COLUMBUS – Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters Monday afternoon to preview Thursday night’s season opener at Minnesota. He answered a number of questions about his team, the depth chart, the Gophers, and plenty of other topics that are all covered in the highlights below. Also speaking were left tackle Nick Petit-Frere, tight end Jeremy Ruckert, defensive end Zach Harrison, and linebacker Teradja Mitchell.
+ There is no backup quarterback named yet.
+ The NCAA requested more information regarding Palaie Gaoteote so he’s still up in the air right now.
+ Expectations are that recruiting visits will be back to the way they were in June.
+ He’s most excited to just get going and find out what they have because you don’t know what you have until you get out there. The hard part “is you’re not allowed to lose around here.” The goal each week is to go 1-0. The goal is to get the game into the fourth quarter and then find a way to win the game.
+ Minnesota is a veteran team with experience. Two years ago they were a top 10 team in the country. Fundamentally sound team that makes you earn it. Playing on the road makes them even tougher.
+ Minnesota’s running game is a concern. Mohamed Ibrahim is built low to the ground and he breaks tackles. The defense spent a lot of time tackling in the preseason. “We’re going to have to defeat blocks and tackle the ball.”
+ He feels good about the linebackers. Different guys will get into the game at different spots. There are big shoes to fill.
+ In preparing for a season opener you go off of what a team did last year but also expect some tweaks, then you adapt. Ohio State will have some changes for Minnesota as well. You have a lot of time to prepare but you don’t want to overthink things.
+ Why Thayer Munford for the Block O? First off, he’s from Ohio. Second, he’s had a great story. He’s overcome a lot. He came back for another year. He exemplifies everything that Bill Willis stood for.
+ Munford will be available for the game.
+ The linebacker room is pretty healthy. Got healthy this last week and he feels pretty good about where things stand.
+ All of the running backs bring different things to the table. There’s not a lot of selfishness in that room. Miyan Williams and Master Teague have been in big spots. Marcus Crowley played in the national championship game. Early on they’ll rely on the guys who have played, “but Tre’s going to get in there quickly.”
+ Developing young quarterbacks are tough and right when you get them where you want them, they leave. You can get frustrated but you just adapt and move forward.
+ “It’s hard to be quarterback around here.” So it’s the coaches’ jobs to make the practices harder than the games. That’s for every position.
+ CJ Stroud has had good days and bad days, but he’s grown every day. “And so now it’s time to go put it on the field.” The team believes in him.
+ Would he rather ease into the season or start in conference play like this year? “I’ll tell you after Thursday’s game.” If you get a win against a conference opponent, you’ve got one in your pocket and it’s done. It’s important to get experience in environments like this for the younger guys.
+ Jack Sawyer will likely play. Larry Johnson will bring 12 or 13 defensive linemen. “We’re going to have to make some hard decisions.” If they’re going on the plane, then they need to play in the game.
+ He’s been impressed with the day-to-day work on the interior of the defensive line. “Even the young guys have done a nice job.” The depth is important so guys can play fresh.
+ Asked if the team is game ready: “It’s time to play, yeah. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be.” The team wants to hit somebody else.
+ How much the young cornerbacks will play is up in the air, but they’re going to play. Consistency is the key, especially with Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos. They will play and when they do they have to make it count.
+ The beard is not here to stay. “It has to go. Probably in the next 24 hours.” He’s too superstitious to coach with a beard, especially starting with a conference game.
+ They are counting on the veterans defensive backs like Sevyn Banks and Josh Proctor to step up as leaders and as veterans this year. “We’ll only be as good as they can come along this season…”
+ Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka have practiced their way into the rotation. Jaylen Ballard isn’t far behind.
+ “You can’t get anywhere down the road unless you win this game. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It needs to be a start. Get a win, put it in the bank. You just never know what’s coming in that first game. Rarely do season openers work out as planned.
+ With the preparation and work he’s put in, he’s not nervous, but he’s anxious because he’s been waiting for this for a long time. “Definitely looking forward to Thursday.”
+ There’s no uncertainty at linebacker. Whoever plays is going to ball. He has full confidence in everybody.
+ “Most definitely we’ve got something to prove.” He understands the questions that people have.
+ On quarterback Tanner Morgan, he’s veteran and savvy. Makes great decisions. Going to be a challenge.
+ On running back Mohamed Ibrahim – you can’t arm tackle him. He’s one of the best backs in the country. Gotta wrap him up.
+ Minnesota has a great offensive line and they are going to be a challenge. They are aggressive. They can block from sideline to sideline.
+ This will be his first start. “I’m ready. I’m confident. It’s just a blessing to finally have this opportunity.”
+ He’s been around the program, he knows what the standard is.
+ You can’t wish away time, but he’s ready to get to Thursday. “You can’t be too hyped. You can’t ride the roller coaster.” His mindset is on having a good practice today.
+ Miyan Williams and Mohamed Ibrahim are similar runners.
+ It was an honor to be named a captain. It’s great to know that your teammates feel that way about you. “It was a big deal for my dad.” It’s a lot of responsibility but everybody here is an alpha dog. Those are the kinds of guys Ryan Day recruits.
+ All of the linebackers have been supporting Palaie Gaoteote and keeping his head high.
+ All three quarterbacks played well in spring and fall. CJ Stroud, “I feel like he’s a leader.” He touches the ball every play, so it’s important for him to be able to lead the team.
+ CJ Stroud is a great leader who has worked hard every single day.
+ “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be playing left tackle this Thursday.” Every lineman is taught every position.
+ He’s pretty confident in Dawand Jones at right tackle. He’s been a big juice guy who has a passion for the game.
+ They have worked a lot of guys on the offensive line and plenty of guys have gotten reps in practice. Everybody prepares to play as if they are a starter.
+ It took him about a week to be comfortable as the left tackle.
+ Thayer Munford absolutely deserves the Block O honor. He’s a great representative of OSU football and also the Block O.
+ The running back room is amazing. “We’ve recruited so well.” They are great players and teammates off the field as well.” “That’s something that should be talked about a lot more about our running backs.”
+ They showed last year against Michigan State that it takes more than just five offensive linemen. The OL has been working together as a unit, rather than just individuals. Every day they try to help each other.
+ Minnesota has a talented defense. The challenges are that the Gophers are talented and they know what they’re doing because they’ve been doing it for years.
+ Thayer Munford plays guard similarly to how he plays tackle, which means he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the nation. He’s aggressive, has great technique, knows the plays, and has a great understanding of what the offense is trying to accomplish.
+ They are still taking precautions about COVID. The main goal is to win a national championship and that will require sacrifices. “We’re always going to make sure we stay safe.” They continue to hang around each other, and “why not, these are our brothers.”
+ The first thing he noticed about the Minnesota offensive line is that they’re big. “Whenever I see a big tackle I compare him to Dawand.”
+ What’s the key about going against huge linemen? Just sticking to fundamentals because if they get on you, they’re a big body and it’s hard to get around them.
+ He trusts both Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau on the field.
+ Dawand Jones is big, that’s the first thing that stands out. But he’s also got good feet. He’s a challenge.
+ “I’m just going to go out there and try to make plays.” When you go out searching for plays, you get lost in not doing you’re assignment. You just have to do your job and the plays will come.
+ Everybody gets nervous for their first game. It takes a couple of snaps to get over it. You might get lost for a second but you just have to take a deep breath and be where your feet are and just play ball.
+ “People always ask me about the quarterbacks and I have no idea. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the receivers about him.”
+ The interior of the defensive line made a big jump, especially Antwuan Jackson. Harrison looks up to him and he can rely on him. “He’s dominant in the run game.” Taron Vincent is one of the most physical guys that they have.
+ Ryan Day emphasized early on that they can’t slip up in week one against a conference opponent.
+ Javontae Jean-Baptiste has taken the biggest jump of anybody in the DE room. He learns from watching Jean-Baptiste’s moves.
+ Zach Harrison thinks Day should keep the beard. Just needs to line it up a bit.
+ “Coach Mick always says once you get here you have zero stars.” Recruiting rankings don’t mean anything, it’s who adapts to the speed of the game and who develops into the best they can be.
+ He can’t focus too much on Ryan Day’s beard because he’s working on his own.
+ They are excited about CJ Stroud. “He’s built for the moment.” He has shown that during camp. They’re not looking for much from him, just be himself. All three quarterbacks are super-talented and did a really good job.
+ It’s exciting to get to play in front of fans again. He’s never been to Minnesota so he’s excited to experience that for the first time. It’s going to be a lot different than last year, so they’re helping the younger guys prepare for it.
+ The Minnesota defense has really good fundamentals. They just need to trust the offensive game plan.
+ Some people have said he’s made a mistake by coming to Ohio State but he sees himself as an example of why to come to Ohio State as a tight end. He is now a complete tight end and is ready for the next level.
+ CJ Stroud throws a catchable ball. “I don’t know how to explain it.” It doesn’t feel like it’s zipped in there, but it is.
+ Stroud maybe can’t run as well as Justin Fields but he can still run. The offense hasn’t really changed much from last year.
+ It makes you feel small but safe blocking next to Dawand Jones.
+ Where is he as a blocker? “I’m playing free and playing fast” and you can’t do that if you’re not confident in y our ability to block.
+ Cade Stover isn’t a surprise, it’s just good to see how much he brought into the position move. “He can do pretty much everything.” He knows Stover has his back when they’re playing together.
+ He thinks there will be some rotating at tight end because they have a number of different guys.
+ He won’t guarantee that he will break the tight end reception record. “I don’t want to jinx it.”