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Five things we learned from the Ohio State football press conference during idle week

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State has a break in the schedule.

After six consecutive wins to start the season, the Buckeyes are idle this week before hosting Iowa on Oct. 22. They will continue to practice through Thursday before getting some off days.

Coach Ryan Day, as well as three assistant coaches, discussed the state of the program at the midpoint of the regular season on Tuesday. Here are five of the most pressing topics they discussed:

Ohio State Buckeyes practice schedule

The Buckeyes will hold practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a structure in line with a typical week during the season.

Day said the idle date is well-timed, affording some of their banged-up players opportunities to recover from injuries.

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“There’s times where you start to get into a rhythm and you don’t want that bye week,” Day said, “but I don’t know if that’s the case here.”

An emphasis for the practices is fundamentals rather than game planning for any upcoming opponent.

“As you get five, six games into the season, you can start to get scheme-oriented,” Day said, “and we can't do that. So we're going to dive back into fundamentals, techniques and try to identify the things that we're going to need for the homestretch.”

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Many of Ohio State’s injured players are expected to return in 11 days against the Hawkeyes.

 “They still have to come along, and they still have to have a good week, all of that,” Day said, “but that’s the goal right now. To get them healthy this week and have a full week of practice next week, and those guys are ready to roll for Iowa.”

Day was asked specifically about the potential availabilities of star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back Miyan Williams.

Smith-Njigba’s absence has been the most prominent one.

It’s been nearly a month since he last appeared in a game for the Buckeyes due to an injured hamstring, making a brief return for the final non-conference game against Toledo.

He didn’t travel with the Buckeyes for last weekend’s road trip to Michigan State, but Smith-Njigba has seemed to be progressing in his recovery. He went through part of a rehab regimen before the Oct. 1 game against Rutgers.

Other key players to watch this week include running back TreVeyon Henderson and cornerback Jordan Hancock.

Wide receiver Kamryn Babb, who re-aggravated a knee injury late in preseason camp, isn’t likely to return against Iowa, though Day is hopeful he’ll be available later in the season.

Reintroducing defensive concepts

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles won’t use the idle week to install new defensive concepts.

He said he planned to reintroduce earlier stuff instead.

“There are things that we have installed that we have not shown yet,” Knowles said. “I do that as I think of weeks in advance. I don’t think it’s best if you install something that week and put it in the game. Sometimes you need to do that. But I’d much rather think ahead.

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“We’ve put things in now that you’ll see in the upcoming weeks. We’ll continue that in the bye week. I don’t think it’ll be like, ‘Hey, let’s download some more, because it’s the bye week.’ We’ll continue at the same pace. It’s working, and I definitely don’t want to put more on the players.”

Mike Hall’s limited role

An injury prevented Mike Hall, a disruptive defensive tackle, from seeing a larger role at Michigan State.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson didn’t delve into details of the injury, mentioning only that Hall was hurt, the issue that limited him to only a fraction of snaps.

Pro Football Focus’ tracking showed Hall appeared on seven out of a possible 54 snaps against the Spartans.

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“That was the game plan going in,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t a surprise to everybody. We wanted to keep him fresh and healthy going into the next six weeks. We thought that’s the best way to handle it. Had it changed and somebody got hurt, he might’ve played 40 plays. But it didn’t happen.

“We were very fortunate we got him out of the game without reinjuring himself. That we couldn’t afford.”

Rotating only for pass-rush situations, Hall finished with a career-high 2.5 sacks against the Spartans.

Ohio State Buckeyes safety rotation

Josh Proctor and Lathan Ransom have switched off as starters at the “Bandit” safety, the spot that lines up on the boundary side of the field.

Ransom got the nod on Saturday, while Proctor had started four of the first five games.

Knowles framed it as one of the Buckeyes’ ongoing position battles.

“It’s week to week,” he said. “We deem them both to be game ready.”

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Both have varying skill sets as Knowles praised the versatility of Ransom, who can also line up as a free safety.

“He seems to be a guy who can be strong side, weak side, fit the run and pass, see the concepts in a broader spectrum,” Knowles said.

Knowles added that Proctor’s speed is a significant asset.  

“He’s really good when he has a specific assignment and direction and is able to really unleash and play fast,” he said.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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