Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters on Monday for his first College Football Playoff National Championship Game availability. He answered a slew of questions about Alabama. Also joining the call were Tuf Borland and Trey Sermon. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
— This is quite an honor to be in the national championship game. This is something the guys have fought so hard for. So much respect for Nick Saban and his program.
— The way Justin Fields finished the game was remarkable. That was one of the gutsiest performances he’s ever seen. Everything is left up to the medical people, but Justin wasn’t going to come off the field. “That’s just how he’s wired.” Fields told Day that he felt better the next morning than he expected.
— Why was Fields so good against Clemson and so not against Northwestern? A combination of a bunch of things, plus Northwestern has a good defense and Fields was bothered by the talk of how poorly he played. That’s part of being a quarterback and overcoming adversity. He’s not had a lot of adversity because of how talented and smart he is. This was just another step in his journey after the Northwestern game. What matters was how he returned and recovered.
— Justin Fields is definitely expected to play but they won’t get into injuries.
— What changed with Trey Sermon? “That’s a great question for him and I don’t even know if he’ll be able to give a great answer.” He didn’t have the standard lead-up to the season and he was also coming off of an injury. Plus the OSU running game is different than Oklahoma’s and he was also splitting carries. “Now you’re seeing the best version of Trey.” He never complained about carries. He just kept going to work every day. “It’s really remarkable what it’s done.”
— Having quality receivers now is very important. The emergence of 7-on-7 has increased the skill level of receivers and quarterbacks. “We’re always looking for ways to complete explosives.” And if you can run the ball, it opens up the deeper stuff.
— They will practice the way they normally practice and nothing will change with Justin Fields’ reps.
— The goal was never just to beat Clemson, the goal was to win the national championship. So there shouldn’t be any let down even after an emotional win. “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t play well in this game.” This is what they’ve wanted. The good news is that they have some confidence going into the game and have shown what they can do and they now have to do it again.
— They still have to remain vigilant with the virus because it’s not going away.
— They will have to play better against Alabama than they did Clemson.
— He wasn’t aware that Nick Saban had OSU 5th on his poll. What matters is playing in the game, not opinions.
— Steve Sarkisian had a great tradition of having great offenses. He has a great feel. He’s aggressive. He stresses a defense. There is a knack for calling plays, but so much of it is the preparation and Sarkisian prepares well.
— Nothing but respect for “Coach Saban and his staff.” “Coach Saban’s career speaks for itself. Watched him win a lot of national championships.” But when you get to this level, you know it’s going to be hard.
— The OL and DL did a lot of 1s v 1s over the last six weeks because they haven’t had many games to play. That goes for the rest of the team as well. Give credit to the players and position coaches.
— On Justin Fields’ voice in wanting to make the season happen, he was a leader last year, but that leadership grew this year and you saw it during the offseason and then again during the season. He fought and spoke up for his teammates this summer and then he played hard all season long. He’s a competitor. They are all steps in his evolution. This is something that has grown over time and it’s been great to watch.
— What stands out about Alabama? Unbelievable team and unbelievable players. Talent all over the place. Big, physical offensive line. “We’re going to have to find another level, for sure.”
— Justin Hilliard has seen it all. “The good, the bad, the ugly.” He has fought through so much and it’s awesome to see the success he’s had. Justin is an unbelievable person. To see his success, 1) nobody is surprised; 2) he deserves all of it. He’s a warrior. “He’s getting everything he deserves.”
— Justin Fields since day one has done everything that the coaches have asked of him. He has built trust with everyone. “One of the gutsiest performances from a player in my time here.” Can’t say enough good things about Fields and what he has done for Ohio State in his time here.
— Al Washington has been amazing. He deserves a lot of credit for what the linebackers have done.
— He won’t get too into specifics but they do want to keep the Alabama inside of them and in front of them. Can’t let them get outside or deep.
— Running back Najee Harris is a bigger back but he has great patience and speed as well. The offensive line is great as well. Will have to be ready for the challenge.
— They always had the confidence they could play as well as they did against Clemson. They showed it and now they know it for sure.
— Asked about his smirk on camera, he said he saw the replay and realized he was down so then he saw the camera on him. “It was funny.”
— On what changed for him this year? “I just wanted to contribute more.” He wasn’t playing his best. He started practicing a lot harder than he was. Doing whatever he could to help himself improve.
— On Justin Fields’ leadership: “He’s grown a lot.” He spoke out about wanting to play football this season. Everybodyd on the team respects him. “He’s been doing a great job.”
— Why leave Oklahoma? He wanted a better opportunity for himself and he felt it was a good fit for him here.
— It’s very special to be playing in this game. They have been through a lot this season. Definitely excited for this opportunity.
— His performance of late is a little bit of a dream, but there’s also some of it that has been expected. What he wanted is happening. The team has come a long way. “We believe in each other. Just having this opportunity is amazing.”
— He played against Alabama in the Orange Bowl. They were a tough, physical team. They fly around on defense. Also, it goes by quick. You have to make sure you execute and don’t have any mistakes.
— He remembers watching Ezekiel Elliott’s postseason run in 2014.
— Alabama’s defense is physical, big, and strong. They fly to the ball. Their linebackers can move well.
— He was feeling good in practice leading up to Michigan State. Once he got that feeling, he tried to stay consistent and work extra and practice harder.
— It’s a good feeling that everything is starting to progress. He’s closer to everyone on the offensive side of ball.