Quarterback Justin Fields’ name wasn’t mentioned until the next-to-last question of Ryan Day’s 22-minute news conference Tuesday.
That’s another way of saying it’s way too early for any clarity concerning position competition during Ohio State’s training camp. It is not too soon, however, for the coach to have a feel about his team. So far so good.
“They like each other,” Day said. “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. And so the chemistry is there. I think there’s leadership capability. We'll see as we get going, (but) I think it's developing.”
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Normally, that starts with the quarterback. But Fields, the strong favorite to start, has been on campus only since January. His primary challenger, Kentucky graduate transfer Gunnar Hoak, arrived after spring practice.
Given the inexperience at quarterback, Day said leadership has to come from other positions.
“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," he said. "But we do see it. I think we have some great candidates and some really good young men in the program — I mean, great people.”
Day said he is encouraged by the play of the defense in camp. With the Big Ten Network in town for the day, the defense had four interceptions, Day said. Two were by safety Josh Proctor. The sophomore is trying to make a push into a crowded secondary.
“They're flying to the ball,” Day said. “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.”
Day said Tuesday what he said often during the spring about the defense showing a resolve after last year’s struggles.
“I think there's a good attitude and leadership up front, and the linebackers are really working on being tough, creating an edge,” he said. “We've got to be tough. We've got to tackle. I do see that. I think it's a hungry group. Again, you really don't know until you start playing games, but there's a lot of positive momentum right now.”
As for his quarterbacks throwing four interceptions, Day wasn’t overly concerned.
“They're competing,” he said. “They're learning. We're installing. It's not about really finding a 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.
“Those guys are doing a good job. They’re learning, and they’re going to make mistakes right now. If they're making the same mistakes a week from now, then we've got a major problem, but all good so far.”
As for a pecking order at quarterback, Day hasn’t budged from his consistent stance.
“Still too early,” he said. “But Justin had a really good practice two days ago and flashed a little bit, but overall it's still really early.”