Representing the Ohio State coaching staff as the Buckeyes prepare to face Penn State were a pair of coaches with experience coaching in the Keystone State: Larry Johnson and Zach Smith.
Larry Johnson Sr., the long-time Nittany Lions defensive line coach, spoke about what it will be like returning to Beaver Stadium as a visitor for the first time while Zach Smith, who spent a year coaching receivers and special teams at Temple, raved about the development of the players in his group as well as Ohio State's young quarterback.
Larry Johnson, defensive line coach
After 18 years at Penn State, Johnson is in his first at Ohio State, but he is still recruiting the same areas in the east (Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.). That is exciting spreading the program there. He is talking to the same people and selling the same kind of things, so it's really just like he's going into schools with a different-colored shirt. Also Ohio State speaks for itself.
Johnson admitted it will be different standing on the opposing sideline and going to the opposing locker room, but he's looking forward to it. He's never been in the opponents' locker room, but he's heard it is small. He feels he left Penn State on his own terms after a second coaching change occurred in just three years. He felt it was time to move on and is very happy to have landed at Ohio State and looks forward to the future here.
Asked about Jalyn Holmes, the coach said he has been playing pretty well even though he is still young and learning. They'd like to get him 20-25 plays per game. Overall he is not able to rotate as many guys as he would like yet (8-9), but he feels like he is getting closer. So far the rotation is more like six or seven. The starters are playing really well, so it's tough to take them out, but he feels like resting them is important to keep their effectiveness high.
Johnson said backup end Rashad Frazier's status is unknown after he was injured against Rutgers. Suspended All-Big Ten end Noah Spence is getting help with his off-field problems and trying to get healthy, but that's pretty much the only update he could provide when someone inquired.
His style is to invest in players, not just coach them. Investing in them means they will call you in a few years when they have their first child. They share their lives with you, and they'll do anything for you when they trust you.
Zach Smith, wide receivers coach
Evan Spencer might not put up big numbers and therefore can be overlooked by media and fans, but he lights up the film. Opposing coaches know he is a good player. He is one of the most phenomenal blockers Smith has seen. He is highly respected and might be the most important receiver they have.
They wanted to get more out of Jalin Marshall this year and it is working out so far. He has been phenomenal and worked very hard. The last five weeks he has earned more respect and is being repaid in playing time and touches. They keep trying to find more ways to get him involved.
There is no jealousy in the receiver room about who gets touches because they have good chemistry and want to see each other do well. There is a lot of confidence in the room.
Redshirting last year turned out to be a great thing for Michael Thomas. Maybe he shouldn't have played as a true freshman, but they were really thin and he showed them some things in camp. Last year he did not have a good training camp, so they decided to redshirt him when it turned out he wasn't going to be in line for a lot of playing time. He handled it well and took care of his business. That is why he is who he is now as far as drive and motivation.
Asked about guys who are redshirting, Smith said Terry McLaurin is developing very well and Parris Campbell has shown some flashes despite having trouble staying healthy.
Asked about J.T. Barrett's maturity, he raved and raved. Smith said he is very mature for his age and displayed that within a few weeks of being on campus. He did it again before the Navy game when he gave a speech that impressed Smith and some of the older receivers. Therefore he is not worried about how Barrett will handle the potentially crazy atmosphere at Penn State. He was asked if there are more passing routes the team can use this year and said not really. However, Barrett has demonstrated a great knack for throwing slants, drags, benders and skinny posts.
PSU has a very sound scheme and they execute it well according to Smith. It's no accident they have put up great numbers so far, and since Ohio State's offense is good, too, it should be a good matchup.
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