What’s up with Ohio State football’s defensive coaches, game-day setup and potential safeties: Buckeye Bits

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — At no point this week did Ohio State football coach Ryan Day publicly commit to changing duties among his defensive coaches.

He also strongly suggested structural changes would come for Saturday’s game against Tulsa. It should be noted, however, that the Buckeyes sort of prepared for this last season — though for different circumstances.

With the threat of COVID-19 potentially disrupting the staff on hours notice in 2020, Day said his coaches ran through contingencies to have each others’ duties covered if necessary. To some extent, the Buckeyes had game-tested the theoretical need for someone else to call plays, though perhaps not since last fall.

Day’s comments this week made it clear he was unhappy with all aspects of the defensive operation, from planning to in-game recognition to adjustments. He said the typical approach would have one coach focused on coverages and one looking at the front seven, then sending that information to the sideline and filtering it to the players.

“For the most part, I thought we did get lined up,” Day said. “I did see a little bit of hesitancy (from players) at times and just not getting the job done. Just not fitting a run or getting the guy down or executing the defense.

“But I also saw some situations where we didn’t adjust properly or we didn’t adjust fast enough. And because of that, we got hit on the same play multiple times. There’s a lot to it. It’s not just one things. But there’s a lot of things we looked at this week for sure.”

Secondary coach Matt Barnes has called a defense before, taking over play calling duties from defensive coordinator Andy Buh at Maryland in 2018. He has been a linebackers coach before, in addition to his background as a special teams coordinator. He has been OSU’s coach in the press box through the first two games.

Additionally, linebackers coach Al Washington was a candidate to take over as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in the offseason before Ohio State lured him back. If Day sees similar immediate promise in Washington, giving him a chance to call plays could make sense as well.

Regardless of what Day decides, Ohio State’s defense should look better — perhaps considerably better — especially in terms of final results. Tulsa quarterback Davis Brin has no touchdown passes and two interceptions through two games. The lack of a second dimension makes this matchup considerably easier than the first two games.

Among the other discussions around the Buckeyes as kickoff approaches

Ohio State last week made a vocal push to sell more tickets for last week’s game against Oregon. It settled for an announced crowd of 100,482 — about 2,000 short of capacity. Blame higher prices due to dynamic ticketing and COVID-19 concerns for at least some of those empty seats.

What remains to be seen is how two factors will affect the crowd for a less intriguing matchup Saturday. First, how will the Oregon loss hamper general fan enthusiasm? (Use the UCLA example?) Second, will the myriad problems Ohio State fans reported with long delays for admittance and concessions give fans further reason to pass up on a potential lopsided victory?

An OSU spokesperson said 12,000 tickets remained available for the Tulsa game earlier this week but did not have an updated number on Friday. Ohio State said it made technological changes to ensure better WiFi and scanner availability for the mobile ticketing. They also encourage fans to save their mobile ticket to their Apple wallet or Google Pay to expedite the process.

Marcus Hooker has yet to play a defensive snap in 2021 after starting the first five games last season at free safety. It’s been about exactly one year of ups and downs for the junior, who won that starting job, struggled at times, ended the season injured and was arrested in the offseason. It once seemed he might no longer have a place in the program. Unless younger players step up quickly, the Buckeyes may need him on the field. Day mentioned him as one of the possible free safety options on Thursday. … Day said on his radio show that safety Josh Proctor, injured one week ago against Oregon, faces a “long road back” from his fractured leg. Worth remembering that Ohio State will still have some issues with free safety depth next season, depending on whether players such as Ryan Watts, Kourt Williams and Andre Turrentine emerge as long-term solutions. Proctor, originally expected to move on after this season, could make the 2022 defense better. … TreVeyon Henderson did not receive much chance to exhibit his kick return skills in the season opener against Minnesota, fielding only one returnable kick. Another true freshman, Emeka Egbuka, took over those duties against Oregon and returned kickoffs for 29 and 27 yards. He also had a fumble fortuitously bounce right back into his hands. We’ll see if that affects who gets the call against Tulsa.

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