Ohio State coach Ryan Day says watching other college football teams play is like 'torture'
The wait has been agonizing.
During each of the previous five weekends, Ryan Day has watched games unfold across several major conferences in college football.
“Most of it's been torture,” Day said. “Just not being able to play in games and watching these games has been really hard.”
When Day spoke with reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon, 11 more days stood between his Ohio State team and the start of its pandemic-shortened season in the Big Ten.
The intervening period ahead of the Oct. 24 season opener against Nebraska has been difficult on the Buckeyes coach largely because games are so synonymous with fall Saturdays. At this time last year, Ohio State had played six games, half of the regular-season schedule.
The absence of games hits Day as well when he watches his son’s youth league team.
“It's just amazing that it's the end of September, early October, and we're not playing,” Day said. “But you accept it and you focus on getting the guys better.”
A delayed start does present a few advantages for the Buckeyes as they prepare to reenter the College Football Playoff race as one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
Early results have been littered with sloppy play, ranging from missed tackles to a flurry of turnovers. In the Southeastern Conference, half of the teams allowed 40 or more points on Saturday.
Many analysts have attributed some of the ongoing issues to a limited offseason as the coronavirus pandemic eliminated spring practices and summer workouts.
“Watching these games, it certainly makes you reemphasize as a coach those basic things,” Day said “It would always be an emphasis, but it's a little bit more of shining a light on those things based on what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned.”
At team meetings in recent weeks, Day has cycled through various clips from games this season in order to highlight them as teaching lessons for players. The selections often stand out as warnings for what not to do.
“There's nothing that takes the place of practicing with pads on and having spring ball and a preseason,” Day said, “but I think having an awareness of it and an emphasis on pad-level tackling are critically important.”
The opening games have also provided coaches with some guidance. Day feels it will be important to give players a simplified playbook.
Due to reduced practice hours over the past months, he was mindful of not overwhelming players.
“I think that's one of those things that we have to be right on,” Day said. “Because what happens is you can run too many plays and it just gets crazy, or too many defenses, so finding the right ones for the guys that you have on the team currently is as important now as it's ever been.”
It remains a priority for the coaching staff to tailor their weekly game plans to guard against too much creativity, Day said.
The time spent away from players earlier in the pandemic in the springtime had given coaches more opportunities to review game film or come up with new ideas for schemes.
As the lead-up to the season continues in practices over the following days, some of the biggest issues to sort out involve further roster evaluations.
That includes settling on the players who might be able to rotate into games and bolster depth.
“That’s something we’re still talking about,” Day said. “Who are the guys who are game- ready.”
Day determined that Paris Johnson was ready and revealed the freshman would rotate with Nicholas Petit-Frere at right tackle, a spot on the offensive line vacated by Branden Bowen.
But that and lineup other questions likely will linger up to kickoff in less than two weeks.
“The depth is critically important, especially this season,” Day said, “with all the unknowns with the virus and all the things that come down the road.”