The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and team-building activities? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
With team building being a huge part of CFB, how do you see them coming together as a team and working in sync since they've been unable to thus far?
— Tammy (@Taspra) May 5, 2020
The true test of the strength of the Ohio State culture, the work ethic of the roster and the value of the brotherhood is coming while the program is scattered across the country.
Certainly that’s counterintuitive, but there’s no other option right now for the Buckeyes. The Woody Hayes Athletic Center is closed, there are no workouts together as a group and the only real option for bonding is virtually over FaceTime calls or Zoom meetings. For the most part, that puts the onus on each individual to keep living up to the standards of the program collectively, and right now they seem to be clinging to every opportunity they have when they can share in the experience.
This unprecedented shutdown is obviously forcing Ohio State and everybody else to get creative with those valuable team-building exercises that are so critical in the offseason. But if this situation is going to reveal the character of programs, it seems like a safe bet at this point that the Buckeyes might actually emerge from it stronger and with an even greater appreciation for their teammates and coaches.
“I think there are a couple things we can do,” Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “First, there’s the Zoom meetings we’ve been doing. It’s really awesome for us because that [gives time] that the NCAA and the Big Ten allows us to use, and I think you have to use it for more than just talking about football. We show motivational videos, stuff that really extends to our players to touch their hearts. And then there’s really a lot of interaction between our players, there’s conversation groups talking about our leadership and our culture. Those things play a part in all of this also, but there’s motivational things we try to do with our players just to trigger their mind.
“We did a piece the other day on Kobe Bryant and his approach to winning, just walking through what that really means. Our players are really engaged, and they love talking about those things and watching videos about motivation. We’re not just watching football, we’re feeding their souls and giving them an opportunity to grow as young men. You can only talk so much football.”
The Buckeyes are still breaking down some film when they get together virtually, though they aren’t trying to install any new plays without the benefit of live reps on the practice field. They also don’t have much spring practice tape to analyze, and one coach joked they had zipped through the three practices the Buckeyes had in March by the next week.
So, that’s left room for creativity — and an expanded guest list as former players have popped into meetings to share their experiences and offer reminders about the standard that must be upheld at Ohio State.
“In the position meetings, it’s a combination between football and then leadership and culture,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “You can only do so much football with the guys, so it’s good to change up with motivational videos and motivational talks and talk about different things based on our culture. Guys have been very, very creative with that.”
Keeping it fresh and interesting mentally has been the biggest challenge, because the physical work is certainly not the same as what Ohio State is used to at this time of year. The coaching staff has largely been hands-off in monitoring the workout plan the Buckeyes have while away from campus, and that in turn has put the accountability back on the players themselves.
It’s not going to be a secret who was holding up their end of their bargain once Ohio State is back on the practice field. And considering just how competitive workouts are on a roster that is again overflowing with future NFL talent, nobody is going to want to return to campus lagging behind their teammates or in position to get dominated in drills.
The truth is there’s no way to know what every single player is doing right now. But if the brotherhood and the culture at Ohio State is as rock-solid as it seems, there should be no concern at all that the program won’t pick right back up where it left off — and it might emerge even stronger.
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