Following its season-opening win over Indiana, Ohio State returns home for the first time this season when it takes on Youngstown State (1-0) in Ohio Stadium on Saturday. On Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to recap his team’s performance in Bloomington and preview what to expect in the home opener.
After giving Kyle McCord the week-one nod as the starting quarterback, Day said he expects to approach the position in a similar fashion on Saturday while hoping to get Devin Brown on the field more than the single series he saw against Indiana.
The opener seemingly shed some light on where the two quarterbacks stand in Day’s eyes as he elected to stick with McCord for the entirety of the second half in a game that remained too close for comfort. Following the game, Day lamented not being able to get more of a look at Brown but noted he did what he felt was correct to help the offense find a rhythm that had eluded it for much of the game.
Brown’s lack of playing time ran contrary to the widely assumed notion that the starting quarterback position remained up for grabs heading into the season. However, while Day’s actions last week may have been telling, he remains noncommital on naming an outright starter heading into week two.
“I’m trying not to draw too many hard lines when it comes to this right now,” Day said. “I talked to the guys about saying that our goal is to be a really good quarterback room and win games, and then as these first few games start to develop, we get a better feel for what that looks like. We learned some things about Kyle on Saturday. We saw some things that were really good, saw some things he has to improve on. Again, I was disappointed we couldn’t get more on the field with Devin, but hopefully, this week, we can and then continue to evaluate it. But Kyle will start, and we’ll go from there.”
Ohio State’s next two opponents figure to provide Day with a soft landing while continuing to evaluate both McCord and Brown, although the Sept. 23 trip to Notre Dame continues to loom large. If Day’s instinct is to ride with McCord, he eventually must decide how many snaps he can afford to give to Brown while knowing those same snaps are critical to McCord’s development.
“That’s what we’re working through now,” Day said of that challenge. “If it was an easy answer, I’d give it to you. I think that’s what’s unique about this season. I wanted to see if we could get into a rhythm in the throwing game a little bit with Kyle and some of the receivers. We do that in practice. I thought at times we did, and other times we didn’t. But we have to find that right formula because it’s a long season.”
How the quarterback situation ultimately plays out remains to be seen, but it might not be the most pressing issue facing the Ohio State offense. Perhaps most glaring in Saturday’s uneven performance was the play of the offensive line, which struggled in short-yardage scenarios and looked generally clunky against a conference bottom dweller.
Day confirmed the performance was subpar on Tuesday, saying only right tackle Josh Fryar graded as a champion after watching the film. And while he wasn’t willing to get into too many details, Day noted the effort up front has to be better moving forward.
“I felt like they needed to play better in the run game,” he said. “I think we were only 50% efficient overall on first and second down running the ball. That’s not good enough. (Indiana) certainly did give us some things that maybe we weren’t expecting, but even when they did, I didn’t think we handled it as well as we could’ve. So, we’re getting back to work on that this week.”
As for the opponent ahead, Day said his team has a lot of respect for Youngstown State University, especially given its history with former head coach and, most recently, President Jim Tressel. However, he noted that, regardless of the opponent, Ohio State is chasing its own standard and looking to improve from last week.
“It’s rarely about our opponent … We’ve got a lot of guys who need to get reps and need to play, so we’re looking forward to this week and looking forward to getting more film out there,” he said.
Day added of Youngstown State, “They have very good coaches and do a really nice job. You put on the film from last year against Kentucky and they played them really well … They ran around and played hard, got to (Will) Levis a few times. They’re going to come in here and pay really hard. These are Ohio guys, a lot of them, who have a lot of pride, so we’re going to focus on matching that intensity, bringing it, playing really hard, and executing at a high level.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.