Ryan Day has been careful not to tip his hand about the Ohio State quarterback situation, even if most outsiders believe it’s a foregone conclusion.
That continued Friday after Ohio State’s first practice at training camp. Justin Fields led the quarterbacks as they went through early individual drills, which was the portion of practice reporters were permitted to watch.
The transfer from Georgia is heavily favored to win the position, but Day said he expects it won’t be until the middle of next week when the depth chart starts to sort itself out.
“After the first week, we'll kind of come up for air,” he said. “After the first scrimmage, we’ll say, ‘Where are we? Is there that much of a gap right now?’ After the second week, there will be another scrimmage. At that point we'll kind of get an idea where the gap is.
“If it's not a big gap, then we'll just keep it going. The minute it separates, then that's when you go ahead and name it. Naming a starter right now, naming a starter in a week, doesn't give you anything really.”
Day said he wants his three scholarship quarterbacks — Fields, Gunnar Hoak and Chris Chugunov — to get plenty of reps.
“We want to make sure that guys are competing and we're getting everybody developed so we have three quarterbacks ready to roll if we have to play all three,” he said.
Fields enrolled in January. Hoak, a graduate transfer from Kentucky, arrived in June. Chugunov is the only scholarship quarterback who was on the roster a year ago.
Day said Hoak has made a strong first impression.
“In a short period of time, I think he kind of picked up the offense pretty quick,” he said. “I think he can diagnose and see the field, kind of has a good feel for it. That was a positive.
“I thought he kind of moved the ball around pretty good today and made good decisions. Once he gets more reps under his belt, I think he'll get more and more comfortable, play with more confidence.”
Day expects his quarterbacks to make plenty of mistakes. He said that’s a necessary and healthy part of development.
Day recalled Dwayne Haskins Jr. losing a fumble during mop-up time against Illinois in 2017. Chastened, Haskins then led the Buckeyes to a comeback victory over Michigan the next week after J.T. Barrett was injured. That set the stage for Haskins' record-breaking 2018 season.
“The only way to learn is to fail,” Day said. “If you are riding a bike, you don't just get on a bike and start riding a bike. You fall a few times and you figure it out. Then you learn to ride a bike. That's going to kind of be the situation here, too.”
Austin Mack said that he and his fellow receivers worked during the spring and summer to get Fields comfortable taking charge as a newcomer.
“He came from a pretty good program that's used to winning so he's been there and he knows what it's like, but he just doesn't know our culture,” Mack said. “So the biggest thing was for us to just help get him acclimated, help get him used to being in that huddle like, ‘Hey, bro, you've got to speak up.’”
Mack said he encouraged Fields to criticize teammates for even minor mistakes.
“He has to be that that engine,” he said. “As soon as the season comes, we rely on him, (his) voice, and it's like this whole spring and whole summer, it was all about you getting him to feel confident enough to be able to take that step and be able to (have) the vulnerability to be to put yourself out there and make that change.”