COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State has a new head coach, a reconstituted offensive line and a transfer quarterback who has never started a college football game. But that doesn’t mean expectations will be adjusted for a team that went 86-9 in the past seven seasons under Urban Meyer.
Former Meyer assistant Ryan Day began his inaugural season running the show on Wednesday when he convened the first of 15 spring practices he hopes will give him a better idea of what he has to work with. The workouts will culminate in the annual spring game, set for April 13.
“During the offseason, I think a lot of guys stepped up as leaders,” said Day, who got a taste of the job as a stand-in last season while Meyer served a three-game suspension. “But now we’re in kind of onto a new phase now, which is spring practice, and during that we have to find out who the guys are we can count on, because we did lose a lot of guys.”
Besides a raft of new assistant coaches, there are other seismic changes. Gone is quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick after a record-breaking season that took him to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Justin Fields, a sophomore transfer from Georgia, is the likely starter at quarterback after Tate Martell transferred to Miami. One of the top prep recruits in the nation in 2018, Fields played sparingly behind Jake Fromm at Georgia last season.
“It was good to get out there and kind of feel what this (quarterback) group can handle, who are they, what’s their identity going to be,” said Day, who was Meyer’s quarterbacks coach for two seasons. “Day 1, so it’s hard to tell, but it’s not going to be the same. Two years ago with J.T. (Barrett) at quarterback and the guys we had, that was a different feel. Last year was a different feel, so it’s exciting to see what this is going to be like.”
Fields said last month that transferring to Ohio State was a practical matter.
“I made more of a business decision, and Coach Day, he’s been in the NFL so he knows what it takes to get there,” Fields said. “Just the offense and how successful it was last year, I just hope to do the same thing again.”
Fields is competing with redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin. Day said the two are splitting reps with the first team in spring practice.
With running back Mike Weber leaving early for the NFL, J.K. Dobbins will get the bulk of the carries after splitting time with Weber last season.
Most of the receiving corps that helped Haskins set records last season moved on, but there are proven players returning in K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, Bin Victor and Chris Olave. At least a half-dozen younger wideouts will push the veterans.
The offensive line will be a question mark after the Buckeyes lost three starters, with left tackle Thayer Munford remaining as the only player who started last season. Redshirt sophomore Josh Myers is the favorite to replace NFL-bound Michael Jordan at center.
The defense returns nine starters to a squad that showed cracks last season.
Hill, who chose to return for his final season, said there aren’t a lot of immediate and obvious changes at practice, but the vibe is different with a head coach who turns 40 next week. Meyer is 54.
“Coach Meyer, he’s old-school. Coach Day, younger,” Hill said. “Coach Day will talk about (the video game) Fortnite with us because he’s got a son, RJ – he looks up to us. (Day) knows a lot of the stuff we do, talks our language, stuff like that.”
NOTES: Munford and defensive back Jordan Fuller are sitting out spring practice because of injuries but are expected to be OK to start the season. … Day said he will continue to call offensive plays from the sideline this season. … The Buckeyes will practice without pads once more this week, then resume after spring break.
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