Ohio State head coach Ryan Day took part in his mandated Thursday press conference with the media covering the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Being that it was the Ohio State offense’s turn to speak on the afternoon, Day was also joined by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, quarterback Justin Fields, running back Trey Sermon, receiver Chris Olave, tight end Luke Farrell, and offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
— The team is still on target for playing on Monday.
— When the season was canceled and then re-started, the NC game was a target they had in mind.
— The offense has been tweaked each year due to the talent on hand but it has mostly stayed the same.
— Any time you lose players to positive COVID tests it is a gut punch, but they’ve found ways to work through it. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can push through.
— No update on Justin Fields. Asked if they would run him less if he’s injured, Day said they’ll do whatever their players are capable of doing as always.
— The way this season has gone, the minute you want to take a breath and feel good about it, something new comes up and you have to handle it. When the season is over, they’ll go back and think about the great things that have happened this year “because there’s a lot of them.”
— How much has he checked in with guys about mental health this season? They talk about it a lot. The position coaches keep an eye on it. They talk to the parents about it. It hasn’t been easy. “I’ll say this, though, I think going through this time has made our guys stronger mentally.”
— The Northwestern struggles were a combination of NU’s defense and the offense not clicking that day. “It doesn’t take much to be off.”
— Justin Fields has grown as a leader this year on and off the field. He had a few struggles this season on the field but it’s great to see him click last week. That’s what this is all about.
— He’s not thinking about what this season means for him just yet. You can get distracted by taking a step back. He has told the players that every minute of the day should be spent on Alabama. It’s been a while since he’s been able to take a deep breath.
— He does not know how many players are available. “We’ll have plenty of players.”
— Football today involves giving up yards but trying to stop touchdowns in the red zone and forcing turnovers. Yards will happen. Defense also takes special teams and offense to all work together. Then you can put together a good plan. It’s not how many yards do you give up, it’s how many stops and turnovers you can get.
— Any time you play somebody like Alabama, it’s going to be a challenge. The Clemson game was an emotional game, but they were never focused on just playing in this game, they want to win it. “I think we’ll come out with our hair on fire and play as hard as we can and go from there.”
— Trey Sermon was the right fit for Ohio State, but it didn’t all happen at once for him this year. It has been a process, but he never complained. And when his opportunity came to be “the guy” he took it and ran. Day didn’t know he would be like this right now. “This has been a pleasant surprise.” He’s been a great teammate too.
— What are the discussions that take place about medical attention needed for situations like Justin Fields? Justin isn’t treated any differently than any other student athlete. The medical people identify what’s going on and talk to the player and the make the decision on whether or not they can go back into the game. Justin is an unbelievable competitor. He’s tough. Don’t forget that shot in the knee last year against the team up north and then throw the touchdown to Garrett Wilson.
— He started seeing a change in Trey Sermon against Michigan state and then he popped against Northwestern. It was the second half when Day probably realized how good he was playing.
— Dylan Moses is really smart with the adjustments Alabama’s defense makes. He is physical and not afraid to hit you.
— “You can’t be afraid to die out there.”
— The tight ends couldn’t ask for a better outing than the Clemson game. Dominating in the running game and scoring three touchdowns.
— The Clemson game was the perfect example of how tough Justin Fields is. You just stand there in awe of his ability to execute. It gets the rest of your team going when you see something like that. “Incredible toughness and super gutsy.”
— “We’ve been wanting to get this shot for as long as I’ve been here and now it’s here.”
— Thayer Munford’s work ethic and never complaining, he just takes it and moves on. That’s every day. It’s respectable and “something I aspire to be like as well.”
— Bringing home a national title would mean everything to him and to the people in Ohio.
— They will work on staying hydrated in the days leading up to the game.
— There was a weight lifted off their shoulders with the Clemson win, but the job is not finished.
— Alabama is aggressive on defense and they do their best to control the line of scrimmage, so OSU will need to be physical and tough up front.
— He remembers everything about the 2017 OSU game while at Oklahoma. “I just remember being able to make plays. It was an exciting moment.” It was his first big-time college game.
— The OL is great up front. “They make my job easy.” They control the line of scrimmage. They get great push. Just being able to get in sync with them has been great and has led to more yards and more bodies being moved.
— They work on the check-down passes quite a bit. It wasn’t necessarily part of the game plan against Clemson, but it worked out well.
— He doesn’t feel any added pressure due to his recent performances. “I’m confident in my ability.”
— His mom has been very important to him and persevered for the family and that has helped him get through his own struggles. He knows there is light at the end of the tunnel.
— It’s extremely painful getting one of those hits in the ribs. “He’s a tough dude and I know that he’ll be fine.”
— Miyan Williams has come a long way and he plays with energy and emotion. It gets everybody motivated and hyped up.
— He and Master Teague have a good relationship. They are always there to help each other out during games and practice. They push each other to get better. Nothing has changed there.
— They didn’t talk to much about what happened in DC yesterday but the coaches always encourage them to use their voices and platforms because they believe in the same values.
— It was tough having the Big Ten Championship Game taken away from him. “To get that tap on my shoulder was tough.” He quarantined for 10 days in a hotel and tried to stay in shape. It was tough getting back to practice. He would get tired and had to sleep a lot. He didn’t get his legs back towards the end of the week. Wednesday was the day he started to feel good and thankfully he had a good game on Friday.
— He doesn’t look at any head-to-head hype with him and DeVonta Smith. He just wants to win the game.
— It was tough sitting out. You can’t really do much. Getting COVID this late in the season was tough mentally. He was just glad they got the win.
— Are they trying to help the coaches stay upbeat? It has taken a toll on everybody this season. They have tried to be there for each other. Haven’t seen family in so long, but they have each other. They are all blessed and thankful for the opportunity to play in this game.
— Patrick Surtain is a great player. Long, fast, physical. Can’t ask for much more in a DB. He’s “damn near equal” to Jeff Okudah.
— Performances like the one against Clemson doesn’t just happen. It requires trust from the players and coaches and plenty of grinding in the offseason and great game planning.
— Pre-snap he can see coverages and he’ll know when he’s going to be the guy on a deep ball or when it’s going to somebody else.
— You come to Ohio State to win a national championship. “That’s why I came here.”
— He’s played against a lot of great CBs at Ohio State and Patrick Surtain is great and it will be a tough matchup. It’s going to be fun. Blessed to be in this situation.
— Jameson Williams is “my guy.” He is very underrated. He can take the top off the defense. “I’m happy he had the game he had last week.”
— He remembers playing against Alabama as a freshman. Being in that stage was what he remembers most.
— He has known Trey Sermon since his junior year in high school. He beat Sermon’s team by two or three TDs. They have worked out together as well.
— The connection he and Ryan Day have had since day one has been genuine. He knew it was going to work out when he scored his first touchdown against FAU.
— Changing mechanics during a game when you’re hurt is just natural. He may have altered some things to avoid a bit of pain against Clemson. He didn’t tell his teammates not to slap him on his back. They were cognizant of his injury so they took it easy on him.
— It’s crazy that he and Trey Sermon are both here together. They started out in Georgia HS and went to different schools and then have ended up at Ohio State playing for a national title.
— It’s definitely more meaningful being here with everything that has gone on this year. All of the workouts, the cancelations, the starts, the stops, the missed games, and the sacrifices. “We’re just glad that we have the opportunity to play.”
— What he said after the game was taken out of context. He has the full trust in the doctors at OSU. He doesn’t want anything he said to be misconstrued because he has personal relationships with the medical staff and “I was fully comfortable with that.”
— “I’ll be good by Monday night.”
— The day after the game he woke up feeling better than he expected. Around day three or so he woke up feeling worse than he thought. But he’s rehabbing and not thinking about how this will impact his play. He will be fine.
— Asked if he was able to move well enough to protect himself against Clemson, he said if he can’t protect himself he shouldn’t be out there. He played, so he felt he could protect himself.
— Injuries are a part of football. It doesn’t matter who you are. “It’s what we sign up for.”
— Why did he leave the West? To play in games like this. If you’re going to put yourself through the type of commitment that college football requires, why not go somewhere where you can play for a national title.
— Teammates teased him after the Clemson game that he almost opted out on this opportunity. “It’s definitely special.”
— Thayer Munford is a brother to him. He has gone through so much. Played with a bad back last year and never complained once. Other guys would have quit. What he respects most about Munford is his determination and grit. He has had a lot of obstacles in life and never quit. If he has a goal set, he’s going to get it done.
— Greg Studrawa has high expectations for his players. Davis is afraid to make mistakes in practice because he’ll get into you whether you’re a walk-on or starter. He demands excellence. “I want to play so hard because of him.” He’s a great leader and he’s just so knowledgeable about the game. There were defenses who had successful blitzes against everyone else, but Studrawa would break them down and show them how to handle them properly.
— The battle in the trenches is important, Alabama or not. That’s where the game is won.
— Justin Fields showed everybody not to count him out. He showed the leader he is and the respect he has for his brothers because he wouldn’t quit. He watches film for hours and his will to win is the most impressive thing overall.
— It’s been great working alongside Josh Myers. They had a relationship before college due to camps and stuff. They both redshirted and worked and grinded to become starters. “I couldn’t be more proud of how he’s grown as a player, and to me as a brother and a friend. It’s been cool to see the evolution of Josh Myers take off.”
— How have they overcome a lack of cohesion with new lineups? Games are won at the line of scrimmage and it is always important. “Huge, for sure.” In terms of cohesion, it is really important and they haven’t been able to do it a whole lot this year. “I think we just got used to not having it.” They haven’t had the same five guys much.
— He’s learned a lot from both Urban Meyer and Ryan Day. What has stuck out most about both is the preparation required to win a championship. “The games are won on a hard Tuesday practice or a padded Wednesday practice.” This team takes that to heart.
— Matt Jones has done a great job and it hasn’t been an easy job. That’s two important games he has stepped in and played well. This season you have seen a different mindset from backups because they could be starting at any moment. “I think that’s been huge for Matt. He has no choice.”
— Paris Johnson is an extremely talented football player and offensive lineman. “God has given him a lot. And he also has the mindset.” “I don’t know if I should say this or not…if Paris isn’t an Outland Trophy winner by the time he leaves here, he screwed something up.” He could step in pretty much anywhere on the offensive line and be fine.
— “Trey has been huge for our team and it’s been so fun.” Sermon never once complained about a lack of carries. He had a bit of a slower start but he never said anything. “He never had a bad attitude, he just kept coming to work.” “I can’t say enough for how happy I am for him.”
— The starting tackles don’t get enough talk. They are both really, really good players. Look at the Clemson game. And they’ve been doing it all season. It’s a weird thing when tackles get overlooked on the offensive line but that’s what has happened here.
— Alabama’s front seven is really talented. Across the board. Good, big, strong, athletic. They know the scheme well and they are extremely disciplined. They have outstanding technique all the time. They never make a mistake.
— He will announce his future intentions on January 12.
— What separates Ohio State is there are great people who care about you and will push you to get you where you want to be. That’s a great thing and it’s what separates OSU “in my personal opinion.”
— All running backs are fun to block for. Miyan Williams runs the ball extremely hard. Myers likes to think that’s how he’d run the ball if he was a running back. It’s been fun to watch him grow.
— Paris Johnson would be starting at 99% of universities this season. He is a young guy and he has things to improve on and he doesn’t want Johnson to get full of himself by hearing people say great things about him, but he knows him well enough now to know that won’t happen. One day he’s probably going to be a lot better than anybody else on this offensive line right now.
— He’s not big into mechanics of the quarterback, that’s a Ryan Day thing. But he has coached quarterbacks. Justin Fields can make a lot of throws and his accuracy with the deep ball is very good. They are working on making the high-percentage throws even higher percentage.
— Pass protection will be a challenge against Alabama.
— Kevin Wilson knew Chip Kelly when Wilson was at Northwestern and Kelly was at New Hampshire and they talked about the spread offense back then.
— The Ohio State offense has evolved a bit, but they have remained physical and the values are the same. Score in the red zone and be physical and win the field position battle.
— Patrick Surtain is a great player. He doesn’t need a lot of safety help because he can play a guy one-on-one. That allows the safety to help elsewhere.
— Northwestern’s defense is good. They won their bowl game.
— This has always been a great practice team and they’ve gotten a lot of practice at practice. That has helped the offensive line be cohesive this year. It’s also helped by a couple of tight ends “who no one wants to talk about unless they catch a ball.”
— “Coach Stud does a great job.” They will wait until Monday night to see how good this offensive line is because that’s when they’ll find out for sure.
— The Ole Miss game was early and Alabama’s defense has gotten better since then. That happens when you can keep playing games. This is a great defense with talent and length. You can always skew the numbers, but the great teams do what it takes to win. That’s what Nick Saban teams have always done.
— Thayer Munford has made himself into a great player. Wilson saw him in person as a recruit and wondered why OSU hadn’t already taken him.