Ohio State held the first of its 25 practices ahead of the 2022 season Thursday, and head coach Ryan Day provided updates on a number of topics surrounding the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes finished 11-2 last season, missing the College Football Playoff and Big Ten Championship game for the first time since 2018. Day said during Big Ten Media Days July 27 that despite an impressive finish on paper, it did not fulfill Ohio State’s expectations .
Before Day and the Buckeyes took to the practice fields at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and started fall camp, he and his wife, Nina, made a $1 million donation to create a mental health fund at the Wexner Medical Center Wednesday.
With the first of more than two dozen practices completed, here are five takeaways from Ohio State’s opening day of the preseason.
Top recruit Hicks adjusting like a veteran
Freshman linebacker CJ Hicks arrived as an early enrollee in January, taking part in spring practice with the Buckeyes and getting a jump on his familiarity with the defense.
A five-star prospect by several recruiting services, Hicks will bring a decorated background to the Ohio State linebacker room. He was named Ohio Division III Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year in both 2020 and 2021 and ranked near the top prep players in Ohio in the class of 2022.
Day said incoming freshmen get acclimated to college football “a lot different” than even just five to 10 years ago, and Hicks is seeing the benefits.
“When you look at him, he almost looks like he’s one of the guys who’s been around for a while, so that’s good,” Day said. “That’s a guy, for example, that is going to be fun to watch him now go play. You don’t think of him as a freshman anymore, at least we don’t, so once we start getting into the preseason camp, hopefully he’s taking the next step.”
Seibert can kick — and play cornerback
Entering his third season at Ohio State, Jake Seibert is the latest Buckeye to use his past experience at a different position to perhaps provide Ohio State with versatility.
Seibert played in three games during the 2020 season, making all 16 of his extra-point attempts and going 1-for-2 from field goal range.
Opening preseason camp Thursday, Seibert was listed as both a cornerback and kicker, taking reps at a position he played in high school, Day said.
“He wanted to kind of bring some different value,” Day said. “He’s still going to work on kicking and do that part of it, but he’s also going to be able to help at some of the other positions.”
‘Plenty of reps to go around’ for running back room
Sophomore running back TreVeyon Henderson is likely to start as the Buckeyes’ ball-carrier in 2022, but that doesn’t shake how Ohio State will distribute reps during the preseason, Day said.
Henderson earned a selection among 74 players named to the Doak Walker Award Preseason Watch List July 20, which is given to the top running back in college football.
Junior Miyan Williams and redshirt freshman Evan Pryor will likely compete for the backup running back position, and both rushed for at least 21 carries and a touchdown last season. The two took reps after Henderson Thursday, but Day said “there’ll be plenty of reps to go around” because Ohio State wants the best ball-carrier to help it against Notre Dame Sept. 3.
“I told those guys, like, ‘Let your reps speak for you. Don’t start worrying about where you are in terms of depth chart, what reps am I getting?’ You’re going to get plenty of reps in the preseason — make sure you make them count,” Day said. “That’s important to have depth at all positions. But you know, we’re going to split those reps up and give those guys the opportunity to compete.”
Fleming had the ‘best offseason’ of Buckeye career
Arriving at Ohio State as a five-star prep player and one of the highest ranked recruits in the class of 2020, junior wide receiver Julian Fleming may be poised for a breakout season in 2022.
Shoulder injuries have nagged Fleming over the last two seasons, even seeing him undergo surgery to repair his ailments after his freshman campaign.
In 2021, Fleming played in eight games and caught 68 yards across 12 receptions, including one touchdown. Having participated in his first full spring practice, it’s clear that he’s entering a healthy preseason, Day said.
“Julian Fleming had the best offseason he’s had to this point,” Day said. “He was an iron Buckeye, one of the most improved. That was excellent.”
Fleming’s improvement comes after the departures of first-round NFL draft picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who both comprised two of the Buckeyes’ top-three receiving totals a season ago.
With an urge to step up and fill production voids left among the receiver room, Day said he wants Buckeye wideouts to not only be skilled at their position, but tough.
“When you look at them, they’re strong and they’re tough, and we need toughness on the perimeter and guys who are going to make plays and certainly the technique of route running,” Day said. “You know, you think of wide receivers, you don’t think of toughness but we want toughness all across the board so that’ll be important with that group.”
Buckeyes building ‘edge’ during preseason
Ohio State opened the preseason with its usual drill work and stretching practice became closed to media Thursday.
But Day doesn’t believe the 2022 Buckeyes will be a typical Ohio State team — they’re different.
Only 30 days from the season-opener against the Fighting Irish under the lights at Ohio Stadium, Day wants the Buckeyes to build competitive stamina, something he thinks Ohio State must “hammer all year long.”
“For the whole team, preseason is toughness, discipline and skill. Those are the three areas we really want to just focus on,” Day said. “The reason we say that is because we have to keep each other upright. We got to take care of each other. We got to work with each other, but at the same time, we got to build that callous and that edge.”