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Ohio State football coach Ryan Day presides over unusual first practice

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day speaks to the media after the first day of spring practice at Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio on March 6, 2019.

For the first time since spring ball abruptly ended in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio State practiced as a team Thursday.

Training camp opened, and it was a practice unlike any other in preparation for a season that, if it happens, will be like no other.

“It was great to see the guys with so much energy on the field doing what they love and just kind of forgetting about everything else for about an hour and a half,” coach Ryan Day said in a Zoom interview with reporters. “But we’ve certainly got a long road ahead of us.”

He meant that in terms of both the team’s preparation and of the obstacles that could block a season from happening.

“We don’t know what’s coming tomorrow,” Day said. “Certainly, anything’s possible. We all know that. But we’re not really focused on that.”

Day said he is comfortable with the safety protocols that have been put in place for training camp. He said it’s premature to say the same thing about starting the season, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 3 at Illinois.

“Not yet,” he said, adding that he was pleased with the Big Ten’s list of requirements announced Wednesday.

Day said COVID concerns have altered the way practices will be conducted. On Thursday, the team used a split-squad format as a way of helping to maintain physical spacing. The Buckeyes will also practice as a full squad during camp with added precautions.

Day said the regular COVID testing protocol is the best safeguard. He said that the amount of full contact will be limited but not eliminated. He said equipment is disinfected as quickly as possible after practice.

Unlike past years, the team will not check into a hotel for camp. Players will remain in their current residences. He said the team has worked to “de-densify” living arrangements.

Tents have been placed around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center so some meetings can be conducted outside and in larger spaces. The team is using the indoor practice field as its locker room. Masks are required at all times except during practice.

“A lot of protocols have had to be adjusted,” Day said. “That’s what we put together over the last couple months, and we feel great about it as we go into camp.”

But Day understands that the situation is precarious. He gushed about the responsibility and maturity the players have shown in pledging to do all they can to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Day also knows that might not be enough.

“Each day comes with a new set of challenges,” he said. “We talk about it as a staff and say, ‘OK, let’s see what today brings,’ and we keep pushing forward. But the communication has been excellent amongst the leaders and the team and the coaching staff. The trust is strong. So we keep building one day after another.”

OSU ranked No. 2

Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the preseason Amway coaches poll released Thursday.

Clemson, the Buckeyes’ biggest recent nemesis, is No. 1. The Tigers defeated Ohio State 29-23 at the Fiesta Bowl in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinals, a game the Buckeyes rue letting slip away after leading 16-0. Clemson then lost to Joe Burrow-led LSU in the national title game.

The Tigers received 1,589 points and 38 first-place votes. Ohio State got 1,555 points with 17 first-place votes.

“It’s certainly an honor to be respected by your peers,” Day said. “I know it sounds like coach-speak, but what matters is what happens at the end of the year.”

Both the Buckeyes and Tigers return the core of their 2019 teams, including their quarterbacks. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence are the early Heisman Trophy favorites.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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