Ohio State University Football Media Conference
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
RYAN DAY: This week is the CFP, College Football Foundation, fifth annual Extra Yard For Teachers Week, and then it continues this weekend with a nationwide celebration of teachers, and I just wanted to go on record and say how important teachers are, not only in Ohio, Columbus, throughout the country, and how much of an impact they had on my life, and I don’t think they get nearly enough credit. The work that teachers do to our youth in shaping their lives is critical. So I just wanted to publicly thank all the teachers, again, throughout the state of Ohio, Columbus, and then throughout the country.
Miami Ohio coming in here this week, 3:30 kick. This is a team whose been through — they’ve been to tough environments before, so they’re not going to be intimidated coming into the Shoe, and again, several Ohio guys on that team who will be highly motivated coming in here.
We’ve got to adjust to the 3:30 schedule and do a good job of preparing and get ready to play a good game.
Q. I was re-watching the game, and Indiana’s defensive coaches told the FOX broadcasting crew that they wanted to attack the right side of your offensive line. What do you make of those comments and did you notice that during the game they were trying to attack the right side of your offensive line?
RYAN DAY: I didn’t. You know, I think Brandon Bowen and Wyatt Davis are two of the better linemen in the country, so it’s not something really I even noticed all that much during the game. I think they did bring when we were into the boundary on that side some corner blitz a few times, but for the most part they were lining up in their defense and playing their defense.
I think any time there’s somebody in there who’s untested like Brandon, hasn’t really played a bunch of tackles, they want to find out what you’re made of, and Wyatt is getting more and more film out there for people to look at, but I think they’re answering the test.
Q. After starting the season the way you did, how difficult is it to keep your guys on task and keep pushing them to get better? I mean, they’ve played so well against obviously overmatched opponents.
RYAN DAY: Yeah, we played well, but we didn’t play great. We played hard, they played tough, but we have so many things to clean up, and when you watch the film, it’s actually really frustrating to watch. There’s so many things we could be cleaning up there. The coaches are working at it. We started that on Sunday and making sure we started addressing some of those issues.
But you know, it was the same thing when we started a couple weeks ago, and it was all about don’t worry about what people are saying. I don’t know how much respect we had throughout the country coming into the season, but we said, ignore the noise. Well, it’s the same thing now; just because we’ve won a couple games, it hasn’t changed anything for us, so we need to stay focused on right now. We do have some momentum going right now, but we’ve got to keep that going, and that’s incumbent upon the coaches and the leaders to make sure that we stay focused and that we don’t get distracted.
Q. When you were thinking about I guess maybe the framework of what you wanted your defense to look like, how much of your own successes and failures as an offensive play caller, things that worked well against you and things that didn’t work well, informed those decisions?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think that you watch a lot of film, and you see different people play. Each week it’s thousands and thousands of clips of film, and then you go into a game plan, you have different ideas and you go up against some of the best coordinators in the country in this league and some of the leagues that I’ve been in, and you just try to figure out what the trends are moving forward.
You know, I think what we’re doing right now is right where we need to be. You can see a lot of teams are kind of going down this road right now. But again, when it came down to it, you look at who you have, you look at your four-down front because we recruited well up front there with Larry and the guys he’s got, and then combine that with stopping the run, which Greg and Larry and Al and those guys are doing a great job of, when you match that in with Jeff’s background of zone coverage, man-to-man, zone pressures, all those different things that he has in his background, I think that gives us an edge.
And that’s schematic. But at the end of the day, that’s not really what we’re doing a great job. To me it’s that we’re playing tough, we’re playing hard, we’re tackling well, we’re running to the ball, we’re playing with good emotion. Because again, watching the film, there’s so many things to clean up. You can overcome a bunch of that stuff with effort and with toughness, and that’s what we’re doing right now, but if we want to get to where we need to get, we need to make sure we clean up a lot of these things.
Q. When you’re drawing stuff up on the white board, is there any common thread among the defenses you’ve faced that give you the most trouble or you know going into that week you’re going to get a good test? Is there any commonality among those defenses?
RYAN DAY: No, not really. I think everyone tries to stop the run. That’s the first thing they do when they walk into the room, they have to stop the run. And so however teams do that, whether it’s pressure, whether it’s put an extra guy down in the box, whatever that might be, they’re going to do that.
Rarely do we see teams that just go completely off the deep end and just change what they do because typically that doesn’t go well. There’s a lot of spring practices, a lot of preseason practices where guys are getting a lot of reps in that defense, and if you start changing that or you start going to a blitz that you’ve never seen before and all of a sudden you get looks you haven’t practiced, that’s when you can get hurt. That’s why you build that foundation in the spring, you build that foundation in the preseason and go back to it. Now, how can we change up the look that’s simple for us but difficult for the defense? That’s the key to coaching.
Q. I think at the beginning of this year with you replacing Urban Meyer and having to replace the quarterback, the national viewpoint for this program was skepticism in terms of whether or not you guys could be at the elitist of elite still, and so through three games, the tone and the viewpoint of this program has shifted from a national perspective. I’m just wondering, how early in a season as a coach, and maybe this is your first year going through this, do you know you might have something? When other people are taking notice, do you internally get that feeling, too? When you look around in the room and you look at the film, do you feel like this team has something special?
RYAN DAY: I’ve felt that for a little while now, yeah, and I’ve talked to the team about that. I think we can can great. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we can be. We have the ability. We have the talent. We have the leadership. But if we want to get to where we want to go, we have to take it one week at a time, and again, I know it’s clichÃ©, but we keep talking about you just have to do a great job today, and today is a really hard Tuesday practice, and if we train the way we train, then Saturdays will take care of themselves. If we stay focused, don’t get distracted, those type of things. But it’s the same thing, it’s the same people, I’m sure, who had those doubts early on, and now they’re excited about what they see, and that’s great, but that has nothing to do with us. This is about the way we go to work every day, and we have to just stay focused on our jobs.
Q. When you look at the position you’re in, and I know there’s probably not a lot of time for reflecting, but there are so many different routes in coaching to get to this point, to get to the highest point in college football being a head coach. Do you ever look at the roster? Do you ever look at the film? Do you ever look at the room and go, this is my first year and look what I’m in charge of and feel, I don’t know, thankful that you are in this position and to be able to lead a team that’s this good this soon in your career?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, I think you always are. I think now is not the time for that. You’re just so immersed in what you’re doing. Obviously I’m extremely grateful to have this opportunity. But to be around the coaching staff I’m around and the type of people is what makes it special, and this is obviously a special place. And I think right now, the culture is strong, and what we’re doing right now is exciting in terms of guys are playing hard, there’s great energy, recruiting. Throughout the team guys are playing hard. We’re getting a lot of guys on the field. We’re developing some of the youth in the program. And so we’ve got to keep building on it.
But as we all know, we have to produce each week. It’s a performance-based business, and we have to bring it this week, otherwise that all goes down the tubes. The challenge is to continue what we’re doing right now.
Q. Kind of jumping off the question about when do you know what your team is, when do you start getting a good idea of what your opponents are without going back to say a true freshman quarterback’s high school film? Is this the time of year where you’re starting to get your arms around what you’re going to see on Saturday ahead of Saturday?
RYAN DAY: A little bit. You’re starting to get more and more film out there, so you’re getting a better idea based on what their foundation is, and you know they’re going to have adjustments in game, but every game it gets a little easier being able to recognize what they’re doing.
But yeah, I don’t think you truly know what a team is until you get towards mid-season, guys start making adjustments, guys make changes, personnel, schematically, whatever that is, to adjust their team, and that’s college football.
I think as we start getting here to the next few games, then teams start to solidify themselves.
Q. You talked about hitting an idea early on that this team had the capability of being something special. What was it that gave you to sense?
RYAN DAY: Just day-to-day, the type of people that are here, the type of kids that are here, their work ethic, the way that they motivate each other, the way they work in the weight room, academically, all phases. They’re the kind of kids that you want your family to be around, you want your son to be around. There’s great role models, and my son goes into that locker room and they’re great kids to be around, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
Q. One of the first things you said after the game was Justin left some yards on the field, and he acknowledged that, as well. When you reviewed it on film, what was causing that?
RYAN DAY: Well, there’s a lot that goes into it, and again, it’s experience. We talked about that going in, that we’ve won handily here a couple games, but still, the experience of playing quarterback still doesn’t have a whole bunch under his belt. It’s one thing to do in practice, another thing to do it in a game, and the more reps you have under your belt the more comfortable you are. Going back and looking at the film, on two of those throws, he had a guy right in his face. He did. On the long one to Chris, he had a guy coming right under his arm, and then the touchdown that he missed to Austin, same thing, there was a guy right in his face.
So there’s a lot that goes with that. We’ve got to clean up the protection. We’ve got to clean up the throws. He’s going to have to make throws, when he gets hurt and he gets pressured and he gets hit, but overall he’s managing the game well, and just keep watching the film and learning from it. So much of it is experience at quarterback.
Q. He referenced setting his feet some. If somebody is barreling down in your face maybe that’s hard, but how do you work on that? How do you correct that issue?
RYAN DAY: Well, in practice what we do is we typically have somebody who’s there, out in open space. It’s very, very different for a quarterback like when he’s on 7-on-7 coming up in high school or even in practice when there’s nobody around you and you’re throwing a football. There’s always going to be somebody around you when you’re in a game.
We’ll have people during 7-on-7 kind of standing there and simulate the rush. Sometimes a coach will jump up in front of him and he’ll have to slide his feet, things like that. Sometimes in drills we’ll throw different bags at his feet to make him feel that presence of a body right there. Again, he’s come a long way continually building on that. But again, I think where he is right now is light years ahead of where I thought he’d be. We’ll just keep working those drills, and the more he feels comfortable, the better he’ll be.
Q. I’m not sure how much college football you watched this weekend. You guys probably got in a little bit earlier than we did Saturday, but there were quite a few mistakes late in games that cost teams the opportunity to win. I’m wondering, how much time do you guys spend on creating awareness, building awareness and teaching guys on the field, off the field about those late-game situations?
RYAN DAY: We do a lot of it in the preseason and then in the spring. Preseason we do a bunch of situations where we talk that through and all the different things. Fridays are typically a really good time for us to do that in walk-throughs, where we go through these different situations and go through the plays that we would call in those type of situations. Mike and Kevin are really on top of the game management in terms of the clock, when to take a knee, when not to take a knee. When games like this come up, we’ll talk about it. We’ll actually put the film up, and as a staff talk about what would we do in this situation and what plays would we call, what defenses would we call, and it triggers great conversation.
So I think you can overdo it sometimes with those situations, you know, and become distracted, but you’ve got to have your plan ready to roll, and you’ve got to have great communication, and those decisions should already be made before you go into the game.
Q. You’ve had some freshmen who have already played three games now. How much over the next couple weeks do you have to have conversations about which of these guys should we redshirt and which of these guys should we keep playing all year?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that conversation is going to be happening pretty soon. These guys came here to play, and so we want to play with depth and we want these guys to play. When in doubt, we’re probably going to play them if we think they can help us this season and really create depth. If we think it’s a situation where we’re already three deep at one position and he’s probably not going to get on the field other than maybe at the end of a game, then we probably won’t. We’ll try to be really smart about that. We wouldn’t want to burn anybody’s redshirt, but at the same time, the more experience they get this year, the better they’ll be next year.
Q. What’s kind of your philosophy on that? I know Urban’s philosophy was we really don’t redshirt unless we have to. What’s your philosophy on whether a guy should redshirt and whether that’s beneficial for them?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think when you say we’re going to redshirt this person, they almost start to lose hope a little bit, like okay, I guess I’m not playing this year, so we don’t like to do that. However, with this new four-game rule, it allows the opportunity to get these guys on the field to figure out can they help us this year. And if they can, we want to play them. If they can’t, then usually typically we’ll kind of hold off and wait until it’s an emergency situation or until we need them at that point in the game. But we certainly would not tell somebody at this point of the year, hey, you’re redshirting for the year. We just don’t know. Here are the games you’ve played; if we put you back in a game, it’s because you can really help us win a game or two or three, and then we’ll kind of just make the decisions as they come up.
Q. You touched on Brandon Bowen at the top. For a guy coming off injuries, you seemed pretty pleased with his performance. Is he maybe ahead of schedule, where you expected he would be?
RYAN DAY: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know about ahead of schedule in terms of that. He’s fully cleared and he’s 100 percent. You know, it’s not like we were expecting him to take longer to get going. He came off his injury, he had his surgery last year, and he’s 100 percent.
But I will say that he is practicing at a high level. I think he’s playing strong, and as we start getting into tougher games and the season wears on and his body starts to get worn down a little bit, that’s going to be a big challenge for Brandon, and see if he can withstand the whole season and stay healthy and take care of his body, and so far, so good.
Q. Any more clarity as far as the backup quarterback spot?
RYAN DAY: Not really. I mean, the more Gunnar is here, the more he can learn the offense, then the more he can show what he can do. It’s hard during preparation. The bye week is a little bit better time for that. We can’t really let those guys compete and they kind of split reps with the twos because we’re trying to get the starter ready, but the more that Gunnar can learn the offense and feel comfortable with the terminology, the reads, the progressions, the protections, the better off he’ll be, so no change right now, but he’s learning more and more.
Q. You mentioned Justin being light years beyond where you thought he would be. You meant that just mechanically, and what needed to be fixed there?
RYAN DAY: Nothing needed to be fixed. It’s just, again, when somebody with that little experience comes into a situation like playing quarterback at Ohio State, there’s just a lot of things that go on. There’s a lot of things that he needs to handle, and so far he’s handled them.
But he’s going to quickly learn here is that at Ohio State, the more you win, the more the stakes get higher and higher, and the more is expected. That all comes with it, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I think he handles it well. He’s got good poise, and he and Mike got to get in that room and just keep on working on getting better.
Q. One of the receivers had mentioned preseason that they thought he had a better arm than Haskins. Is there a part of him that still is just learning how to use that arm strength the best way, the right touch, that sort of thing?
RYAN DAY: It’s hard to compare. I mean, arm strength is like saying who hits the longest drive. It doesn’t — it’s not really something that’s that important. I mean, if somebody has significant arm strength issues, that becomes a problem. But for the most part, it’s how quick can the ball get out, how accurate can you be, can you anticipate, can you throw with touch, those type of things. Justin has as strong an arm as he needs, and now it’s just, again, seeing the reads, and the more comfortable you are with your feet, the more comfortable you are with your reads, your progressions, protections, all those things, and just seeing the coverage, the better off he’s going to be.
Q. You knew Justin was very talented. Is there something that there’s just no way you could have known or that he has surprised you or alternatively concerned you?
RYAN DAY: No, not really. I think when you look at the way he approaches his work, he handles it like a pro in terms of knowing when he steps on the field, he can take a meeting to a field. That’s important for a quarterback. There’s a lot of guys who are talented out there, but when you need to take 20 reps to run a play, that’s not good. We throw a lot of offense at him. We’re doing a lot of things on offense right now, and whether it’s the spread stuff or the 12 stuff or under center or shotgun, I would say right now we’re probably doing more stuff now overall than we’ve ever done just in terms of variety, and so for him to be able to handle all that is strong.
Q. You’re playing a team this week that their coach even said on their conference call that if we were playing a recess game, you would have the first 85 picks. I know that guarding against complacency is a major thing here; how do you do that this week?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think you just get on the film and you start it off with what corrections need to be made not only by your unit but also by just — personally, what do you need to work on this week to get better. And then nothing can change, whether it’s game 3, game 7, game 8, human nature tells you to cut corners, tells you to change things, easy to get distracted, a lot of people in your ear. None of that stuff can change. We have momentum right now; we have to keep that going, and we can’t get distracted. Once that happens, then you set yourself up for failure.
That will be the focus this week. It’s not going to be manufactured. We’re not just going to make that up, but we’re just going to hold them accountable like we always have, and that doesn’t change from when we were in the spring to when we were doing preseason workouts. Every day has to be consistent. So far we’ve done that, but it’s something we have to stay on them definitely about.
Q. Is there anything about Justin’s natural throwing motion that would give him a tendency to throw high if he’s not careful?
RYAN DAY: No, not really. I mean, most guys when you look at them coming out of high school, if they over-stride, then they have a tendency to sail the ball. Dwayne was the same way, J.T. was the same way when we first got here. Justin is no different. If you over-stride, typically your elbow drops, that’s why we have the hula-hoops out there, and that’s just something — that’s with any quarterback. So we have baseball nets and different things that we have to drill that. But again, he’s not unique in that situation.
Q. Justin has played well. When we talk to Justin he’s very low key about it, he’s keeping it team focused and all that. Did you tell him to be that way?
RYAN DAY: No, that’s Justin. One thing I tell all the quarterbacks is you’ve got to be yourself. There’s certain characteristics that all leaders have that really good quarterbacks have and traits and virtues, but at the end of the day, you have to believe in who you are and you have to be yourself, and J.T. was very different than Dwayne and Justin is very different than Dwayne or J.T., and so you have to just be yourself in the end.
Now, there’s certain things that we’re all working on to make him be the leader that we need him to be in the end, but that’s with any young quarterback, so we’ll keep working at it. He’s good. He takes to coaching. He’s very intelligent, and again, all we can ask is that he gets better every week.
Q. Along the lines of some of the things asked today, last week when you were talking about this team, you mentioned I think the phrase best in the nation a couple times, that you guys want to be the best in the nation. What context would you like your guys to have in their head of you’ve got to win Saturday, you’ve got to win in the Big Ten, you’ve got to — but do you want a belief or a thought process around here that, yeah, we should be the best in the nation at what we do? Do you want that kind of thought out front?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, for sure. We’ve talked about it before, that we want to be the best at what we do, and we’ve talked about what that means, whether it’s a sniper in the military or the best surgeon. There’s no small surgeries if you’re a surgeon. There’s no small games at Ohio State. If you’re the best in America, you need to show that every week. That’s our goal. And we’re not ashamed to say that. We want to be the best.
But that’s another conversation. How do you go about doing that? And that’s to stay focused on this game and really just this practice. If you can just focus on this practice right now, have a great Tuesday, because when we’ve played good, we’ve had good Tuesday practices, we’ve had good Wednesday practices, and when you put that in the bank, when you get into the game, that’s what you can fall back on.
Q. Earlier several weeks ago the lament was y’all didn’t necessarily have a No. 2 running back who had asserted himself. What kind of sense of relief is it after the last couple games, especially after Saturday, to see Master Teague rise to that occasion?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s relief as much as it was just excitement to see him get going because I think we all kind of had an idea what we had, but it was hard because of these nagging things that were going on and we couldn’t get him practicing and get him going, and then it’s kind of — the way we’ve been talking about it leading up to this week, we said he had, I guess, three, four weeks of practice in and he was just about ready to get going, and he did. And so that was exciting to see for sure.
Now he needs to assert himself and start to be a guy we can count on.
Q. When you look at your defense, Josh Proctor had a couple plays he could have made Saturday on top of it, but who are you seeing that’s really rising there? Obviously Tyreke Smith got banged up again last week. I was wondering what his status was. But how much has been able to play those young guys paid off already early in this season? I’m talking about throughout the defense.
RYAN DAY: Yeah, no, it’s hard to pick out one or two guys because I think they’re all kind of swarming to the ball and different guys have flashed at different times. You know, Josh was in a couple opportunities to make those plays. One of them his eyes were actually looking to match somebody, so it kind of caught him and it looked funky because it hit his knee, but his eyes actually weren’t on the quarterback on that play, but he was in the right spot to make the play. He’s flying around, he’s doing a great job, but there’s a lot of guys over there that are working at it. I think as a defense, we’ve been able to play some of that depth. The depth is getting better. They’re playing better now the more experience they have, but again, when you watch the film, there’s so much to improve on. There’s so many things we’ve got to get cleaned up.
Yeah, I wouldn’t say there’s any one guy, but guys have definitely flashed in their own opportunity when they’ve been out there.
Q. I think three times now you’ve said that, that there’s a lot of things on film. Without causing the empire to top will from within, can you share with us what they are?
RYAN DAY: I wouldn’t say it’s one or two things. It’s just alignment, assignment, execution, fundamentals, just all those things that when we’re focusing on playing hard and playing tough and playing physical, you’re not talking about those other things. You’re not talking about the exact step you’re going to take. We don’t care — knock the guy out, knock the guy over, knock the guy back if you’re an offensive lineman. Take that ball, put it chin, chin, chin and run as hard as you can. Without that, we have no chance. Now, can we do that with also high-end execution, high-end fundamentals, and if we can do that, then we can take the next step.
Q. You made the comment after the game Saturday that you want to correct without creating resentment. Safe to say that’s not been a concern of football coaches down through the ages, maybe some of the ones who coached here, like Woody, Bo at Michigan and others? I wonder where that mindset comes from you. Is that a leadership thing?
RYAN DAY: It’s funny you say that because I actually talked to a bunch of people about Woody Hayes, and he actually from the stories I’ve heard is that he didn’t create resentment, that he was really hard, but he didn’t create resentment, and the players loved him. I think that’s really important is a great coach can make corrections, show someone where they need to improve, but don’t belittle them or make them feel like they’re inferior because they made a mistake. If they’re going really, really hard, here’s how you become great, and that’s really, really important.
With young kids, you have to keep them focused, as well. That’s part of this. But these guys are willing to go hard, and it just goes back to the whole thing about love. I mean, do they fear you, do they love you, and I think right now our guys love us as coaches, we love them, so that’s healthy in my opinion. So that’s our goal this week, make those corrections, don’t create any resentment and keep building.
Q. Bill alluded to Coach Martin’s comment earlier about the recess and you get the first 85 picks. I wonder if ever at New Hampshire or maybe Temple, can you think back on a time where you went into a game where you looked similarly unbalanced in that regard, and what’s the mindset of the coaching staff when you were on that other side?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, I’ve coached a couple different places, and all you’d really do when you look into a game is just try and execute, and you don’t worry so much about all that. I’ve been in that role before. But that has nothing to do with your team, your execution, your motivation, things like that. It’s an opportunity, and every week is an opportunity. You look at it that way, and again, it ends up going back to your training. As hard as you practice, as hard as you work, that’s what you’re going to come back to in the end, and how hard you prepare. Some of our guys on Friday night before the game, they’re up in their room when I’m doing bed check and they’re going through their tips, they’re going through their film, they’re going through stuff to get themselves prepared.
As long as we’re really challenging our guys to make sure they’re doing that in preparation, physically, mentally, emotionally, then playing on the field takes care of itself.
Q. After the game, Justin talked about what he thought he didn’t do well, he also talked about going to J.K. after the dropped touchdown and telling him to let it go. Chris said he also came to him after one of the high passes and took credit for that. I’m curious just his improvement as a leader, you talked preseason about needing to see more of that. Have you seen that as the season has kind of gotten underway and taking that ownership?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think so. I think so. And the guys on the team really respect him and the way he goes about his business. Yeah, I saw that same thing, too. It’s easy to go in the tank after a play like that. It’s kind of a routine play. We didn’t make it. And as frustrating as that is, we need to move on to play the next play. That’s a credit to all the guys, that there’s no reason to look back on it and start to struggle in terms of moving forward. You’ve got to move on to the next play. That being said, we’ve got to make those plays. So that’s what we’ll drill this week.
Q. In hockey they have the Gordie Howe hat trick and a goal assist and a fight. Do you think Chris Olave could start like the daily double, TD catch and a blocked punt? Is what he’s doing starting to become, I don’t know, legend?
RYAN DAY: Well, certainly the last six games he’s had, his production has been off the charts. But that’s the way he practices. When you go back through and watch the film over the last few weeks, he’s practicing that way. This is a guy who is highly productive for a reason, because that’s the way he works. He knows what he’s doing when he’s out there. He takes the job very serious, and he practices really, really hard. Any time you practice really, really well you gain the confidence of the guys around you, and like on that punt block, I think everybody on that team believed he would block the punt if everybody did their job, so Teradja Mitchell goes through and knocks the shield back, Austin Mack pours it into the right shield, and that whole thing collapsed down. Without those two guys, that never would have happened. And then Chris comes off the edge.
It’s belief based on your practice habits. If we’re throwing a go ball or throwing a post and we’re dropping it in practice or we’re not where we’re supposed to be, there’s no belief there. But when you do it in practice and you believe in somebody, then that makes a big difference in game because confidence is critical, especially when you’ve got this time to execute on the game field.