Ohio State football: Buckeyes’ coach Ryan Day talks quarterbacks, defense and turf

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day had plenty to talk about Tuesday as the Buckeyes get ready for their last nonconference game.

The winless Akron Zips likely are the least-challenging opponent his team will face this season, but he has plenty to think about as the Buckeyes look to be ready to put their best foot forward for the return to conference play at the end of September.

That even includes his team’s feet, as it turned out.

Here are five things to know from the first press conference of the week:

1. Day thinks the defense is heading in the right direction.

With Matt Barnes on the sideline calling the signals and Kerry Coombs in the booth, the Buckeyes allowed more than 500 yards for a second week in a row.

The run defense was much-improved against Tulsa compared to week earlier against Oregon, though, and Ohio State did show a few change-ups after appearing to be too predictable against the Ducks.

“There’s a lot of guys involved still,” Day said. “It’s not like Matt’s doing it on his own. (Defensive line coach Larry Johnson) is a big part of it. Kerry’s still involved, and (linebackers coach) Al Washington. So, you know they come up with a game plan, and once the game plan is set and then you go about calling it, but I think that we’re heading the right direction in terms of game-day operations.”

2. They could still use more pass rush, though.

Ohio State is 98th in the country in sacks per game (1.3) after three weeks, a surprise given the talent the Buckeyes have accumulated up front over the years and the presence of multiple veterans.

That is making life harder for the back seven of the defense that is almost entirely new.

“When you play with a four-down front, you want to see disruption in the backfield, so we’re going to continually work on that and try to find ways to put them in the best position to be successful, but (blitzing) does help,” Day said. “There are some one-on-one situations that we’ve just got to do a better job of executing

“And it’s twofold: I think when the secondary’s covering and making the quarterback hold on to that ball a little bit more, that allows those guys to get home. I think we did cover pretty decent the other day, so it’s something that we’ll spend a lot of time on this week.”

3. Coombs is handling changes “like a professional.”

A year ago, Coombs returned to Ohio State as defensive coordinator after two years in the NFL, but he appears to have been demoted with Barnes calling the plays on Saturdays.

“He’s a proud Buckeye, and so he’s done an unbelievable job in the last week of just pushing forward,” Day said. “And I know I have a lot of respect for him. He loves this place and wants to win, and he’s working hard. He’s still a big part of the defense and still has a lot to do with it. He still sees everything through the eyes of the coordinator. We’ve readjusted some roles, but he’s done an unbelievable job of being a pro and working through it.”

4. They are looking into changing their cleats after having some turf issues last week.

The second version of FieldTurf to be installed at Ohio Stadium since they moved away from natural grass following the 2006 season is set to be replaced after this year, the last of its normal life expectancy of eight years.

In the mean time, Day said they are evaluating whether or not they had the right cleats for the current state of the turf.

“We have had some some guys go down, so we’re looking at those things to see if we have the right footwear in the game,” Day said.

5. C.J. Stroud has acknowledged he is dealing with some sort of issue with his throwing shoulder, but Day said not to expect him to take a week off to let it rest.

“Ah, I don’t know,” Day said of his first-year starting quarterback. “I mean, we can talk about that as the week goes on but his plan is to practice and to play.”

The coach acknowledged some game reps would be nice for his backups, Kyle McCord and Jack Miller III, but he said he is not likely to go to them while the game is still in doubt this week.

“If it works out, we’ll do it, but you know when C.J. gets in there we also want to get him to find a rhythm as well, to get the execution of the offense,” Day said. “That’s the No. 1 goal is to make sure that we’re executing at a high level and finding that rhythm. I don’t think we’ve found that quite yet.”


Akron at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., BTN, 1410

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