College football: Ohio State emphasized leadership in the offseason

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

When OSU opened spring training on Tuesday, he said, “We decided leadership was the #1 thing we needed to do this offseason. It’s probably the best we’ve done in an offseason where we’ve forged leadership.

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

“When we have our backs against the wall, we need the guys to step in. We certainly played hard in many places, but there were times when we didn’t.

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

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

Ten Buckeyes won’t be available for spring training, including offensive lineman Harry Miller, who was slated as a starting center in 2021 before a knee injury limited him to two games. Others, like security 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 been successful. He is very organized, he is a very good communicator and he has a very good plan. He is very intelligent. I love being surrounded by really smart football coaches.

• On quarterback CJ Stroud: “I think when you dive into CJ, you realize he’s very motivated. He goes out with the mindset that he has something to prove every day. It’s just the way it’s wired. Is it still big? No he’s not. But he’s on his way to it.

• On Paris Johnson’s move to left tackle this season: “We brought him in as a tackle, we always felt like he was a tackle. To his credit, he wanted to step onto the court last year and really learned a lot playing guard.

“He’s played (tackle) his whole life apart from last year, so it’s not like it’s new for him. He’s going to stick with it. His day-to-day approach, his work ethic and all “These things are really out of the ordinary. He has big aspirations and he’s very successful. When he decides on something, it usually happens.

• On Jaxon Smith-Njigba becoming the focus of opposition pass defenses with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson going to the NFL: “We’re going to have to move Jaxon. There’s no doubt there will be times when the guys try to double Jaxon. We will have to be creative in this area. But they can’t do it every game because then they have to give up other things.

• On whether Cade Stover will play tight end or linebacker: “I think he could be a terrific tight end. It will be up to him to decide what he thinks is most comfortable for him.

Contact Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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