Buckeyes emphasized leadership in offseason

Published 8:31 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

By Jim Naveau


COLUMBUS – Replacing four assistant coaches wasn’t the only overhaul Ryan Day had in mind when he looked at what he wanted to change this football season at Ohio State.

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When OSU opened spring practice on Tuesday, he said, “We decided leadership was the No. 1 thing we needed to get done in this offseason. This is probably the best we’ve done in an offseason of forging leadership.

“We were really green (last season) and guys were just trying to get lined up and play. But when you have a team that has the experience that we have coming back, now you can put some more focus on leadership. That’s what happened in the second half of the Rose Bowl, the leadership stepped up. We didn’t have that in the team up north game, to tell the truth,” he said, referring to the Buckeyes’ 42-27 loss to Michigan.

“When we get our backs against the wall, we need guys to step up.  We certainly played tough a lot of spots but there were times we didn’t.”

Ohio State was 11-2 last season, including a 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl, in Day’s third season as its head coach.

OSU will practice twice this week, then take next week off for spring break before returning to practice on March 22. The spring game will be April 16 at Ohio Stadium.   

Ten Buckeyes will be unavailable for spring practice, most notably offensive lineman Harry Miller, who was projected as the starting center in 2021 before a knee injury limited him to two games. Others, like safety Josh Proctor, will be limited in what they can do this spring.

Some other thoughts from Day:

• On new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles: “You can see why he’s had success.  He’s very organized, he’s a very good communicator and has a really good scheme. He’s very intelligent. I love being around really smart football coaches.”

• On quarterback C.J. Stroud:  “I think when you dive into C.J., you realize he’s highly motivated. He comes out with the mindset that he has something to prove every day.  It’s just the way he’s wired. Is he great yet?  No, he’s not.  But he’s on his way there.”

• On Paris Johnson moving to left tackle this season: “We recruited him as a tackle, we always felt like he was a tackle.  To his credit, he wanted to get on the field last year and really learned a lot playing guard.

“He’s played it (tackle) his whole life other than last year so it’s not like it’s new to him.  He’s going to grab on to it. His approach every day, his work ethic and all those things are really off the charts. He has high aspirations and he’s high achiever.  When he sets his mind to something it usually happens.”

• On Jaxon Smith-Njigba becoming the focus for opposing pass defenses with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson going to the NFL: “We’re going to have to move Jaxon around. There’s no question there are going to be times when guys try to double Jaxon.  We’ll have to be creative in that area. But they can’t do it every play because then they have to give up some other things.”

• On whether Cade Stover will play tight end or linebacker: “I think he could be a tremendous tight end. It’s going to be up to him what he feels is most comfortable for him.”