Ohio State football: Off week challenge is to rest without rusting

Ryan Day does not have a game to prepare for this week, but the Ohio State football coach does have media responsibilities to take care of.

He met with reporters per usual on Tuesday to review the Buckeyes' win over Michigan State and look ahead to his team's first bye week.

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Here are five takeaways:

1. This week is all about self-evaluation on both sides of the ball.

That goes for schematics and personnel.

“We’re really taking a hard look to see what are some things we’ve done well in these first six weeks and what are some things that we need to improve on,” Day said. “So the big focus is on self-improvement this week. Each coach is giving tangible things for each of the players to work on. It may be something that’s on the field. It might be something off the field. It might be something academically, something along those lines, but the idea is, ‘What have we done well and what do we need to improve on?’”

2. He also wants his team to be able to rest without rusting.

“That was a physical game we played on Saturday night, so guys need to get healthy again,” Day said. “We’re a little battered, but that’s what happens, six weeks in and after you play a game like we did against Michigan State.”

Ohio State went into the game relatively healthy, but the Buckeyes have been going hard since early August and had a few players miss time, including right tackle Branden Bowen and several regulars on the defensive line.

“We’re trying to get those guys healthy as best we can and be smart about it,” Day said, “but really focusing on enhancing the things guys are doing well and improving on the things they need to improve on.”

3. Chemistry came to mind when he was asked what has gone best for his team so far.

“I don’t know if it’s one thing,” Day replied “I think our chemistry has been really good the first six games.”

He also likes how his team has tackled and the effort the Buckeyes have shown on both sides of the ball.

“The way guys are running the ball, the way we’re blocking on the line of scrimmage, the way the quarterback is playing,” he said of sophomore Justin Fields. “I think the quarterback’s tough. I watch the way he takes shots and he stands in there. And I think our team is getting a little bit of that identity.”

4. Fields has shown Day what he needed to see so far.

Although he arrived at Ohio State in January as a highly regarded prospect, Fields was also something of an unknown. That is true of any newcomer to a program, but Day was even less familiar with the Georgia transfer than the typical freshman because Ohio State did not recruit Fields heavily when he was in high school.

While Fields’ talent was never really in question, there were a lot of intangibles Day wanted to see, and most of those aren’t able to come out until game time.

“His leadership and his toughness has shown, and I think the guys in that locker room are appreciative of that. I think they see it.” Day said. “He’s got a lot of areas to grow and a lot of things to work on, but if he continues to lead, if he continues to be tough, if he continues to be a leader in that locker room, then a lot of good things are going to happen.”

5. Ohio State is happy to be 6-0, but Day feels that is just the beginning of what the Buckeyes want to accomplish this season.

“When we looked at our season, we saw this first six games as a chunk. We had a bye week and then we have two games; we have a bye week and then we finish with the last four,” said Day, whose team will next take the field Oct. 18 at Northwestern. “And now here we are. We’re entering into the next phase here.”

Although the Buckeyes are far from being ready to be fitted for championship rings, Day sees utility in the outstanding start to the season.

“It’s good to build confidence, good to know everything we’re working on is paying off because there’s been a lot of hard work that have been put in here, a lot of hours — physically, emotionally, mentally, meetings, lifts, workouts. There’s so many of those things that have happened,” Day said.

“To see that pay off is great, but we all know that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the next one. So keeping that chip on our shoulder and making sure that we haven’t proven anything yet, just that we have the capability to do well, but we’re just halfway through the season and we’ve got a long way to go so making sure we have something to prove every single day we step on the practice field and on the game field is important.

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