Joshua Perry liked what he saw when the 2018 Ohio State football team took the field for the first practice of the preseason Friday, the first opening practice since 2012 without coach Urban Meyer.
“They looked as focused as I’ve ever seen any team look the first day of camp,” said Perry, who played at Ohio State from 2012 to 2015. “As a team I think they are pretty mature, and they understand that they’ve still got to do their duties as players regardless of what’s going on.”
Ryan Day, one of the offensive coordinators, is the acting head coach as OSU officials investigate whether Meyer knew more than he has revealed about fired receiver coach Zach Smith’s tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife Courtney Smith. Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday.
But preseason camp opened as scheduled, headed toward the opener against Oregon State on Sept. 1. Perry, who earlier in the week announced his NFL career was over after suffering what he said was his sixth concussion, stopped by the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the practice, which was closed to the media. Players and coaches will be off-limits to the media until at least next week.
“It was actually pretty cool to watch,” Perry said. “The media wasn’t in there, so the guys were able to focus on themselves and get to work. I think they will be A-OK.”
A team spokesman said all 110 players expected were on hand, including new starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber and defensive stalwarts Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones.
The only players on the roster who did not take part were defensive lineman Malik Barrow, still recovering from the knee injury he suffered last season, freshman receiver Kamryn Babb, who suffered a knee injury in the summer workouts and is out for the season, and linebacker Tuf Borland, who is said to be well on his way to recovering from an Achilles tendon injury suffered in the spring.
Former OSU quarterback Stan Jackson, an analyst for 105.7 The Zone and the Big Ten Network, wasn’t at practice, but he could identify with what the players have dealt with over the last several days.
“Forty-eight hours ago they were here to play for Urban Meyer,” Jackson said. “Most of these guys came to play for Urban Meyer. Now you’ve got coach Ryan Day in front of you, so, yeah, there is a distraction.
"But the good news about football players is that we’re a little selfish, you want to play. So whether it’s Urban Meyer or Ryan Day, you’ve got to handle your business so you can end up on the field. I think once they hit the grass, all that stuff probably went away and they got back to the reality of playing football.”
Having leaders step up early is vital, too, Perry said, and he saw evidence of that.
“That wideout room has got some impressive guys; Parris Campbell has taken the lead there, and Terry McLaurin has done a great job,” Perry said. “And when you look at that defense, (safety) Jordan Fuller is a guy who is trying to find his voice right now, but just by the way he handles himself and goes about his business, he’s doing a great job as a leader.
“Plus, those guys know what they have to do as a staff, the players know what they have to do to make sure they are getting to where they need to be. They understand they are preseason No. 3 (in the coaches poll), that they have a deep roster on a really good team that has a real shot. So I don’t think they are going to let any extenuating circumstances get in their way of achieving their goals.”