- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano didn’t want to touch the Tennessee story on Wednesday, telling reporters, “When the time’s right, we’ll talk about it. Let’s focus on this game. That’s why we’re all here.”
Schiano almost became the head coach of the Volunteers earlier this month until the vocal opposition of fans caused Tennessee to change its mind. Instead, he remains at Ohio State, and preparation continues for the Cotton Bowl. The No. 5 Buckeyes (11-2) play No. 8 Southern California (11-2) at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m blessed to work at what I think is the best institution in the country,” Schiano said. “Certainly, I’m biased.”
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The extra practices this month for the Cotton Bowl have allowed Ohio State to get a look at younger players who will step into new roles in 2018. Schiano mentioned three standouts.
“Jeffrey Okudah has performed really well on special teams and played really well in the corner position,” Schiano said. “Isaiah Pryor has really taken strides (at safety). Baron Browning has really made strides is playing like a college linebacker.”
New look: No one showed more school spirit for the Buckeyes at practice Tuesday than Wayne grad Robert Landers.
Earlier this year, the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Landers, whose nickname is BB, dyed his hair blonde. Now he’s gone scarlet for the Cotton Bowl. His hair, at least on top, is the same color as the numbers on the jersey. The new look got mixed reviews from his teammates.
“BB’s kind of a guy that really doesn’t care what other people think,” wide receiver Parris Campbell said. “I’ll let him do his thing, but he looks bad. I tell him that, too.”
“BB’s a character,” offensive lineman Jamarco Jones said. “I don’t think it looks too bad. Whatever BB wants to do, it’s his hair. I think the red does look better than the gold.”
Film study: Southern California players watching defensive film on the Buckeyes notice Nick Bosa first.
“Anyone will tell you he’s probably the best defensive player they have,” USC tight end Tyler Petite said Wednesday.
However, what jumps out about Ohio State’s defense as a whole, Petite said, isn’t only the talent but the effort. The Trojans will face a group that ranks eighth in the nation in total defense (292.3 yards per game).
“With a lot of teams in college football, you have teams that have really good players that technique-wise are great and athletically are really good, but sometimes effort is lacking a little bit,” Petite said, “especially as you get deeper into the season and your regimen changes. You’re trying to let your body heal while staying in shape. It’s hard to balance the two sometimes. These guys, along with the technique and the skill, they just play hard. Maybe they make up for some errors in technique with effort. They will be a really good test for our offensive line.”