Ohio State entered this season ranked 121st out of 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with just 50 percent of the team’s offensive production returning.
The Buckeyes also lost several key contributors on defense, including their top four linebackers, and didn’t have an opportunity get younger players into games during last year’s pandemic-shortened season.
So, it shouldn’t come as surprise that there have been some growing pains on both sides of the ball this fall, most of which reared their head in Ohio State’s loss to Oregon in Week 2. But now, almost a month later, head coach Ryan Day believes the Buckeyes are finally starting to put it all together.
“We’re a very different team than we were (earlier this season),” Day said. “I felt that way based on the way we’ve been practicing and growing. We hadn’t really showed that on the field, and I thought we took another step last week (against Rutgers). We have to keep building, have to keeping getting stronger and getting these guys experience.
“I think we’re getting a little bit of that. We’re getting a little bit more toughness and an edge to us. I think it’s good early in the season when your team has a couple scars on them. They’ve got a little bit of an edge to them and hopefully we can build on that.”
Day attributes Ohio State’s continued improvement in games to practice, where the Buckeyes appear more energetic and focused than before.
“Practice was much better,” Day said. “I feel like we’ve had a good week of practice this week, too, and that’s so important for a young team. I think we’re starting to learn that. We’re starting to get a little bit of a callousness to us every day in practice and understanding the grind.
“There was such a difference coming off of last year, and now we’re starting to get that routine back going again. Hopefully we can take that next step on Saturday because we are practicing better.”
Ohio State had a total of 27 first- or second-year players on the travel roster for the game against the Scarlet Knights. It speaks to the overall inexperience on the team, but that will become less of a concern as the season goes on.
“We kind of knew that going into this season, and (we took) a lot of deep breaths early on in camp,” Day said. “We tried to get them as many game reps as possible. There’s nothing like playing in a game because there’s more to it in a game. There’s the crowd. There’s the anticipation. There’s the postgame evaluation. There’s all those types of things that come with that.
“These guys are all learning, and like we said, the future is extremely bright here. You can see the talent and you can see the way they’re working. They’re grinding at it, and for some of the young guys, they’re getting to that midway point of the year where it’s kind of adding up. That’s good. That’s part of the process. We’re going to come out of the back end of this thing really, really good.
“The whole challenge is just how quickly can we get to where we need to be.”
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