Buckeyes’ first day of camp familiar but different
COLUMBUS — Putting up tents outside the Woody Hayes practice facility is just another indication that college football is very different this year.
They’re not some northern version of Duke’s KrzyzewkiVille, where students are camping out for the chance to buy tickets to the big game.
They’re where Ohio State’s players and coaches are having some of their meetings to create more space for everyone and they’re a place to maybe catch a cool breeze or two.
“When you look at this year it’s going to be very different,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said on a Zoom teleconference on Thursday after the first day of training camp for OSU in a season that has operated under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic since spring practice was halted after only two days in March.
“When you look at what we’re doing in terms of meetings we’ve done a great job of putting up some tents around the Woody so we can get some air by doing some meetings outside. When you’re outside you have more room to spread out. And our locker room now is the indoor (practice field),” he said.
Day said there are many other efforts to limit players’ interactions with each other, including what he called “de-densifying” their living arrangements by trying to reduce the number of roommates or apartment mates they have.
But the bottom line is football is a contact sport. And one practice into training camp, no one knows what might happen between now and Ohio State’s scheduled opener on Sept. 3 at Illinois.
“We’re going to try to limit the amount of contact we have, certainly with taking guys to the ground, but it is a contact sport. We try to limit it the best we can but at the end of the day there is going to be blocking, there is going to be tackling,” Day said.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations and the message has been that when we say forget about everything else and focus on the moment this is the ultimate situation for that. We don’t know what is coming tomorrow. Anything is possible, we all know that. But we’re not really focused on that. Each day brings a new set of challenges.
“It was great to see our guys out there. It was great to see them doing what they love. Just seeing them forgetting about everything else for about an hour and a half was great today,” Day said.
“I’m comfortable with us starting training camp. But in order to play a game, not yet. There are more details to be ironed out before we play that first game but I am very comfortable with what we have going on here in training camp. Right now we’re not ready to play a game yet but I know the Big Ten and the commissioner’s office is working really, really hard to put all those details together.”
Ohio State, coming off a 13-1 season that ended with a bitter loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal, is ranked No. 2 behind Clemson in the 2020 USA Today preseason poll, which was announced Thursday. Alabama, Georgia and LSU are the next three teams after OSU.
Day said that was nice but unimportant.
“It’s certainly an honor to be respected by your peers but — it sounds like coach speak but it’s true — what matters is what your record is at the end of the year. Nobody talks about the preseason, it’s your record at the end of the year,” he said.
Some other thoughts from Day:
• LOTS OF LEADERS: Ohio State named seven captains on Tuesday but could have picked more, Day said.
“I don’t want to be overdramatic but we probably could have had 11 or 12 captains. We have great leadership. We have good leadership from the freshman and sophomore class as well,” he said.
• OSU’s captains for this season are: Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, Jonathon Cooper, Tuf Borland, Justin Hilliard and Shaun Wade.
• TEAGUE UPDATE: Day did not go as far as predicting when running back Master Teague might be available but said he was impressed with his rehab work after he suffered an Achiles tendon injury the first day of spring practice.
“Master has done an unbelievable job of rehabbing. He has been focused, he has been disciplined. He amazes me what he has done to get to where he is right now. I’m very, very impressed with what he has done,” he said.
• SERMON FITS IN: Trey Sermon, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, is viewed as probably the No. 1 running back this season with Teague still rehabbing his injury.
Sermon gained 2,076 yards in three seasons at Oklahoma. But numbers aren’t the only thing Day looks at when sizing up possible transfers.
“You have to find the right guy. Jonah Jackson was that right guy and we think Trey is the right guy,too,” he said.
Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers last season when he moved into a starting position on OSU’s offensive line, was named first-team All-Big Ten and became a third-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions.
• NO OPT OUTS: Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Batemon, both expected to be first-round NFL draft choices, announced this week they were ending their college careers immediately. Other Big Ten players like Michigan State defensive end Jacob Panasiuk and Illinois running back Ra’Von Bonner opted out of the season because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Day said some Ohio State players “have shared their concerns and thoughts with me,” but no one has decided not to play.
• NO COMMENT: When as ESPN reporter asked Day on Thursday about reports of a verbal confrontation with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and possibly suggesting he would run up the score on Harbaugh to exact revenge, he said, “I appreciate the question but I’d rather not answer that now.”