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Ohio State football team eager for start of tackling Wednesday

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said he's eager for the Buckeyes to begin contact practices on Wednesday.

For the first time in nine months, Ohio State football players will hit each other in practice on Wednesday.

The Buckeyes have not practiced in pads since before their College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson. Spring ball ended in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic before Ohio State worked up to contact practices.

The Big Ten’s medical subcommittee in its Return to Competition task force deemed that teams could not begin contact practices until Sept. 30, when daily antigen COVID testing would be in place. Ohio State has been practicing in helmets and “spider” pads with no tackling.

“Once we put pads on, it actually becomes football, so we’re looking forward to that,” wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said in a conference call Tuesday. “We're looking forward to that marking the next step in our progression, taking this thing up to another level.

“It's the closest we've come to playing in a long time, so it is special. It is a big day.”

The transition will be gradual. The Buckeyes won’t have full tackling from the start of practice until the end.

“We've got to be very, very smart in how we build that volume up, because that's where most of the concussions happen —  early in preseason practice,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said last week. “I think we’re smart enough with the medical staff we have and with coach (Ryan) Day's background that we’ll be slow to go and build as we go, and I think we'll probably get as much contact work in the second week of our restart as we will the first week.”

But football is football, and players and coaches are eager to start practicing with contact.

“I would say the best team is always the team that blocks the best, tackles the best and is the toughest,” Hartline said. “It's really hard to get any of those without pads. I think starting Wednesday, we'll really get a feel for what kind of football team we are currently and maybe where we need to go and what we need to focus on.”

Added wide receiver Chris Olave, “I'm looking forward to it. I know we haven't put pads on in so long, but just get to get back in shape and start contact and start real football, it'll be exciting.”

Though the Buckeyes haven’t been tackling until now, they have stressed playing with sound technique so that their tackling skills don’t become sloppy.

"It definitely has its difficulties,” cornerback Marcus Williamson said last week, “but coach Day, our defensive staff and our staff as a whole preach practicing like a pro. So without having those pads on, you're able to practice those fundamentals, having great football position, playing low, having the right approach on a tackle. I think it'll pay off once we get the pads on."

Ohio State-Nebraska to kick off at noon

The Buckeyes’ season opener Oct. 24 against visiting Nebraska will be at noon as Fox’s Big Noon showcase game that day. Nebraska’s team Twitter account announced the start time Tuesday.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch