As Ohio State practice resumes, new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles impresses Ryan Day

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State had its third spring football practice on Tuesday, and it's still early to make firm judgments about much.

But it is clear that coach Ryan Day is impressed by what he has observed of new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

It's not that Knowles' defense is winning most drills against the offense. In fact, that's the point.

"I think the thing that I've noticed so far with Jim is that it's not a competition every day of, 'Who can win the drill?' " Day said. "It's about teaching because he has his eyes on that first game in September (against Notre Dame).

Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles uses cornerback Cameron Brown as an example during a teaching session in practice.

"There's going to be a time when we want to go against each other and move the ball and try to be competitive. But I think that's the veteran coach in him. He understands the big picture. There's a method — the way he's installing and the way he's teaching."

In one of the two practices before spring break, Knowles ran the same defense the entire practice, Day said.

"It's just unbelievable teaching to me," he said. "It's not about trying to win the drill. It's, 'OK, how can we get better as a defense and learn at a deep level and a high level?' I thought that was really impressive."

Day said he likes the energy and attention to detail he has seen so far from the defense, which struggled most of last season.

Knowles is still in the early stages of installing the defense. As players learn more of it, the different looks that have become Knowles' hallmarks will become apparent.

When that happens, Day looks forward to the chess match of pitting his explosive offense against it.

"Anytime you can challenge each other on both sides of the ball, it's excellent because you get to see what the issues are before you get on the field (in games)," Day said. "I think that he's going to do that. He's got a lot of different ways, and then comes the gamesmanship within the game of trying to get the right call out against the right defense and vice versa. So he's very, very good at that, and that makes us better."

Ohio State football signee Sonny Styles helped Pickerington Central win a state basketball championship last week.

Sonny Styles impresses Ryan Day

Day watched the Division I boys basketball state final on Sunday with more than a casual interest. Pickerington Central's Sonny Styles will enroll in the spring after reclassifying from the 2023 class.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Styles helped the Tigers defeat previously undefeated Centerville 55-48.

"What a great game," Day said. "Great atmosphere. I enjoyed watching it."

Ohio high school basketball:Pickerington Central wins state title

He particularly enjoyed watching Styles, who's projected to begin his OSU career as a safety. Styles scored only 4 points — two key baskets in the fourth quarter — but had eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

"I thought he was tremendous," Day said. "When he decides he wants to go, what a great athlete — and really skilled in basketball. A lot of times you see a football player out there, they're kind of bouncing into people and are kind of the goons out there knocking people around. That's not Sonny. He's very, very skilled and had some huge baskets in the fourth quarter and some really good passes."

What Day might have liked the most, he said, was Styles' demeanor on the court.

"I think the thing you notice about him is he doesn't get rattled," he said.

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @brdispatch.

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