While visiting his parents in Indianapolis this month, Jimmy Rodenberg noticed his cell phone ringing.
Mickey Marotti, Ohio State’s strength and conditioning guru, was on the other end, seeking advice.
It was an unexpected turn of events, considering the 25-year-old Rodenberg was an intern for the Buckeyes only four years ago.
But because of a coronavirus pandemic that has upended the landscape of college football, Rodenberg is suddenly in a position to offer his old boss a few helpful pointers.
As one of two strength and conditioning coaches at Grand Valley State, a Division II school in western Michigan, Rodenberg is accustomed to overseeing a condensed offseason training regimen.
"It’s almost exactly what we’re going through right now," Marotti said.
Shorter formats are normal for programs below the Football Bowl Subdivision level, where players are often not on campus during the summer.
Rodenberg estimated that most of Grand Valley State’s players get back to campus shortly before the Fourth of July. At Ohio State, they arrive after Memorial Day to begin weeks of a ramp-up ahead of preseason training camp.
The Buckeyes might not have the luxury of time together this summer.
Because of the moratorium on organized team activities instituted in the aftermath of the outbreak of COVID-19, players are likely to return later, delaying the start of the demanding summer workouts overseen by Marotti and his strength and conditioning staff.
Preparation for next season has already been reduced after the shutdown of spring practice two months ago.
Despite the limitations and less-structured routines for players, Rodenberg emphasized some of the silver linings during his phone conversation with Marotti.
"This is a great time to really hold your players accountable," Rodenberg said. "You get to see the different types of motivation, the different types of kids that you have on your team.
"When you're at a place like Ohio State, you have the opportunity to hold everything above their head. You know exactly what they're doing. You know the kid's schedule. You know exactly how much free time he has, what he's eating for dinner, what he's eating for breakfast.
"At a place like Grand Valley State, it's more so about the accountability of each individual athlete. We have the opportunity to make sure they're handling their business on their own."
Marotti is familiar with the lower levels of college football. He was a fullback at Division II West Liberty from 1983-86.
No one on those teams remained on campus during the summer months; Marotti returned to his home in western Pennsylvania to work various jobs. In order to prepare for the football season, he went through conditioning and strength training on his own.
"The guys that were most prepared got the first shot on the field just because they put in the work and time," Marotti said. "Then you went about your way with the season."
But that was a different generation. Current Division II programs are more likely to be hands-on, even while players are scattered across the country.
Rodenberg recalled helping to form a workout plan last summer for Jacob Spencer, a defensive lineman for Grand Valley State, while he was in Spain on a work-study program.
In other instances, the staff searches for motivation methods for the scattered players. This offseason they’re keeping a Google Doc to log which players do the most pushups or situps, along with tracking their sprint times and recorded distance runs.
"It kind of sets a standard for the guys who are chasing to be at the top," Rodenberg said. "And it might get to the guys who are not exactly the most motivated by themselves to go out and do something."
Marotti has preached similar messages on accountability this offseason, preparing players for when workouts might resume on campus.
The two strength coaches met in 2015 after Rodenberg joined the Ohio State program as an intern. He was a junior at Ohio State after transferring from Ashland, where he had been an oft-injured linebacker for two seasons.
Rodenberg, the son of a high school football coach, had hoped the move might jump-start his own career in coaching. This month’s phone call from Marotti felt like affirmation for the young coach that he was on the right track.
"For him to be asking my opinion about what we do, it showed the respect he had for me," Rodenberg said. "It shows I did a good job."