Ohio State Buckeyes: 5 lessons from Day 1 of spring football practice

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

WATCH: Thayer Munford explains why he is back at Ohio State for a 5th year

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

When Kevin Wilson spoke with reporters after the first spring football practice at Ohio State this year, a theme quickly emerged.

Wait until preseason.

The middle of preseason to be precise.

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While everyone was clamoring for answers to questions that will determine if the Buckeyes are able get back to the National Championship Game, Wilson made clear those aren’t likely to be coming soon.

“I think it’s going to take about half a preseason because we missed so much last year that even these second-year players are almost like freshmen,” Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach said. “We gotta keep playing through and just keep playing the game and hitting each other, learning how to play, rocking and rolling and so on.”

He applied this standard both to the tight ends, the offensive line, where he assists Greg Studrawa, and the running backs.

Here are four more things learned during interviews with coaches and players:

2. Kerry Coombs confirmed Ohio State is reevaluating what it will do defensively after getting pasted by Alabama in the National Championship Game.

The defensive coordinator would not offer any clues about what changes might be made, but he did confirm some that won’t.

Ohio State will still have a deep safety and a cover safety, and the plan is to play as much man coverage as possible.

“We need to be able to play press man,” Coombs said. “We need to be able to do it over and over and over again, and we need to be able to do successfully.”

That has been the intention throughout Coombs’ two stints at Ohio State, but the COVID-19 made teaching technique — let alone schemes — challenging last year as it forced many meetings online and limited practice time.

“I watched every period of individual (drills) from the entire season last year, and we only got seven sessions and real one on ones (man coverage drills),” Coombs said. “In the course of a year, that’s very challenging.”

3. Wilson expects Jeremy Ruckert to be one of the best all-around tight ends in the country this season.

A four-star recruit from New York, Ruckert was considered a pass catcher first when he signed with Ohio State four years ago.

Wilson has said repeatedly that won’t get a player on the field at tight end at Ohio State, though, and Ruckert has proven to be a capable blocker when called upon.

He caught five touchdown passes last year, including two in the Sugar Bowl win over Clemson, and Wilson looks for him to be a more dangerous threat in the passing game this fall after putting off the NFL and working to lean up his frame.

“He’s trying to be a little leaner and be a little quicker in and outbreaks to create some separation and hopefully get him more involved in the passing game,” Wilson said. “I think he sets up to have a great year. I think that’s a huge piece of a good offense is the tight end because I think it connects the run game and in the pass game protection. Basically we’re playing left tackle and wide receiver.”

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4. Zach Harrison sounds like a man on a mission.

A five-star recruit from the suburbs north of Columbus, Harrison was anointed the next great Ohio State pass rusher when he arrived on campus.

After Harrison turned in a solid-if-unspectacular sophomore season, head coach Ryan Day said he has looked like a different man this offseason, an assessment Coombs confirmed.

Harrison said he just feels like it’s time for him to do more for his team.

“To be honest, I didn’t have quite the year that I wanted to in year two, and that’s why I changed my mindset,” Harrison said. “That’s why I changed my approach going into this offseason and hopefully this fall y’all can see the results of this hard work.”

5. Thayer Munford is personally motivated as well.

Already a three-year starter, Munford has achieved the level of play Harrison hopes to attain.

The Buckeyes’ left tackle spoke instead of what he wants to achieve off the field after making the surprise decision to return to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility extended to all players after last season’s COVID-19 disruptions.

“I love this question,” he said when asked why he made that decision. “The reason why I came back is because I gotta get my academics together. I’m one semester away until I actually graduate.”

The sport industry major, who said he would like to go into coaching or administration when he is done playing, wants to please his mother Melissa as well.

“My mom also wants me to get my degree so I can be the first person in my family to graduate college,” he said. “That’s a big part for me. Yeah, football is good and all, but at the same time academics are a little bit more important for me because I’m the first generation to actually go to college at all big major school.”

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