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Football: Day, Buckeyes dissatisfied with last season’s results

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The Big Ten Football Media Days sign on display at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis July 27. Credit: Casey Smith | Lantern TV Sports Producer

Despite having the No. 1 ranked offense in college football, 11 wins, a Rose Bowl victory and multiple first round draft picks, the Ohio State football program is not satisfied with its performance last season.

Following a season that saw the Buckeyes miss the Big Ten Championship game for the first time since 2016 and a loss to Michigan for the first time since 2011, head coach Ryan Day did not hold back on how he felt during Big Ten Media Day Wednesday.

“We’re expected to win each and every year,” Day said. “Some places, going 11-2 and winning the Rose Bowl is a great year. At Ohio State, it’s not. Our goal is to win a national championship. The expectations haven’t changed.”

Although Ohio State lost key pieces to the NFL — including first round picks with wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave —  Day said the team mentality and expectations haven’t changed.

The Buckeyes return a number of contributors from last season but are led this season by third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud and junior wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Stroud, a 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist , said he feels he has a lot more to prove during the 2022 season.

“I feel like I’ve barely touched my potential,” Stroud said. “I feel like I can do a lot more. We’re not chasing the results; we’re chasing the process. There’s always room for improvement. I feel like I’m my own biggest critic, that’s why I feel like I hold myself to a higher standard.”

Meanwhile, Smith-Njigba comes off a season where he led the team in receiving yards and put forth an iconic Rose Bowl performance catching 15 passes for 347 yards, both single-game school records .

However, he shares the same sentiment as his head coach and quarterback, wanting to showcase more of the team and his potential in the 2022 season.

“I have to stay level-headed,” Smith-Njigba said. “We fell short as a team last year, not making it to the playoffs and not making it to the national championship game. I feel like I haven’t really done anything or won anything. So this year, I’m looking for a change, and I know I have to work to get there.”

The Buckeyes made sweeping changes with its defense, starting with hiring former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to call plays. After last season where Ohio State ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in points per game and yards per game given up, Stroud mentioned the improvement the defense has made in such a short amount of time.

Bolstered by Knowles and graduate transfer defensive back Tanner McAlister, senior defensive back Ronnie Hickman said the relationship between Knowles and McAlister helps with learning the new system.

“You don’t want to go to the coach for everything all the time,” Hickman said. “To be able to go to someone that you’re playing with on the field with you, he knows what it’s like to be out there, and it’s huge.”

Day said he expects the defense to be on par with the offense from last season. After missing out on the College Football Playoff, Day knows the importance of revamping the defense in order to be back in the national championship game.

“It’s been exciting to watch,” Day said. “There is a certain aggressiveness about them. But in terms of expectations, we expect a top 10 defense. We will work with what we have and go from there, but I expect a top performance on both ends of the ball.”

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