Practice before students energizes Buckeyes
Coach Ryan Day said on Saturday that his Ohio State football players are showoffs.
That was a compliment.
In the morning, the Buckeyes had their student-appreciation practice inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and players derived energy from their classmates’ presence.
“They love having eyes out there, having people (out there),” Day said. “You could see that right from the beginning of practice. They were bouncing on the field and the stretching was fun and the music was playing.
“The guys like practicing in that type of environment and so that was great to see. They played with a lot of energy and practiced really hard.”
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It was Ohio State’s fifth practice of the spring and only the third in pads, so Day is not ready to make any grand statements about the state of his team. That’s especially true because several players, including Tuf Borland (knee), Robert Landers (shoulder/back/knee), Baron Browning (hamstring) and Josh Alabi (flu-like symptoms), were out for precautionary reasons.
One player won’t be on the field again for Ohio State. Day confirmed reports that receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith will transfer. The Buckeyes will honor his scholarship for spring semester, Day said.
At quarterback, Justin Fields continued to take most, if not all, of the first-team reps in practice. That was also the case in the portions of previous practices the media was permitted to attend. But Day wouldn’t say that there had been separation in the competition between Fields and Matthew Baldwin to succeed Dwayne Haskins Jr.
“We’re going to try to split up the reps the best we can,” Day said. “Matt has taken reps with the 1s and will continue to take reps with the 1s. The guys have to do a good job of taking those opportunities and being successful with them. We’ll continue to split the reps up and let those guys compete.”
Baldwin has the advantage of having a year in the system. One of the highlights of practice was a deep sideline completion to former high school teammate Garrett Wilson, a five-star freshman receiver.
Fields showed off his legs as well as his arm. On one play, he spun away from a pass rush and darted for a sizable gain.
Day said that Fields, a transfer from Georgia who enrolled in January, is a fast learner.
“He’s got a long way to go, but he’s picking it up pretty quickly,” Day said. “We have a lot of offense. We don’t run the same play twice very often. There’s a lot being thrown at the quarterbacks. He and the other quarterbacks are handling it very well. It’s hard to do something for the first time and be really good at it.”
Day said both quarterbacks have shown poise going against a defense that has considerably more experience than the offense.
“A long way to go, but I’m very, very encouraged,” Day said.
As he settles in as head coach, Day said he spends more time in practice looking for intangibles than precision. He said his eyes watch for effort. He then judges technique and schematic issues on video.
“The thing I feel best about is just our energy,” Day said. “We had a really hard, tough practice on Thursday. I challenged the guys to be tough. We had one of the better inside (hitting) drills we’ve had in a while. Paint chips were really flying off helmets. They were really getting after it.”