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December 6, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Coach Day, welcome to the dais. If you would like to start with a brief statement, then we'll take questions.
RYAN DAY: Appreciate everybody being here. This is obviously an exciting trip for our team. We just got here in Indianapolis. So far it's been great in terms of the hospitality of everyone here in Indianapolis.
Had a good week of practice getting prepared for what we think is one of the best-coached teams and best teams not only in the Big Ten but in the country. Had a good week of practice and excited to get playing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. We don't usually get to talk to you the day before a game. As you saw Justin go through the week practicing with the knee and brace, do you have more confidence that he can run most of the offense than you had at the start of the week?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, yeah, I think he's done a great job this week preparing. It's something he's been kind of dealing with. He's done a great job. Training staff has been doing a great job of getting him ready. He's had a good, strong week of practice.
Q. I asked you the other day, but not only would you be the first team to win three outright Big Ten Championships in a row, it's never been done at all. What kind of achievement would that be for you?
RYAN DAY: It certainly would mean a lot. In terms of sitting back and reflecting what that would mean down the road, we'll kind of think about that as we get done with the season maybe in February.
But right now it's all eyes on this game, playing a great game, keep preparing for the next night to make sure that we're playing our best ball. We want to make sure, like we've talked about, we're accelerating through the finish line, which is the Big Ten Championship game. It's been our goal, been on our board for a long time. It's all about being locked in, focusing at a high level. In a game like this, there's a lot of hype, a lot of hoopla when you come into the city.
At the end of the day it's going to come down to execution, who does their job on the field. That's what the focus is on right now.
Q. Will Jonathon Cooper still travel with you guys even though he's not playing? Is there any chance you might still dress him in these games in case you might need him?
RYAN DAY: He will travel with us, but we won't dress him, no. Unless he just made a strong case for why he'd want to dress, the plan is for him not to. We didn't want to risk putting him on the field. It's a decision you have to make, taking emotion out of it. As much as we'd love to have him in a game like this. We just think the best thing to do is to have a whole year. He deserves that. He deserves to have a full season his senior year healthy and playing at a high level of football, which we know he's capable of.
I know it's going to hurt him more than anybody not having him out there Saturday, but we think it's the right thing to do.
Q. Garrett Wilson had some muffed punts. Been a topic of conversation. Is there any consideration for moving guys around in that area or are you going to stick with him, go through the freshmen growing pains? Somebody you want to have on the field in that situation?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, he's got to take care of the ball. But he'll be our returner tomorrow night. We believe in him. We trust in him. We think he has the ability to be an elite returner. We'll just keep working through it and get his eyes on that ball and catch it. We know what he's capable of. We know what he's done in practice.
The other day the wind was a little gusty, you could see that in two plays, in my opinion. One was that play. Then also Chris Olave's long ball, the ball kind of caught it at the end, caught him in the face.
No excuse, but indoor situation with no weather, we expect him to do a great job and be 100% catching the ball.
Q. We've been asking a lot about Garrett all year, his progression. Is he peaking at the right time? I know you've had a very deep receiver rotation all year, but is this somebody that is kind of reaching a point you thought he could get to?
RYAN DAY: He's practicing much better. To see him make those plays the other day, that's huge. But there is a process. It takes time. It doesn't happen, as talented as he is and some of the other guys are, it takes time. His practice habits have improved. You saw that.
So I think Chris is a great example of that last year, now you get a chance to see Garrett shine in one of the biggest moments. So now he's going to carry that over to this game. That game is behind us. Got to focus on this game, just like everybody else.
It was good to see a young guy step up in that moment.
Q. I'm not trying to get secret info on Justin or anything. I guess I'm not drawing a direct comparison. In 2017 when you were here, you had a quarterback who was coming off a knee injury. For any play-caller, for any coach, when you have a quarterback who has something physically, just what is the process like of trying to figure out, I think the game might go like this, we're not 100% sure what he's going to be like physically on Saturday? How do you prepare yourself and how will you react in the game once you see Justin moving around?
RYAN DAY: First off, J.T. had that procedure done. I think that was a very different injury. But I do hear the comparison, what you're saying.
No, I mean, we talked to the training staff, to our people, ask all those questions. What the risks are, what they aren't. Everything we've heard back is that it's 100% go, he's ready to roll. We go from there.
If there was any question on that, we certainly would take precautions. We feel great. We've had a good week of practice. We're ready to go.
Q. How do you plan on stopping the rush attack of Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin?
RYAN DAY: Well, it's a team effort. It's a good question. There's a lot that goes with it. It starts with the defensive line, doing a great job on the line of scrimmage. Then it's everybody else who fits into the run. Everybody has to be involved with it, the linebackers, certainly the secondary. You got to wrap up.
But it takes more than one guy. We got to do a good job of being physical, but we also have to pursue the ball. Everybody has to pursue the ball. Sometimes it will take multiple guys to get him down.
You have to win your one-on-one matchups at the end of the day. If you get a chance to tackle him, you got to wrap him up.
Q. As your first year being a head coach, what are your goals for Fields and Young?
RYAN DAY: Well, we really didn't set any individual goals in terms of anything other than being a great teammate and doing a good job in terms of creating leadership. That's a huge part of it for us. Both Justin and Chase, the two guys you asked about, they both stepped into different situations. Justin was the quarterback, hadn't had any collegiate starts. He came into the program new in January. Chase had been in the program, it's his third year.
Both of those guys really stepped up in the leadership roles this year, have done an unbelievable job. Of all the things that they've been credited for this year, the thing that I'm most proud of is their leadership, the way they've gone about their business week in, week out.
Q. What has Greg Mattison meant to you in his first year at Ohio State?
RYAN DAY: He brings an unbelievable set of experience to the table. In that whole defensive room, I thought they've really done a great job of coming together in a short period of time, creating good chemistry over there.
I think if you want to have good chemistry on a team, you have to have good chemistry on your coaching staff. Greg has been through it before. He's a veteran. He knows what it takes to win at the highest level. His experience and just the fact that he's been there before really has been big for us.
Then also just, again, that whole staff, the way they've built chemistry has been really good. But again, when you have somebody with experience who has the answers when things are flying around, the bullets are flying, it always good to know someone has been in the fire before.
Q. Getting Shaun Wade back this week, what is the biggest thing of all the things that he does for you?
RYAN DAY: Well, he brings a certain level of calmness to that defense because he has so much experience there. He's had a good week of practice. He can identify what's happening. He has a lot of experience in there. Last week we kind of moved Damon inside, and that created a little bit of unrest, we moved him back, things calmed down a little bit.
Shaun has got a lot of experience, he's played a lot of football. He can recognize things, he's versatile, and he's good in the run and the pass game.
Q. Do we make too much about a rematch six weeks after you played a team? What are you behooved to change up a little bit in the signals, et cetera, as you go into a game like this?
RYAN DAY: Well, no, I mean, it's a rematch, so I know that's rare in college football. Again, I don't think you make too much of it in the fact that you can't all of a sudden just start changing everything you do. But you also can't do the same exact thing you did before. There's somewhere in between. That's the balance you try to find, what kind of wrinkles can you show, but then allow the guys to play.
At the end of the day, in an environment like this, this type of atmosphere, it's about players, not plays. Allowing these guys to play freely, have their impact on the game based on what you're giving the guys, make sure they're playing with a clear mind. That's the most important thing to me in a game like this.
Q. In the off-season we talked with J.K. a lot about how he wanted to improve, how he wasn't hitting the home runs last year he wanted to. This year he has been. How important has he been for your offense? What differences have you seen this year?
RYAN DAY: I think it's a combination of things. I think our blocking with the offensive line has been excellent. Guys inside, the guys on the edge in terms of tackle and tight end has been off the charts.
He's run with an edge. He's run with a chip on his shoulder all season. Like you said, he's been running harder. Those four-yard runs are becoming five and six. Then the big plays take care of themselves.
The big thing for him is just taking care of that ball, which for the most part he's done a great job of this year. But that's going to be a huge emphasis going into this game, run with your pads down, but taking care of the football. Trust your offensive line, trust your reads. If you do that, you're going to have one heck of a night. But that's the message to J.K. this week.
Q. I know there's a lot of bumps and bruises. In terms of the status report, maybe one of the cleanest we've seen since the first week of the season. Did you approach how you were managing that differently, knowing you also still had to keep as many people healthy for this game, what could be coming up behind it, too?
RYAN DAY: I think it's more a product of just the way the season has gone with the two bye weeks, us getting some of our starters out of the game early on in the season.
Like you said, we're a pretty clean team right now in terms of injuries. So it has nothing to do with what we've done the last couple weeks other than the fact we held Shaun out because we didn't think he was 100%. I don't think you can do that to somebody like Shaun. You can't put him in the game, in a skill position, if he's not where he needs to be. We wouldn't do that to him.
But if anybody is ready to play or physically ready to play, we're not going to hold them back certainly in games like that, Penn State, team up north, then this one right here. It's all hands on deck to try to get this thing. Like we say, it's like March Madness, we need everybody to do their job, whether it's the right guard on field goal or starting quarterback. We need everybody.
Q. Josh Myers probably didn't get as much recognition as he might have deserved on the All Big Ten teams. What has he meant for the offensive line this year? You had a lot of returning starters.
RYAN DAY: I don't know if I can really put it into words. I think for a first-time starter, what he's done this year, has been excellent. He's as good as I've been around at that age. His communication, his ability to get the calls from tackle to tackle, his pad level, his strength, his protection, his athleticism. When you put that together, the leadership, you put that all together, he's very, very talented, really good. He's been playing really good for us.
Q. To go back to what you said about J.K.'s chip on his shoulder. He's spent all year feeling underappreciated a little bit nationally. He seems to feel slighted. This week he doesn't win Big Ten running back of the year. Is that something that you sense motivates him or do you pay any attention to that this week going into tomorrow night?
RYAN DAY: I think, I'm not speaking for J.K., you have to ask him, but I know if it was me, I'd ask, What else do I need to do? I think he deserves to be considered the best running back in the country. That hasn't really necessarily been the case.
I know that bothers him. I know he runs with a chip on his shoulder because of that. You have to ask him how he feels. I know it bothers me. He still has more opportunities to prove himself here.
Q. When we talked to K.J. the other day, he's within reach of the career all-time receiving record at Ohio State. He admitted it's been a frustrating year because the ball has been spread around so much, the running game is better, he has had to sublimate his own personal goals. Can you speak to that about K.J.'s season and about the fact that some of these guys are not getting the stats they would otherwise?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, it's a funny thing when you're the number one scoring offense in the country, there's guys on the team that still feel like they don't have the numbers or stats they would like. It's a good problem to have. But when you play in some of the games like we've played early in the season, those guys aren't playing the second half, that's kind of one of the give-and-takes.
There's positives and negatives to everything. Now that we're playing in these big games, everyone is having an opportunity to show up and get these stats. These last couple games, this one right here, they're all huge opportunities. I think all those guys to a man would say to you that that's not the number one goal, to get receptions or touches or touchdowns or anything like that. The number one goal is to win championships. That's why everybody is here. That's been the goal. That's what makes this team special, is they don't care about that. They celebrate with their teammates. It's all about winning.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think coming back, he's been the guy. He kind of split time with Parris last year. He's been the guy. We play in a little bit of 12 personnel, he comes out. But he's the H for us. He does a great job in there. He's clutch. He makes some big plays in big games. We all know that. He's reliable. Does a great job on the inside.
He's been a captain of this team. The guys who left last year, they left a legacy behind. Now K.J., Austin, and Ben have an opportunity to leave a legacy behind because we still got a lot of football to play. I think overall he's done a great job with leadership this year.
Q. You've arguably got one of the best teams in the country. Your guys are undefeated. They're playing for the championship. How do you keep these guys motivated each week knowing they're a step closer to the championship?
RYAN DAY: Well, they've been highly motivated all year. We talk about the race to the Big Ten Championship, the finish line to this race, which is the Big Ten Championship, you can see the finish line. The goal and visual has been accelerating through that finish line, not pulling up here. Because that's what great athletes do, that's what great teams do, is they accelerate at the end. We've known this has been coming. This has been one of our goals. We don't talk too much about what's next. We kind of really stay in the moment.
During the bye weeks and pre-season, we took a look at the schedule, talked through what the season was going to be like. We knew at the end of the season it was going to be hard. We expected to be in three top-10 games at the end of the season. That's not easy to do for 18-, 19-, 20-year-old guys to play in emotional games like this. It started with a top-10 win against Penn State at home, then we went up north and won last week, now we come to Indianapolis for this one. We knew this three-game stretch was coming. The guys have been prepared. I think they've had their eyes on this for a long time.
Now you put your head down and go as hard as you can to get to this finish line and win the game.
Q. With the way you have taken starters out in the second half this year, we know you don't want to run it up, get your backups in, keep guys healthy, how much did you factor into that wanting your top guys to be fresh and strong in November and December? What have you seen of your starters at this point in the season of how worn down or how fresh they are with the time they've had off?
RYAN DAY: I think to answer your question is "yes" to all of the above. When you're in those situations, you want to get guys some work, but you also want to get those guys fresh late in the season, the starters. I think you can see that by the way both sides of the ball our lines are coming off the ball. You kind of look to me on an offensive, defensive line, based on are they standing up or coming off the ball and going forward this time of year? I think you'll see our guys are going forward. I think our running backs are running hard, with power. Our guys look fast on the perimeter.
Yeah, I think part of the reason for that is just the way the season has played out.
Q. You have been able to run the ball from a lot of different looks, whether it's under center, the zone reads. How is that versatility on the ground important against a team that runs the ball so well?
RYAN DAY: These guys do an unbelievable job. Coach Leonhard and that whole defensive staff, they've got really veteran guys. It's very hard to find an inch on them. Yeah, you got to be creative, got to change things up, change up formations, schemes. Got to do a lot of different things to put them in stress to move the ball. Then they play great situational, great in third down and the red zone. It's a big challenge for our offense.
The first half of that game, we didn't play great. Defense did. Then we started to do a little better in the second half. But it's a big challenge. Our guys are ready for it. They know the challenge and they know the issues.
Q. The only three teams in the country who have more rushing yards than you guys are the service academies. I remember before the season you talked about not yet knowing what this team's offensive identity was going to be. Did you have any inkling that you could be that? Was there any hope you could be that when you took a survey of the personnel you had?
RYAN DAY: I didn't really know exactly what it was going to be. I knew we had a young quarterback, a lot of question marks about. We had a pretty good veteran wide receiving corps and tight ends. We had four new guys in the offensive line.
To say I knew it was going to look just like this, no. I had an idea. Really felt like Wyatt and Josh coming back off of last year, we kind of knew what we had in Branden Bowen. To have Jonah come in there, we had some promise we could do a good job moving people off the ball.
The way J.K. has run, the way we've moved people off the ball is something that's gotten stronger as the season has gone on. To see Justin flourish, especially in these big games, just the way he's competed, I think that is where the journey has come. Like we said in the pre-season, that's what I was most excited about, to figure out that part on offense and defense.
There's still a lot to be written. I still don't think we've played our best football yet. In all three phases, we've yet to put together just a dominant performance. That's another challenge that we've given the team this year. What is the best version of this team? So that's something we're working on this week.
Q. When you look at the schedule you had at the beginning of the year, you might look at it and think Penn State, Michigan, Big Ten Championship, two playoff games in a row to win a national title. Now that you're in the midst of that pretty brutal run, how is your team in the middle of it? Are you better off being in the midst of something like this or is it harder because the teams are better, you're banged up?
RYAN DAY: I don't think we'll know until we get done with tomorrow night. I think when you're in stretches like this, you just go. You don't start thinking about it. You don't start worrying about it. You go. You're smart about how you practice. When you look at the injury report, we're pretty clean right now. I thought we had a good week of practice. I expect us to play fast tomorrow night. But we'll know more when we get done in the game.
But it is, it's a tough stretch. But it's something we've been preparing for. I think the team is ready for it.
Q. A lot of people seem to think you can protect a quarterback in play calling. Your approach tomorrow with Justin is going to be, without giving away secrets, what?
RYAN DAY: Well, when people ask me that question, the thing I go back to really is the plays this year that he's got himself a little bumped and bruises were actually passes. He's done a good job in the run game of taking care of himself.
So there's only so much we can do. The one in the Penn State game, rolling out to his left on the fourth down, the other one he got hit in the pocket as well. You just do the best you can, you try to run the plays you think are going to be the most successful, you go from there.
But I think when you start to be hesitant, overcautious, you set yourself up for failure. We'll be aggressive and we'll go.
Q. We've seen all year the way Justin has been in control of this offense on the field. He seems like a very low-key, even-keeled kind of no-drama guy off the field. Especially at the quarterback position, what does that do for a team? It seems Justin takes care of business and there's not a lot of outside stuff with him. Sometimes with quarterbacks there can be stuff like that.
RYAN DAY: I think his family has done a tremendous job of grounding him. He has a tremendous approach. He's humble. But deep inside there's a fiery, competitive dude in there who just tries to take your heart out when he's at the game. He's got an interesting demeanor about him, very smooth. You don't see much on the surface. But he's very, very competitive.
That's something I didn't know about him till he started playing in these big games. Nothing but the utmost respect for him as a person, his character, his approach. I think he's a really good player.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank Coach Day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports