COURTESY OF OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions.
Q. I’m sure there’s not too much you can say about Chase Young, but what is the latest you can pass along to us? RYAN DAY: I don’t have any update for you right now. Just an ongoing process right now. Certainly when I have and we have more information, we’ll let you know. There’s really nothing I can talk about at this point.
Q. Would you say you’re optimistic that he will be back at some point this year? RYAN DAY: I just know it’s going on right now. We’re going to prepare for him to be back this week. He’ll practice this week. Once we find out more information, we’ll go from there.
Q. Hamilton is a guy who has been a champion in every game for you. How big has he been stepping up? RYAN DAY: Huge, huge. Those two parts to the D-line, the inside guys and then the ends. He’s really solidified the inside for us this year. Started with his off-season. Now he’s producing at a high level.
To see him get some sacks and actually affect the pass game as much as he has, that’s been a huge deal for our defense.
Q. When you don’t have Chase or Cooper, is he kind of a guy who steps up and becomes the leader of that group? RYAN DAY: He has been, yeah. He’s not a real vocal guy. He leads by example and sets a standard by the way he’s gone about his business. He has the respect of his teammates. Those guys know he’s been here for a while, put in his work.
The way he’s gone about his business has been excellent. Now to see him producing at such a high level, it’s such a great testament to him and the development of our program.
Q. Don’t know if ‘proud’ is the right word, I’m sure you watched that LSU-Alabama game. How proud are you of watching Joey the way he’s flourished? RYAN DAY: ‘Proud’ is definitely a word. Really happy for him, seeing the way he’s playing and competing. He’s a tremendous competitor. Watching him go into Alabama and win like that was really cool.
Q. Coach Meyer told us at one point you and him sat around after that spring, it was really close between those guys. How tough is that these days to watch a guy that’s that close walk out the door? RYAN DAY: It’s hard. But it’s being at Ohio State. You think about that that room, you had J.T., you had Dwayne and Joe. One is one of the more decorated players in the history of the Big Ten. The other guy is playing in the NFL. Other one is probably the leader for the Heisman right now.
They all can’t play. That is the thing about being a quarterback. That’s what’s hard and sensitive about college football right now, that very situation.
It all works out in the end. We got a great quarterback we feel good about now who is playing at a high level. I think that’s just part of the culture right now, just the environment of college football, and certainly quarterback play.
Q. What did last week’s game tell you about the focus of this team? There was a distraction. Prohibitive favorite against a team. Does that give you more confidence going into this week, won’t be an overlook? RYAN DAY: We talked about it all week. The team was aware of the situation, they knew this was the first time we faced some adversity. We know there’s more adversity coming along the way. We don’t know where, when.
We talked to the team about that early on. We were going to equip ourselves to be ready for any adversity that might hit us.
Championship teams, they’re resilient in times of adversity. It reveals your character. The coaching staff, we relayed to the team that this is a program that our character was at the forefront. The heart of this team is being showcased today to find out what we’re really made of. I think they took that to heart. They played hard throughout the game.
Q. You’ve been around a lot of teams. What would you define as the ‘it’ factor for a team that this team seems to have? What are you looking for? RYAN DAY: I don’t know yet. Again, some of these things are things we’ll probably go back in February, sit down, talk about over dinner or something like that. I think when you’re in the middle of it right now, you try to forecast what’s coming.
One of the things we have to do is we have to hold ourselves to a certain standard. We cannot at any point lose our discipline, lose our focus because we had 13 penalties in a game. That’s unacceptable. That’s going to hurt us in a close game. Execution level has to be at an all-time high, effort. All those things, taking care of the ball, ball security, decision making, communication. All of those things have got to be really good if we’re going to win close games.
Our team hasn’t really been in the fourth quarter of a dogfight yet. Those are the things we’re really focusing on right now.
The answer to your question, I think we’ll know more of that at the end. The one thing I love about this team is the chemistry and the maturity.
Q. You haven’t had a fourth quarter. You had some adversity versus Wisconsin. Are you wondering yourself how are we going to do when it’s third-and-seven and we need it? RYAN DAY: We’re not worrying about it. Just preparing for it, making sure that we’re constantly talking about it, what it means, practicing at a high level.
At the end of the day you’re going to trust your training. When you’re in that moment, you’ll go back to the way you’ve trained, the way you’ve prepared. If you haven’t done that the right way, you won’t execute the way you’re supposed to.
To our team’s credit, they’ve prepared and executed at a high level in a lot of areas. That’s good. We can’t ever lose focus of that because that’s when you get yourself in trouble. That’s the message this week.
Q. Justin Fields a couple of times in his career had season-ending injuries. When you’re evaluating quarterbacks beyond X’s and O’s stuff, do you look for things like that, they’ve proven themselves in adversity situations? RYAN DAY: There’s a lot of things, especially with a quarterback, that you try to dive into. I don’t think you really know till you get them. You try to do the best you can to ask the coaches in the area, the people in the school, find out the most you can about the individual. All those things are tested, especially when you get into November.
Yeah, I mean, you got to ask all those questions because the talent is one thing, but being able to work through adversity and being consistent, making sure that you’re tough enough.
One of the hardest things about being a quarterback at the highest level, NFL or where we’re at, is the amount of meeting time. We have to spend so much time in the meeting room, watching film week in, week out. There’s more time in the meeting room than actually on the field. That takes discipline and toughness, too, to make sure you’re doing that.
The immature or the weak-minded, they start to take weeks off because it gets too much for them. Those are all things we want to make sure we have grinders at a quarterback.
Q. Has that defensive performance helped him, taking some of the pressure off of him this season, letting him ease into things? RYAN DAY: I don’t think he’s eased into anything. I think he’s approached every game and every snap the right way. It is good to have a defense as strong as ours is so we get the ball back. In the first half of that Michigan State game, maybe we weren’t clicking on all cylinders, the defense got us some turnovers early. The more at-bats we get, the better. We also have to understand we’re not going to have that luxury.
Those are all things we talk about.
Q. What ways have you seen Jeff’s presence on the field affect teams? RYAN DAY: He doesn’t get a ton of action over there. He’s so good at what he does. He covers guys. There’s not a lot of room over there to throw it. I think that maybe affects where teams are going. If it’s zone coverage, quarterback will go where the zone tells him to go. If it is man-to-man, most reads are matchup based. They have to decide if that’s a matchup they like or not.
Q. What did you think of Chugunov on Saturday? RYAN DAY: I thought he started out okay. Got that delay of game. Got it in late. He’s got to help me with that, get it off. Then we have the sack fumble. After that he settled down, played good. Got the ball out of his hands quick, made some good decisions.
He’s a guy that’s been around a lot of football, smart. He’s a guy you can count on, know what I mean? Understand what’s going on. He throws a good ball. He’s got good touch. He’s very intelligent. He can handle a lot without getting a ton of reps. That’s hard to do.
I think the good thing, he’s played a decent amount of football this year. I don’t know how many attempts he’s had. When he’s gone in there, he’s competed and done well.
Q. You don’t like to have expectations. When he got here, I never thought we’d see him play much for Ohio State. How far has he come? Circumstances change this, but did you envision he could be doing what he’s doing right now? RYAN DAY: Again, I didn’t know. That was a very unique situation. To see where he’s come, I understand your point, I think he’s come a long way. He came in in not great shape. He’ll tell you that. Changed his body in the off-season, put a lot more work in. He’s in his second year in the program, which we haven’t had a lot of those guys by way of the situation at quarterback.
When you’re second year into the program, whether it’s physically or mentally, you’re understanding the scheme of the offense, it really helps you. I think you can see him when he’s out there, he’s pretty decisive where he’s throwing the ball, his protection, everything.
Q. Has your comfort level changed from where you were in August till now? RYAN DAY: I think there’s a body of work there that’s being built. The more he’s out there, the better you feel.
Q. I know throughout the year you have to sort of adapt your offense as things get put on field, teams try to defend you. What do you and your staff need to see from your guys before you’re ready to put new stuff on the field on a Saturday? RYAN DAY: Well, I think there’s a good balance right there of finding the right things that your guys do well, then also putting wrinkles in there. We have to be able to execute at a high level in practice or else it’s not going to get called. Even if it’s on the call sheet, if we don’t feel great about the execution, we won’t do it. We’ll run another play that we feel better about. Maybe the next week it’s ready to go.
Probably a good example of that is the play we used in the Michigan State for Bin Vic. That is a play we were working on it for probably four weeks. It just wasn’t right, just wasn’t right. At that moment it was right, we executed it.
There’s been other times where we’ve run plays where it wasn’t quite ready yet, could have used another week of work. Those are typically specials. If a team sees it, they kind of recognize it pretty quickly. There’s also the base plays, plays you carry week in, week out.
Q. It seems like for the most part wider zone runs, mid zone, have become more base run plays than tight zone would be. Is there anything about J.K. that makes him better at that, your offensive line? Why has that come to the forefront? RYAN DAY: It’s been something we’ve worked on. We want to have some versatility in the run game. Something we’ve kind of added in the last year or so, year and a half. It’s been working well.
But it’s just part of the run game. We have a lot of things. We want to hit them up the middle, off tackle, hit them outside. We have a bunch of things of that. It’s something that’s gained momentum as the season has gone on.
Q. About Chug, I know he’s obviously from New Jersey, you had some guys who were familiar with him. Did Bob have any input in helping you identify Chug as someone you could bring in here? RYAN DAY: Yeah, Coach Fraser knew of him when he was in New Jersey, the whole thing. He gave a little bit of a character reference there, gave us some information which kind of allowed us to say, Let’s take this guy in.
Q. I want to ask you about Jonah Jackson. A year ago he was playing against you guys. What has he meant to the offensive line, the way that line has come together? How valuable is he? RYAN DAY: I’m not sure because I don’t want to overstate it, because I think what Josh and Wyatt and Thayer and Brandon have done this year has been excellent. Maybe they’d be playing the same way if Jonah didn’t come.
There’s something about Jonah to me that’s really helped that group. They brought a certain level of professionalism, they communicate, the way they go about their business, fun to be around. The whole thing.
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think they were great for Jonah. I think Ohio State was great for Jonah at the right time. Sometimes in those situations they don’t work out great. It’s a round peg in a square hole. This wasn’t. This was a great fit. Personality-wise, the whole thing.
I think he’s had a lot to do with the success of the O-line this year.
Q. When you’re looking at film, when you play a game, score 73 points, what are you looking for to tell you that we took a step forward when a game gets out of hand? You talk about tweaking things. What will tell you, yes, we’re better today than we were last week other than the score? RYAN DAY: Yeah, you start off the first quarter and you figure out how did we come out of the gates, how prepared were we early in the game, how were we playing when they were fresh, we were fresh, what kind of adjustments did we make as we get into the second quarter.
You take a look at third down, red zone, short yardage, how were we executing. Is it just a better player making a play against somebody on the team that maybe isn’t as talented. If that’s the case, that’s not coaching, that’s just good recruiting.
We want to make sure that the execution level and the scheme and all those things are at an all-time high. When talent does equate, we’re still going to be able to execute at a high level. That’s the challenge.
Q. Last week, Michigan defensive coordinator Brown’s comments about the working week by week on Ohio State’s offense, that the Ohio State offense better be careful. Did you hear those comments? RYAN DAY: I didn’t.
Q. Would you care to respond? RYAN DAY: Not really.
Q. How often do you work on stuff in practice that is designed for later in the season? RYAN DAY: Yeah, we’re always working on our packages to make sure that we have wrinkles. There’s certain things that never see the field, certain things that do. Some things you came up with a great idea as a coach, you work on it for a couple weeks. You can’t let your ego get in the way. A great idea, you like it, it doesn’t fit right. You have to put it aside. There’s other things you work on, work on, get them ready as time goes on.
That’s kind of something that goes on with every program, every kind of offense throughout the season.
Q. Zach Harrison and Garrett Wilson were your two highest rated recruits coming in. They’ve eased in. Are they at the point now you don’t think of them at freshmen? RYAN DAY: They’ve played a lot of football. That’s just the way the season has played out. They’ve made a lot of mistakes, but they’ve grown from it. They’re ahead of where they typically would be for a freshman. I think they’re both able to make an impact in the season.
Q. Obviously Rutgers has had their struggles. What is the challenge of a game like this when everyone assumes this is going to be a blowout? RYAN DAY: Just goes back to our execution, our discipline, what is our standard. We certainly have respect for everybody we play. I’ve known Nunzio a long time. He’s going to do a great job. Those guys are going to come out and play really, really hard.
If we’re going to take anything for granted, we’re going to show up in Piscataway and win a game, that’s not going to happen. We have to do a good job. Those guys are going to play really, really hard.
But at the end of the day, the focus is it comes back to us, what is your standard. We have to make sure we’re holding up that standard. We got a lot at stake here. We can’t put any of that stuff to risk. That’s something that the coaching staff has been hammering home with the players. To this point they’ve respected that. They have to continue to.
Q. What is kind of the plan for Rashod Berry? Played tight end, defensive end. Two ways the rest of the season? RYAN DAY: He’s very talented so he has the ability to do both. Based on the game plan and based on what we’re seeing week in, week out, we’re going to try to plug him in where he can best help. That could be on either side of the ball.
Q. (Question about practice.) RYAN DAY: Organizationally, yeah. You have to make sure you’re organized, make sure you’re getting the right amount of times, meeting, individual on field, getting the teamwork.
Q. Where is Gunnar in development? Seen more after Chugunov as the first guy. RYAN DAY: Chris has had two years in the program, so he knows it better than Gunnar. Gunnar is getting better. He’s still learning the offense. Right now Chris is ahead of Gunnar.
Q. Your players encounter sudden change on the field. You’ve had two. We want you to run the program for the first three games last year. This year with Chase, how does that promote growth as a head coach? RYAN DAY: Well, good question.
I think as a leader, your job is to solve problems. Colin Powell has a great quote about that. That’s your job. If people stop coming to you with the problems, then you’re not a very good leader. That’s the job as a head coach, is to solve the problems.
There’s going to be adversity along the way, especially when you’re at a place like this, high-profile place, things like that are going to come up. When that happens, we’re going to be steady in the boat, go back to who we are. It reveals character.
Being strong in there, counting on our leaders, communicating with our leaders, communicating with the team is all important. We’re going to get through it in the end no matter what it is.
Q. On the recruiting trail, you kind of knew with Jeff Hafley what he was like as a coach. He’s been out of the recruiting game for almost a decade. Has he been what you expected or more? How has he helped you reassert the footprint in New Jersey? RYAN DAY: So I remember when we were with the 49ers, I told Jeff, You have an unbelievable combination of recruiting, because he was a great recruiter when he was in college, ability to relate to players. Then his understanding of defensive football. I think that’s what makes a great college football coach, those three things: relate to players, know what you’re doing, you’re a good recruiting.
He can be an All-Star. I think Jeff is an All-Star. I thought that when he was at Rutgers and at Pitt. I felt like that when I worked with him in the NFL. I feel like that now.
His work in Jersey is and is going to pay us dividends in the end.
Q. Were you the number two quarterback at New Hampshire before you were the starter? RYAN DAY: I think I was the third when I was a redshirt sophomore. I was the third string, then I became the starter.
Q. You never really were in that I’m going in in the next play if the starter gets hurt? RYAN DAY: Not really, no.
Q. If you had to describe the perfect backup quarterback, the ideal number two, what are the traits you would look for? RYAN DAY: I mean, everyone’s different. You don’t know where they’re at in their development, if it’s a younger guy or older guy. You want somebody who’s able to execute the offense without getting a lot of reps, physical reps with the first team. That’s hard to do.
I know it sounds funny, but somebody that can play with their imagination, someone that can sit in the back and visualize what’s going to happen, when they do have the opportunity, they’re able to play at a high level. Some guys do that, other guys struggle with that. Some guys need reps. Some guys can sit in meetings, put themselves in a situation. That can be exhausting mentally for somebody.
I think that’s one of the traits of a backup quarterback that helps them be successful.
Q. First-time head coach, you dealt with some stuff last year, but when things are going so well, you are undefeated, was there a part of you, don’t know if ‘bracing’ is the right way, but preparing for it’s not going to be perfect? If this Chase thing is the first sign of that, how did you prepare yourself for the idea that something was going to come? RYAN DAY: When I took the job, I mean, I knew that’s what this is going to bring. Not every day is going to be perfect. We’re not going to be undefeated forever. Things aren’t going to be perfect all the time. That’s part of being the head football coach at a big-time college football program, at Ohio State. We know that. That’s part of the job, a big part of the job.
Talked to my family, talked to Nina about that at length. There’s going to be some days that are better than others.
At the end of the day we’re going to do things the right way, we’re going to recruit great people. When things get rough we’re going to rely on each other, come back to our character. In the end, adversity reveals character. As long as we’re strong, great things are going to happen, we can get through anything together.
I know things are going to come up along the way, but we’ll be strong in there, steady in the boat, work through it together.