Ohio State’s offensive coordinator didn’t go into detail about Saturday’s scrimmage, but it sure sounds as if the defense won the day.
Columbus, OH – Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had a secret when he spoke with the media Monday, but he wasn’t about to spill his guts revealing that sophomore tailback Evan Pryor had been lost for the season with a torn knee ligament.
That type of news can come only from head coach Ryan Day, and he was unavailable.
Pryor revealed on his social media platform that he was injured last week during a practice.
Wilson, though, did answer questions about how the Buckeyes looked offensively during their first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday.
His take is that there is a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g way to go, despite the unit having been unstoppable as recently as the 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The offense, he said, “scored once or twice and had a field goal hit the upright.’’
“It was good,’’ Wilson said.
But Wilson went off after being asked if Ohio State could get a first down on third-and-one against Notre Dame.
“It’s not where it needs to be based on what I saw Saturday,’’ he said. “Because they need to be better on Saturday in structure and scheming and pad level and execution and a mean attitude.
“Third-and-one, you are playing as high as this table and there is a bunch of violence going on. There is a scheme, but there also is a demeanor when the referee comes out and shows you that you have this much (to go for the first down). How does the D-line play on that play, versus third-and-15? You are on the one-yard line coming out, trying to avoid a safety, and how are they playing?’’
The first week of practice was devoted to fundamentals, but the scrimmage shed light on what needs to be done.
Demeanor, Wilson said, is just as important as execution and calling the right play.
If all that goes as planned, he said, “That’s when we’ll see if we’re a good offense.’’
On Monday, the Buckeyes ran eight to 10 plays during possessions so the offense could get into a rhythm.
The offense also must be humble during this building phase, leading to the opener against the Irish the night of September 3.
“If we get a little too big for our britches in this day and age. . . I said this a long time ago, as soon as you think you’ve got it, you are getting ready to get it,’’ Wilson said. “It’s always a fight to stay on point, to stay focused, to keep evolving and to sharpen your skills.
“We’ve been really hard (on them). I think some of our players have picked up some of the ownership and leadership of what we’re trying to do. It’s not coming from Coach (Day) all the time. We are trying to stay humble, grounded, because we’re only as good as we can block it. Blocking is everywhere.’’
The 4-2-5 defense that first-year coordinator Jim Knowles has been showing the offense has had a lot to do with some struggles.
Tight end Cade Stover has returned to offense after playing great at linebacker out of need during the Rose Bowl.
No player is more qualified to talk about Knowles and what he is doing behind closed doors.
“Oh, God, that defense,’’ Stover said. “Knowles, that’s a top-of-the-line dude right there. I would go to war with that dude any day of the week. I loved playing for him when I was over there. I would say that he’s the smartest mind on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve ever seen in my life.
“The way he has those guys playing over there – how fast and how confusing they are – it’s the (different) looks and looks and looks and looks. They are unbelievable, and that’s a testament to him.’’
Knowles kept things plain during the Scarlet & Gray spring game, but obviously is playing with all his cards in August.
Who has stood out defensively?
“About 12 of them,’’ Wilson said. “They’re deep and they keep coming at you in waves. They just keep coming in walls. They are playing with some confidence and are behind their pads. You just feel the defensive presence.’’
Wilson praised linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, saying that they are “playing quicker.’’ He threw bouquets at the defensive line.
‘’They are so much quicker in the hole,’’ he said. “I just think you feel an early confidence with the defensive line. There’s a long way to go. I’m sure, man, it’s out there and it’s a doggone fistfight.’’
“It’s awesome. It gives me all the confidence going into game day.’’
BABB TO WEAR THE “BLOCK O’’
The NCAA allowed players to wear zero as a number a few years ago, but Ohio State turned it into an honor of the late All-American lineman and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bill Willis.
This season, the honor of wearing zero goes to receiver Kamryn Babb, who has suffered numerous knee injuries that imperiled his career.
“The last five years have been a long journey,” he said. “There were times when I was down and had a lot of questions. But God put people in my life who wouldn’t let me give up and it’s been a blessing. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Babb is on the Big Ten All-Academic team. He spoke at the investiture of university president Kristina Johnson.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Six captains were named: Stover, Eichenberg, Babb, defensive tackle Tyler Friday, safety Kourt Williams and quarterback CJ Stroud.