— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) August 6, 2019
RYAN DAY: Our prayers and thoughts are with those who got affected by the tragedies in Dayton, El Paso…and how mental health is squarely in the news…and that’s why I have decided to grow awareness…to break these stigmas because it shows itself so many different ways.
I think it’s just really, really important. I just want to send out prayers and thoughts to all those involved.
Q. We saw today a freshman offensive line run in one group, Harry Miller was with the one ones and the twos. What is put in there?
RYAN DAY: Just mostly depth. Mostly on our depth we were trying to get some of the younger guys or threes just more and more work. We just — maybe tomorrow he’ll go over with the other group. We’re just trying to break those guys up. We have such big numbers now on the O-line. It went from being very thin in the spring to an influx of guys over there.
It’s such a developmental position, and we just want to make sure they get enough reps.
Q. Brandon is back at right tackle, which we saw this spring. How do you balance wanting the best five and his versatility? Will you try him at left guard, right guard, or do you want him at right tackle?
RYAN DAY: He’s at right tackle now. The good thing for Brandon is he’s got a lot of versatility, so he’s playing some different positions for us. A lot of the calls are the same, so you can kind of move — if you understand the offense and understand the calls, a double team on the front side is very similar to a double team on the backside. Pass protection it’s a little different, but he’s done both. I think he feels confident really for the first time on that leg, which is great for him, and so he’s practicing with a lot of energy right now.
Q. Mike Yurcich, everybody talks about you replacing Urban, but he replaces you. What did you see in him? How would you guys work through this idea of he called plays the last six years and that’s not going to happen. How did that go? And just talk about what you’ve brought.
RYAN DAY: Yeah, you know, early on in the process when we sat down and talked, he wanted to be a part of Ohio State. He’s an Ohio native, his wife, and so they wanted to come back home. But they also wanted to be part of Ohio State and wanted to be a Buckeye. And so early on we just talked about how much respect we have for each other and that we’re going to do this thing together. We’re going to coach those guys together, and then as time goes on and he understands our system because we are going to keep our system our system, then he’ll kind of be able to run with it a little bit more and more. He was a little bit more involved in the spring, and then I think as we go into next year, be less and less involved.
But he’s understanding of that. He’s got great ideas. He comes in with unbelievable ideas, has really good energy on the field. I think he’s done a good job of building relationships with those guys in a short period of time because it’s a unique situation.
But his track record speaks for itself. So his ideas and thoughts and different issues that he’s run into and different games I think is going to be a huge asset for us.
Q. Were you looking for a clone of yourself or did you want something different?
RYAN DAY: The number one thing is it’s hard because as you get guys who have experience, sometimes they want to do it their way, and we’re going to do it the way that we do it here, but when there’s good ideas and we can enhance the scheme, we’ll do that. So that was the first thing. It’s hard to find somebody with a lot of experience who’s willing to do kind of it our way. So that was the first thing. And then somebody that innovative and who wants to learn but also has so much to bring to the table, and that’s hard to find out there. Typically it’s either an older guy who wants to do it their way or it’s somebody who’s younger who doesn’t quite have the experience and enough to bring to the table. So I thought he was a perfect fit that way, and he’s been so far.
Q. Damon Arnette seemed like he was all the way out the door after the Rose Bowl to leave. Said he was even preparing at one point to find an apartment in Dallas. How surprised were you guys as a staff when he changed course there and decided to come back?
RYAN DAY: Well, we weren’t surprised because we sat down and spent a lot of time talking to him. We all believed in our hearts that if somebody should go play in the NFL like Dwayne or obviously Nick, those are things we support, and we obviously want to be there for them.
But we sat down and didn’t think that was the best thing for Damon and gave him all the reasons why. Had a lot of people involved with the conversation. He had to meet Jeff, and I think once he met Jeff, they had a long conversation in the hall, were in the staff meeting, and he walked in and said, I’m coming back, and the whole staff went crazy. It was a big deal for us.
He also had to do a bunch of work this spring. Truth be told, he had a lot of work to do, and he dug himself out of that hole and got a whole bunch of credits this spring, had to get a few classes this summer and he just graduated the other day. So I’m really proud of where he is.
This is one of those stories that I hope we’re saying at this time next year about how he dug himself out of a hole academically, came around and had a really great senior year because I’m proud of where he’s at.
Q. What does that mean for the rotation there? You’ve got Okudah and Arnette and then maybe looking for a third guy instead of a different guy to be the second starter maybe? What does it mean to have him back?
RYAN DAY: Well, yeah, it’s huge, because you have Damon, you have Shaun, you have Jeff, you have some of those young guys that are pushing like Sevyn and those guys. Really talented.
And now you can actually put them all on the field together if you want, which it’s pretty good out there. That was a big deal for us, and so now that — just veteran guys have to play veteran, though. He’s got to go play now at that level, and I think he will.
Q. You have a good group of veteran receivers coming back that I’m sure you’ll be counting on. Who are some inexperienced wide receivers that you feel like have to step up for you this year?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, the younger guys are Ellijah Gardiner, Jaylen Harris. They’ve been in the program here for a couple years, so now it’s time for them to step up and really help on special teams, fill that gap there, but then also help on the field at receiver. Jaylen plays X and Ellijah plays Z, and it’s about time.
And they’ve shown some improvement. They’ve done some good things and flashed a couple — the first practices. But then there’s also the young guys, Jaelen Gill and then Garrett and Jameson. Jameson is a little bit behind because he just got here and didn’t have the opportunity to go through the whole spring, but he’s flashed, and we think Garrett is going to help us this year.
Q. Looking at your roster, you have so many fifth-year seniors, guys that are going to make an impact. It seems likes that’s pretty rare, but I imagine that’s a good thing to have so many experienced veteran guys, so many older guys to lean on?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, it’s funny, there’s kind of like two different models. There’s the guy who comes in and kind of plays in his first three years and leaves, the Nick and the Dwayne, but then there’s also the guys that get developed and hang in here for five years. Both add really positives to the program, but it’s great to have older guys.
We play against some teams in our league who make a living off of fifth-year seniors. They’re 22-year-old men, and sometimes we’re playing with freshmen because they are so talented we want to get them on the field right away, and they’re 18-year-olds.
So I think it’s good to have a good influx of older guys, guys who are 21, 22 years old that are men who will bring leadership and chemistry.
Q. Ryan, you guys talked a lot about Harry in the spring even though he wasn’t here yet. How realistic is it that he might be a key contributor for you guys as a freshman, and how do you feel about the depth at center? It seemed like he was there and Matthew had moved over to guard. In your mind should he be your No. 2 center this year behind Josh?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know. I don’t know if he should be. I think that he has the ability to. I think he’s going to have to continue to grow as the season goes on. I do see him getting on the field. How much will be dependent upon our depth, injuries, how the season goes, a lot of different things, and how he develops in the next couple weeks.
But he has the ability. He’s very intelligent. He can process, he can bend, he can do those things. We have a couple guys in there that are candidates to be the backup center, but right now he’s doing a good job. He’s learning quickly, and I think once we get through this week we’ll have a better idea, but so far he’s fit in good. He understands it.
But for a center there’s a lot as a freshman. There’s a lot of calls, there’s just a lot going on, you have to snap the ball, and a lot of added responsibility there. You know, even Josh as a freshman, he was a little overwhelmed, and now he’s really found his stride, and I’m really proud of the way Josh Myers is practicing right now. But that took a little time. And even Billy, Mike, they started at guard and they moved to center. So there’s a lot going on at center, but he’s a guy, he’s got a high capacity, and I think he’ll do fine.
Q. This is kind of a similar question about a different guy. I think most people understand offensive line takes a little longer than some other positions to develop, but Nick Petit-Frere was one of the top high school players in the country. Does that factor into how you project him, and should he be ready to start now because he was a top-10 national prospect, even though it does take time for linemen, typically a little longer for people to —
RYAN DAY: Yeah, sometimes when the recruits get in here as freshmen, we have them come up in front of the team and introduce themselves, and then some of the guys will say, How many stars did you have, and the minute it comes out of their mouth, they all yell out, We don’t care. Not right in those words, but you can just imagine what they say. Nobody cares. Stars don’t mean a thing. It’s like being a first- or second-round draft pick. You have to produce. This is a game of production.
But that being said, Nick has put on 20 pounds. He’s improved immensely. He’s been developed. He’s doing a really good job. I’m really proud of where he’s at, and I think he’s going to really help us this year, and he’s battling hard to be a starter right now.
Q. Just to piggy-back a little bit, does Garrett Wilson — I think people feel like he is going to earn respect — I know stars don’t matter, but he’s supposed to have that certain talent to be able to play immediately and that he might even be good enough to flash and jump over some guys who have been in the program. Do you feel that from him? Do you see that? Is it too early?
RYAN DAY: Well, the good thing for us is we had him in the spring, so we saw him flash. He does have a lot of ability. Because he has so much talent, he has to learn how to develop discipline and skill. That’s critical for him. We sat down and had those conversations. He’s working on it, but he has a lot of talent, and so we’ve lost a couple guys there, and so we’re going to have to play depth this year like we always have. He’s fighting right now for a backup spot and an opportunity to play because if you’re a backup receiver at Ohio State you’re playing a lot of football, the way we rotate those guys. He’s right there right now, and how he practices over the next couple weeks is going to determine how much he plays, but he’s flashed for sure.
Q. Demario McCall, I know he’s going to be used in the kicking game some and he’s a running back and maybe he could go to H, but when you look at just like contributing on offense, there’s some guys in front of him that aren’t going to come off the field much just based on who they are. What is a realistic way that you could envision using him if he’s healthy, if he flashes? Is he somebody that could get a 15-snap type situation a game?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, without giving away too many things, the first thing he’s got to do is he’s got to become the backup running back. That’s the first thing he has to do, and that’s what he’s working on right now. But he’s worked at receiver for different camps, whether it was spring camp, bowl practice or preseason.
So he has a wide variety of skills, and so there’s a lot of things that we can do with him. You saw that toward the end of last year.
We’re really just focusing on him being the backup running back because J.K. can’t handle all of that by himself; he’s going to need help. And so if we can find a legitimate backup running back — which we really don’t have right now. We don’t have that. We have a lot of guys battling for it, but we do not have a legitimate backup running back right now. And if he can win that job, then that’ll be his role and then we can expand that as we go, and if he doesn’t then we have to figure out a package for him. But that’s kind of the backup role right now that is critical for us on offense to try to figure out who that is.
Q. Do you have to have him on the field in some capacity or the other?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know if we have to have him on the field, but he’s a weapon. But he didn’t practice in the spring, and he’s done some good things. And again, do I think he has a chance to be a good player? Yes. I just think that he’s got to prove it.
Q. Defense had their struggles last year. Basically the same guys are back in camp this year. Are you seeing anything out of them the first few days, any kind of attitude, chip on their shoulder?
RYAN DAY: Well, I saw I think four interceptions today. That was really good to see. I think Josh Proctor had two and Jordan had another one. I think there was another one in there somewhere, too. They’re flying to the ball. They’re making plays on the ball. They’re playing with vision, and they’re producing right now. And so there’s a lot of energy that way.
I think there’s a good attitude, leadership up front, and then the linebackers are really working on being tough, creating an edge. We’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to tackle. And so I do, I see that. I think it’s a hungry group, but again, you really don’t know until you start playing games, but there’s a lot of positive momentum right now.
Q. With basically four new starters on the offensive line, we see Jonah looks like a guy who can be a one-year plug-and-play guy for you. But talking about Nick as we talked before but also Josh and Wyatt, they’re young, but when you think about offensive line recruiting, when you think about development, if you end up with three new starters on the offensive line who are all top-50 national recruits, and again, you throw the stars out the window, but is there something here of how you would like to recruit offensive line, how you would like to develop offensive line that if those are the young guys coming up fighting to start, does that look like how you want it to look?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, for sure. We want to recruit big guys who are athletic, and I think when you look at offensive linemen nowadays, you see very athletic guys. Even the big guy — well, a great example of the three guys that we just brought in this year, Harry Miller, very athletic. You look at him, he’s over 300 pounds, but he’s very, very athletic and lean. Enokk Vimahi came in at 257 pounds, he’s now 293 if you can believe that. In two months he’s put on that much weight. Very, very athletic. And then Dawand Jones, if you look at Dawand Jones, he’s 6’8″, 380 pounds, but he’s not — I know it sounds crazy, but he’s not a sloppy-looking guy. He’s put together. He needs to lose weight. But they’re all very, very good athletes.
So we want to recruit really good athletes. Nick Petit-Frere is a really good athlete. When you recruit really good athletes and you can put weight on them and then you can develop them the way we’re developing them right now, that’s the idea.
Q. Your philosophy of the punt return game, how does your belief in your offense affect what you might want in a punt returner, and like if you really believe in your offense, do you say, let’s just catch it and we believe we can get down the field and score, and if your offense is struggling are you willing to make put a guy out there who might be a little more of a risk but might have a chance to break something?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think there’s the safe play, like you said, and then there’s the aggressive play. I think there’s two aggressive plays. I think, like you said, first way is to go block a punt, and there’s a little risk when you go get a punt because if you get a 15-yard penalty, now you’re flipping the field and you’re giving the offense the ball back again.
Well, that’s a risk. I think we have some really good guys to go get punts. So we’re going to be aggressive that way.
I think in the return game, I think you try to find your most dynamic guy, but at the end of the day, ball security is critical. So can we find a guy who’s really dynamic with the ball in his hands who also can secure the ball because we’re not going to put a guy back there that has the risk of putting the ball on the ground. We just can’t do that. We’re too explosive on offense and we’re not going to do that.
The idea is to have the ball at the end of the play, but when we can be aggressive and it’s smart, we’ll do that.
Q. Who are your best gunners right now?
RYAN DAY: You know, it’s a battle because we have to replace Terry and those guys, but Jeff Okudah has done it, Chris Olave has done it. They’ve done it at a high level. But there’s a lot of guys in there that are competing right now for that job.
That’s a really important position that nobody was going to talk about, but it’s huge for us. It won us the Michigan State game. Matt is doing a really good job in the meetings, and I’m involved in those meetings and Brian Hartline and Jeff Hafley. All those guys are pushing those guys because it’s going to come from the receiver or the DB room. That’s just important is finding our X receiver.
Q. Four days in, is it too early for you to start to get a sense of this team’s personality, identity? What kind of strikes you about this team so far?
RYAN DAY: They like each other. There’s a chemistry here. They like being around each other. You can just tell. There’s not a lot of cliques. They kind of hang together. They like being here. They have a certain energy about them. They’re positive. And so the chemistry is there. I think there’s leadership capability. We’ll see as we get going. I think it’s developing.
But until you really play in that first game and you get in the locker room and someone stands up in front of the team and says, Get on my back, here we go, you don’t really know. But we do see it. I think we have some great candidates. We have some really good young men in the program. Great people. Some of the most mature guys I’ve been around, and so there’s a maturity here. Maybe that has to do with the fifth-year seniors and maybe some younger guys who have been through it, had to play early on defense and took a few shots, and now they’re here, and they haven’t gone anywhere.
Whatever that is, there is a chemistry here. The quarterback room is typically a leader, but it’s such a fresh group right there that it’s got to come from somewhere else.
Q. You mentioned the four interceptions on defense, not so happy from a quarterback approach. Can you give an update on that position?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, they’re competing, they’re learning. We’re installing. It’s not about really finding your rhythm with a game plan or anything like that. Anytime you install you’re still trying to figure things out. There’s only one way to learn, and that’s to fail. And once you fail — now, if you continue to fail, the same thing, you’ve got a problem. But now is the time, so those guys are doing a good job. They’re learning and they’re going to make mistakes right now, and if they’re making the same mistakes in a week from now, then we’ve got a major problem, but all good so far.
Q. You mentioned you’re looking for a legitimate backup running back. What needs to happen there?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think first off, they’ve got to take care of the ball. That’s number one. Ball security is critical for us. We have to secure the ball. We have to block, and we have to tackle. So their job is to secure the ball. They have to do a good job in protection, picking up blitzes, which J.K. and Mike did an excellent job of last year, and I don’t think that our offensive line and our running backs got enough credit last year for the protection that they gave Dwayne. When I look back on what they did in some of the bigger games, it was unbelievable we didn’t give up a lot of sacks, we picked up blitzes, and even one-on-one battles, we won a lot of those battles. There’s a reason why teams stopped blitzing us, and that’s because we picked up pressure. So the running back has got to be able to do that. And then they’ve got to make a hard five and hard six run. That’s what we’re asking this year. The home runs will come. We want those guys to get good pad level, we want them to run the ball where it’s supposed to be run, and then win on contact. So if a linebacker is there to make a tackle or if a safety comes up with a tackle, we want them to run through contact, like a lot of running backs have done here in the past, and play with toughness and great pad level.
Q. Was this the first time Urban was at practice and what was that like?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, it was. Said he was going to stop by the other day, and it’s always good to have him around.
Q. As you watched today, you’re all in full pads, it might have been the first full-pad practice —
RYAN DAY: Helmets and shoulder pads today.
Q. Was there anybody on both sides of the ball, obviously Josh Proctor had two interceptions, but who really flashed, a couple guys that caught your eye that maybe people don’t know about yet, that you’re sitting here going —
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, it’s easy to see the guy make a play, it’s easy to see Proctor make two interceptions. Everyone can see that. And when you’re in practice there’s so much going on, and I’m screaming and yelling about this and moving around from drill to drill. It’s easier to see on the film. We will get in on the film here in about five minutes, and once you get on the film you can really see it from a better view. But I don’t want to sell anybody short because I think there’s a lot of guys working out there and some guys are stepping up.
Q. Do y’all have new rules? Have you evolved in how you will hit when full contact goes?
RYAN DAY: Yeah.
Q. What is different this year even compared to last year as you approach it?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, so we just have to be very careful about our tackling. Now, we’re going to do a tackle drill every time we have full pads on. Now, are we allowed to take guys to the ground every day? No, but we’re going to try to, when we have full pads on. But in our team drills, we still really don’t take many people to the ground. We have to be really smart about that. You only get so many shots.
So finding the right balance of how many times do we tackle, how many times do we not tackle and being a good tackling team, that’s the balance, and when I talk to some of my other guys that I know who are head coaches and colleagues, that’s the million-dollar question, and we’ll do the best we can with it and try to teach it every day. There will be some certain times where we’ll do some drills that will be live to make sure the right guys are in there to see if they can tackle and see if they can break tackles but also being smart.
Q. Nobody is surging then at quarterback in your mind?
RYAN DAY: Again, still too early. Yeah, still too early. But Justin had a really good practice two days ago and flashed a little bit, and I think it was day two or maybe it was day three, but overall it’s still really early.
Q. Did you think Urban was a frustrated coach today or an eager reporter?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know. I don’t know. I know his golf game is going good and he seems happy.