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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 10, 2019
RYAN DAY: Excited to get going this week with practice today. After looking at the film of Indiana the first couple of days, their first couple games, they have a good team. A couple years into the system on defense, guys on that side flying around. They're doing a good job with the new coordinator there on offense.
We know going on the road, first conference game in the Big Ten, every time we play Indiana, it's a tough game. Those guys always come ready to play. So we got our hands full early on.
Looking forward to get going in practice today.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. Binjimen Victor has had a strong start to the season. What have you seen out of him?
RYAN DAY: I think Ben is important for us as we go forward. That one drive, we threw a back-shoulder fade to him. That kind of got us going. He's the X receiver. If he's in a one-on-one matchup, he can win that, that changes schematically how teams are going to defend us.
But he's got to be that guy. He's got to be the Terry McLaurin for us, Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon. When he makes those big plays, that got us going on those drives. He's done that so far. Now that we get into the conference play, he's got to continue to do that.
Q. You've been around the last two years, you were there for Iowa and Purdue. Talk a lot about players, play calling. Curious about the psychological side. You played a near perfect game, I'm sure it wasn't, but how do you keep these guys from thinking it's gravy now?
RYAN DAY: We talk about we want to be the best in the country. The message to the team is that the issues are still in the film, whether you win, you lose, whatever it is. The immature player, the immature coach looks at it and says everything is good, we won. We won pretty handily. The facts of the matter are is that the issues are on flim.
As the level of play increases through conference play, as the season goes on, those issues aren't going to go away.
The seasoned coach, the veteran player, can identify that, be critical of themselves. Again, you've heard it before. If you're worried about the process as opposed to the result, you're going to be more focused on that.
Just keep hammering away. As much as you say it, some of the younger guys don't quite get that. The older guys I think do. We're going to keep swinging as hard as we can to make sure they know what it is.
Q. New offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator. Have you seen any big differences from them compared to last year?
RYAN DAY: No, no. They've kind of been running the same defense they've run in the past. They have some guys in there, obviously Ball is really good at what he does. He does a lot of things for them. Their secondary is really, really strong. Some good, strong guys up front. The linebackers played really hard the last couple weeks.
They're running the same thing. They got the same system, but they got a lot in the system, lot of different looks, coverages, pressures. As you get into year two, year three into a system, you can start to get more intricate. That's where they are right now.
Q. With the injury, looks like he's running well. What have you seen from Master Teague?
RYAN DAY: He didn't practice all that much this pre-season. It was hard for him to get into a rhythm. He has run hard on film the last two weeks. If he can continue to practice the way that he has the last couple weeks, I think he's going to only improve as he goes on. We'll feel more comfortable with him handling more snaps in the game.
It's clear to see once he gets a momentum going, he can run through contact. That's what we're looking for.
Q. After you had a chance to watch the film, where did you see the biggest improvement from Justin from week one to week two?
RYAN DAY: I think he picked up kind of from where he left off. Still made some good decisions. I thought he was pretty good in the passing game. Still took a couple hits in there that we didn't like. Got to learn that way. Couple things in protection as well. Took one bad sack.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty clean game. It's the same thing, there's going to be things that show up. He got away with a couple throws that maybe as the competition increases he won't. But overall it was solid and we got to keep building on it.
Q. Learning through failure approach with him, the big picture, he's been really successful. How do you teach through the success or handle, manage the expectations as they change and grow?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think there's no rule book or way to handle that. I think you try to feel it as you go, use your experience, figure that out.
I think the good thing is he's had some success the first two games. I think he has some confidence, which is really important for a quarterback, especially going on the road in a conference game, there's got to be confidence there. He should have confidence.
He's played well the first two games. We'll keep building that as we good. I think Mike has done an excellent job. Mike has done a really good job of putting the game plan together in terms of making it clean, clear and concise so that Justin can play the way he is on Saturdays.
Mike has had a great history with quarterbacks. He understands how to prepare a quarterback. To see the way he's worked with Justin here so far is remarkable.
Q. Going on the road for the first time for him as a starter, how does that change things for him?
RYAN DAY: Well, when you go on the road, it's different because you're not in your normal routine, first off. The noise will be an issue on third down, things like that. You can't ride the emotional rollercoaster. You have to play each play as it goes.
But it's different. You got to travel there, you got to stay in the hotel, you're kind of out of your routine, out of your rhythm. So with that, you have to make sure that as a team we know how to run the ball, take care of the football, we got to stop the run, then we got to play with toughness. That's how you win on the road.
Q. I think you mentioned this after the game, it does seem apparent, you're maybe not doing as much of the crossers in the passing game as you did last year, two years ago. Is that just a product of your personnel, how teams are defending you, wanting to try new stuff?
RYAN DAY: Like I said, we have our whole offense in. What we focus on, what we decide to give Justin is based on a game plan deal. But it's also based on the fact he's only played two games.
We have buckets of plays. One of them is what you're talking about. We have all those. We have them all. When the time is right, we'll use them. That hasn't been the right game plan that we think in those first couple games.
We'll continue to install those things as the time is right and we feel like the scheme fits. We have been seeing a lot more zone recently. So we'll just keep rolling from there.
Q. I know guys like Parris and Terry have elite level speed. Your catch-and-run ability compared to last year, how different is it?
RYAN DAY: It's hard to tell right now. I'm kind of interested to find out as we get going. We've got guys open so far. Guys have been open. As the level of competition increases, those windows are going to get tight for Justin. The coverage is going to get tighter for the receivers.
We're going to have to be able to make those throws and catches with tight coverage. Also like you're saying, create yards after catch. I still don't think we know the answer to that yet. Johnnie, too, all threes of those guys were excellent. That's a challenge for our guys on the outside, making sure we can do that. That was a lot of yardage last year.
Q. Jeff Okudah seems to be playing with a different chip on his shoulder maybe than we've seen in the past. Has he transformed as a leader for this team? Is he carrying himself like one of the captains?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think he's playing like a pro. He's approaching it that way. You can see that he's playing decisive when he's on the field. I think that's also a guy going from his second to third year. He's got some experience now. He knows what to expect.
He'll still tell you he's a long way away from being a finished product. I think he's listening to Jeff in terms of the technique he's trying to teach. I think he understands the scheme.
Year three into the program, he's killing it. We're in the second half, it's a pooch punt, he jumps in there, runs down, almost gets the thing on the one yardline. Goes to show you what kind of kid Jeff is. He has to keep building as the competition increases, but he's off to a really good start.
Q. Jaylen Harris got in early in the game. We weren't sure if he was going to be in the rotation this year. Why was he on the field so soon?
RYAN DAY: Jaylen has done a good job on special teams. Any time you do a good job on special teams, you deserve to play. Now he's into his third year. He's a guy that has a lot of ability as well. We've seen him flash at times. Now he's got to go prove it in the game, got to be consistent. He provides us some depth. You'll see him in the game moving forward.
Q. Austin Mack had an up-and-down career. He's been a reliable guy a lot of times. How would you assess his career here so far?
RYAN DAY: Well, the injury last year made it hard. He's made some big, big catches for us. He's a guy that we have to count on, especially on third down to be that big, strong receiver that we can rely on. He's been around for a while. He's veteran. He knows what it looks like. He's got good size.
So now it's just a matter of production for Austin. So far he's done a pretty good job in these first couple games. He had the hamstring in the pre-season. He wasn't able to kind of be a finished product going into the season. But he's getting better. He's leg is getting stronger. We're going to need him big-time when we get into the conference play here.
Q. He has talked about leaving a legacy bigger than football. How important is the off-the-field stuff? How much do you encourage that?
RYAN DAY: Obviously leaving a legacy is critical. When you're all done here, what do you want people to think about you or say about you, what do you leave. I think about that all the time as a coach. So we all want to do that. We all do that different ways.
Certainly the way you go about your business, the way people think of you, the way you handle yourself is really important. You always want to be first class. The impact you have on people matters.
I know Austin is a very thoughtful young man. He thinks about all those things. He wants to do that as well. I think his focus right now is on football and being productive this season. But I know he's got a lot on his plate, as well.
Q. When you're number one runningback goes in and throws a block like J.K. did on the touchdown Saturday, what does that say from a leadership standpoint as far as he is concerned, the attitude he's got? How would you analyze how he played from one week to the next?
RYAN DAY: I thought the first game was, like I said earlier, was a little funky, the fits weren't great. Talking about the second game, I thought he ran hard with his pads down, the line did a good job of blocking for him. He had a good edge to him, played tough, he really did. That was one pickup.
The other one was miss-ID'd how we were blocking one of the protections. He had to block a defensive end, run through the A gap. He stuck his nose in there and blocked him. That's a tribute use to J.K., Tony Alford. Protection is as important as everything else. That was good, especially coming off of last week when we missed one of those.
A big improvement. I would say that was a significant improvement from week one to week two. Now we just keep going.
Q. You stole a glance at the game on Saturday night, LSU at Texas. What is your take on Joe Burrow, how far he's come?
RYAN DAY: I watched the whole thing. I couldn't be any proud prouder of a guy than Joe. The way he competed, the way he threw. He's come a long way since his freshman year. I wasn't here when he first got here. Spent a couple years with him. Seeing his mom and dad in the stands, go about beating a good Texas team on the road like that. Couldn't be happier for him.
He's playing at a high level, throwing the ball, looked like an NFL quarterback out there. Really proud of him.
Q. Indiana has a new quarterback. What has stood out to you about him on film?
RYAN DAY: He's very talented. We recruited him. He's out of Tampa. Very mobile. Very productive coming out of high school. I'm not surprised that he's playing right away there. He's a really smart kid, understands the game.
One of my conversations with him in recruiting, he had a good football IQ. Again, was very productive in high school. Now he's stepping in as a youngster. Had a good first couple games.
I think he's going to have a really good career. He's very talented and very versatile.
Q. Something he does particularly skill set-wise that could be an issue?
RYAN DAY: No. That still is yet to be seen as the season goes on. He's mobile. He can run. He's accurate throwing the ball. He's pretty decisive throwing the ball. He's smart.
It's still early in his career. But he's talented.
Q. I can't remember the stuff we've talked about in the past, so I apologize. A couple times with the defense you said when you hired this staff you had some things that were non-negotiable. What was that stuff?
RYAN DAY: The first thing was stopping the run. I mean, I know that sounds like: No kidding. But that was a huge emphasis. Being really sound in our fits in the run game. We were going to play with a ridiculous amount of energy. That it wasn't going to come down to scheme at the end, it was going to come down to toughness, effort, tackling, running to the ball.
There were a few things in terms after four-down front. Larry has done such a great job, the staff had done a great job of recruiting all these defensive linemen, we weren't interested in the two gapping system. Four linemen going after the passer, that was it. Those guys got in a room. We're on that journey now.
Q. With what you've seen through two games, sort of letting these guys play, I know once you get here recruiting rankings don't matter, but are you seeing some of the natural skill that these guys have coming out in the way you want because you do have some really talented guys on the defense?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, yeah, I think right now we're seeing the best version of these guys. Again, it's only two games. We haven't had a conference game yet. I think you're seeing some guys come out of their shell a little bit, Malik Harrison showed up. He's had some tough clips of film taking on linemen, taking on I think it was an insert by a tight end, knocked him down. Some Pete Werner, guys running to the ball, tackling, being physical. That's really important.
Even in the game the other day, the quarterback escapes, he gets like a gain of eight, but he got whacked, tackled. There were six guys running to the ball.
When Shaun Wade came off the edge, fumbles, there were six guys right there. Somehow we didn't get it. I don't know how we didn't get it, but we were there. Playing with that kind of pursuit and toughness, we're going to get more turnovers. I believe they believe it and feel it right now.
Q. What do you think of what you've seen from Shaun Wade?
RYAN DAY: Very, very talented. Extremely talented. He can play outside, inside, he can blitz. Helps us on special teams. Very, very talented. I think he's going to have a great year.
Q. You may have answered this question. What is your favorite aspect of this defense?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think I said early on, I think any time you've been through some stuff, you've been scarred, I like that, I like that kind of group. They have. They had to sit around last year, listen about how they went through some tough times. They weren't happy about that.
They're a very prideful group. They were kind of just working and not talking much about it, trying to be quiet about it. At the same time they were angry. They feel like they have something to prove, they have a chip on their shoulder. I love being around guys like that.
Q. You have the three punts inside the opponent's 10 yard line this season, scored touchdowns on each of those possessions. Is that as close to a turnover as you can get? How do you view those?
RYAN DAY: We have something we call the plan to win. In the plan to win, one of the things we talk about is that when the offense gets the ball on the 25 yard line after a touchback or a kickoff return, our number one job is to get the ball to midfield. Obviously we want to score, but doesn't always work that way. We have to get at least two first downs. If we do that, we're jogging the best punter in America out there. He's really good at pinning them inside the 10. If we get them inside the 10, put the best defense out there, looking to get a three-and-out or get them off the field before they get past the 20.
At that point we send the punt blocker, punt returner out and get the ball around midfield. Now it's the offense's turn to go score. That's what you're talking about. That literally is the plan to win.
We talked about it before the game, while the game was going on on the sidelines, then in the team meeting showing the guys the clips. That is the whole field position game. When you start with the ball inside your 10 yard line, statistics show less than a 10% chance of scoring a touchdown. If you get the ball at midfield, it goes through the roof. Guys understand that here. That's part of our plan to win.
Q. When Justin won the job, mentioned that his gauge on his success would come from anticipating in this offense. Now that this 'pre-season phase' is over, how do you assess his problem with that?
RYAN DAY: That's for everybody. I think that's the key to really good play at the highest level of football, is when you can anticipate what the defender is going to do or the offensive guy is going to do as opposed to react. That's when he become a great player.
When you watch the best in the business, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, they already know what you're doing before you do it. That's when you get 'em.
Justin is very talented, but that's the goal. We want to get to the point where he knows exactly what's going on before the play, then it's just a matter of executing the play.
A lot of talented quarterbacks out there who can get away with reacting. We want to get it to the point where he knows what's going on before the snap happens. That is at every position, at DB, linebacker, offensive line.
That's why we spend so much time preparing. There's a physical preparation, but also a mental preparation. The coaches got to keep pushing on that because that will make a difference in the end.
Q. How much of your offensive play calling are scripted? When you do that, what is your priority there? Is it try to probe the weaknesses of defense? To get the ball in certain players' hands?
RYAN DAY: We put the game plan together. That's all scripted by formation, then situation. We have our openers that we start with. Usually about 10 to 15. But I don't like to get too stuck on that. We don't like to get too stuck on that because things change really fast. The looks you're going to get in college football really change, teams can go from showing one defense, all of a sudden they're in a completely different one.
Last week they were blitzing every snap. We knew after the second snap that it is all blitz. So now quickly adjust and don't just stay fixed on the openers. Then you got to be able to adjust on the roll.
Yeah, there's a lot that goes into it. We try to do all the above, get some guys touching, make sure we get the quarterback in a rhythm, moving the ball down the field, all those types of things when we get going. Also get a feeling for what they're doing formationally. Most teams will have certain tendencies based on formation.
Q. (Indiscernible) to get his play-makers the ball. Is that also your number one priority as an offensive play-caller?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that's part of it. Obviously you want to get those guys the ball. But there's a lot that goes into it. You want to get the ball in their hands, but sometimes it's man-to-man. Sometimes your play-maker may be in a situation where there's a blitz, you can't protect there.
Yeah, for sure, the number one goal is to get your play-makers the ball in space, number one thing. But there's a lot that goes into it. That's the goal, that's what we try to figure out as the game goes on.
Q. You are asked a lot of questions about Justin's decision in the passing game. How did he handle the run game, recognizing fronts, how you read the zones?
RYAN DAY: Okay. Yeah, okay. I think he was good. He can be better. There's some I think he wishes he had back. For the most part he's got a good handle on checking the run, who is he reading, his eyes are in the right place. Every time he plays, he's going to get better and better at that.
Q. You mentioned before there was an opportunity for Master Teague to get more naps. In general as a head coach, how do you want that balance to be? Do you like having that one runningback? A ceiling for how many snaps or touches another runningback can get?
RYAN DAY: No, I think that J.K. is our number one back. Last year it was a split deal with Mike. Now it's J.K. Those guys are going to support him. But we usually have between 75 and 80 something snaps. Has to get spread around a little bit. Based on how the game is going, there may be a long drive of 10 plays where we got to roll. Then there's times where we can get in a rhythm and go four or five plays and score, another four- or five-play drive where he can keep going. Sometimes it depends how the game is being played out. We want those guys to provide some depth and they're going to have to play for us.
Q. Probably two of Smith's plays here were where he scrambled away from pressure. You made the comment earlier about Justin, you'd like to him to pad sack, you said. How do you know when it's the right time and when it's not?
RYAN DAY: You don't. You don't. You try to give him certain parameters and let him play. He watches it and learns. The guy is on the perimeter got to do a better job of staying with him in the scramble. The play is never over with Justin. The ball came without with a little bit more rhythm, three and hitch, the ball came out, checked it down, we were on with the play. Here those guys got to stay alive.
I think we're getting a feel for it. Certainly we don't want to throw the ball down the field late in the middle of the field. We got to be smart with that.
Again, can you really control all of it? No, you can't. You got to kind of let it go. Give him certain parameters, then trust him.
Q. Every week in college, there's an outcome that blows people's minds. In those situations, what is the anatomy of how that happens, how do you keep it from happening?
RYAN DAY: I think there's a lot. If there were an easy answer to that, it wouldn't happen. There's a lot that goes into that. It's something we're obviously aware of, talk about it all the time. The mentality we have is if you're the champ, you're the boxer, they're going to try to knock you out every time you go in the ripping. We're going to get everybody's best shot, we know that. Don't be surprised.
We have to bring it every single week. The only way to do that is to make sure you're preparing this week just like you did last week, find a chance to be a little bit better. If we ever take the shortcut on something or don't do it the way we did it the week before, then we set ourselves up. That's physically, emotionally and mentally.
So physically we have to be ready to go, we have to have energy, get rest, recover. Emotionally preparing for the game. Then mentally making sure we know what we're doing, we have good scheme through the coaching staff, then the guys can execute it when they get on the field. If we do that, follow the plan to win, then we're fine.
Any time if something like that doesn't happen, you set yourself up and you get exposed.
Q. Over the years this game in Bloomington has felt like a home game for Ohio State. Is the road the road or when you get to a place like this, you have as many fans as they have, how big an impact does that make?
RYAN DAY: Any time you go on the road, it's the road. A conference game, it's hard. It's amazing no matter where we go, whether it's Dallas when we were at the Cotton Bowl, even when we played TCU last year or we played out at the Rose Bowl, Buckeye Nation has traveled. To feel their support on a road game it unbelievable.
I remember before the TCU game, Joe was on the big screen, LSU came back and beat someone, the place was going crazy. Those were all Buckeye people. Out of the tunnel, you could hear the Buckeye Nation screaming as we came out of the tunnel. That's special. We know everywhere we go, we're going to get some support. It means a lot when we go on the road.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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