COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Members of the Ohio State football team spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since losing to Michigan on Nov. 27.
The Buckeyes are preparing for their Rose Bowl meeting with Utah on Jan. 1 and answered questions about the loss to the Wolverines, how they’re preparing for the Utes, and much more.
OSU lost to Michigan for the first time in a decade after getting bullied on the offensive and defensive line.
On the Inside Michigan Football radio show two days after the game, Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said Ohio State “is not a tough team” and knew that the Wolverines could ‘out-physical’ and ‘out-tough’ the Buckeyes.
“The young guys that are coming up right now, they know for sure they are not losing that game again,” OSU graduate offensive tackle Thayer Munford said. “I’m going to be scared for Michigan next year.”
That loss has given the Buckeyes plenty of motivation ahead of the New Years’ game against Utah.
“[We’re] a team of hunger. We’ve still got something to prove and we’re going to go out there to Pasadena, California, and give Utah everything we got and best believe that,” freshman cornerback Denzel Burke said. “We want to go out there and just prove that we’re still Ohio State. We’re the Silver Bullets and things are gonna change.”
Utah, like Michigan, is a physically imposing team and hangs its hat on winning the line scrimmage, which was a big reason why the Utes beat Oregon twice this season, including a 38-10 beatdown in the Pac 12 Championship game.
“Utah’s got that tough team label on them, too, so that’s kind of like a challenge. people are challenging us right now saying we’re not tough, saying we can’t stop the run or run the ball,” freshman defensive end Jack Sawyer said. “It’s definitely firing us up right now.”
It’s still unknown which Buckeyes will stay for another season and which will declare for the NFL Draft. But there is one big factor that will sway some of them — how will they fit into new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ scheme?
“I’d love to sit down with our new DC and see what this defense looks like and how the [defensive] ends play [into it] will definitely factor into whether I stay or leave,” junior defensive end and OSU captain Zach Harrison said.
Chris Olave is headed to the NFL but has not decided whether he’ll play in the Rose Bowl, which is less than 30 miles from his hometown of Mission Hills, California.
OSU’s other top receiver, Garrett Wilson, has not made a decision on whether he’ll leave for the NFL, but the departure of both would mean a new role for Jaxon Smith-Njigba who led the team in receptions and receiving yards this season.
“I’m ready to be a leader in the room. I’m ready to lead the young guys, and I accept the challenge. I’m looking forward to that challenge and it’s a great opportunity,” Smith-Njigba said.
New leaders will emerge at Ohio State before and after the Rose Bowl game and new faces will show up in January after 17 players, soon to be 18, signed their letter of intent on National Signing Day.