As Buckeyes spring practice passes midway point, Day tries to hasten progress

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
C.J. Stroud again took the first reps in practice Monday, but Ohio State coach Ryan Day said not to read too much into that.

Ohio State has crossed the midway point of spring practice. Coach Ryan Day wishes the Buckeyes remained closer to the starting line.

It’s not that he’s dissatisfied with his young team’s progress. He mostly likes what he has seen in the eight practices.

But with so much inexperience at key positions, Day knows that 15 spring practices aren’t sufficient to get the Buckeyes where he wants them to be heading into preseason camp.

“I think for me, the biggest concern is still we haven't played a lot of football with the younger players and just our development of playing the game,” Day said after Monday’s practice. “I am pleased with the effort. I'm pleased with how we're coming along technique-wise and fundamentally. I think we're growing.

“I like where the defense is headed. I like where we're headed on offense. But still, I'm just concerned that we haven't played a lot of football with some of the younger guys, some of the positions that haven't got a whole bunch of game reps.”

Exhibit A, of course, is at quarterback. Redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller are competing with early-enrollee freshman Kyle McCord. Neither Stroud nor Miller threw a pass last season.

A segment of practice was open to reporters Monday. As was the case Friday, Stroud was first in line to take reps, followed by Miller. Day said nothing should be read into that. He said no one has separated himself from the others so far.

“We're just rotating the quarterbacks,” Day said. “It changes every day, and we’re splitting up the reps the best we can. I think they've done a decent job of learning each day, so I think that's been a positive.”

The issue, he said, is that all of them need more reps than they are able to get.

Coach Ryan Day said defensive tackle Taron Vincent, here tackling Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey, has had an excellent spring.

“The good news is they're very eager to learn,” Day said. “They're taking good notes. They are all getting better in their own way. That's all been a positive. I wish we had 18 months to get them ready, but we don't, so the rush is on. But so far, so good.”

The Buckeyes are also inexperienced at linebacker and cornerback, and linebacker took a hit with what Day called a “long-term” injury to redshirt freshman Mitchell Melton.

The Buckeyes had a quasi-scrimmage Friday, and Day was mostly happy with what he saw. He singled out the Buckeyes’ deep group at running back.

“I am very impressed with how they ran on Friday,” Day said. “I thought all of them ran really, really well. I think they’re doing a good job in pass protection. They’re running hard and taking care of the football. So I'm excited to see how this thing progresses the next couple of weeks.”

The same goes for the defensive tackles. Standout incumbent Haskell Garrett has been out — Day said he expects him back soon — but Day gushed about others, particularly Taron Vincent. Day said the former five-star prospect looks primed for a breakout year after being slowed early in his career by injuries.

Day is trying to balance the need for physical practices while trying to minimize injuries, which have mounted.

“You have to push through it,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. We haven’t been over the top. We’ve only tackled once. We’re going to have two padded practices this week.

“You have to do it. There’s nothing else that replaces being physical, and we have to be tough. We have to be physical.

“It’s the hard part of it. But we think through every single thing we do, every minute of every single drill. Looking back on some of the (injuries) that have happened this spring, they’ve really been noncontact situations.”