Since April, the work done by Ohio State's football players has been unseen by outsiders. Given the turnover and inexperience on the roster, it has been a critical three months heading into the start of training camp next Sunday.
Since April, the work done by Ohio State's football players has been unseen by outsiders.
Given the turnover and inexperience on the roster, it has been a critical three months heading into the start of training camp next Sunday.
For newcomers, the grinding culture can be a shock to the system. It's not surprising that works remains to be done.
Strength coach Mickey Marotti is in charge of the team during the offseason. With more than half of the scholarship players on the roster still awaiting their first playing time, Marotti has stressed the importance of making every moment count.
"The biggest thing that coach Mick talked about was from the spring game till now is just being accountable and taking the little things seriously," quarterback J.T. Barrett said Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Chicago. "We can't trust you if you're late to a workout. I don't care if you're a minute late. If you're a minute late to a workout, can I trust you to make sure if we're running a certain pass play to run the right route?"
Before training camp each year, the Buckeyes have a ritual in which Marotti hands over the team to Meyer after giving a status report.
What will his verdict be?
"Coach Mick said the other day, 'Not bad,'" Barrett said. "That was the term he used. I guess we weren't good enough to say 'good.' We definitely weren't great.
"We're just progressing. I don't think there's been any regression in what we're doing. We're progressing every single day, but we have some ways to go for him to say (only), 'Not bad.'"
It doesn't help that the Buckeyes have so few seniors. Barrett, despite being on campus seemingly long enough to qualify for a pension, is only a redshirt junior. Center Pat Elflein is the only returning senior starter other than punter Cameron Johnston. Only three other seniors – Corey Smith, Craig Fada and Dontre Wilson – have significant experience as Buckeyes.
"This year we're kind of spread thin as far as leaders," Barrett said.
Last year, for example, almost every position group had multiple leaders. Now, Barrett and others have had to extend their leadership to position groups other than their own.
Barrett has taken the lead on getting offensive skill position players together for on-field reps. Junior middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan has taken charge on defense.
"As a team, if you have a lack of experience, you have to get more reps in," McMillan said. "Competing against each other molds us, shapes us. Iron against iron helps us get better."
Barrett has impressed upon young players that merely putting in time isn't enough.
"How good do you want to be?" Barrett said. "Do you want to be OK, or do you want to be great? It's not like you do what's required of you. You have to do the extra. It's been good so far."
Some players have already emerged. Elflein, Barrett and McMillan all raved about guard Michael Jordan, who has a solid chance to become only the second true freshman offensive lineman to start for a Meyer-coached team. (Maurkice Pouncey at Florida is the other.)
Meyer and players gushed about wide receiver Noah Brown, now finally healed from a broken leg sustained in last year's training camp. Wilson and Curtis Samuel are healed from injuries that kept them out of spring practice.
Defensive linemen Davon Hamilton and Dre'Mont Jones have also drawn praise for their improvement, as has Jalyn Holmes.
Until 2014, assistant coaches were excluded from any formal contact with players in the summer. An NCAA rule change now permits coaches limited engagement. They can watch some strength and conditioning sessions and conduct up to two hours per week of film study.
"That rule change is significant," cornerbacks coach/special-teams coordinator Kerry Coombs said, "and it's very significant for a team that has less-experienced players."
But the onus remains on the players.
"We just cranked up another notch knowing they had to play catch-up at the beginning of the summer. They didn't have the same (number of) reps (as veterans)," Barrett said.
"That's something you had to take out of your own time, whether it'd be coming back in the early afternoon or late morning. How good do you want to be? Do you want to be OK, or do you want to be great? It's not like you do what's required of you. You have to do the extra. It's been good so far."
Starting next Sunday, the Buckeyes will start to see just how good.