And so it begins.
7:01 a.m.: The first day of Ohio State spring football practice births under a scarlet sunrise in an otherwise gray sky. Nike wants the Buckeyes to open with an alternate atmosphere, something in a peachy cerulean mix, but thankfully Urban Meyer refuses. Camp is off to a promising start.
7:15: Players stream into the Woody Hayes-but-you-can-pay-$25 million-to-change-it-to-your-name Athletic Center. Strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, wearing an executioner’s hood, greets team while wielding a medieval battle ax. The freshmen look nervous.
8:05: Meyer holds a contest among coaches to name the upcoming season. Buzz slogans include, “Please throw the damn ball”; “Dabo is a four-letter word”; and “Harbaugh rhymes with Overrated — not really, but you get the point.” Defensive line coach Larry Johnson suggests “Champs Again,” but is told it’s already in use by Alabama.
8:30: Practice officially begins. The media is allowed to watch and analyze the first hour: 60 minutes of jumping jacks.
9:30: Meyer calls the first play, a quarterback run. Dwayne Haskins Jr. arches one eyebrow.
9:49: Meyer stops practice, wanting to see more energy. He yells, “Kerry Coombs is not walking through that door.” Actually, Coombs already did, by exiting to the NFL.
10:37: Quarterbacks coach/offensive co-coordinator Ryan Day slips up by calling for J.T. Barrett when he meant Joe Burrow. Burrow takes it as a sign and immediately requests 15 more family and friends tickets for the home opener Sept. 1 against Oregon State.
11:15: Two cornerbacks decide to declare for the NFL draft after the 2018 season.
11:30: Meyer meets with the media. Twitter explodes.
11:35: After an opening soliloquy, Meyer fields the first question.
Reporter: “The NCAA recommends changing kickoffs to allow a player to signal for a fair catch inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback, giving his team the ball at the 25. Given your strategy of kicking toward the sidelines to corner the return man, do you like the proposal?”
Meyer: “We’re playing Oregon State next.”
Reporter: “You guys lose Billy Price at center and I’m wondering … ”
Meyer: “Grown-ass man.”
Reporter: “Yes, well, I’m wondering who might be Billy’s replacement?”
Meyer: “I just told you. We need a grown-ass man in there. Could be Brady Taylor. Could be Matt Burrell. Don’t count out freshman Matthew Jones, now. Whoever it ends up being, he needs to …
Reporter: “I know, needs to be a mature-derriere dude.”
12:02 p.m.: Meyer ends media confab by thanking everyone, then bolts up steps to his office. First phone call? To the NCAA rules committee.
12:17: Team watches film from last season’s 55-24 loss to Iowa. Puke buckets get passed around.
1:14: Team watches film from last season’s 31-20 win against Michigan. Overheard: “Wow, are we ever fortunate they didn’t have a quarterback.”
1:47: Team watches film from 24-7 Cotton Bowl win against Southern California. Overheard: “Sam Darnold might be the No. 1 pick in the draft? You’re kidding, right?”
2:35: Marotti is spotted testing torture equipment. The sound of iron being sharpened echoes through the facility. Twenty-seven players run to the bathroom.
3:12: Players hear a rumor the NCAA may begin allowing athletes to pursue their endorsement potential. Tailback J.K. Dobbins nods. Scout team running back shrugs.
4:01: Meeting with medical staff to discuss dangers of head trauma. Team doctor receives 15-yard penalty for launching into explanation of why safe tackling techniques matter; also receives one-game suspension for targeting a sensitive topic, but ejection overturned upon ridiculously long nine-minute replay review.
5:30: Practice ends. Only 13 more until the April 14 spring game. Somewhere, Allen Iverson shakes his head.