Ohio State secondary coach Matt Barnes met with reporters via Zoom on Thursday to discuss spring practice and the goings-on for the Buckeye defense. Also joining the session were safeties Josh Proctor and Marcus Williamson. Here are the highlights of what everyone had to say.
— The transition has been a good one. He loves coaching defense. Kerry Coombs remains very involved with the secondary. Alleviating some of that stress and time from Coombs with the secondary allows for more coordinating.
— “We’re so far from a depth chart right now. So far from locking guys into positions.” They aren’t even watching defense when they look at film right now. They’re just looking at technique.
— Lathan Ransom has played every position in the secondary and he’s not alone. Right now it’s about teaching concepts.
— You can’t sit in a meeting without hearing great things about Cam Martinez. That’s nutrition, special teams, weight room. “Cam has really, really put his head down and gone to work. He’s got to be one of the most improved guys since last season.” He can play anywhere.
— Comparing his style to Coombs: “I admire his energy. He sees everything at practice.” “I’m probably a bit more reserved.” “I think we work really well together.” His style is more matter-of-fact. He wants players to hear exactly what he’s saying and not how he’s saying it.
— The special teams meeting today was elite. “I think Parker Fleming is an outstanding football coach. I don’t think he’s good. I think he’s great. He’s elite.” The terminology from special teams has permeated through the offense and defense, which is something Barnes began implementing a couple of years ago. It’s teaching football through special teams.
— “Is it a Bullet or is it a Sam?” They want flexibility but right now they are just working on fundamentals.
— This is a young roster and a young team. Guys missed out on time to development last year. That’s why they are doing so much focusing on technique right now. You can teach scheme on the board, but you can’t do that with technique and getting off a block.
— They do a great job of recruiting as a team and program. “The program sells itself.” If you sit down with Ryan Day and had a conversation with him, you would want to be a Buckeye yourself. Kerry Coombs is one of the greatest recruiters in college football history. Barnes knows he’s not well know so he just tries to facilitate conversation.
— He loves this time of year. There’s so much teaching and the pressure of a game isn’t there so you can focus on teaching. Right now it’s so much about techniques and concepts. He takes pride in his teaching.
— It’s uncanny how natural Denzel Burke is at corner without having been there much in his life. “He has elite feet.” He looks seasoned. He still has a long way to go but he looks pretty natural in there.
— The biggest change right now with Matt Barnes is about breaking down the details with footwork and hips and things like that. And making sure they understand what they need to do and when they need to do it.
— He’s comfortable back at safety. He’s slowed everything down a bit. He gets excited at times and his eyes would start going everywhere, but he’s slowed the game down. He’s also grown as a leader.
— They came into these workouts with a chip on their shoulder. They haven’t let that Alabama game go.
— He thinks he’ll get to stay at free safety, which means he can get used to that spot and learn what he needs to learn. But he can still move on. “Wherever you need me, I’ll be there. It doesn’t matter.”
— It’s not a huge change having Matt Barnes. “I feel like he’s better at explaining stuff to us.” He breaks things down for them.
— He has spent time working on being consistent in everything he does. He’s improved his communication. He’s in the film room longer. He’s trying to take as much as he can from Barnes.
— Lathan Ransom is developing “pretty fast.” “He’s a guy a lot of people are going to be hearing about.” Last year boosted Ransom’s confidence and came into the offseason wanting to get better.
— Why didn’t he play FS last year? It was consistency and trying to make the big play too often.
— He’s been here for a while, as you practice and go through things and learn different schemes, you get a great sense of football. Until you’re out there, however, it’s not always easy to see where you need to improve. “I’d say I’m a lot more enlightened.” He has taken what he learned last year and applied it to this year.
— They want to bring back the Best In America culture. Mindset and culture have been a big focus for the secondary in the offseason.
— Barnes and Coombs are more similar than you think. They are both energetic, “juice kind of guys.”
— He’s been almost exclusively in the slot. Last year he morphed into a safety but this year he’s been in the slot honing his coverage skills, as well as the physicality aspect of football. He’s working on tackling and block destruction.
— Everybody has taken the approach of daily improvement. Whether it’s one percent or one inch. This is the most talented defnsive back unit since he’s been here. There is so much tlaent and explosion. “I definitely think we’re bringing something special.”
— On the QBs: “These coaches are recruiting their asses off.” It’s exciting to see them slinging the ball. They are growing. He’s impressed. It’s only April 1. “It’s been great to see.”
— He and Lathan Ransom talk about complementing each other. He’s not sure how it will work out with both of them, but he’s impressed with how he’s been working. It will be up to the coaches but Ransom’s skill set can be used and needs to be used.
— There hasn’t been conversation about him moving outside to corner. He has focused this spring on his man-to-man, so he does a lot of drills that have him focused on doing corner things. He’s bringing that kind of corner mindset to the slot.
— He was having a conversation with himself today about what his driving force and motivation is right now. In the past it was fear of being injured again. Now it’s just wanting to improve and get better. Life doesn’t always follow the path you want it to, so his goal is to wake up every day and get better. “I’ve really seen myself take off in the last two months with that mindset.” “I’m glad to be back. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
— Why did he come back? His parents have been strong for him. He was raised in a sports household. He grew up with wrestling as his first sport. There’s not a lot of glory in wrestling. It’s about having that fight in you. God has a plan for him and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t still be here. Three years or so he was typing up a resume about what he was going to do after football. Now he’s on a path to starting for a second year.