Ohio State football: 5 goals for Buckeyes entering second half of season

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football does not have a game Saturday.

Calling it an “off week” might not be quite right, though, as Ryan Day and his staff still have plenty to do to get ready for the second half of the season.

Before that starts next Saturday at Indiana, here are five things the sixhth-ranked Buckeyes (5-1) are hoping to accomplish:

1. Polish up the fundamentals.

Ohio State had an imperfect start to the season, but for the most part the Buckeyes have blocked and tackled well.

Day doesn’t want that to slip as it figures to become even more crucial with what figure to be multiple top 10 matchups looming before the end of November.

“As the competition increases, things get harder and harder,” Day said. “Executing at a high level — using fundamentals and taking care of the football and tackling, all of those types of situations — when you play in match-up type games or tight games, every play matters. Every rep matters.

“All it can take is one or two plays and your whole day can be ruined. We have played well the last couple weeks, but it wasn’t the case where it came down to one or two plays. We need to focus on winning the wars up front and stopping the run, running the football, playing situational football. It will come down to some short yardage plays and red zone execution in some of these tight games.”

2. Refine their schemes.

The overhaul of the defensive scheme — switching from playing primarily with one deep safety in the secondary to two — has gotten a lot of attention, but the Ohio State offense has also evolved in Day’s third season as head coach.

Despite starting a freshman at quarterback, Ohio State’s playbook has featured a fair amount of diversity both in run and pass plays, but Day does not want to get complacent.

“You always have to try and stay a step ahead of the defense,” Day said. “The good news is when you have weapons like we do, if they take one thing away you want to make sure you go and attack them another way. That’s part of this job, trying to stay one step ahead and figure out how they will attack you on offense and defense.

“You want to have some change-ups, but you don’t want to go crazy because you have to make sure you rely on the stuff you know really well. That is kind of the art of coaching, especially as you get late into the season.”

3. Check out some recruits.

Ohio State’s 2022 class got off to a hot start, but the Buckeyes have not added a commitment since July.

The 14-man class ranks seventh 247Sports Composite rankings and trails Penn State’s 26-man group in the Big Ten.

“I think we are in pretty good shape,” Day said. “One of the things we are able to do now is evaluate some of the guys who have played. It’s been a while since some of these prospects have been on the field and played in games. We are gathering that information and evaluating these guys and trying to be thorough about it.”

Lots can change before National Signing Day in December, and this could be a good week to make some progress.

“We went out yesterday and we will be out on Friday,” Day said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s the first time we’ve been out and back on the road again, which is very important for us.”

4. Rest without rusting

“There are things about the bye week you really enjoy, but there are things where you wish you had continued on the routine because we have gotten into a rhythm here,” Day said. “But I think it’s come at the right time. We have a chance to look and reflect on the first six games and look at our personnel, our scheme and things across the board to make sure we are in the right place heading into these last six games.”

He said they would maintain the normal practice schedule this week.

“We did not practice on Sunday, and we will not practice on Saturday,” Day said. “Obviously we want to get some of those guys some rest and recharge for the second half of this run but also continue to work on fundamentals and keep the good on good (first team practicing against first team) work going this week. We have to keep getting better. We can’t all of a sudden stall during a bye week and take a deep breath and not get better.”

5. Get some of the older players to be in their best shape heading into the stretch run.

At some positions, development has been a little backwards this season with a handful of freshmen jumping into the fray early while some veteran players of which much was expected have been in the background.

In some cases, that is a matter of health. In others, it’s a lack of experience despite a player’s age, while some might have been held back by a combination of the two.

But with some of the older players who were banged up in training camp having a chance to heal and improve, they could get back into the mix and make the whole unit that much stronger in the long run.

Day sees that as essential to the Buckeyes achieving their goals — especially along the defensive front and in the secondary.

“Any time you need to make a run here in October and November, you need your veteran players to play veteran,” Day said. “I think we’ve created some depth there which has been good, but you know the expectation here on the D-line. So (we’re) looking forward to see that progress being made.”


Saturday, Oct. 23

Ohio State at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., ABC, 1410

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