Day updates key position battles


COLUMBUS — Ohio State returned to the field on Tuesday for its first practice following spring break, and with that return came the addition of pads as the Buckeyes begin to ramp up their workload.

Following the practice, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to discuss what he saw from his team and how several position battles are beginning to take shape heading deeper into the spring.

While the competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown for the starting quarterback position will continue to be the most pressing question facing Day and his team this offseason, multiple positions along the offensive line are yet to be decided. In particular, who will snap the ball to the eventual winner of the quarterback competition remains a critical piece to the puzzle that still needs to be identified prior to the start of the season.

Sophomore Carson Hinzman appears to have the inside track to earning the nod given his familiarity with the offense, but he is being pushed by Louisiana Monroe transfer Victor Cutler Jr., who came to the program in January after starting 12 games a season ago. Few positions on the field are harder to evaluate without padded practices, a fact Day noted on Tuesday before adding that both guys have performed well in the early stages of spring practice heading into more evaluation-friendly practices.

“So far, I’ve been impressed with the way Carson has come out and competed early on,” Day said. “Vic is learning the offense. I think he would tell you that practicing every day at Ohio State is something he’s adjusting to, but he has the ability, has athleticism, and has a great attitude. I think we’ll see the best football out of him as we get to the middle of spring practice. But so far, I’ve been pretty pleased with what’s going on at center.”

At tight end, Ohio State received a huge boost this offseason when Cade Stover announced his intentions to return for one more season. Stover was a pleasant surprise for Day and the offense after years of trying to find a permanent home on both sides of the ball, hauling in 36 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns a year ago.

Stover’s return adds to the talent pool McCord or Brown will have at their disposal should they win the job, but the work in identifying the second tight end often utilized in Day’s offense is just beginning. A pair of seniors in Joe Royer and Gee Scott Jr. figure to be first in line to have the opportunity of replacing Mitch Rossi, who performed admirably over the last two seasons while playing in a slightly different role than Stover.

“They both have to be able to play in 11 personnel, which means they have to be able to go run routes and get open against safeties and nickles,” Day said of the positional demands. “But they also have to go in there and block 7-technique (defensive linemen) in 11 personnel. In the 12 personnel, we have the Y and the H (positions). The Y does a little bit more of the heavy lifting and the H is a little more off the ball and does a little bit more off-the-ball stuff … Cade’s shown he can do both, and we’re looking for the rest of those tight ends to show that. I think (tight ends coach) Keenan (Bailey)’s off to a great start with that group, and hopefully, we can keep growing on that and replace Mitch.”

Although Day will never shy away from his offensive expertise, he has made it known this offseason he would like to step back from being so deeply involved with the offense in order to be able to have a better feel for what’s going on defensively and with the team overall. The Silver Bullets are entering year two under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, and while there were some marked improvements a year ago, Ohio State’s stretch run showed there are still some glaring deficiencies that need to be addressed if Ohio State is going to get back to winning championships this season.

Asked what positions occupy his mind most often this offseason aside from the obvious quarterback battle, Day immediately identified the secondary group in general as an area he’s most focused on this spring. Ohio State brought in a pair of transfers in Syracuse senior safety Ja’Had Carter and Ole Miss sophomore cornerback Davison Igbinosun to reinforce the secondary, and Day said both are settling in nicely as they go about competing for playing time this fall.

“I think they are fitting in well,” Day said. “When you come to Ohio State, you don’t just jump into that locker room and think you’re going to get the respect of your teammates just because you’ve walked in the locker room. You have to earn it, and I think both of them have done that through winter workouts, mat drills, and now into the third day of practice. Anytime you’re in that type of situation, you have to work your way into it and you’re seen before you’re heard. They’re doing that right now.”

Day added, “Again, where does it go into practices seven, eight, nine, and 10? We’ll see. But so far, I’ve been pleased with not only their attitudes but their ability to help us in this upcoming season.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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