How was practice?
“We had a good tempo. Having some of the leaders back makes a big difference. Good start. We didn’t go too long. We don’t want to go too long but it looks like we retained our conditioning and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Nothing has been normal the past three weeks, how tough is it going to be to have a normal week with an actual game on Saturday?
“Tough? No, it’s going to be fun. It has been an extraordinary three weeks. Let’s leave it at that. That’s what it has been and hopefully today is a return to normalcy, a game week. And hopefully our guys will respond to the consistency of routine.”
The guys that didn’t play last game, how sharp have they been in practice? How ready are they?
“Pretty sharp. They worked as hard as anybody. We’re talking about leaders now, in addition to the guys that have the most experience. They kind of are the glue. They hold it together. You can see that evident out there today with Sean [Spence] and [Marcus] Forston and Jacory [Harris], so it’s nice to have them back certainly.’’
What were your impressions of the Ohio State game?
“Just that the cage is rattled now. If they were caught off guard in that game they’re not going to be this game. It’s an exciting opportunity for both teams. So we’ll get their best – we know that. Certainly they are encountering some of the issues that we had. Some of their top players and some of their best players were out for the game. We’ll see. I don’t know who they’re going to have. I finally know who we’re going to have, so we’ll go forward.’’
Does that make it tougher to prepare no knowing?
“No. After the last three weeks, as long as I know who we have, I’m good. I’m good.’’
Did you pick up more than you thought you might because the Ohio State game was closer than you thought?
“Yeah, I don’t think they could have held any cards back. They might have before that. I think everybody knows Toledo is a talented team. They’ve got some difference makers on the perimeter and I thought their offensive line played really well and again, their returners and their skill kids were very good in that game. Again, they got probably Ohio State in the right spot. They’ll regroup and now we’ve got to get our focus and move forward.’’
You guys scored two touchdowns against Ohio State last year on kick returns. How much can that part of the game help you this year?
“It’s got to help us. We have to build on what we did. I thought our coverage units were good the other night. We netted 38 [yards] on the punt and we picked up 12 yards every time we exchanged kickoffs, which is good. But we need to do better on the return game aspects of it. Certainly, we did that last year. So that’s going to be challenge. But certainly our playmakers have got to make plays, no question.
In terms of this season, Jacory has talked about it in terms of being a last chance. Are you comfortable with him having that sort of thinking, or would you rather have him not think about it with the added pressure of this being the last go-around?
“That’s probably a good sound bite or good headline but I think right now he’s just approaching it one day at a time. He’s been collecting good days – he’s been doing that since January. Obviously we had an unfortunate setback over the last two weeks but I think he’s in good shape. Mentally he’s strong. He’s been resilient. All we just need him to do is go out there and play, run the show for us and compete. We don’t need him to do anything else but be himself Saturday night.’’
You’ve made a lot of position moves just to get guys ready. In the long run, is that going to help you, just the fact that a lot of guys had to work in uncomfortable situations?
“It created some depth, most particularly with the young guys. Moving David Perry from offense to defense and then back, and Marcus Robinson from SAM to defensive end, and JoJo [Nicolas] from corner to safety, that doesn’t necessarily help – unless they’re going to stay there. Every move that you have to make in a situation requires two moves, because we didn’t have the depth just to have them ascend on the depth chart. It required lateral moves, which made things difficult. Again, I think we added some depth, we built some depth, and there should be no game-day jitters for a lot of guys this game.’’
Will those guys stay in the positions you switched them to?
“We’ll see, right? I don’t know. We’ll see how… We’re still not back to where we need to be. We have some injuries and we still have some suspensions. We’ll see what transpires when they come back.’’
What have you seen in Jacory’s preparation over the last week to show he’s taken the reins and understands the responsibility of being the starter?
“I just think he’s focused right now. He’s done a good job all camp. He’s just got to be himself. Block out everything external and just run the show one play at a time. And just enjoy it. Enjoy the journey. That’s what he’s got to do.’’
Do you have a better feel as to defensive tackle Curtis Porter and whether you’ll get him back this week?
“I don’t. He’s got a finger [injury] and it’s been holding him back to this point.’’
Do you have a relationship at all with [OSU coach] Luke Fickel. Do you feel for him for what he’s going through? It’s a different situation but there are obvious parallels?
“I don’t know Coach, but obviously I have a great deal of respect for him. I know [OSU offensive coordinator] Jim Bollman. We were together at Virginia. And I just have a great deal of respect for Ohio State. They won six Big Ten Championships in a row and it’s a great challenge for our team here on Saturday night in South Florida. It should be exciting for us.’’
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN