Ohio State Buckeyes: Ryan Day in wait-and-see mode

Reporters weren’t the only ones scrambling to figure out who was doing what on the first day of Ohio State football preseason practice.

Even the head coach admitted he was still catching up as work on the 132nd season on the gridiron for the Buckeyes officially got underway.

“Some of those numbers, I don’t even know who they are,” Day said Wednesday. “Who’s No. 32?”

Told that was Jakailin Johnson, a true freshman cornerback from St. Louis, he smiled and went on with his point.

“So, yeah I’ve got to figure out who those people are,” Day said. “Some fresh names, fresh jerseys out there. Some guys switched numbers — I think Marcus Williamson was in 5, so I didn’t know who that was. So I’ll have to figure all that out.”

Day was being at least somewhat facetious, but there is no denying this Ohio State roster is an interesting mix of young and old — more so than the average college football collection of players.

That’s thanks in part to seven “super seniors” who accepted the NCAA’s offer of an extra year of eligibility plus not one but two classes going through their first normal preseason.

Several members of the class of 2020 contributed last season, but they were not afforded as much preparation time as usual because of a reduction in games and practice time forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the 2021 class joined the ranks in the winter with a handful of its members — including Johnson — arriving this summer.

Put it all together, and it’s a group looking to become five-time Big Ten champions but with a lot of work to get to that point.

Thus Day, who lamented last season potentially being canceled because he felt like might have a team that comes along once in a lifetime, said he was not sure what to think about this group after practice one.

“I mean, there’s a lot of guys on the team that have played a lot of football,” Day said. “Some of the guys on the offensive line (and defensive linemen): Haskell Garrett, Antwaan Jackson and Zack Harrison. Look at Jeremy Ruckert — he has played a lot of football. (So has) Chris Olave. So there’s been some guys — Master Teague — that have played a lot of football, but there’s also a lot of young guys. So it’s a combination of the two.

“I don’t think we’ll really know until we start getting to some of these games and figure it out because there’s a lot of big personalities and a lot of production that left the team over the last year so.”

He said more than once he was happy with the offseason work his team did — including how many players were recognized by director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti as “Iron Buckeyes” for standing out during summer workouts — but cautioned that is separate from developing football skills and team chemistry on the field.

“I don’t think we know yet, but I think coming off the summer, talking about how many guys made gold (status) and how many Iron Buckeyes we had, that’s a great projection of what’s going to happen in the fall. And so if we can stay healthy and continue to work the way we’re working, we’re gonna have a good season.”

While seniors such as Williamson, Garrett, Ruckert and Jackson will look to finish their careers with a flourish, Day does not want the youngsters to wait around for their turn.

“I said to the freshmen who are here for the first time, ‘Your legacy begins right now,’” Day reported. “It goes fast and faster than ever. You can’t wait around for an older guy to show leadership. You can do it right now.”

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