COLUMBUS -- Ohio State has one more game before The Game, and Ryan Day does not believe his team will have a hard time focusing on it.
“I think it’s something that comes up every week,” the head coach of the Buckeyes said Tuesday as his team began preparations for a trip to Maryland on Saturday. “It comes up every year this time of year. So what we tried to do is the competitive excellence focus is something that we talked about early on, so that when we got to a moment like this, you don’t just walk into a Tuesday meeting and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to really focus on this week.’ Well, we’ve been saying this all along.”
Here are five things to know from Day’s weekly press conference Tuesday, 11 days before the Buckeyes play host to Michigan:
1. He began by extending condolences to the University of Virginia, where three members of the football team were shot to death Monday, allegedly by a former teammate.
“On behalf of The Ohio State football program, I want to express our sadness and our prayers to the entire University of Virginia, it’s football program, over the senseless killings that took place over this past weekend,” Day said. “Our prayers to the families and friends certainly who have lost a loved ones. It’s tragic, senseless and pains me to understand why something like this would happen. And so our thoughts are with everyone there in Charlottesville.”
2. Day is optimistic about the health of the running backs room.
Ohio State finished its win over Indiana on Saturday with top running backs TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and reserve Chip Trayanum all out because of various injuries, but Day said he could see all three being available before the end of the regular season.
“We feel like we have a really good chance to get all those guys back for next week,” Day said. “Maybe one of them won’t, but I’d be shocked if all three would not be available. I think we’ll hopefully get at least two of them back and go from there.”
Henderson reportedly has a foot issue that has kept him out of the last two games. Williams left Saturday after running for 147 yards and appearing to have his right ankle pinned underneath him during a tackle. Williams needed help getting off the field, but Day said after the game it did not appear to be a long-term injury.
The injury to Trayanum, who transferred to Ohio State to play linebacker in January but moved to running back midway through the season, is unknown.
3. Day is comfortable with his options even if all three backs are out this week.
Dallan Hayden and Xavier Johnson finished the Indiana game as the first and second options, and Day expressed confidence they could carry the load if asked.
Hayden, a true freshman from Tennessee, has a pair of 100-yard games already this season, and Johnson is a fifth-year senior from Cincinnati who began his career as a walk-on and has experience at running back, receiver and on defense.
4. The injury bug’s bite has been frustrating.
Beginning with the loss of star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba early in the season-opening win over Notre Dame, Ohio State has never really had its full starting lineup healthy for the same game.
“It can be very frustrating, for sure, but at the same time, it’s part of the game and you see it happening across the country week in and week out,” Day said.
5. There could be an issue with the turf at Ohio Stadium.
Day seemed unaware when the topic was brought up Tuesday, but a university spokesman said discussions have taken place within the athletics department about what to do regarding the new slit-film field installed at Ohio Stadium prior to this season.
That is following the NFL Players Association calling for slit-film fields to be removed immediately from the six stadiums that use it in the NFL, including Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
According to the NFPA, studies show slit-film fields (one of three types of artificial surface) have a statistically significant increase in non-contact injuries, lower extremity injuries, foot and ankle injuries and time missed due to injuries.
Former Ohio State star Nick Bosa, now a member of the San Francisco 49ers who suffered a torn ACL playing on a slit-film field in New Jersey in 2020, was among players to call for “safer fields” on social media last week. Prior to the season, he told SI.com he believe all NFL stadiums should have natural grass.
Ohio Stadium went back to artificial turf in 2007, and that surface has been replaced twice as part of normal wear and tear.
“We test our fields twice a year annually, and we’ll continue to do that, but there has been some discussions about the topic that you’re discussing,” OSU’s Jerry Emig said Tuesday.
Ohio State at Maryland, 3:30 p.m., ABC, 1410