Head coach Ryan Day, secondary/cornerbacks coach Tim Walton and sixth-year senior fullback/tight end Mitch Rossi met with the media for more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon to recap the 52-21 win over Wisconsin and preview Ohio State’s Homecoming matchup with Rutgers (3:30 p.m. on BTN).
Below is a bullet-point recap of what Day, Walton and Rossi had to say:
- Day said offensive line coach Justin Frye has build camaraderie in the offensive line room and credibility in how he teaches the players. “There’s still a long way to go, but his impact has been felt.”
- Day said running back Miyan Williams has done a better job of taking care of his body despite being a violent runner, which has led to him being more consistent this season. “He had one of the better preseasons of anybody going into the season.”
- Day said Oklahoma State safety transfer Tanner McCalister is “critically important” to the secondary.” Added his hard work and preparation pays off for him, like it did with the interception against Wisconsin.
- Day said he has some input on defense, but he leaves the schematics and day-to-day stuff to defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. “I try to be someone to throw ideas off, being on the offensive side of the ball.”
- Day said there’s always room for quarterback C.J. Stroud to grow, but he thought he was efficient and made some great throws against Wisconsin. “I just think he’s gotten into a rhythm in the offense.”
- Day noted how the injury to wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba threw the offense off a bit, especially he now has all new targets at wide receiver and tight end. “We’ve built the offense around those guys now, and C.J. has embraced that.” Called that a “silver lining” to establish those connections.
- Day said the 2017 Penn State game is one of his greatest memories in Ohio Stadium, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this season.
- Day gave a lot of credit to Knowles and Walton for getting cornerbacks Jyaire Brown and Jakailin Johnson for their first starts on Saturday. “When we went to put them in the game, the whole team believed in them because they saw it in practice.” Said neither missed a practice this offseason.
- Day said play calling is great if it works, but at the end of the day “it’s about players, not plays.” The key is to put in the work to execute on Saturday. “At the end of the day, get the ball to your best players. It’s as simple as that.”
- On why things worked so well offensively last weekend: “We got into a good rhythm early on.” Said they want to continue to build in multiple areas so if one is taken away, they can go elsewhere. “It’s about the execution.”
- Day credited wide receiver Julian Fleming for his work ethic, physicality in the run game and ability to get the ball. “Because of his strength, he’s a mismatch for a lot of defensive backs.”
- Day said Fleming was on his own journey with injuries, but he’s playing his best football now.
- Day said he defers to the team trainers and doctors when it comes to a player returning from injury.Said there’s no regret about playing Smith-Njigba against Toledo, but they have to be caution moving forward.
- “I know he’s frustrated, but if he has the mindset of showing up every day and taking care of his body, this will be behind us soon.” Added there’s no timetable for his return.
- Day said Smith-Njigba is one of the more competitive players he’s been around, so it’s been hard for him to miss time, but noted not everything plays out the way you expect it to in the game of football. “This will be behind him soon, and he’ll be stronger for it.”
- Day said the game plan against Notre Dame was to target Smith-Njigba quite a bit. “I didn’t have a long list of what to do without Jaxon in the game.” Said that Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Xavier Johnson stepped up in his absence because they stayed at “competitive excellence.”
- Day said there’s a balance between adding new wrinkles and sticking with their bread and butter. “Too vanilla, they tee off on you. Too creative, you can’t execute.”
- Day said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is an excellent leader, great motivator and really good coach. The two notably worked together in Columbus for two seasons.
- On the toughness the team showed against the Badgers: “We need to find out of this is something we’ve done in a couple of games or if this is our identity.”
- On Rutgers: “They’re better than they’ve been in the past.”
- Day said he expects starting cornerbacks Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke to return this week, though he doesn’t anticipate Jordan Hancock returning until at least the Michigan State game on Oct. 8. Also expects safety Lathan Ransom back this week, as well.
- Day said going up against Ohio State’s wide receivers in practice helped prepare Brown for his start on Saturday. “Every day, he’s getting a little bit better. You could see his confidence going into the game.”
- On backup Kyle McCord, who hasn’t been able to throw the ball much in blowouts: “You want to get him those reps, but you don’t want to try to upstage somebody.” Said he’s competitive and is probably frustrated by just handing the ball off, but “he’ll get his opportunity.”
- On fifth-year senior defensive tackle Taron Vincent: “I thought he played really well this game. He ate a lot of double-teams, graded out a champion. He probably played one of his better games on Saturday.”
- Day called redshirt junior linebacker Tommy Eichenberg the leader of the defense. “He’s seeing it. He’s playing fast. He’s downhill.”
- Day said Rossi was starting to become a weapon for them toward the end of last season, which showed up in the Rose Bowl win over Utah. “We see some things in Mitch that can really help us.”
- On the concern of having just six scholarship cornerbacks on the roster: “You deal with the situation as it is, that’s why we try to have everybody ready.” Added that’s something they can’t control, so they just do their best with it.
- Walton said they had “big expectations” for Hancock this season, but – again – they couldn’t control him going down with a preseason injury.
- On McCalister: “He’s smart, he understand the defense.” Said his communication with the cornerbacks, especially the younger guys at the position.
- “The ultimate goal is to get the ball back.”
- Walton recalled his first start at Ohio State: “Guys took me under their wing, and that calmed those nerves a bit on game day.” He couldn’t recall who the game was against, though.
- On Brown and Johnson: “Those guys practiced a lot, and we go against the best in the country every day.” Added it’s his job to keep them calm and focused on doing their jobs.
- Walton said Brown did well in his first start as a true freshman, but that game is over, so they need to just build upon that in practice. “Over a period of time, those reps help you grow. You learn and you keep progressing.”
- On Burke’s shaky start to the season: “You have to have amnesia out there because things happen.” Said he’s been doing a good job to put bad plays behind him and move on to the next playing.
- Walton said freshman safety Sonny Styles is progressing, as well. “He’s been proving himself in practice every day.” Said he’s very mature and strong for his age. “He’s showing he can handle it.”
- Added that safeties coach Perry Eliano has been hard on Styles and he’s responded well. “We look for great things from him in the future.”
- On the questionable pass interference penalty against Brown: “The ref isn’t going to change the call no matter how mad you get.” Thought Brown handled it well and moved on quickly.
- Walton said appreciates the opportunity to coach at his alma mater. “That’s heaven to be back on the grounds that I played on.” Said he enjoys building the relationships and development of players in college as opposed to the NFL.
- Walton said the first thing he did when he got the job was to reach out to the players and talk to them about life. Said if you develop that relationship first, the football stuff will follow.
- “You want to know that it’s genuine so that when you’re in the heat of the moment, everyone knows it’s about caring and love in those moments of growth.”
- Walton noted how McCalister and fellow safety Cameron Martinez are flexible out of the nickel and can step up if the depth at cornerback continues to get challenge.
- More on Styles: "He's tough, man, and he's seasoned for a young guy." Said he does a good job of taking from the classroom and applying it on the field, something many young players can't do. Added he fixes his mistakes, too.
Walton said McCalister’s pass break up before halftime wasn’t a busted coverage by the cornerback. The Buckeyes were expecting a short, quick pass on 4th-and-3 and he made a play.
- On fellow tight end Gee Scott’s mindset during his transition from wide receiver to tight end and learning how to block: “I think it’s just the culture of the room, and Gee’s taken a lot of pride in that.”
- Rossi, who was wearing a shirt that says “Fairway Fullback,” said he wanted to develop his all-around game so that he could be involved in other ways.
- Rossi said 18-year-old Mitch would be “pretty juiced” about getting carries out of the I-formation at fullback.
- On the conversations he has with tight end Cade Stover about the future after football: “Cade is going back to where he came from. He’s going to have a beautiful farm and raise cattle.” Rossi said others talk about living on the beach, etc.
- On how the offense fights complacency while the are firing on all cylinders: “You turn on the field, and there’s still things that we can work on. Things that we can get better at.” Said they just want to be the best version of themselves that they can be.
- Rossi said he had a lot of family and friends reach out after his touchdown, but he didn’t give many people a heads up that it was coming. “That’s the type of play we don’t want (opponents) to know about, so it’ll stay top secret until it’s called.”
- Rossi said he's “just a ballplayer,” so you can call him a fullback or a tight end. "That's the most fullback answer I can give."
- On Rutgers’ run defense under Schiano, who he called a good coach: “We respect their ability to defend.”
- Asked if he considered going somewhere else that utilizes a player of his caliber more than Ohio State, Rossi said, “I just kept the faith here. I love the culture of the program here, and I knew I would be rewarded for my hard work eventually.” Mentioned Iowa and Wisconsin specifically as programs that rotate fullbacks.
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