COLUMBUS — Fresh off its best performance of the season on Saturday, the Ohio State offense may finally be finding its footing at the right time with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. On Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to recap the win over Michigan State and preview Saturday’s home finale against Minnesota.
Following the win on Saturday, Day spoke of an offense “beginning to forge an identity,” and he expounded on that evaluation on Tuesday.
“On offense, I think you’re just seeing a combination of the run game, getting the ball out on the perimeter,” Day said. “And when you have all the weapons back, and now Kyle (McCord) has got a bunch of games under his belt, the offensive line is making progress every week, all that comes into play.”
Day later added, “I think you see what we’re capable of, and it was good to see us play a full half and execute. And we finished with a two-minute drive, so all those things are encouraging at this point.”
Given the nature of the position, so much of what the Ohio State offense does or doesn’t do rests on the shoulders of McCord. He was dialed in on Saturday, completing 24 of his 31 passing attempts for a career-high 335 yards and three touchdowns. Day said the experience McCord has stacked this season is beginning to pay off earlier in games, which is allowing the offense to get out of the gates quickly.
“I think every time you’re out there, you gain more and more confidence because it’s not new anymore, and it slows down,” he said. “The last couple of games, he started out finding the speed of the game really well and was much more efficient early on, and that’s led us to get good momentum.”
Emeka Egbuka’s return against Rutgers figured to be a significant boost for the offense in need of additional playmakers, but a nagging ankle injury may still be hampering his play on the field as the production hasn’t resumed through two games. Asked about Egbuka’s health, Day expressed confidence he is trending towards a return to being the dynamic player he’s been since arriving in Columbus, and just in time for Ohio State’s showdown at Michigan next week.
“He’s getting stronger and stronger each week,” Day said. “We decided to hold him in the second half to continue that progress, but he’s getting closer every week to being 100%. The feedback I got this week is he feels better than he did last week, and that’s the goal. He looked more explosive on film in this past game, so we’ll keep bringing him along.”
Day added, “I think Emeka is one of the best receivers in the game, and his production proves it. We are a different offense when he’s in the game.”
The primary concern for the Ohio State offense remains along the offensive line, although it has played better in recent weeks. However, Carson Hinzman’s play at center continues to be uneven. In the second half of Saturday’s game, guard Matt Jones was inserted at center while Enokk Vimahi came into the game at guard.
Asked about the decision, Day said that with the game well in hand at that point, it was “good to do” to see how it would look “if we needed to make a change.”
Day said of Hinzman’s progression this season, “From where he started to where he is now, he’s made a bunch of progress. But he’s also the youngest (starting lineman). He’s in here every day, busting his tail to get better, and he’s handled some difficult environments so far this year as a redshirt freshman. We think he has a very bright future ahead of him, and he’s going to continue to get stronger and better across the board with his communication and all of those things. Every time he’s out there, it’s an investment in his future.”
As for whether or not he is considering a permanent switch at center, Day said, “Every week, we’re evaluating to see what gives us the best chance to win. But as of right now, we’re going to continue where we’re at.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.