The development of the new pass defense and an offense that has a bunch of new pieces were major parts of interviews with Ohio State assistant coaches Chris Ash and Tom Herman as Ohio State gets ready to play Rutgers this season.
The return of Ohio State football this week means another Monday press conference with coaches and players. We bring you a summary of what assistants Tom Herman and Chris Ash had to say this week as the Buckeyes get ready to take on Rutgers for the first time.
Tom Herman, quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator
He doesn't think offense is much different with J.T. Barrett as opposed to Braxton Miller at quarterback, but he understands media like to deal with hypotheticals. Obviously the home run ability of Miller is absent when he is not in there, but the plays and formations and overall philosophy is pretty much the same.
Asked about Evan Spencer, he said the senior is probably their most complete wide receiver. He is very selfless and does his job as well as anyone in the country. Whether his touches go up or down has nothing to do with working harder or doing more but is just a function of how they are being defended, but Herman is happy to see Spencer get the ball when he does. Herman expects Spencer to have a pro career because of all the things he does well.
Herman is happy with the trajectory of the offense but not surprised by its success so far this season.
The Buckeyes have a number of issues to work on to get better in the red zone, including play calling. There have been times he has been stubborn and tried to pound the ball when something else might have worked better (this has also included late against Maryland when they were probably trying not to appear as if they were running up the score). The defense always presents weaknesses, and Herman says the offense has not done a good enough job taking advantage of those in the red zone.
He liked the nastiness Taylor Decker and Darryl Baldwin have shown lately. The interior linemen already had that, but it's a key part of development. They are getting more confidence, using that to keep getting better and playing with an edge.
Rutgers is very good up front. They don't blitz much on first and second down but will throw a lot of stuff at teams on third downs in passing situations. The front four is active with its feet and hands.
Barrett is in a good place now as a young quarterback and has plenty of room for improvement.
The big difference this year for Michael Thomas is trust. Not that Thomas was way off track last year, but they couldn't depend on the wide receiver to execute his routes with the timing and precision necessary on a regular basis last year. Now he is doing that and becoming a big weapon.
Asked the No. 1 thing he has learned from Urban Meyer as far as being a head coach, Herman said it is the importance of alignment for the staff and players. There is a shared belief in the core values throughout the program. Meyer does a better job of instilling that than any coach Herman has been around.
Chris Ash, safeties coach
Since Ash prepared for Rutgers last season as defensive coordinator at Arkansas, he was asked how the Scarlet Knights have changed. The answer is not much. They are a team that will play a lot of two-back and/or two-tight end sets and run play action off of their power running game. That is the philosophy of head coach Kyle Flood. They believe in their system and execute it.
The coaching staff is able to expand its packages as the players get more comfortable with the defense. Navy set them back as far as development goes because it took a lot of time to prepare for the triple-option. That has helped the third down defense progress.
Asked if facing a pro-style offense is good or bad for this defense (the implication was it might be positive), Ash simply said your package has to be able to be flexible enough to handle any offense. The Big Ten alone presents a bunch of different types of attacks.
A reporter brought up Nova has had his ups and downs, something Ash said they acknowledge in preparation for him. Like with any players, they look for patterns that might cause mistakes and see if that is something they can exploit. He was also very diplomatic and pointed out Nova does a lot of good things. Ash praised his ability to throw deep, to operate in the pocket and to scramble.
Asked about Eli Apple, Ash said the cornerback has unlimited potential and has shown good overall growth this season. He has tackled well and contributed a pair of interceptions.
Regarding what he has learned from Meyer as a coach, Ash said Meyer has a very clear vision of what he wants the program to look like and what everyone's job is in the program. He wants to see certain things as far as scheme, and investing in the players' development on and off the field is a priority.
Follow on Twitter @marcushartman
See what Buckeye fans are saying here