COLUMBUS — Ohio State got the green light, and it has no interest in wasting even a single day.
The Buckeyes easily could have stuck to their existing plan for opening training camp on Friday and not bothered scrapping the approach that had been in the works since they returned to campus in June. That was the target date, and it surely wouldn’t have hurt any of their preparations to wait one more day.
But when the Big Ten moved up the new season opener for Ohio State by having them play on Sept. 3 at Illinois, the chance to slide up the start of practice came right along with it. And Ryan Day jumped at the opportunity to get his team rolling for a full workout again for the first time since spring camp was cut short in March.
“The hardest part for this team over the past few months and certainly the last couple weeks has just been the unknowns,” Day said on Tuesday. “But I promise you our leadership has kept this team hungry, and I think we’re training right now at a championship level. It’s really cool to see.”
Now Day gets a closer look at what he has to work with in Year Two leading the Buckeyes. And while there’s still plenty of work to be done and some key questions to answer, Lettermen Row is ready as always to make Five Bold Predictions about what’s going to happen by the time camp ends and Ohio State heads to Illinois.
Austin Ward: Trey Sermon will claim starting tailback spot
The Buckeyes made perhaps the most impactful move of the college football offseason when it landed Trey Sermon as a graduate transfer, filling a pressing need with a proven talent from a high-level program in Oklahoma. Sermon’s career with the Sooners didn’t end on the best note thanks to a knee injury, but he’s been fully healthy for months — and his workouts so far have blown away folks inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Sermon is a do-it-all tailback with experience in a similar offensive system, so it should be a seamless transition for him with the Buckeyes. Expect him to not only win the starting job, but become one of the most productive offensive weapons in the Big Ten as well.
Birm: Kamryn Babb ready to emerge for Buckeyes
There are four or five names that are routinely mentioned as breakout picks as the next star receiver behind Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, but usually the focus is on freshman — including a foursome of talented early-enrollees in the Class of 2020. But one player being overlooked is Kamryn Babb, a former top-of-the-recruiting-board receiver for the Buckeyes who has had repeat, freak injuries that kept him off the field and have threatened his career. Babb is healthy now, and he’s determined to make the most of what could be his final opportunity to live up to his lofty expectations in Columbus. He’s going to do just that and earn a regular spot in the rotation for Brian Hartline and Ohio State, becoming the next feel-good story in the line of Johnnie Dixon and Justin Hilliard in the process.
Spencer Holbrook: No Ohio State players will opt out this season
Maybe this isn’t too bold because the culture at Ohio State seems to be at its strongest when adversity hits. But I think there will be many players, NFL-draft caliber and not, from nearly every school in the country that opt out of the season due to concerns over health. But Josh Myers made sure to mention that Ohio State’s players feel as safe as they can in the facility right now. The Buckeyes have the resources and means to make sure the entire roster is healthy for the season. They have shown it so far, and it will give players confidence to proceed with a season.
Tim May: Buckeyes will bolster depth at right tackle
One of the more intriguing battles of August is going to be the tussle at right tackle. Tradition indicates Nicholas Petit-Frere will be the man, since he almost won the job a year ago before giving way to Branden Bowen — and still played a lot anyway. But freshman Paris Johnson is no joke. His competitive edge is said to be acutely honed. He entered in the spring semester intent on making a run at the job, and he will do the same in preseason camp. Two former five-star recruits going head-to-head for a starting job, and it makes sense that no matter how camp goes, both will play a lot. Is there any greater example of what level the Ohio State football program is on at the moment than this?
Will Crall: Gunnar Hoak leaves camp as Ohio State backup QB
The most important position battle this August will be providing some backup at quarterback, and Gunnar Hoak will secure the second-string role. If there would have been a regular spring practice schedule, I believe that C.J. Stroud would have separated himself from Hoak and fellow freshman Jack Miller. There was heavy speculation last summer that Hoak would emerge as the backup after transferring from Kentucky as a graduate, but he wasn’t able to fend off Chris Chugunov. With only a month until kickoff, I don’t think that either of the freshman can prove they can be put into action against Illinois if something were to happen to Justin Fields.