COLUMBUS — Yeah, the Big Ten is going to play football this fall. That became clear Wednesday.
So, now what? As in: What happens next in terms of football practice for the Ohio State Buckeyes?
It’s pretty simple, really. They just ramp up.
“Looking forward to getting back to work, to do things that we love, coach football and play football,” Ohio State second-year coach Ryan Day said after the league announced plans for a start during the Oct.23-24 weekend. “And I know our guys are really, really excited as well.”
That’s five weeks plus a few days from now. That seems like plenty of time to kick into high gear a bunch of players who reportedly have stayed in fine fettle over the past month under the direction of their coaches and performance coordinator Mickey Marotti — despite not knowing whether they’d play in the late fall or the “spring” as the Big Ten grappled with the Covid-19 threat
But in the parlance of the movie Top Gun, it’s not simply a matter of, “Kick the tires and light the fires.” There is a “ramping up” period, as Day called it, as they escalate from wearing helmets and light protection, as they have the past few weeks, to practicing real football in full pads; of going from 12-hour maintenance work weeks to 20-hour season prep weeks.
“We’ve been working out and we’ve been practicing, doing those things, not with pads on or anything like that,” Day said. “But it’s different when you know you have a season.”
Now it’s a matter of fine tuning, of “being right at body weight, making sure you’re taking care of all the stuff recovery wise. Making sure that all the little things are checked off is different that kind of just going out there and practicing.
“So now its all ramped up.”
They were ready to ramp up back in August when the Buckeyes were headed toward the first proposed season start of Sept. 3 and a game at Illinois when word came from the league office to stand down. That was the day the Buckeyes were poised to spend their first day in full pads since the last time they played, the College Football Playoff loss to Clemson on Dec. 28.
Remember, they had only one week of spring drills before that plug was first pulled back in March due to suddenly heightened concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic. The rest of spring camp was lost, a time when usually most of the position battles that were going on, primarily on the defensive side of this talent-laden team, would have been settled.
Now they will get some of those days back in the form of an extended preseason period. While a return to play on Oct. 10 or Oct. 17 likely would have been more ideal, the added two weeks before a stretch of eight straight games headed toward a possible berth in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 19 for the heavily-favored must be used wisely.
But in the case of Day, whose team was voted No. 2 behind Clemson in both of the preseason major polls before being ordered to stand down, holding the Buckeyes back over the next several weeks could be his major challenge as they watch others around the country play.
“We do have a mature group, so we’re expecting this thing to ramp up real fast,” Day said. “You’re going to see a different look. People are going to be walking down the hallways different. They’re going to be bouncing around on the field different.
“It just has a totally different look to it when you’re playing for something.”