The Ohio State football team opened spring practice Monday with a foundation built on last year’s success and motivation built on the failure to win a national title.
Justin Fields is back at quarterback and looked sharp slinging the ball to receivers old and new. After a two-year stint in the NFL, Kerry Coombs was back barking out encouragement and criticism as defensive coordinator the way he did when he was the Buckeyes’ cornerbacks coach.
As for Ryan Day, he approaches his second year as head coach confident from last year and appreciative of a new contract extension, but also hungry because of OSU’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson.
"Our program is all built on fighting and competing every single day to be the best version of yourself, the best version of your unit, the best version of your team," Day said. "We know what the expectations are here. When you wake up every day, you know what it is. We’re hungry.
"We felt we got a good foundation set underneath us last season, but we didn’t reach all of our goals. So there’s still a lot of work to be done."
The Buckeyes lost much elite talent from last year’s team, but plenty returns, supplemented by a crop of top recruits. Questions abound, such as who fills the two vacancies on the offensive line and the three in the secondary.
After one day of practice, Day was hardly ready to pronounce front-runners, though Harry Miller, a backup center as a freshman last year, took starting reps at left guard.
The ballyhooed group of four freshman receivers — Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper — all showed glimpses of their talent.
"They have a lot of work to do, but for day 1, better than expected," Day said.
Day entered last year with the pressure of succeeding a future Hall of Fame coach in Urban Meyer. Last year’s 13-1 record prompted Ohio State to extend Day’s contract last week through the 2026 season.
"That’s a big deal," he said. "That changes our life as a family, and we don’t take it lightly. The No. 1 thing that we’re excited about as a family is we get to be in Columbus for hopefully the next seven to 10 years — hopefully 20 years. We want to be here as long as we can. We love it here."
That means embracing the pressure that comes with the job, driven by the demand of success and the sting of coming so close last year.
Asked if his motivation was even greater because of the Clemson loss, Day replied, "I think that’s possible. … Getting to that game and not winning, that leaves an unbelievable taste in our mouth, so it’s just motivating us more."