'This year is different.' OSU football opens 2022 training camp with plenty of optimism
No football coach would ever publicly admit feeling pessimistic about his team on the first day of training camp.
But in Ryan Day’s previous three years as Ohio State’s coach, truth serum would have revealed concerns.
In 2019, he was a rookie head coach with the stress that comes with that. Two years ago, it didn’t even look like there would be a season because of COVID.
Last year, Day needed to settle on a new quarterback and had well-founded qualms about defensive inexperience and that unit’s coaching staff.
It was a different vibe on Thursday when the Buckeyes opened training camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in a morning practice without pads.
Sure, there are questions. Will new coordinator Jim Knowles be able to transform the Ohio State defense, and how quickly? Can the offense live up to lofty expectations?
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But this team has every reason to believe it can reassert itself as the king of the Big Ten and be a legitimate national championship contender.
“Yeah, it's a different team, absolutely,” Day said. “We sat here last year, and I was concerned. We came off of COVID, and so we didn't really have some of those games where we were able to get some of the young guys reps.”
Oregon exploited that in the week 2 loss, and the debacle at Michigan ended Ohio State’s Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopes.
“This year it’s different because these guys have played more,” Day said. “At least you have a better idea of what we have.”
Ohio State loaded on offense, defense has high expectations
The Buckeyes have plenty. Quarterback C.J. Stroud returns as a Heisman Trophy favorite with a deep supporting cast that includes sophomore running back TreVeyon Henderson and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Day set the expectation for the defense by saying his goal is to have a unit ranked in the top 10 nationally. There is precedent. Ohio State’s dominating 2019 defense followed a porous one in 2018.
“We want to be the best in the country at what we do, and we should be held accountable for that,” Day said. “That's the goal, and that's what we're working on to make sure it happens. If we do have a top-10 offense, a top-10 defense and a top-10 special teams, that will give us a chance to reach our goals.”
Since hiring Knowles as well as secondary coaches Tim Walton and Perry Eliano to join holdover defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Day has consistently praised the way they have jelled.
“I like the scheme,” Day said. “I like what Jim's doing. I like what our defensive staff is doing. I think Tim and Perry and Larry do a great job. They teach effort. They teach fundamentals. I like what's going on there, but the proof will be in the pudding. We play on September 3, but certainly there's a lot of optimism.”
Toughness, discipline and skill focus at OSU football camp
The buzzwords for camp, Day said, will be toughness, discipline and skill. He has stressed the importance of competitive stamina, which is the ability to sustain top performance consistently. The opener against Notre Dame is less than a month away, and having that marquee game begin the season adds to the Buckeyes’ urgency.
“They've been in big games,” Day said of his players. “They've got scars. They've got stars on their chest for winning games, but they've also got some calluses. I think that makes it good. There's some experience there. Everyone's going to be juiced up for that game, but it's certainly not going to overwhelm anybody.
“We've been there before. We've been in the bright lights. We know what that's like. But we know how important it is to go win that game, and it certainly is on the back of everybody's mind here at camp.”