OSU VS Wisconsin
Ohio State University Football Media Conference
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Talk about your team’s ability to refocus every week. Has that been impressive, more so than execution?
RYAN DAY: I think our staff has done a good job week in and week out of talking to the guys about how important it is to come every week. The leadership is the guys who drive that on the team. Their buy-in right now is pretty high.
You’re only as good as your last game. We have to keep that going. I think up to this point we’ve been playing with energy, but that goes to how we have been practicing. We have to go out today and have a great practice.
Q. What has been your biggest pleasant surprise on either side of the ball through seven games?
RYAN DAY: Nothing that strikes me other than what we talked about in terms of the chemistry, the leadership, the buy-in, the way the guys are working together, the energy that they have. That part has been great.
There’s a great culture here right now. I think guys enjoy playing, they enjoy practicing, all those things. That part has been great. There’s a lot of things that guys have done well. You try not to reflect too much on all that right now. Huge game in front of us right here. We have to stay locked in.
Q. Baron Browning, is he dealing with some type of injury or something else?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, it’s an injury. He’s working through it. He looks good so far, so…
Q. Wisconsin lost the game that was not expected. How does that affect the way you prepare the team and what do you say to them about Wisconsin?
RYAN DAY: We know how good they are on both sides of the ball, all three phases. They got great players on both sides of the ball, NFL players. Last week is what it is.
This is college football. You have to bring it every week. It’s the same thing with us. We have to bring it this week. It’s going to be our best game of the year, our biggest challenge on both sides of the ball. We have to prepare better than we have all year.
We know this is a good team. I mean, they played against teams we played against. You can compare the competition. They’ve done a really good job.
Obviously it starts with the running back and the run game on offense, then it goes to what Coach Leonhard is doing on defense. They do a great job.
We’ve gone up against them before. We know schematically they’re tough, they’re smart. All of the above.
Q. Wisconsin’s defense, first or highest sack rate in the country. What is it about the way they play?
RYAN DAY: They got really good rushers on the edge. Baun does a great job in one-on-one situations. He’s very active, powerful, especially in third down. Those linebackers do a great job, as well, adding on or blitzing in different situations.
But the secondary is very talented, as well. You have to hang onto the ball maybe a little bit longer than you want to. But again, it goes back to personnel and scheme. When you combine the two of those things, you get what you see in terms of the statistics.
Q. Your offense obviously is playing very well. The one number that is out of whack for you guys is how many sacks you’ve given up. How do you feel about your pass protection? Let us in a little bit on how you communicate that, trying to get the right protection.
RYAN DAY: I think it’s a combination of a few things that have gone on this year. Some of it’s protection. Some of it also is that Justin tries to create. He works through his reads. Then there’s times where he wants to extend and create. That’s okay, too. It’s not the end of the world.
Sometimes on third down, if he’s looking to create, if we take a sack… Also times in the big third down he got, third and 14, he avoided a sack. Probably could have thrown the ball away there. He didn’t. He avoided the sack. Keeps his eyes downfield, finds K.J. for a first down.
There are some things we have to clean up in protection, as well.
Q. How do you feel about the way Justin sees the presnap and he and Josh communicate that to everybody else?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, the center makes the call. Justin is onboard with that. He can also trump him at any point. They communicate that. We spend a lot of time on protection, making sure we’re identifying where the pressure is coming from. Those guys have done an excellent job, in my opinion, of communicating the protection.
We’ve held onto the ball a little bit longer this year. That’s by design.
Q. You talked about Dawand after the game. He’s such an interesting athlete. You used him on the field goal block. Could be an extra guy in short yardage or something. Is it worth going beyond four games with him to come up with a role or have one more left with him?
RYAN DAY: He’ll probably go more than four just because he is very talented. We want to get him in some of these games when we can. His ceiling is very high. We want his development to continue.
I really think it’s important for these guys to play. Again, we won’t be foolish with this and waste the year. At the same time the more these guys can play, I think you saw that in the first quarter, on both sides of the ball, guys were into it, we were playing hard, competing.
That goes back to six or seven games of guys playing, being on film, getting better, having that hope they are going to play in a game as opposed to going through six or seven games without ever actually getting on the field. That can kind of stunt people’s development.
We’re going to play him, if it makes sense. We also don’t want to be foolish.
Q. Thayer didn’t look like he was on full speed. Getting him involved, the way he was able to respond, how significant was that?
RYAN DAY: It was gritty, tough. Thayer played for his teammates, which goes to show you what kind of kid he is. Great kid, unselfish. I think the day off was great for him. He’s feeling good. Should be ready to go this week.
Q. Obviously Wisconsin has succeeded at a pretty high rate in this conference. Ohio State has been another tier above that. As a head coach, how much do you feel that is part of your calling to keep a gap between Ohio State and programs like this one?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know about all that. I just know if you just lock in on right now, that’s what matters, playing this game. I think at the end of the year you kind of come up for air, start to look at different things.
We’ve said all along is all we’re going to do is focus on this week, being 1-0. I know it sounds clichÃ©, but it’s real. We have to stay locked in on this, can’t worry about what this game means or doesn’t mean. Just worry about what we are doing in terms of on our assignments, motivation, guys practicing hard, getting ourselves ready physically, mentally, emotionally, and play a really hard game at noon.
Q. What about their quarterback?
RYAN DAY: He’s playing at a high level, doing a good job on third down. Keeping them on schedule first and second down. He can throw. Has some weapons out there.
Obviously Taylor is the guy that gets him going, but Coan has done an excellent job of managing that offense. He’s a good player. I think as the team goes, it’s between Taylor and Coan, they’re the guys that get these guys going. Cephus on the perimeter in one-on-one situations is a matchup issue. They have weapons and a really good scheme, as well.
Q. When Justin entered the transfer portal, it was a very short amount of time, condensed recruitment almost. You looked at him when he was in high school. How much did you know about him during that short amount of time? What did you have to do to familiarize yourself enough to know he’s a guy you want and need?
RYAN DAY: We did a bunch of homework on him when he was coming out. He was committed to Penn State. Decommitted from Penn State. At that point is when we kind of got involved with that recruitment, got to know he and his family.
At that time we kind of knew enough about him. His high school coach is somebody that I’ve known for a while, somebody that when I recruited the school back when I had Atlanta, I knew those guys.
Once we saw that he was in the portal, we kind of already knew about him, knew his family. Moved pretty quick. It all worked out.
Q. During the recruiting process, maybe now that the transfer portal is becoming a thing, how much do you rely on evaluations yourself from people that worked with him at the Elite 11 camp circuit? How much credence do you give to these guys?
RYAN DAY: I think any time you are trying to figure out, especially quarterback, you use as many tools as you can. Coaches in the area, guys that have played against him, coaches he’s had, teammates. Like you said, some of these Elite 11s, rivals camps, people who work with these guys, you can get great information.
Sometimes it’s somebody who you wouldn’t even know, somebody that was just kind of there watching, he’s an assistant coach from a local school. I saw that guy. He did something really good after the workout, he went over and did something, showed respect, shook someone’s hand, maybe the other way.
That’s good recruiting. You ask as many questions about these guys as you can because you have limited time in front of them, time you can contact them during the recruiting period.
Q. A lot of these people in those circles are thinking he’s one of the most advanced prospects they’ve ever seen. What was your take when he was in high school? From a dual-threat standpoint, is he the most complete prospect at that position you’ve ever seen or is that going too far?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know. I mean, I know that he does have a lot of tools, he has a lot of talent. I don’t know. There’s a lot of talented guys out there. What they do with their talent in terms of creating discipline and skill is what’s critical. He’s in the process of doing that.
But I don’t know. I mean, I guess I haven’t sat down and thought about where he ranks with some of the other quarterbacks coming out of high school. Certainly No. 1 recruit in the country. Got a lot of respect coming out.
Q. I’m guessing the TCU game last year feels like a million years away. This arguably is the biggest challenge since that game. Do you look back to say, I have come a long way as that coach to today? Have you seen an evolution?
RYAN DAY: I try not to think about things like that when I’m driving to and from work and all that because there’s so much going on that we need to get done in terms of on a daily basis, in terms of tasks.
That does seem like a long time ago. A lot of things have happened since then. Again, the more you do something, the more normal it becomes. You find your voice. But then more importantly, you get a feel for the guys that you’re with, the staff, the players, the leaders.
It changes every day, especially when you’re dealing with 19-, 20-year-old kids. Every day you come to work it changes. You might have a thought of, Here is how I think the week is going to go. You get there, It’s not going to go that way.
Sometimes you really get that feel midway through the week, here is what’s team is feeling, what they need at that time. You go from there. That’s good leadership.
I think that’s something that I really got a good feel for and rhythm as time has gone on, is getting a feel for the team, their personalities as the weeks have gone on.
Q. What is the one thing you didn’t see coming TCU to here? Maybe not even the football side.
RYAN DAY: I don’t think there’s one thing I would say that jumps off as you ask me right now that has caught me off guard. I’d have to probably think about that and get back to you.
Certainly things pop up here and there that you have to be able to adjust to.
Q. Alumni meetings?
RYAN DAY: The people around here are great. I love some of the people that we deal with here. They’re great people. Our administration is unbelievable. It’s part of the gig. I love every part of it.
Q. The week of the Miami game you were asked and said that you thought this team could be something special. How much of what has happened since then convinced you of that?
RYAN DAY: I think each week I feel more and more confident about what we’re talking about. But again, it all goes back to what we do this week. I try not to get over my skis in that, start talking about all that too much.
I do think that’s the case, we have a special group of guys that can be great. Again, it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t perform week in and week out. We have a huge challenge this week. It’s going to be tough, hard. These guys are physical. We’re going to have to bring it in every single way. If we just stay focused on that, all those things are going to come down the road we can look back on.
I mean, you cannot let one get away. This is going to be as hard as it gets. These guys are coming off a tough loss, they’re going to be more hungry than ever coming in here. I read a few of the articles saying they have something to prove more and more as we get closer to this game. It’s going to take everything we have to win this thing.
Q. The conventional wisdom is true, that a team coming off after loss is more dangerous?
RYAN DAY: I think there are always issues on film. It’s really the job of the coaching staff and leaders to make sure that we address those issues. There were issues in the Northwestern game. Can we address those issues and get better from those issues and understand and be open to criticism and be self-reflective in order to get those issues addressed.
Sometimes after a loss, they’re a little bit more attentive to those things, something that we’ve been hammering with our guys. Let’s not let it take a loss for us to understand issues because they’re always there on film. That’s what Sundays are for. Once we have our victory meal, we turn onto the next team.
Q. You and Kevin have dealt with Wisconsin. You know what’s worked, what hasn’t. What kind of value does Mike Yurcich bring?
RYAN DAY: Big-time. He’s always got really good ideas. Always coming up and drawing stuff on the board, coming up with different things. It’s always good to have great ideas. That’s what Sunday, Monday, Tuesday are for, is coming up with different things to attack the defense with.
But the end of the day, it comes down to execution, how we install that, making sure guys are locked in and can execute at a high level.
Q. What has been the most adversity you have overcome this year?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know if it’s any one thing. There’s different things that come up on a week-to-week basis. We’re going to have some even more as we move forward.
I think some of these games have gotten sideways pretty quick. There’s nothing to be ashamed of there. Guys are working really hard. We’ve had practices that we’re not proud of that we had to tighten up on and different things. But they’re coming.
Q. When you’re going up against a defense like this that’s ranked No. 1 in the country, do you view this as an opportunity to see how good this offense can really be?
RYAN DAY: I think it’s always a good benchmark to figure out where you’re at. This is the No. 1 defense in the country. We consider ourselves to be one of the top offenses in the country. Find out where we’re at.
I think it is. You want to play good. You have to make sure you take care of the ball against guys like this. You got to be physical. You got to take care of it, for sure. Got to play good situational. They do a really good job on third down, in the red zone. They’re really physical. They got talent on the edges.
Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge for our guys. We have to answer the bell.
Q. Cade Stover, Steele Chambers, where are you in terms of those guys?
RYAN DAY: Same thing, we’ll look at the game plan and see if it makes sense to get them in there to help us win. If that’s the case, well definitely do that. We don’t just want to put guys in there and take a bunch of reps that will be a waste of a season.
Q. In a few of these games recently you have I don’t want to say struggled in the first quarter, but maybe not put up as many points as do you in the second. Take us inside the sidelines and the conversations you’re having as you’re looking at defenses, how you make the changes that has allowed to second quarter explosion.
RYAN DAY: I think we play against good teams, against good defenses. My wife said, It’s a tough first quarter. I looked, 10 minutes, we scored a touchdown, four minutes into the game we scored a touchdown. It wasn’t that bad (smiling).
The standard is pretty high around here. We score 52 and it’s like we were really slow in the first quarter. Okay, that’s a good problem to have. Nobody rises to low expectations.
We play against good teams. This is another good defense. Northwestern I think was the 30th ranked team in the country going in. They’re good. Sometimes it takes a while to work through that stuff. When teams are fresh, they have good schemes, it takes a little time.
I’m glad the expectations are high around here.
Q. Are you communicating, This is what we thought might work, let’s switch to this?
RYAN DAY: Of course, of course. It’s conversations about matchups, schematics, what’s going on, rhythm, is this a good play, not a good play, where are we at in the game. Yeah, all those things are being talked about.
Q. I’m assuming you watched the Wisconsin-Illinois game?
RYAN DAY: I did.
Q. What was your thought process during the game? Were you hoping Wisconsin would win? Did you care?
RYAN DAY: It’s one of those things where you watch the games. I try not to root for anybody. You just kind of watch it like a fan.
Yeah, I thought Illinois played well. I thought Wisconsin played really well at times. They turned the ball over a little bit there towards the end. Illinois and Coach Smith did a great job of getting those guys ready to go at home. That’s college football. We’ve been on the other side of that. We know all about that.
Just watching the game to kind of get my eyeballs on it.
Q. Does that reinforce what you’ve been preaching to your team all along, that anything can happen?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, of course. Again, we know exactly what that means. A lot of teams are the same way. That’s why you have to bring it every week. It’s tough.
Again, there’s a lot of great teams in the Big Ten. They come. To win a game on the road in the Big Ten is really hard. To win at home is really hard. Really good coaches, really good players, recruit really well, have really good schemes. It’s hard. It’s going to be that way again this week.
Q. As hard as you make sure your team keeps their nose to the grindstone, does it give you more of an appreciation of what you’ve been able to do, not even a close call yet?
RYAN DAY: I know we’re excited the way that the game played out Friday night for sure. Coming off the bye, I thought the energy was good, the way we finished the first half was good, the way we finished out the game was solid. That’s been great.
Again, it doesn’t matter till you get to the end of the season. When you look back on the body of work, where are we at? It’s easy to say we’re doing great, but there’s a lot of football left to be played. All that can go out the window if they don’t show up again on Saturday.
Q. When you watch Wisconsin with this No. 1 ranked defense, it gave up some big plays against Illinois, basic plays, do you think that helps your offense’s confidence going into a game like this, knocking on wood, it will be there?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think we always have a good game plan going in that we feel confident about. We believe if we do these type of things, we do have confidence we should be able to move the ball. That’s part of who we are.
But this is a good defense. It’s hard to find areas to attack them. They’re good in all areas. It’s going to be hard. Illinois did find a couple things. But that’s why we spend so much time game planning, making sure we go through everything.
Q. What is it about their defense that stands out most? Seem to play you straight up.
RYAN DAY: They’re so stout up front. Those guys up front, Loudermilk, Orr, they’re strong and powerful in there. They win the line of scrimmage, they have a two-gapping mindset. They always have an extra gap in there.
In the back end, I think they’re very, very well-coached. Coach Leonhard does a really good job of their leverage, the way they drive on things, their pad matching. A combination of scheme, toughness and execution.
Q. When you have to play Nicholas Petit-Frere fourth tackle, what is the benefit of that silver lining?
RYAN DAY: That we’ve built depth there. That was our fourth tackle, like you said. That’s pretty amazing that we can put our fourth tackle in the game against Northwestern, against a pretty good front right there, still kind of hang in there.
He didn’t have a perfect game, didn’t grade a champion. He was competing the best he could. Thayer supplemented him in the second quarter, which was great. We even got Dawand in there at the end.
Building depth from day one was going to be critical. They’re all going to play. I didn’t know how they were all going to play, but they are. It was good to see Nick step up.
Q. You guys lead the nation in third down conversion rates for offense. Why is that an area your offense is able to succeed at?
RYAN DAY: I think ideally when we stay on schedule, it’s third and manageable, that gives us our best chance. We have an opportunity to run or pass, which is always good. When you start to get in third-and-longs, now it’s a little bit more always going to be a pass, they can tee off a little bit.
Staying on schedule is critical for us. Our guys have done a pretty good job in protection. Justin has done a good job of creating, giving guys more time downfield to get open. For the most part our receivers have competed well on third down.
Q. Wisconsin as a third down defense, first in the country. What challenges will they pose for you guys?
RYAN DAY: Pass-rush is really good. Baun coming off the edges, dynamite. He’s really good. He’s not the only one. They have other guys, good scheme, good challenge. They’re not afraid to get up in your mug and challenge you, disrupt the route. They don’t miss. When they get in there, they get a shot on you, they don’t miss.
Q. J.K. mentioned before the season he wanted to be the best running back in the nation. Going up against Jonathan Taylor, a matchup where both running backs are playing against each other, is that a matchup he looks forward to?
RYAN DAY: You’ll have to ask him. I know he’s very competitive. I’m proud of the way he’s prepared and entered into the season up to this point.
But, yeah, he’s competitive. I think he wants to compete against everybody. The fact that he wants to be the best running back in the country, good for him. That’s the way he should think about it. But you have to ask him about that.
Q. As the game was wearing on against Northwestern, you were scoring in two and three plays. How do you ingrain in Justin this week that it’s going to require patience and 10 or 12 plays, not forcing a ball into a bad spot?
RYAN DAY: I think the bigger the game, the more emphasis on the plan to win. Play great defense, which for us is trying to get two first downs, get the ball to midfield, then possibly punt from there, then pin them inside, play great defense. It’s a game of field position.
Then turnovers is the second thing. We got to do a great job in taking care of the football. Any time you give the ball up in big games like that, that’s when it can go sideways.
We have to play well in the red zone, got to score touchdowns. I thought they did a good job of that last week. It’s going to be even harder this week.
Got to play well in the kicking game.
The bigger the game, the more the emphasis on those points. When we’ve done a good job with that, things have gone well.
Q. Nobody saw Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois coming. You can pick out interceptions, mistakes by players. With all the time you put into this, planning, when you get to Saturday, how much control do you really think you have over what happens?
RYAN DAY: I think by the time you get to Saturday, the hay is in the barn. By the time you get to that field, the work that’s been done in terms of game planning, installing, practicing Tuesday, the first and second down game plan, then doing a good job on Wednesday with third down and red zone, polishing it up on Thursday. From there Friday is all about tips, tests, film, making sure guys are prepared physically as much as mentally.
Once you get to that point, all the decisions are made, game plan is done. That’s where it’s really important. That’s where we’ve been focusing, once you get to the game, you kind of sync to the level of training. I’ve always believed that.
There’s no magical plays. It’s about how well can you execute them, how well do the guys know them, how do they fit, put your best players in with a chance to be successful.
Q. When you get to Saturday, are you more relaxed than you are through the week with less control?
RYAN DAY: A little bit more relaxed on a Friday because you put so much work into it. As it gets to the game, you’re in the moment, adrenaline is pumping, rolling pretty good when you get in there, that’s the competitor in you.
I feel the stress earlier in the week. I know the decisions that have to be made, the plays, execution, installation, what we practice, all those things are critical to how well we play on Saturday.
Q. You gave us an amusing anecdote about your wife. Haven’t lost yet. Because of that control thing, inevitably I assume, unless you’re the greatest of all time, you’ll eventually lose a game somewhere. Will you be able to handle that better than you handled it as an assistant coach or…
RYAN DAY: No, I’ll feel it more. I’ll feel it more. It’s one of those things you worry about. You feel anxious about it sometimes. All you can do is as you get closer to the game is go and be aggressive as you can, go fight as hard as you can, be the competitor. That’s what you do. You try not to worry about that stuff.
In the back of your mind, you understand what’s at stake. The people that are counting on you to do well, the expectations here, I get all of that. I told you that from the beginning.
At the end of the day when you’re in it, you can’t worry about that. You just have to go as hard as you can, fight as hard as you can, trust everything you’re doing is going to work.
Q. Along those lines, no offense to anywhere else you’ve been, but almost everywhere in football losing is part of the deal, Boston College, Temple, New Hampshire, NFL. What was it like when you got here for the first time and the deal is you can’t lose? Was that any kind of adjustment? The way this system is set up at a place like this, a loss can kill you.
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, I guess there’s a little bit of an adjustment there. At the same time it’s all about what your expectations are, and every place has their own expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, it’s a failure.
The expectations here are as high as they can be. You have to accept that, figure out the culture, how that makes sense, how to put the guys in the best position to meet those expectations. You go from there.
Q. Justin throwing the ball, you have made a lot of the look easy, throws from the hash to the far sideline. That looks like it’s there for you guys a lot. It can’t be as easy to execute as you make it look. What is required for you to be able to do that repeatedly?
RYAN DAY: I think the timing and the work that’s put in during the week of understanding the structure of the defense, where the ball needs to go. I think Justin has done a good job of seeing, Okay, here is the coverage, this is where the ball needs to go. I think the receivers have done a good job spreading out the routes, creating separation, but also the protection that comes with it.
The passing game can look foolish if there’s no protection. It all comes down to identifying what it is, practicing it, then being competitive during the game. That’s kind of what’s gone on so far. We have to keep that going.
Q. What is the arm strength any quarterback has to have to make that throw look easy?
RYAN DAY: Arm strength is a funny thing. Being a quarterback, we can talk for hours about what really arm strength is. It’s not the strength of your arm physically, it’s all about sequencing, how you can take energy from the ground up. He does an excellent job of that.
So much of it has to do with your footwork, making sure your cleats are in the ground, you’re driving the football. Some guys have naturally better whip than other guys, push the ball down the field.
There’s a certain level of just natural ability and understanding that. A lot of it is coaching and understanding the footwork, timing of the footwork to make sure the ball comes out at the right time with the right pace.
Q. He’s been good at that?
RYAN DAY: He’s been very good at that. Is he perfect? No. He’s doing a good job so far.
Q. Jonathan Taylor, why is he good?
RYAN DAY: Why isn’t he good? He’s strong, fast, can change direction, powerful, guys bounce off of him, runs with an attitude. A lot of guys that big don’t have the agility he has. He has good agility. He can run away. He’s good out of the backfield. He’s caught the ball. He’s kind of an all-purpose back.
Q. One of the issues last year seemed to be stopping the run. How do you see your ability to stop the run this year?
RYAN DAY: I know this is going to be the biggest challenge of the year. It’s a major challenge for the guys up front, the front seven, and the secondary. These guys are big, strong, physical. They’re going to try to move us off the ball. Obviously Taylor is as good as there is in the country.
We’ll find out after Saturday, find out where we’re at with this thing. I think we’ve done a good job of defeating blocks, winning the line of scrimmage. This will be the ultimate test when you play Wisconsin.
Q. Master Teague is fifth in the Big Ten in rushing. Did you expect him to have this type of impact so early on?
RYAN DAY: Didn’t have a lot of expectations other than getting him healthy and seeing what he could do. He is a good change of pace. He’s done a good job of when he goes in there running with his pads down. When he gets in the open field, he’s done a good job of pulling away.
But he put a lot of work in in terms of with Tony, understanding the different schemes, where to hit this thing. Last year at this time didn’t really see some of those hits. He’s doing a good job with his footwork, seeing the holes, hitting the hole. He’s done a great job.
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