Ohio State’s football team will begin walkthrough practices on Friday, athletic director Gene Smith said during an interview on WBNS-FM (97.1).
Speaking with co-hosts Beau Bishop and former Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis Wednesday morning, Smith said the series of walkthroughs proceed the start of preseason training camp, which remains scheduled for Aug. 7.
The walkthroughs are permitted after the NCAA's Division I council voted last month to expand the preseason calendar to include more organized team activities this summer.
Like most teams, the Buckeyes saw a majority of their spring practices canceled in March amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
Since July 15, the Buckeyes have gone through workouts under the supervision of coaches, who are allowed to be present for eight hours a week of conditioning drills, film and weightlifting.
Smith said the school has developed health and safety protocols, including mask wearing, for walkthroughs, and he did not express reservations about their transition to the next phase of preseason preparations.
"I got a real comfort level," Smith said. "When we move into practice on Aug. 7, I’m not there yet. But I do relative to what we’ve done in the voluntary workout space, what we’re going to do when start walkthroughs. I just feel really, really good. I’m proud of our coaches. They had Zoom calls with parents throughout the summer. They had Zoom calls with players throughout the summer. I handled a couple of calls with our athletes."
His concerns around practices related to next month’s training camp. That is when players move toward padded practices and live contact, including tackling.
"I don’t have that comfort level yet for Aug. 7," Smith said. "I like our progress. We have the right questions on the table. I may get there for Aug. 7. I’m sure I will. But I’m just not there yet."
Most of Ohio State’s players have been back on campus since early June 8 when they returned for voluntary workouts.
The Woody Hayes Athletic Center, among other athletics facilities, had previously been closed due to the state’s stay-at-home order. Gyms in Ohio reopened in late May.
"Our challenge is that they got to go back to their crib," Smith added. "That’s a whole new ballgame. Fortunately, our athletes have embraced policing one another. We’re really proud of our kids."
The Buckeyes previously had to pause voluntary workouts in football, among seven varsity sports, for a week earlier this month when multiple athletes tested positive for COVID-19. They restarted last week.
The ongoing practice schedule does not seem to impact the fate of a season this fall.
Smith said "we have uncertainty" about whether games will be played, and the Big Ten was still sorting out the details for what a conference-only schedule might look like if kickoff comes in September.
"Everyone who works in the industry and has been paying attention knows there a lot of moving parts," he said. "We just need to be patient and allow our experts around this virus to continue to do their work and give us guidance."