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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 8, 2019
Q. There's a lot of things you want to work on during the off week. What are some of the things at the top of the list with your team?
COACH DAY: We're kind of in a self-evaluation phase right now on both sides of the ball, schematically, things like that. But also individually and as units we're really taking a hard look to see what are some things we've done well in these first six weeks and what are some things that we need to improve on?
So the big focus is on self improvement this week. Each coach is giving tangible things for each of the players to work on. It may be something that's on the field. It might be something off the field. It might be something academically, something along those lines. But the idea is, what have we done well and what do we need to improve on.
Q. Seems like some of the comments throughout the year, you guys are into advanced analytics. Is that accurate? Do you guys study the advanced analytics of the game what you're doing?
COACH DAY: Yeah, it's a part of it. You can get too jammed with that because most good football teams will show you one thing one week and do something in the next week. That's what I always laugh about -- what did they do last week? And then you look at the analytics and you say you can be sure I'm not going to do that this week. So you don't know.
But it's all part of it and there are certain things that you can find about your opponent but also about yourself.
Q. This is one of the things you're doing for the first time now as a head coach going through an off week. Was there any kind of template that you used for that, anything that you thought worked in the past, other coaches you had worked under that this is how you set this?
COACH DAY: This week is a little different because we're coming back, playing on a Friday night. It's a little bit different. We'll come back to practice on Sunday, which is something you typically wouldn't do coming off a bye week, but we will.
So it's a little bit different and we put it together based on what we thought was best for the team.
Q. What's the balance between wanting to give guys a rest and mental break as much as a physical break, but also you're 6-0, you're rolling, you probably want to keep an edge? Does that happen during the bye week and does it resume next week?
COACH DAY: There's guys -- that was a physical game we played on Saturday night. So guys need to get healthy again. We're a little battered, but that's what happens, six weeks in and after you play a game like we did against Michigan State.
But it's all kind of you know how you craft it during the week and the way we're doing it is we're trying to get those guys healthy as best we can and be smart about it. But really focusing on enhancing the things guys are doing well and improving on the things they need to improve on.
Q. You mentioned at the beginning of the season as far as defensive game planning you'd have very little role in that. You kind of wanted to empower those guys. Looking back at the first six games, has that gone according to that kind of plan?
COACH DAY: It has. Typically after a game, we'll get in there, watch with the offense, I'll go in there with the defense, we'll go through each position and talk about things that went well, things didn't go well. I will have watched the game and then go through if there's anything that we see, we'll talk it through or issues that may have arisen in the game and talk those things through, what we want to do next week and where we're headed.
Usually personnel-based. I kind of let those guys do the schematics of it. There's sometimes we have conversation, but those guys have owned it and they've done a great job.
Q. When did you go about it that way as a coach?
COACH DAY: I think, first off, when you're running your side of the ball, you really want to do it your way. And too many cooks in the kitchen isn't good. So those guys are doing their deal and then they obviously report to me and whatever they think is best we'll have a conversation about it, move forward.
But then also being involved with special teams, being involved with the offense, you can only do so many things, and that's why I hired guys like Jeff and Greg and Larry who have such great experience that they can do it.
Q. Obviously you understand the importance of recruiting and recruiting at a high level, and this program is still in a little bit of a transition period as you go through from coach to coach. I was wondering in next year's class, Ohio, the state of Ohio has maybe the deepest crop of talent it's had in a long time just in the state. I was wondering in a coach in your position, recruiting very well right now, but to have that base of talent in your home state next year, what can that do for you in terms of managing this transition?
COACH DAY: It's huge. It's huge because in recruiting for us our foundation is Ohio, for sure. And the Midwest, and then we supplement it with national guys. But when you have so many talented guys in the state of Ohio that are right down the street, it's huge for us, and it's great to have those guys come visit.
It's great to have all those guys come visit us on Saturday night, get a feel for what the game-day atmosphere was like on Saturday which was awesome. We had so many recruits in.
It's working at a high level right now and I think there's so many guys in Ohio right now they want to stay home to be a part of this. So it's going well.
Q. Over the course of Urban Meyer's tenure he took on average about three less Ohio kids per class than Jim Tressel did before him. That sounds like a lot but over the course of the four years it's almost 20 percent of the roster (indiscernible) Ohio kids. What's your ideal philosophy in terms of how to manage that when you have that? Do you want more? Did you like the balance of Ohio kids then? And kind of when you have a class like this what does that look like?
COACH DAY: Good question. I think you just have to look at who you think fits your roster at that time, who is good enough to play. Ideally, you'd have as many Ohio guys as you can have. But sometimes it kind of fluctuates based on the talent in that recruiting class, and you do the best you can to go recruit the best at each position that fit here. Because that's another part of it, the guys that fit.
So for sure, if somebody is from the state of Ohio, then they're going to have a leg up on anybody else in the country in recruiting because this is their home state and they grew up being Buckeyes so that matters.
Q. You talked about this is the first time going through being a bye week as a head coach. (Indiscernible) how do you balance maintaining those relationships with guys that are already committed within the 2020 class versus trying to get out ahead with the 2021 class as well?
COACH DAY: That's why you work so many hours and you have so many people who do a great job within the staff here. There's a lot going on. There's a lot going on Saturday. I don't know the total number we had, but it was a ridiculous amount of people that were here. I thought Mark and everybody involved and his staff did a great job organizing that and handling it well.
I think recruits and their families understand that on game day they're not going to get as much time face to face with the coaches or anything. They come for the atmosphere and they understand that. And all the feedback we got was that it was a home run.
Q. You talked about that self-evaluation. When you look back at the first six games what do you say, what's one thing you think this team has done really well? And what's one big thing that you really need to improve going into the second half of the year?
COACH DAY: I don't know if it's one thing. I think our chemistry has been really good the first six games. I think we have played with toughness -- seeing guys tackle, run to the ball, the way guys are running the ball, the way we're blocking on the line of scrimmage, the way the quarterback is playing.
I think the quarterback's tough. I watch the way he takes shots and he stands in there. And I think our team is getting a little bit of that identity.
Then we have to keep that going; we have to keep building. And really that game on Saturday night was the first time we played 60 minutes. We had to get that thing into the second half and go win the game in the second half.
So that's going to be the challenge moving forward. I think higher end execution just in all phases is going to be critical. When you kind of play the way we did in the first five games where it gets a little lopsided, you're talking 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids, when you play a team like Michigan State and you get some of that real resistance right there and some back and forth, you can get their attention and how important execution is going to be and the details.
Q. What are the things you feel you can get accomplished when you have two weeks between a game instead of just one like you do in most weeks?
COACH DAY: Well, a couple things. You get healthy. You get guys to heal up from the first six games. You get a chance to take a deep breath and get an idea where you're at, evaluate each player, each unit, where they're at, where they want to go, where we want them to go.
And then you get two weeks to game plan, which is good too. You get to try some things, throw it out, work through it, a little bit more time to prepare and that's always good.
Q. I think since the moment you got here there have been teams linking you to the NFL going back at some point. If the Redskins or somebody called right now what would the response be?
COACH DAY: I appreciate you asking. And I think being in a place like Ohio State anytime there's success, things like this are going to come up. I don't really ever want to talk about any of that stuff. I love it here. This is where I want to be.
Whether it's good, bad or indifferent, even for the next five, 10, hopefully 20 years, while I'm here I really don't want to comment on any of that because I don't think it's good for anybody.
Q. You seem like early in the year that you were anxious or nervous if Justin was running in the open, what the depth situation was like. He's starting to do it a little bit more and taken a couple shots. Are you still holding your breath every time he runs or are you more comfortable with that idea since he's responded to that with some toughness?
COACH DAY: A little bit of both, a little bit of everything. I think he's shown toughness, he's dropped his pads and taken care of himself. He's taken a few shots. You can see how dynamic he is with his feet and how he changes the game.
And there's a give and take, a calculated risk every time that happens. Again we don't want him taking shots or expose him. But at the same time he's a talent and he's a load. It's not like he's skinny or he's going to take too many shots, and he actually delivers the blow on some guys. That's the way he's built. He's big and strong which really helps.
But certainly we don't want to be in a situation where we have to run him too much. But when you get in the red zone or you get in those certain situations where it's such an advantage for us, then if we've got to go win the game we're going to do it. And he understands that and he's been great about it. And he's shown the toughness that we need to do that.
Q. You have a Rose Bowl MVP defensively on this team who we don't see too much, Brendon White. Is he odd man out in your defensive change from a year ago?
COACH DAY: No, he's in there. He's working at it. He's learning that bullet position. He's had some good snaps, had some snaps he wants to improve on. That's a guy this week it's a great opportunity for him to find out what is he doing well and what are the things he needs to improve on, just like everybody else.
But Pete and Brendon and Jahsen and Justin Hilliard, they're all in that role and sharing the snaps. I know all want to play more. But as we get a chance to look back at those six games they'll have some things that they have to improve on.
Q. Is there a profile of a team that his presence on the field fits more, a tailback-heavy team, a spread team? Is there a profile of a team that you just play teams that your personnel fit, what those -- how those teams are attacking you better than Brendon?
COACH DAY: I think that there's certain -- that hybrid position, that bullet is kind of a bigger safety who plays linebacker. And so if it's a little bit pass heavy, sometimes you'll see the bullet in there a little bit more. If it's heavy, heavy pass, it's more nickel, more of a defensive back, a corner type.
And so that's the good thing for us is that we have some different personnel groupings we can get into on defense now to counter what we're seeing on offense. And so the more things you can do, then obviously the more versatility you provide as a player.
But Brendon is doing a good job in terms of learning the position. He jumped around a little bit in his position, so now that he's settling into this, he played better this week. He is improving over the last couple of weeks and I think he's going to continue to improve.
Q. No coach complains having too many good players, but you're invested in the players, you know their parents and you obviously know his father's situation. As a coach, do you ever feel bad -- a kid's working hard; the guys ahead of him are just a little bit better?
COACH DAY: I think certainly we all know that situation and are very sensitive to that. But at the end of the day we just kind of meet with each guy. And that's what this week is really good for, to have a great conversation about where they're at and where they need to go.
And we care about all these guys. And that's really important is to make sure that these kids understand that we have their back and we have the resources they need to make sure that they're successful. And each coach's responsibility and player's responsibility is to build that connection so they know that we're here for them.
And I think when you do that, then you've got something special going, and I feel that within the team right now.
Q. A while ago you said five, 10, 20 years, as long as you are here. Do you want to add 28? That's how long Woody was here?
COACH DAY: Oh boy, I don't know if I could make it that long, but a good problem to have.
Q. You're a youngish man at 40, you're a first-time head coach. Your team went from a big question mark for a lot of people preseason about where you all fit with a new head coach and new quarterback, new offensive line; now you're number three in one poll, number four in another, getting first place votes. How do you temper being excited about your job but with the fact that you know the season's half over? How do you deal with that? Because I would think you're pretty fired up right now.
COACH DAY: Well, it's great to be 6-0. And I think when we looked at our season we saw this first six games as a chunk. We had a bye week and then we have two games; we have a bye week and then we finish with the last four.
And it's something we talked to the team about, and the first goal was to get 6-0 and now here we are. We're entering into the next phase here. And it's good to build confidence, good to know everything we're working on is paying off because there's been a lot of hard work that have been put in here, a lot of hours -- physically, emotionally, mentally, meetings, lifts, workouts. There's so many of those things that have happened. So to see that pay off is great.
But we all know that doesn't mean anything if you don't win the next one. So keeping that chip on our shoulder and making sure that we haven't proven anything yet, just that we have the capability to do well, but we're just halfway through the season and we've got a long way to go.
So making sure we have something to prove every single day we step on the practice field and on the game field is important.
Q. With the offensive line, when you put it together you never know exactly how tough it's going to be at crunch time and stuff. Did you learn something about that group on Saturday night again that tells you it's not just a bunch of great athletes out there, but they can step into a Big Ten football game?
COACH DAY: I think we learned a couple things about the O line. One, when it was tough sledding early on they didn't panic; they kept swinging away. And the second thing, like you said, that's a real defensive line that has some really good players there. And I thought they were physical, finishing guys downfield again. And they took a lot of pride in that.
To run over 300 yards against that outfit is saying something. I think they do, I think it shows what our O line is and what it's capable of. All that means is just more expectation moving forward.
Q. Going into the season, it was that Justin Fields wouldn't be the passer that Dwayne was just because Dwayne's numbers, what he's done. Are you surprised at all at the success he's had? And how would you compare those guys at the halfway point last year to this year, their growth? Is it similar? Is Justin ahead?
COACH DAY: Just very different. Two very different situations, I think. Both were unknown. Both had zero collegiate starts coming into the season, which is amazing when you think back on it.
But it was a situation where Dwayne was in the offense and just had to prove that he had the game experience and those type of things. Justin was much more of an unknown because he had just got here in January. And so he's growing every day. He knows what he needs to work on.
But his leadership and his toughness has shown. And I think the guys in that locker room are appreciative of that. I think they see it.
He's got a lot of areas to grow and a lot of things to work on, but if he continues to lead, if he continues to be tough, if he continues to be a leader in that locker room, then a lot of good things are going to happen.
Q. How do you compare the two as passers? Just strictly from you being a former QB coach, how do they --
COACH DAY: One is kind of more of a pocket guy whose a little bit longer, leaner, 6'5". Maybe a little bit quicker release. The other guy is 6'3", thicker, stronger in the pocket. Guys can kind of bounce off of him in there. He's a little stronger in there, can stand in there a little more, can create and extend plays. He's got a very strong arm, and that thing comes out with pace when it comes out.
I think Justin can make a throw anywhere on the field, at any point whether it's in the pocket or when he goes to escape. There's not really an area of the field he can't get the ball to. And a lot of times it's not even with his feet under him. He can get away with some of that stuff.
All the things that we're cleaning up in terms of technique and getting the ball out in time, but he's very talented.
Q. Have the Redskins contacted you?
COACH DAY: Like I said, no, but I'm really not going to talk about any of that. I really don't want to have any conversation about that.
Q. Let's forget that Haskins plays with the Redskins. He's going through a very uncertain time in his career about the direction of that team that he's on. Has he reached out to you? Have you tried to counsel him? If you would, what would you say to a guy who, where he is in his development?
COACH DAY: No, Dwayne and I speak regularly but hadn't really talked to him, I think since he played in the preseason game, I think it was in Cleveland. He played a preseason game in Cleveland. Talked to him before that and wished him nothing but the best of luck but been kind of busy here running around.
It's the same thing, he's going to be fine. He's just got to keep working at it, keep staying strong and he'll be fine.
Q. I was joking with Luke Farrell earlier this year about when he's going to come in to your office and demand that he get the ball. He said, of course, I would never do that. But he catches a touchdown pass the other night, and he said he almost got emotional about it because he was excited for the opportunity to contribute to his team and help that kind of thing. Obviously Luke is doing his job blocking most of the time. Just what's that guy done to help this offense this year?
COACH DAY: He's done a lot, not just this year but last year too. And we've played with several tight ends on the field. It's one of our more experienced groups coming into the season. When you're a tight end you have to be able to do a lot of things; you have to be able to protect, run routes and run block and do all those things. And to do that takes a special guy. And I think Luke does all those things very well.
He's not a guy that takes a lot of maintenance. You tell him something once, he gets it. And that's not easy as a tight end because you have to be involved in so many things. You have to be a high processor. He does that. Like you said, he doesn't bring a lot of attention to himself when he's not getting the ball or anything like that like. Never heard anything like that from Luke.
Proud that he made that big play and we needed that play in that game, not only that catch and being where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there, but to break a tackle with one of the better linebackers in the country in Bachie and scores a touchdown. That was great for him and well deserved.
Q. Just the idea, can you talk about the emotion of the moment, and they're young guys and they're giving everything to this. And he said, I got to score a touchdown at my dream school. Like it was unbelievable. What does that tell you about these guys? And I think sometimes it's maybe easy for us -- it's a business, a lot going on. But there is an emotional component of this; you can tell sometimes when it comes out of these guys it really means a lot to them.
COACH DAY: I totally hear what you're saying because I think sometimes we just think this thing goes on and on and on and they're just -- they're players and everything. But like you said, these guys are kids who grew up -- some grew up in Ohio or wherever, but they grew up and dreamed of being in environments like they were Saturday night. And to actually fulfill a dream after all the hard work that's been put in -- and there's a guy who keeps putting it in but really hadn't made a big play like that.
So you just never know. It's faith without results at times. You've just got to keep trusting it and trusting it and trusting it. And all of a sudden when it happens it's like, this is why you do it. Great to see stories like that.
Because in a day and age where everybody wants instant gratification, to see a guy work like that and get his due is great to see.
Q. You've remarked a couple times about Justin's toughness, just curious maybe what you thought of him in those regards when he got here and how you've seen that develop as he tries to carve out this leadership position. How much does his willingness to go get tough yards help that?
COACH DAY: I didn't have any expectations of him because I didn't know him other than just in the recruiting when he was coming up. But didn't spend a ton of time with him because he was committed to Penn State and then committed to Georgia.
We had a young man committed to us at the time. So it was a little bit but didn't really get to go see him play or anything. So I didn't know. Then got around him a little bit, got to know him a little bit, but still you don't know until you're in it because we don't tackle the quarterback.
Then to see the last couple games, the way he's taken a few shots, the way he's run the ball and then come right back, that is some grittiness there. And that's very exciting.
Q. You see his teammates taking to that? I know guys are -- some are vocal, some aren't -- but when you're trying to be a leader something like that maybe more important than using your voice.
COACH DAY: I think when you're preaching toughness and your quarterback takes a shot right in the face, one that to me was questionable, and he comes back and throws a fade in the corner of the end zone one week and then lowers a shoulder and takes a shot in the thigh to score a touchdown late in the game --
On J.K.'s touchdown run or two of them, he's carrying out his fake and then he's running down the field to help block. He was almost in the end zone before J.K. on the long run. And the other one he's leading to try to help block. It just goes to show you what this kid's made of.
Yeah, I think a lot of guys on the team are taking notice of that.
Q. You guys lead the country in rushing yards, total rushing yards. At the same time you've been balanced passing yards, almost there with it. Is that where you want to be? Is there anything else you'd like to see from the passing game, or are you pretty happy with the balance you've got so far?
COACH DAY: It's kind of like last year we were a bit more passing, and that's kind of how it played out as it went on. But I think we're very explosive in the pass game. Again tribute to the way backs are running and the way we're blocking because when you can run you can really control the game. I think we've done that so far.
But like you're saying, as the game goes on and the season goes on, we get into these games, we're going to have to throw at a high level. So that's going to be part of this. But certainly any offense will tell you they want great balance.
Q. When Jeff Hafley brings in this defense, we didn't really know what it looks like. Now he's out there trotting three starting corners. Seems to me the third starting corner is kind of very important in allowing this to happen. So how would you rate or how would you describe Shaun Wade's value on this defense?
COACH DAY: I don't know how I could really put any kind of commentary on how valuable it is, but that's big. You see a lot of guys in college football try to get the ball to the slot receiver, whether it's RPOs or throws or whatever it is, that's the guy they target.
The guys on the outside, they're a little bit longer throws. And so in college that guy gets targeted a lot. So you have to be multitalented. You have to be able to play the run. You have to be tough. You have to be able to play blitz and play coverage and man-to-man on a deep ball.
You have to be able to do all those things to be really good at that position. Otherwise you have to keep moving different body types in there based on what you're seeing. What Shaun gives us is great versatility because he has all those skills.
Q. Not just covering the slot guys but the way he was blowing up those screens.
COACH DAY: Unbelievable. On that one screen that he made, or that he made a play on, we were kind of outnumbered. That was a heck of a design by them. But we talk about how toughness and effort can overcome scheme.
And there's two guys there that are blocking him. He kind of splits them and slows the screen runner down just enough. And then BB Landers gives great effort. Tuf Borland gives great effort on the play.
And that's about the pursuit that Greg Mattison talks about. And Shaun kind of stops them just enough to stop his feet, and then here comes the pursuit, they make the play, and that was a big play in the game.
Q. I want to ask about the Dobbins long touchdown. On the replay it appears Hausmann seals off one side and the three interior linemen all hit their blocks and everything. He has to make one guy miss and he's off to the races. In general the execution of that play seemed like it was as good as it could be against a quality defense, a very good front seven. And in general just the play of the offensive line to date, just your thoughts on how this has clicked together for this?
COACH DAY: It was a third-and-two. We put formation into the boundary. And I thought our guys did a really good job getting to the second level. Josh Myers did a really good job getting up on Bachie there.
We've got good movement on the front side. If you watch it on film, as Justin disconnects, that safety took maybe a step or two steps because he thought maybe Justin had the ball. And I think that was enough to get him squirted out the front side.
Another guy who made a big block was K.J. K.J. Hill, on the walk-out, he got on his inside number and that sprung it. It was well done by everybody. To hit a big play like that all 11 have to do great. If 10 guys or nine guys do their job, it goes for 10 or 12. But everybody has to do their job for a big play like that and they did.
Q. Offensive line, just your thought -- it was a group that had never played together. You insert Jackson at the absolute last minute, wasn't there in the spring. Seems like that group has played pretty well today?
COACH DAY: I would say Jonah's as close to a man and pro as I've been around in a long time. He's a great young man who really has immersed himself in this program. The guys really have taken to him. And he's got a great way about him.
And like you said, for a guy to come into that room with a lot of pride and a lot of history, it's not easy. We've got a strong culture in that room.
And for a fifth-year senior to come in that room and embrace and do it the way he's doing, it says a lot about who he is. But it says a lot about the culture of that offensive line room, which is I think one of the best cultures we have in the whole staff, and that's a tribute to what Stud has done with that room. I think it's tremendous right now. They're playing with great passion and they're solving the problems, they're playing with great energy. So all positive there.
But again the challenge is can we keep it up now, because if we come out, don't do that, don't finish don't play with that edge, then obviously we're setting ourselves up for failure.
Q. Don't want to ask anymore about NFL rumors, but you said a couple times you plan on being at Ohio State the next five, 10, 20 years. You've had jobs at the college and NFL level. When was it you decided that your more permanent career path was to be the head coach at a major college program, Ohio State, as opposed to being in the NFL?
COACH DAY: When we had to move our family three times in three years. That was not good. And that's the thing that I don't know if people realize. You have to move your family -- we have a young family. When you're moving them all over the place, it is the worst thing to go home to your family and tell them we've got to move again; they've got to be the new kid again and your wife has to figure out a new set of friends again. It's just not good.
Certainly Nina and I didn't grow up that way. We grew up in the same house for our whole lives and all our families still back in our hometown. And that was hard times for us. I said never again. I don't want to do it anymore. She said the same thing. That was the decision that we made.
Q. You guys blocked a few kicks early in the season, Drue Chrisman has been a model of consistency, punting, how would you evaluate the special teams units through six games?
COACH DAY: I think we've been solid. We missed two blocked field goals by -- I mean, as close as you could possibly miss a blocked field goal.
The second one, Chase is right there. And I don't know how it maybe just slid by his fingers and he missed it. I think if he kicks it down the middle, we're probably blocking it.
I think we've done a good job with the punt blocking, field goal blocking. Our return game has just been okay. I think our punt game has been solid. I think Drue's doing a good job, I thought we did a good job the other night recovering. I think we had zero return yards. Overall pretty solid. I think our return game can be better. But overall special teams has been solid.
Q. Did you get to watch the game at all last night. Did you watch any of that game? Did you see Nick?
COACH DAY: I watched the first half, yeah.
Q. What did you think about the way Nick Bosa played in that game?
COACH DAY: I was proud of the way he played. Great to see him healthy and running around making plays. He was a terror out there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports