Alright, friends, gather ‘round and let me tell you all the goings on around the Ohio State football program today, just four days before they will play the Alabama Clemson Tide for the College Football Playoff National Championship... or will they?
Yes, they will; or at least that’s what head football coach Ryan Day is currently saying:
Asked how many players Ohio State would have available for Monday's game, Day said “We'll have plenty of players.”— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 7, 2021
There has been a lot of confusion, rumors, and innuendo about what is going on inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and we have been treated to all of the normally level-headed reactions that you should expect.
We’ve had Nick Saban’s daughter spouting off about how COVID rumors from inside the OSU program were just a deep-state conspiracy designed to give Justin Fields more time to recover from the rib shot that he suffered in the Sugar Bowl, and today we got Ohio’s own Dan Patrick throwing more fuel on the proverbial fire. However, as I said on Twitter, DP has been doling out “well-sourced” reports about the Big Ten and Ohio State all season, and he has been right practically never.
Simply don't understand where this continues to come from ...— Austin Ward (@AWardSports) January 7, 2021
If Ohio State was "very close" to needing to postpone the title game, the facility simply would not have remained open and there would not have been any practices this week. The Buckeyes expect to play Monday. https://t.co/IdEh8PTsz0
True story, if you want to listen to a national radio guy who has been proven correct over and over when it comes to sources in and around the Ohio State program, check out Rick Neuheisel on SiriusXM’s ESPNU radio. He broke the news about Chris Olave missing the Big Ten Championship game (while he did not divulge the name, he made it pretty clear) and he’s had some cool inside reporting on Jeff Hafley helping with the Buckeyes’ game plan against Brett Venables’ defense.
Anyway, back to the the story at hand. Day, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Fields, Olave, the greatest two-game running back in Ohio State history Trey Sermon, offensive linemen Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis, and tight end Luke Farrell virtually met with the media today to preview the national title game before heading down to South Florida for Monday night’s game.
Day admitted that dealing with the constant threat of COVID cases in the program has been daunting. “Any time you deal with that and lose people,” he said, “it’s a gut punch. But it’s not something we’re not used to.”
The head coach admitted that there have been some “new challenges” that the team has had to deal with over the last week (feel free to read between the lines), but obviously Day would not go into further details, and just said that the team has to figure out how to deal with the new issues and be the best that they can be on Monday night.
When discussing his quarterback’s health — and at least tangentially the keyboard warriors who wanted to accuse the Buckeyes of not caring about their players’ safety — Day said that OSU’s medical staff treats everybody the same, and puts their individual health and safety above all else.
Fields followed up saying that his semifinal postgame comments about his injury were taken out of context. On Friday night, he said that he didn’t get a diagnosis as to what his injury might be, but on Thursday he clarified and said that he didn’t mean that the doctors and trainers were cavalier about what might have happened following the violent hit.
“Those guys handled it the way I would’ve wanted them to handle it,” he said. “They did a full analysis of my injury, and they did what they thought was best. I was fully comfortable with that, and I’ll be good come Monday night.”
He later added that he felt fully capable and comfortable to protect himself following the injury against Clemson, and hasn’t given much mind to how — or if — the injury could limit him against ‘Bama.
Justin Fields said he hasn’t thought about how the injury will affect him Monday but rather he has concerned himself with getting the appropriate treatment.— Lantern Sports (@LanternSports) January 7, 2021
Part of that confidence might have to do with the relationship that Fields has with his coach. The QB said that the trust that they share has been a huge part of his development as a quarterback and a leader during his two-ish years in Columbus. The quarterback said that ”the connection me and Coach Day had since day one was genuine.”
Moving to some quick-hitters from the other players, Olave admitted that he was extremely tired when coming back to practice following his bout with the coronavirus. It wasn’t until two days before the game that he finally felt like he was back to something next to normal. Sermon praised true-freshman Miyan Williams’s progress, saying that Meatball came into camp “a little lost,” but has worked hard and improved a lot in the unusual season.
When discussing his linemates, Myers said that he didn’t think that Thayer Munford or Nicholas Petit-Frere have gotten nearly enough praise for their play this season and how they have helped form one of the best offensive lines in the country. Almost on cue, Pro Football Focus dropped this impressive factoid just shortly after the interview session ended.
Lowest pressure % allowed by P5 OTs:— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 7, 2021
1. Nicholas Petit-Frere, OSU - 0.5%
2. Thayer Munford, OSU - 0.9% pic.twitter.com/NLg41bwSL5
Olave, Farrell, and Davis all discussed the importance of playing in the national championship game, and how the goal of eventually getting to one was why they ended up becoming Buckeyes. Davis said, “Words can’t really describe how I feel personally to get this opportunity.”
Moving from the gridiron to the hardwood, it looks like Chris Holtmann’s men’s basketball team is going to be without one of its leaders for at least one game, but potentially more due to an injured thumb.