Ohio State football adjusting pregame routine, hotel stays for season

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State football players will hold pregame meetings, meals and walk-throughs at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this season rather than at the nearby Blackwell Hotel, which served as base camp for the nights before home games.

The pregame routine will change for the Ohio State football team this season.

Rather than stay at the Blackwell Hotel the night before home games, the team will reside at another hotel, athletic director Gene Smith said. The relocation was prompted by the school’s use of the Blackwell for additional student housing during this academic year.

Although the Buckeyes will be staying farther away from Ohio Stadium, most pregame meetings, walk-throughs and meals, scheduled for the night before games or in the early morning, will be held at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Coaches and players will then take buses from the facility to Ohio Stadium before kickoff. When they stayed at the Blackwell in previous seasons, they were close enough to walk together to the stadium.

Coach Ryan Day said he did not mind the switch, adding that it might allow the Buckeyes to be more efficient with their time in preparing for games.

“I think it'll actually benefit us in certain areas because we have everything we need right here,” Day said. “So instead of taking all of our stuff over to the Blackwell, we have everything we need here with sports science. We have our cryogenic tanks, our recovery, the float tanks, the cold tubs, the hot tubs, the bikes, the NormaTec boots, the training room. We have the indoor (field) for walk-throughs. We have the dining facility, we can spread out a little bit more here.”

Smith said the new plan might present the Buckeyes with a “better situation” than staging most of their pregame rituals at a hotel. He suggested it could be a permanent switch in future seasons.

“You have more control,” Smith said.

They will adjust to the routine for the first time ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Nebraska.

Backup QB unsettled

The Buckeyes have not settled on a backup quarterback behind Justin Fields, and Day indicated Tuesday that a decision might not be reached until Friday night.

Senior Gunnar Hoak has split repetitions with freshmen Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud in preseason practices, but coaches have not tipped their hand in recent weeks when asked which signal caller would be the first to replace Fields, if needed. Day said all three were rotating in practice.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Day said, “and who may be in that situation this week, it might change next week, and the reason for that is because they didn't have spring ball or the preseason.

“So it's a daily evaluation to see who deserves to go in the game in that spot, but as of right now, that competition continues, and we'll keep going, and then try to figure it out toward the end of the week.”

Hoak was co-listed as a backup behind Fields last season, but it was Chris Chugunov who was often the first quarterback to enter the game as a reserve. He also replaced Fields for part of a series at Michigan when he aggravated a sprained knee ligament.

D-line depth up in air

The availability of defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent for the opener won’t be determined until the end of the week, according to Day. Garrett is recovering from gunshot wounds suffered in August, while Vincent missed last season due to a shoulder injury.

Day said the final status of players hinged on final padded practices, including one scheduled for Tuesday.

Depth at defensive tackle has been an area to watch for the Buckeyes as they are replacing a pair of starters in Jashon Cornell and DaVon Hamilton.

“It's an area that going into the season we wanted to make sure we provided some depth at that position,” Day said, “and I think we've done that.”

In previous interviews, Day has mentioned Antwuan Jackson and Tommy Togiai as potential starters this fall.