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Big Ten Championship: Coaches meet the press

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Coach of the Buckeyes praises two of his best players

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Before Ryan Day and Paul Chryst lead their teams against each other for the Big Ten championship, they met in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The coaches from Ohio State and Wisconsin posed together with the trophy one will get to take home then fielded questions from the media.

>>READ MORE: Buckeyes, Badgers prepared for round two

Here is what to know:

1. Justin Fields has had a strong week of practice. 

The Big Ten offensive player and quarterback of the year has been dealing with a sprained knee for the past two weeks, but his coach liked what he saw from the sophomore this week.

“It's something he's been kind of dealing with. He's done a great job. Training staff has been doing a great job of getting him ready. He's had a good, strong week of practice.”

Fields said Tuesday his mobility is limited in a larger brace he plans to wear to protect the knee from further injury, but Day bypassed questions about how that might affect play-calling.

“There's only so much we can do,” Day said. “The one in the Penn State game, rolling out to his left on the fourth down, the other one he got hit in the pocket as well. You just do the best you can, you try to run the plays you think are going to be the most successful, you go from there.

“But I think when you start to be hesitant, overcautious, you set yourself up for failure. We'll be aggressive and we'll go.”

2. Shaun Wade is ready to go. 

The junior defensive back who plays a hybrid safety/cornerback/linebacker role for the Buckeyes missed the win over Michigan last week with an unidentified injury, but he was not on the injury list this week so he should be in uniform Saturday night.

“He brings a certain level of calmness to that defense because he has so much experience there,” Day said. “He's had a good week of practice. He can identify what's happening. He has a lot of experience in there. Last week we kind of moved Damon (Arnette) inside, and that created a little bit of unrest, we moved him back, things calmed down a little bit.

“Shaun has got a lot of experience, he's played a lot of football. He can recognize things, he's versatile, and he's good in the run and the pass game.”

3. Garrett Wilson is still the primary punt returner. 

A five-star freshman from Texas, Wilson had a career-best 118 yards receiving last week against the Wolverines, but he also muffed a punt that Michigan turned into a score.

That was the second punt Wilson has mishandled, but Day said the staff remains confident in him.

“He’s got to take care of the ball, but he’ll be our returner tomorrow night,” Day said. “We believe in him. We trust in him. We think he has the ability to be an elite returner. We'll just keep working through it and get his eyes on that ball and catch it. We know what he's capable of. We know what he's done in practice.

“The other day the wind was a little gusty, you could see that in two plays, in my opinion. One was that play. Then also Chris Olave's long ball, the ball kind of caught it at the end, caught him in the face.

“No excuse, but indoor situation with no weather, we expect him to do a great job and be 100% catching the ball.”

4. Day doesn’t expect any issues with motivation. 

“Well, they've been highly motivated all year,” he said. “We talk about the race to the Big Ten Championship, the finish line to this race, which is the Big Ten Championship, you can see the finish line.

“The goal and visual has been accelerating through that finish line, not pulling up here. Because that's what great athletes do, that's what great teams do, is they accelerate at the end. We've known this has been coming. This has been one of our goals. We don't talk too much about what's next. We kind of really stay in the moment.”

5. Chryst is happy with the contributions of Danny Davis. 

A junior receiver from Springfield, Davis has caught 25 passes for 195 yards this season.

He hauled in a touchdown pass as the Badgers beat Iowa on Nov. 9, a key moment in their late-season run that earned them a spot in the title game against Ohio State after two losses in October.

“Danny, not just this year, but since he's been here, he's had a big impact on our team, a guy that I love being around,” Chryst said.

Davis is one of six Ohioans on the Wisconsin roster.

(Offensive coordinator) Joe Rudolph recruits Ohio, has done a great job there,” Chryst said. "The players we've gotten, many of them have had a big impact on our team, on our program.”

6. The game being a rematch of a contest Ohio State won 38-7 in October does change things somewhat for each side. 

“I think it helps your players understand a little bit more about the things you can't see on film,” Chryst said. "I think of it as kind of how the game felt, the feeling of going up against them. I think there's certainly some things to be taken from it.

“I also believe you're not replaying that game. That game happened, but I think your players should take some things away from it that can help them on both sides.”

Day has likened it to what he experienced as an assistant in the NFL.

“I don't think you make too much of it in the fact that you can't all of a sudden just start changing everything you do, but you also can't do the same exact thing you did before. There's somewhere in between. That's the balance you try to find, what kind of wrinkles can you show, but then allow the guys to play.

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“At the end of the day, in an environment like this, this type of atmosphere, it's about players, not plays. Allowing these guys to play freely, have their impact on the game based on what you're giving the guys, make sure they're playing with a clear mind. That's the most important thing to me in a game like this.”

7. Day is still looking for his team’s best game. 

Ohio State has won every game by double-digits, but that does not mean the first-year coach of the Buckeyes is satisfied with what he has seen.

“There's still a lot to be written,” Day said. "I still don't think we've played our best football yet. In all three phases, we've yet to put together just a dominant performance. That's another challenge that we've given the team this year. What is the best version of this team? So that's something we're working on this week.”