Ohio State football: Ryan Day’s expectations for 5 important position groups this preseason

COLUMBUS -- Ryan Day kicked off his first press conference of the 2022 football season with multiple assurances he saw the Buckeyes as having had a strong offseason.

He still has questions, though, as any coach does at this time of the year.

Here is his outlook on five position groups with high potential but work to do this month:

1. He wants to see some defensive linemen become more than good.

“I think the whole defensive line unit has great talent, and they have good depth,” Day said. “So now it’s time to have guys step up here in the next couple of weeks and find out who we count on when we need them the most.”

That means someone stepping into the superstar role of a Chase Young or a Nick Bosa, something Ohio State has lacked the last two seasons.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, we got a lot of depth and can roll guys (in and out of the lineup), but when we really need someone to play at a high level, who are we going to really count on to make those plays? And we can count on them to stop the run and be tough and be accountable. I think we got some really good guys in that room, some really good candidates, some guys who had excellent summers.”

2. The tight ends had a good summer, but they have to grow and gain experience this preseason.

Cade Stover is in line to be the new starter at the position that works as the fulcrum of the offense, and Day said he had “an unbelievable summer.”

The head coach also praised the progress of Joe Royer, Sam Hart, Gee Scott Jr. and Bennett Christian but said he needs to see more from the group as a whole this month.

“I think that has a chance to have some good depth right there, but they got to build and they’ve got to grow,” Day said. “There’s not a ton of experience in that group. It will be a really important three weeks here.”

3. Day is also high on the way a talented-but-somewhat-inexperienced group of receivers did in the offseason.

“Julian Fleming had the best offseason he’s had to this point,” Day said. “He was an iron Buckeye, one of the most improved. That was excellent.”

A junior who was the No. 1-ranked receiver recruit in the country coming out of high school, Fleming has batted injuries since arriving at Ohio State. The same is true of senior Kamryn Babb, but Day said both are good to go at this point.

Sophomores Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. and senior Xavier Johnson also received high marks in the offseason, but Day wants to see the group as a whole prove it brings more than just talent to the table.

“We need toughness on the perimeter and guys who are going to make plays, and certainly the technique of route running, and we’re really looking for leadership there like we are across the board,” Day said. “With wide receivers you don’t think of toughness, but we want toughness all across the board, so that’ll be important in that group. And just grinding to get better every day.”

4. Patience could be important for the running backs.

TreVeyon Henderson returns as the No. 1 back, but third-year sophomore Miyan Williams appears to have the talent to be a starter at many other programs.

Redshirt freshman Evan Pryor was also a highly rated recruit. He figures to be itching to show what he can do, but there is only one ball.

“I told those guys, ‘Let your reps speak for you and don’t start worrying about where you are in terms of the depth chart,’” Day said. “‘Don’t worry about what reps you might get. You’re going to get plenty of reps in the preseason, make sure you make them count. And then what we’ll do is like we always do —is this person game ready? Can this guy help us beat Notre Dame and if he can, let’s go play.”

5. Backup quarterback appears to be in good hands.

Unlike last year when Day had to pick a starting quarterback, he has a clear pecking order with starter C.J. Stroud followed by backup Kyle McCord and incoming freshman Devin Brown.

Stroud will get the majority of the work so he’s ready to go against the Fighting Irish, but preparing McCord and Brown is also important work to be done this month.

“Kyle had a really good offseason, so that was great, and Devin has worked really hard as well. He’s only been here since January, but you’ve got to develop these guys. This is a huge three weeks to bring those guys along.”

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