Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘If we’re standing on a mound, we’re throwing man to man’

What Absolutely Must Happen for Ohio State?

Ohio State will be back out on the practice field Tuesday morning, which will be their ninth of 15 practices this spring. After seeing how the development of the team was hampered by having almost no spring camp last year, the fact that the Buckeyes have been able to practice this year will bode well for the team’s growth this season.

In fact, when asked recently what was the one thing that absolutely had to happen for the Buckeyes this spring, head coach Ryan Day eventually settled on the simple act of practicing.

“I don’t know if it’s just one thing, but we have to get better fundamentally. We have to make sure we get 15 practices in, we can start with that right there,” he said. “And then we just need to get better fundamentally. But we need to keep guys healthy, so they need to get these reps and get these body reps so that when we get done with the spring, we have X number of reps on film. Guys actually have body reps that we can coach up off of film over the next couple of months as we head into preseason. If somebody gets hurt or somebody misses those reps or we lose a couple days because of COVID or whatever that is, that would be detrimental. As long as we’re out there, we’re practicing, and we get those reps and guys are physically doing it, I’ll feel great about it.”

Unfortunately for Day, the Buckeyes are down a number of guys this spring, which means two consecutive springs will be lost for those guys. Finding ways to make up for that lost time will be instrumental for the team and for those players competing for jobs in the fall.

It Starts With Man-to-Man

Losing spring last year meant limited reps and teaching moments for the Buckeyes. No place was that felt more than in the Ohio State secondary. Replacing three starters is always a tall task, doing it during a pandemic only made it more difficult.

The struggles defensively last year led to many questions in the offseason, both for the coaches and by the coaches. The answers will eventually come, and each of those answers will have the same beginning.

“Our first pitch, if we’re standing on a mound, we’re throwing man to man,” defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said recently. “Now we got to be able to play it, right? That’s our fastball, and that’s what we’ve got to be able to do. And so we’ve got to be able to play that and everything else kind of bleeds off of that. And so, how much three-deep, how much split safety, how much of anything else we play kind of has to bleed off our ability to play man to man. And we have to be able to do that. Or then if we can’t, then we have to change what we do. But I think we got the guys that can do it and again I like our chances.”

Those man-to-man reps that were missing last year are underway right now, but it’s unfortunate for the Buckeyes that their top two returning cornerbacks are both out. Yes, Sevyn Banks and Cam Brown are both experienced, but it’s still less than ideal to have them missing a single moment when nobody is beyond improving.

The One Shining Moment That Got Away

Speaking of single moments — and shining moments — Baylor defeated Gonzaga Monday night in the men’s basketball national championship game 86-70. It was an upset win for the Bears as most expected the Zags to come away with the victory.

One major reason why Gonzaga was a popular pick is because of freshman guard Jalen Suggs. On Saturday, he hit a game-winning 40-footer off the glass against UCLA. Suggs is now seen as a very high lottery pick if he should choose to enter the 2021 NBA Draft.

Not so long ago, however, Suggs was also a college football prospect. He was a three-star quarterback out of Minnesota. Ranked the No. 15 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class, Suggs camped at Ohio State in June of 2018 so that Ryan Day, who was OSU’s quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator at the time, could evaluate Suggs and give his family his assessment.

“What a game and what a shot, and really happy for him,” Day said following practice late Monday morning. “Spent a lot of time recruiting Jalen, and he came to our camp and I had a conversation with he and his family and friends and just said I’ll do the best I can to get a great evaluation of how we project him out in football. And as a quarterback, we thought he was really athletic, and told his family that I thought he could be a really good quarterback. But if he’s as good as they say he’s in basketball, that probably would be his best avenue to take, and glad to see it all worked out for him. He’s a great young man.”