Ryan Day’s first full season as head coach of the Ohio State football team is set to begin.
Here are five things to know before the preseason gets up and running:
1. The Buckeyes begin practice Friday.
The media is invited to watch the beginning of the first practice at 9:30 a.m.
Reporters will be shooed away after 30 minutes, but Day and select players will be available for interviews after practice.
Ohio State will have 15 morning practices from Aug. 2-19 with days off Aug. 5, 11 and 18.
The Aug. 6, 10 and 14 practices will be partially open to the media while interviews with various coaches and players are scheduled throughout the month leading up to the season opener against Florida Atlantic at Ohio Stadium on Aug. 31.
2. Ohio State returns nine starters on defense and four on offense, but there will be a lot of jockeying for playing time.
“The tight end group is fighting to get two tight ends in the game,” Day said, noting that will be determined by who proves to be better between the No. 2 tight end and the No. 2 slot receiver.
Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill and Austin Mack are expected to start at receiver, but coach Brian Hartline will need to find three more players to fill what is usually a six-man rotation.
READ MORE: Tight ends could change the offense
All three starting linebackers return, but they figure to be pushed by a hungry young group of sophomores under the direction of new coach Al Washington.
Larry Johnson is also looking for some second-year players to fill in his top eight up front while the secondary is under new management and will likely play a greater variety of coverages.
“The teams that change things up I think are the best in terms of defending the pass and then having the ability to blitz when needed,” Day said. “You want your defense to not have to think too much, play fast, identify tendencies and keys and play with a lot of speed.”
3. The most notable position battle is quarterback.
Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, will compete with Gunnar Hoak, a transfer from Kentucky, and Chris Chugunov to replace record-setting passer Dwayne Haskins.
Fields took part in spring practice and is considered the front-runner to start, but Day wants to see him earn the job before anointing him.
“All reports are coming back really strong,” Day said when asked about Fields’ summer. “He’s taking a lot of responsibility of going out there with those guys and throwing on their own. It’s been going positive, and in talking to the receivers and some of the other guys they say it’s going really, really well, but we’ll find out in August once we get on the field and start with practice.”
4. The most important work might happen in front of the quarterback.
Ohio State needs to replace four starting offensive linemen.
Although coach Greg Studrawa has a handful of promising candidates to join left tackle Thayer Munford in the starting lineup, they will have to prove themselves this month.
Miamisburg native Josh Myers is penciled in at center while Wyatt Davis is expected to claim one guard spot and Branden Bowen, Josh Alabi and Nicholas Petit-Frere are contenders at tackle.
Bowen can also play inside while Jonah Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, joins the mix as well at guard.
“He’s going to have to learn the offense quickly,” said Day, who praised Jackson’s experience and toughness. “The good news is that there was a year at Rutgers where they were actually using a lot of our same terminology so there’s carryover there for him. I assume he’s going to pick it up pretty quickly. He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s played a lot of football.”
5. Ohio State will begin the season in the top five.
The Buckeyes are No. 5 in the preseason coaches’ poll published by USA Today on Thursday morning.
They were No. 3 in the same preseason poll last year and ultimately finished in that same spot after going 13-1 and winning the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl.
Michigan is No. 7 in the preseason coaches poll with fellow Big Ten teams Penn State (14th), Wisconsin (17th), Iowa (19th), Michigan State (20th) and Northwestern (25th) giving the conference seven teams in the preseason top 25.
Nebraska just missed the top 25, coming in 26th, while Minnesota also received one vote.
Ohio State plays the Cornhuskers on Sept. 28, the Spartans on Oct. 5, the Wildcats on Oct. 18, the Badgers on Oct. 26, the Nittany Lions on Nov. 23 and the Wolverines on Nov. 30.
Their week two opponent, Cincinnati, also received votes in the preseason coaches poll after finishing last season at No. 23.
Defending national champion Clemson is the coaches’ preseason No. 1 followed by Alabama. Georgia is No. 3 followed by Oklahoma.
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