After having the day off Monday, the Ohio State Buckeyes returned to the field Tuesday for their fourth practice of fall camp. Members of the media were permitted to watch the first five periods of practice, and Ryan Day held his second press conference of camp following the practice.
Among the notable practice observations from the limited media availability was Justin Fields continuing to take the first repetitions in the quarterback drills. It is widely expected that Fields being named the starter is simply a question of when Day will make the announcement, but Day has continued to talk up the competition at quarterback still being open while saying it is too early in camp to discuss how the competition has progressed.
Chris Chugunov took the second reps, as he did on Friday.
“They’re competing, they’re learning,” Day said Tuesday of the quarterbacks’ progress. “We’re installing (the offense), it’s not about really finding a rhythm with a game plan or anything like that. Anytime you install you’re still trying to figure things out. There’s only one way to learn and that is to fail … they’re going to make mistakes right now. If they’re making the same mistakes a week from now, then we have a major problem. But it’s all good so far.”
Following Friday’s opening practice, Day said he would rotate or “roll” offensive linemen if the depth was there. The first-team guards remained the same Tuesday as they were Friday, with Rutgers transfer Jonah Jackson and Wyatt Davis running with the ones, and Josh Myers starting at center.
Thayer Munford, the lone returning starter along the offensive line, missed all of spring practice while rehabbing an injury but was back at left tackle with the first group on Tuesday. Nicholas Petit-Frere ran with the first team at right tackle on Friday, but it was Branden Bowen who got the first reps on Tuesday.
Who starts at right tackle remains the biggest question along the offensive line, and the battle between Bowen and Petit-Frere figures to extend well into camp.
Bowen has the edge in experience, having started six games at guard for the Buckeyes during the 2017 season before suffering a broken tibia and fibula during a game against Maryland. The devastating injury ultimately required three surgeries and cost Bowen all of last year, but he is now fully healthy.
Petit-Frere was the highest-ranked recruit in Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class, joining the Buckeyes as a five-star recruit and the top-ranked offensive tackle in the country per 247’s composite rankings.
However, when asked about the expectations placed on such a highly regarded recruit to start early, Day said those rankings don’t mean a thing once they arrive on campus.
“Sometimes, when the recruits get in here as freshmen, we have them come up in front of the team and introduce themselves, and some of the guys will say, ‘How many stars do you have?” Day joked. “And the minute it comes out of their mouths, they all yell, ‘We don’t care!’ … Nobody cares (about star rankings) … you have to produce.”
Day followed that up by acknowledging the improvement Petit-Frere has made, saying he has added 20 pounds and “improved immensely.”
“I’m really proud of where he’s at, and I think he’s going to really help us this year,” Day added. “And he’s battling hard to be a starter right now.”
Asked what he has seen thus far from the defense, Day said he saw four interceptions during Tuesday’s practice, including two by sophomore safety Josh Proctor.
“That was really good to see,” he said of his defense forcing turnovers. “They’re flying to the ball, they’re making plays on the ball, they’re playing with vision, and they’re producing right now.”
He went on to say the defense is a hungry group playing with a lot of momentum but acknowledged it is tough to really know what he has until the games begin.
Although the team is only four practices into camp, Day responded to a question about the team’s chemistry taking shape by saying, “They like each other, there’s a chemistry here. They like being around each other, you can just tell.”
Before fielding any questions at Tuesday’s press conference, Day began by offering his condolences to everyone impacted by the recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. He spoke about the importance of “breaking the stigmas around mental health, because it shows itself in so many different ways.”
Day and his wife, Christina, announced the creation of a fund for pediatric and adolescent mental wellness through Nationwide Children’s Hospital in June.
The Buckeyes will practice every day through Saturday this week, with Saturday serving as the all-important scrimmage day. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and defensive line coach Larry Johnson are scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday, as are players from the two units.
Look for further coverage of Ohio State’s 2019 fall camp in upcoming editions of The Gazette.