognized by the strength coaches as one of the top offseasons. That doesn’t need to be figured out by spring. That guy may not play as much as the second tight end did last year. They’ll get that decided mid-fall camp.
— Gotta find the best five guys on the offensive line. They always need eight. The best five may not shake out until the middle of fall camp. This may be the most competitive group on the team. They have great overall leaders too.
— Matt Jones, like many of their players, is very talented. Sometimes guys lack confidence early on because it’s hard to be successful. He has stayed engaged and has continued to get better.
— If the second tight end doesn’t add anything to the offense, you stay with the third receiver. You don’t have to play a second tight end.
— Paris Johnson is athletic enough to handle guard or tackle. Sometimes tackles can be too big to be a guard. But he should be fine.
— The two freshman running backs have made the room deeper. Ball security is always an issue. Trust has to be earned. So many of these positions will require fall camp to nail down the depth chart.
— Lathan Ransom will be playing the cover safety spot in the slot this year but will also move around and play other areas.
— Zach Harrison has filled a leadership void this offseason. “I’m excited to watch him play.”
— Good luck to the basketball team today. Loved the way they played in the Big Ten Tournament.
— The Alabama game “was incredibly painful.” The journey the kids were on was phenomenal. Holidays were spent at the indoor. You never knew who would be counted out each day. To get to that last game was great, but he feels responsible for that loss. It makes you rethink how you do things. This entire offseason has been “a great process of exactly that.”
— Can he answer what may change about the defense? “Nope.”
— “We need to be able to play press man-to-man. And we need to be able to play it over and over again.” They just didn’t have enough opportunities to practice one-on-ones last year. Just seven sessions. They got one in today. “We’ve got to learn it, we’ve got to play it, and we’ve got to be really good at it.”
— “It’s important to recognize that we won all the games but one.” Did a lot of things well but need to get better in some areas. The biggest thing is just having practices with the entire team together. “If we can get to that point consistently, I really like this team.”
— Zoom is great, but it’s not real teaching. It’s not direct. It’s not a back-and-forth. There are distractions. You have a cell phone on your desk as another distraction. Players are no different. And it’s not just scheme, but it’s also conditioning. Now they have time to install and can find out what they can and can’t do with the personnel they have.
— “Our first pitch, we’re throwing man-to-man. That’s our fast ball.” We have to be able to play that. “Everything else bleeds off of that.” How much cover three, how much split safety, etc. “But I think we’ve got the guys that can do it and I like our chances.”
— Josh Proctor lined up at free safety today and played extremely well. Bryson Shaw was behind him. Jantzen Dunn was in there as well. There are guys who can do more than one job.
— Why are you back? “I love this question.” He’s back for his degree so he can be the first person in his family to graduate college.
— There are three amazing quarterbacks on this team. They’re doing great.
— The offensive line is going to be great. It’s more mature than last year. He’s excited to see how the young guys come up as well.
— The quarterbacks love to work. They are out throwing after every workout. “They want this spot. They want to compete for this spot.” When the OL see that, they want to block for that guy. It makes the entire team feel better about them because “what are we without the quarterback.”
— He can improve his game everywhere. There’s not just one thing. He’s not complacent where he is as a player. Nobody on this team is.
— His coaches weren’t that surprised that he decided to return. “My academics are a lot more important than football. I’m the first generation in my family to go to college. And I’m honored to be that first generation. I’m grateful to be in this position that I am.”
— He and Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones are very close and he talked to them both about coming back.
— He eventually wants to be an athletic director or football coach. His high school coach at Massillon Nate Moore changed his life for the better and he would like to be able to do that for others.
— He is on track to graduate in August.
— He made the decision after last season that he was going to give everything he has to this program. The coaches have seen that mindset change.
— “I’m not trying to be a leader, I’m just trying to be myself.” He has earned his teammates’ trust and they know they can handle criticism as well. “That’s how I’ve built up my voice for my teammates.”
— Year two for him, “I didn’t have quite the year I wanted to and that’s why I changed my mindset and my approach.” This year hopefully everybody sees the results.
— The defensive line have talked about getting home and sacking the quarterback. They pressured last year but they need to find that extra half a yard they need to get to the quarterback. That’s going to be a focus this spring.
— He needs to be more consistent. He has flashes but he needs no fall off.
— He feels like he’s ready to take the jump to become a great player. “I’m excited for this next step to make my own legacy and no follow anybody else’s.” He’s more flexible now and he’s more fluid in his movements.
— What did he learn from Chase Young? Practice habits. He did amazing things in practice too.
— “I’m trying to play fast all the time.”
— “I trust Coach J and I trust the rotation.” He has complete trust in the coaches.
— They don’t talk about being the next Bosa or Young at Ohio State. “Following in footsteps, that’s not something I think about often.”
— He saw Tommy Togiai change his mindset before his junior year, which is another thing that he took from him and tried to incorporate.
— Antwuan Jackson, Jerron Cage, Tyleik Williams are all at nose. Most of the inside guys are back and so they have guys who can fill Tommy Togiai’s role.
— Jack Sawyer is a good worker. Got a lot of skill and he’s quick and fluid. He’s going to be a good player.
— Kerry Coombs gives 100% all the time and they need that and feed off of it. “I 100% trust in Coach Coombs.”