Coach Ryan Day wants Ohio State football to practice in full pads within two weeks
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day said it will take two weeks for his team to progress toward fully padded practices.
Speaking during his weekly radio show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday afternoon, he circled Sept. 30 as the date the Buckeyes are expected to be able to put on full pads for practices.
The date coincides with the expected arrival of COVID-19 antigen tests across the Big Ten that are to be administered each day to players, coaches and other personnel on teams as they prepare to restart the season on Oct. 23 or 24.
In the meantime, Day said, the Buckeyes are able to participate in 20 hours of football activities per week, which is the allotted time for teams during a season. Along with the rest of the teams in the conference, they had been previously limited to 12 hours a week without a season set for this fall.
The Big Ten has previously been cautious in allowing teams to hold padded practices. Days into the start of preseason training camp in August, ahead of the season’s postponement, it asked teams to remain in the acclimatization period.
Padded practices bring close contact between players, including tackling and hitting, and teams have been tested only several times a week, in contrast to the daily testing that begins by Sept. 30.
The start of the practices will be a boost for the Buckeyes, who last donned full pads during their College Football Playoff semifinal appearance last December. As with fall camp, spring practice was also cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to get a lot of fundamental work in,” Day said. “There’s just a lot of toughness and discipline, and getting that edge in tackling and blocking and all those fundamentals, that we’re really going to spend time on getting honed in again.”
For the time being, players will remain permitted to wear helmets and lightweight shoulder pads during workouts.
Along with allowing players to practice tackling, Day said padded practices will also enable the coaching staff to better evaluate offensive and defensive linemen.
The Buckeyes have several players to look at for position battles on the offensive line, most notably at left guard and right tackle, two spots that were vacated after last season by the departure of seniors Branden Bowen and Jonah Jackson.
Right guard Wyatt Davis, who opted out of a season last week, announced Wednesday that he plans to return this fall, giving Ohio State one less vacancy on the offensive line.
Player development and evaluation seemed to be the top priorities for Day.
With previous schedules in place, he said assistants had already done preliminary scouting of other teams in the conference.
“We have done a bunch of the work on the front end to break those games down,” Day said. “We’re pretty much ready to game plan for whoever pops up those first couple of games.”
The Buckeyes also have familiarity with most of the teams, having played all but five of the teams in the conference last season.
If there’s a challenge for the staff, Day said, it will be adjusting to newly hired coordinators. He pointed out that Penn State had a new offensive coordinator in Kirk Ciarrocca.
Others could present new wrinkles with more time off in recent months.
“There’s been so much free time for the coaches to spend more time scheming up things, that I’m sure they’ve looked at different things,” Day said. “If there’s ever going to be a time for teams to change what they’ve done, looks and different things, now would be the time.”