After closing practice to the public during the investigation of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day met with the media for the first time as acting head coach. He shared some insight on some key position battles for the Buckeyes heading into the season opener against Oregon State, but made clear there would be no questions about the results of Meyer’s investigation.
Jordan moves to center
Day confirmed junior offensive lineman Michael Jordan would be the starting center in the opening game against Oregon State on Sept. 1.
Jordan will follow in the footsteps of former Ohio State offensive linemen Billy Price and Pat Elflein who previously moved from guard to center. Both Price and Elflein won the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top center. Jordan split snaps in preseason camp with redshirt senior offensive lineman Brady Taylor at the spot.
With Jordan moving to center, Day said redshirt senior Malcolm Pridgeon will start the season at left guard. Redshirt senior Demetrius Knox will start the season as the right guard after starting eight games on the left side last season.
Four of the five spots on the line are filled, but Ohio State still has a position to fill at left tackle. Day said Monday that the reps will come down to two players.
“Thayer Munford and Josh Alabi will still be working through the week to see who plays there, they’re still working through that,” Day said. “Thayer has had a few nagging injuries, Josh has been working over at left tackle, so they will kind of split the reps this week as we go into Saturday.”
Schiano names starting linebackers
With the loss of redshirt sophomore linebacker Tuf Borland to an Achilles injury during spring practice, Ohio State named sophomore middle linebacker Baron Browning to start the season against the Beavers. He will start alongside junior Malik Harrison and sophomore Pete Werner.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said the Ohio State defense has something it really has not had before, depth at the linebacker position, giving the Buckeyes an ability to rotate at the position, much like the defense does on the defensive line.
Even though he said the rotation might not go to the magnitude of the defensive line, Schiano said he’s excited about the talent he has in the middle.
“It’s an interesting situation at that position but one we’re excited about,” Schiano said. “It’s not one — sometimes they say, well if you don’t have your starters in you don’t have starters. I don’t agree. I think we have more than three starting quality linebackers.”
Even though Werner, Browning and Harrison are set to start the first game of the season, Schiano did not take away the possibility of Borland making his return to the field sooner rather than later.
“He may be back this week. It’s amazing the way he has rehabbed,” Schiano said. “The job that our people in the training room our medical people have handled him, the way Coach Mick has handled him and more important than any of that is the way that Tuf is such a committed young man to what he’s doing. And he’s made incredible progress.”
Schiano also said redshirt senior linebacker Dante Booker, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, will be in the rotation in the middle after his return.
Safety position remains undecided
With junior safety Jordan Fuller locked into his starting position, the fate of who will be alongside him come opening game was still uncertain coming into the press conference.
With the battle coming down to sophomore Isaiah Pryor and redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint, Schiano said there is still no outright winner between them.
“I think it’s been a great competition which has raised both Isaiah and Jahsen’s game. They’re both going to play,” Schiano said. “You can’t make it happen, you got to let it happen. Now you encourage and you coach and you teach, but at the end of the day they have to go out there and play their way into a position.”
Pryor played in 12 games for Ohio State last season, ending the year with 13 tackles. Wint appeared in nine games, and tallied four tackles on the year.
Fuller was named a team captain for the Buckeyes on Sunday.