Spring practice position battles still to come, but prized normalcy returning for Buckeyes

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Harry Miller, who is expected to move back to his natural center position this season, is being held out of contact drills because of an unspecified injury.

Two spring practices are in the books for the Ohio State football team, and, sorry, no grand pronouncements can be made about the quarterback competition — or much of anything else — about the 2021 Buckeyes.

Ohio State hasn’t even practiced in pads yet. That will happen Wednesday.

But things are slowly getting back to normal after a tumultuous 2020, and for that, coach Ryan Day is grateful.

“It’s very, very important,” he said Monday.

Ohio State had only three spring practices last year before the coronavirus pandemic shut down everything. Even when the season was reinstated, the numerous pauses stunted progress. The effects linger.

“It’s set us back some as a program,” Day said, “so we desperately need these practices. We’ve got to do a great job in the meetings and make sure that we’re continuing to improve our techniques and our fundamentals so that the foundation is there moving into the summer.”

The focus, Day said, will be on individual improvement more than deciding position battles. He said quarterbacks C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord are mostly sharing reps equally and showing both encouraging signs and evidence they will endure growing pains.

“All good things from all three of them, so I’ve certainly not been disappointed by any stretch of the imagination,” Day said. “They’re still very, very young, though. A lot to learn. Who can learn from their mistakes quicker and make the adjustments faster is really going to make a difference in the end.”

As is customary, quarterbacks are off-limits from being hit in practice. Day joked that it might be tempting to change that if a quarterback makes a bad read, but he won’t.

“There’s too much to risk there,” he said.

Coach Ryan Day said C.J. Stroud, here warming up before the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern, has been sharing practice reps with Jack Miller and Kyle McCord.

One of the other key questions — the interior of the offensive line — will remain muddled. Day divulged that Harry Miller likely won’t participate in contact drills as he heals from an unspecified injury.

Miller played left guard last year, with mixed results, and was expected to shift to his natural position of center. Parris Johnson Jr., Matt Jones, Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler are among those in the mix for the interior of the line to play inside of tackles Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Day said versatility will be key as the Buckeyes mix and match to get their five best linemen on the field.

“The more that guys can do, the more roles, the more value they have,” he said.

As for a pecking order at the center and guard positions or anywhere else on the team, Day said it’s premature to say. He added that coaches have a first team and second team, with third-teamers mixing in with the second team.

“We just want to get guys a bunch of reps,” he said. “It isn’t so much about (defining starters on) the team.

“We talk really about how the spring is about getting guys better individually. Then as we head toward the beginning of the summer and then toward a preseason, that’s when we want to start bringing the units together and the team together and get some chemistry that way.”

Yet while a resolution to position battles is far away, there is plenty of urgency for the players to impress. Right now, the excitement of the start of spring practice is enough of a spark, Day said. The key will be sustaining it when the spring becomes a grind.

“How do you do that? You take care of yourself, you recover, take care of your body, you get your sleep,” Day said. “That sounds like an easy thing. But for a lot of guys, it’s not.

“It’s time management, it's organizing your academics, it’s making sure you take great notes so you can make corrections on the field. When you start to put all those things together, some guys take off and some guys kind of lose steam.”