Ohio State football | Ryan Day assesses Buckeyes' progress in camp
Though it wasn’t an interview, acting head coach Ryan Day offered his first assessment of Ohio State through an extended open letter to the media and fans distributed by a program spokesman Friday afternoon.
“You will be proud to know that our players and coaching staff have attacked each day and forged together as a team,” Day said, referring to a preseason camp which started Aug. 3. “Our program starts and ends with our players, and the leaders of this team are incredibly focused and determined to maximize our talents to be the best team possible when we line up on Sept. 1” against Oregon State.
He added, “The two main driving forces behind our motivation is the ‘brotherhood’ and the standard of excellence that the former Buckeye players and teams have set before us.”
Day was named acting head coach Aug. 1 in place of Urban Meyer, who was put on paid administrative leave during an investigation of what he knew about domestic violence allegations between fired receivers coach Zach Smith, and his ex-wife, Courtney Smith.
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Though running the team since then, Day has yet to be made available to the media.
“We have decided that it is in the best interest of the young men in our program and our coaching staff that they be allowed to concentrate for now on starting this new academic year and football season,” OSU’s associate vice president-university communications Chris Davey reiterated in an email to The Dispatch this week. “The regular course of interviews to assist you in your outstanding reporting of Ohio State football will resume again soon. Thanks for your understanding.”
In the news release, Day provided a lengthy rundown, position group by position group, as the Buckeyes head toward the preseason camp-ending scrimmage on Saturday. He started with the quarterbacks led by Dwayne Haskins Jr. who had the lead going into camp to replace departed record-setting four-year starter J.T. Barrett
“Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell have been putting in the work on and off the field to get themselves prepared for an excellent season,” Day said of the two taking the bulk of the snaps. “Freshman Matthew Baldwin is recovering from ACL surgery and won’t be 100 percent for another couple of weeks. We can see the improvement by each of the QBs on a daily basis.”
The running backs are led by two 1,000-yard backs in J.K. Dobbins (2017) and Mike Weber (2016).
“They are very deliberate with everything they do on the field and they haven’t rested on their success at all,” Day said. “They are going hard every day, fighting to earn their reps. … They’ve been great in helping the younger guys acclimate to our culture. (Freshmen) Master Teague and Brian Snead have both shown flashes of brilliance and are continually working toward consistency.”
The receivers are led by interim coach Brian Hartline, and Day said Hartline “has brought the ‘juice’” in his approach to his players.
“This group continues to be full of leaders and is a very strong unit of quality young men,” Day said, adding veterans Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin and K.J. Hill have “set the standard. … Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor and C.J. Saunders have also been practicing at a high level, making this unit very deep.
“The depth continues to grow with the emergence of the true freshmen and younger players, including Chris Olave and Jaelen Gill.”
The tight ends are coaching by Kevin Wilson, who is an offensive coordinator along with Day.
“Kevin Wilson has done a remarkable job developing Luke Farrell, Rashod Berry and Jake Hausmann over the past year, and Jeremy Ruckert is a very talented freshman,” Day said. “Hausmann missed a few practices due to a hamstring injury but is back now and practicing well.”
On the offensive line he praised the leadership of returning starters Isaiah Prince, Michael Jordan and Demetrius Knox.
“The competition within this unit has raised the level of play across the board as guys are battling for starting positions,” Day said. “Thayer Munford and Josh Alabi have been competing for the starting left tackle spot while Brady Taylor, Michael Jordan and Josh Myers have all been taking snaps at center. A bright spot has been the development of Malcolm Pridgeon at guard.”
The defensive line is led by coach Larry Johnson.
“It doesn’t take much to notice how close this unit is and the leadership from Nick Bosa, Dre’mont Jones, Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, Davon Hamilton, Jonathan Cooper and Chase Young,” Day said. “We’re really impressed with the young freshmen as well (such as freshmen Taron Vincent, Tommy Togiai and Tyler Friday). There are some individuals in that freshman class who are positioning themselves to play this fall. Depth at this position group might be the strongest on the team.”
The only returning starter among the three linebacker spots is Tuf Borland in the middle, and he continues to recover from the Achilles tendon injury that needed surgery to repair in the spring.
“There are fierce competitions at all three positions,” Day said. “Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard are battling at (middle) while Tuf Borland is recovering. … At the (strongside “Sam” spot), Dante Booker and Pete Werner are all over the field making plays … and Malik Harrison and Keandre Jones have both stepped up in their new roles.
“We’re anxious to see how these final scrimmages and practices go before game week.”
At safety, returning starter “Jordan Fuller in particular has established himself as a leader and as a playmaker on our defense. There has been excellent competition to determine who will be the starter opposite Fuller, between Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint.”
Damon Arnette is the returning starter at one cornerback spot, and he along with “Kendall Sheffield are poised to continue the tradition of great Buckeye cornerback play,” Day said. “Jeffrey Okudah is coming along well and, after missing the spring due to (a shoulder) injury, has come back strong and is using each snap to improve. Shaun Wade is really progressing as well.”
The four specialists in the kicking game are returning starters, and Day said they have practiced as such.
“Field goal kicker Sean Nuernberger, punter Drue Chrisman, long snapper Liam McCullough and kickoff specialist Blake Haubeil have all embraced the competition of improvement this fall camp,” he said. “With no specific playing time battles, the units have focused on consistency on operation time and kick placement.”