COLUMBUS — The focus was back on football at Ohio State, at least for a day with Ryan Day.
There were obviously still a couple of understandable, necessary questions about how the absence of Urban Meyer will impact the Buckeyes heading into the season opener on Saturday against Oregon State. But since the acting head coach wasn’t part of the investigation, interviewed or otherwise involved with it, for the first time since training camp opened this month Day was able to dive into on-the-field discussions.
And there was a lot to address for the Buckeyes after spending the rest of August on a media blackout. So, what did Lettermen Row learn from Day’s impressive press conference and an appearance from Greg Schiano after that? Let’s run it down.
Ryan Day should have been speaking all month
First things first, Ryan Day absolutely won the press conference. Day hit all the right messages, handled the delicacy of the Meyer situation like a professional and generally made it crystal clear why he was entrusted to run the program until his boss gets back in three games. All of that makes it all the more puzzling why Ohio State hadn’t let him take charge publicly before Monday and help steer some of the discussion back to football and one of the nation’s most fascinating teams. For any athletic directors thinking about their short-list of future head coaches, Day is proving to be a star already before he even gets his audition at the Horseshoe starting on Saturday.
Michael Jordan is the starting center at Ohio State
The Buckeyes are once again going to the well that has produced the nation’s best centers two years in a row, sliding another guard over to the middle to anchor the offensive line. What once seemed like a stretch due to both his size and the lack of reps in the spring and still appeared unlikely even earlier in the month is now official: Michael Jordan is now the starter at center for Ohio State. This move allows for more of the depth at guard to be used, thrusting Malcolm Pridgeon into the role at left guard and solidifying Demetrius Knox at right guard. There is some uncertainty with the health of Branden Bowen which will bear monitoring, but Ohio State appears set now on the interior of the line.
Dwayne Haskins is officially in charge of the offense
There wasn’t exactly any doubt that Dwayne Haskins was going to be the starting quarterback for Ohio State. But the coaching staff had at least left open the possibility of Tate Martell pushing him for the spot heading into training camp, and Day confirmed that the backup had delivered an impressive month that will allow him to see action starting with snaps in some capacity against Oregon State. How much Martell might play and in what situations remains unclear thanks to the lack of experienced depth at such a crucial position. But Haskins is the guy, and Martell has demonstrated that he’s capable of helping when needed.
Key positions to watch on defense for Ohio State
The Buckeyes had plenty to evaluate in some critical spots on defense, and coordinator Greg Schiano left the door open for a handful of guys to still claim starting jobs early in the season. The battles could drag out for a couple weeks with Ohio State facing opponents who shouldn’t realistically pose much of a threat to them, so nothing is necessarily set in stone at linebacker and the safety job opposite Jordan Fuller. But the Silver Bullets will roll Baron Browning out at middle linebacker until Tuf Borland is fully healthy, even though the returning starter could be available as early as this week. And Pete Werner’s rise during training camp has earned him a role at the other outside position along with Malik Harrison. At safety, Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint are still in a duel over first-team reps that Ohio State isn’t ready to call.
Urban Meyer’s philosophy remains in place
Just about the only change Ohio State is anticipating on game day is the logistics for Ryan Day to call plays from the sideline while managing the team from a big-picture perspective. Schiano offered effusive praise for how Day has handled his acting coach role this month, and previous open practices during training camp made it clear that Ohio State was having no problems with a business-as-usual mindset. There will probably be some jitters from Ryan Day on Saturday given the spotlight on him, but with Schiano running the defense and Kevin Wilson helping call the offense from the press box, the Buckeyes should be able to operate like normal against the Beavers.