The 2019 Ohio State football season is underway as the Buckeyes took to the practice field on Friday for the first practice of fall camp. Media had access to the first 30 minutes of the practice, and Head Coach Ryan Day held his first press conference of the fall following the opening practice.
“It was just good to get everybody out there and start football again,” Day said of his thoughts on the first practice. “It’s more about effort, it’s about technique, those kinds of things. It’s not about ‘winner, loser’ today. There will be time for that when the pads go on.”
Overall, Day said it was a “good practice” with a lot of energy shown from his players. He added they need to sustain that energy as the team moves deeper into camp. Day said the offensive is further ahead of the defense as camp opens, in large part due to the cohesiveness on that side of the ball compared to the defense, which replaced nearly all of its staff in the offseason.
Always among the biggest priorities in preseason camp is getting the team through it healthy. Asked how he walks the line between having a productive camp and keeping guys healthy, Day said the number one factor is having a tough team.
“We talk about it every day,” he said. “We talked about it last night, we’re going to talk about it every single day moving forward. We have to be a tough team. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. We have to be tough. But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure guys are healthy.”
Day said players today are faster, stronger, and more violent, and he and his staff spend “an inordinate amount of time figuring out what the right (amount of) reps are.” He said he and his staff look hard at the amount of experience a player already has in determining how many reps that player needs in practice to be game-ready come Aug. 31 when the Buckeyes open their season against Florida Atlantic.
When asked about the state of the offensive line, which will be replacing four of five starters, Day said he felt as good about the unit as he has in the last couple years in terms of depth. “We’ve got seven or eight guys who could get in there right now and play … they’re going to start battling once the pads go on.”
He added if there are enough guys who have earned the right to play, he will rotate offensive linemen throughout the game, similar to what he has done with the wide receivers.
The quarterback position figures to take center stage as camps rolls on as Ohio State brought in a slew of transfers at the position, led by heralded Georgia transfer and presumptive favorite to start, Justin Fields. It was Fields who took the first reps throughout opening drills, followed by Chris Chugunov.
However, when asked about Kentucky transfer and Dublin native Gunnar Hoak, who wasn’t with the team for spring practice, Day said he was impressed by what he saw from Hoak on day one.
“It’s hard to know until you’re out there (on the field) as a quarterback,” Day said. “In a short period of time, I think he’s kind of picked up the offense pretty quick. I think he can diagnose and see the field, kind of has a good feel for it. So, that was a positive … and once he gets a few more reps under his belt, I think he’ll get more comfortable and gain a little more confidence.”
Asked about his approach to naming a starting quarterback, Day said he didn’t have a set plan because too many things can happen between now and the season opener. “You have to get as many guys ready to roll as you can,” he said. “We want to get three quarterbacks ready to be able to play in a game because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
As for the expectations placed on his team — the preseason Coaches Poll, released yesterday, ranked the Buckeyes fifth — Day said there is clear respect for the program and the talent in place, but there is still much to prove.
“Truth be told, we haven’t done anything … we have to prove it,” Day said. “What really matters is what (the ranking) is at the end of the year. So, we have to do it. We have to prove that we’re the best team in the country, and that’s what we have to go about our business of doing every day.”
The Buckeyes are back on the field today and tomorrow before getting a day off on Monday. Mike Yurcich, who was hired by Day in the offseason as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is scheduled to meet with the media following Sunday’s practice, as are the quarterbacks.
Look for further coverage of Ohio State’s 2019 fall camp in upcoming editions of The Gazette.