Buckeyes open spring practice


COLUMBUS — Two months removed from their thrilling 2022 Rose Bowl victory over Utah, the Ohio State Buckeyes were back together on Tuesday for the start of spring practice.

Following practice, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to discuss his observations from the opening practice as the Buckeyes begin their on-field work toward the 2022 season.

With a considerable amount of talent returning, led by two bonafide Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback C.J. Stroud and TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State figures to remain a fixture in the College Football Playoff discussion. However, with nearly the entire defensive coaching staff being overhauled in the offseason following a disastrous season, plenty of questions will need to be answered between now and the season opener against Notre Dame.

But while schemes and personnel will be at the forefront of the discussions throughout spring practice and well into fall camp, Day spoke on Tuesday of a primary emphasis this offseason that has little to do with talent or making plays. Rather, it was leadership that Day singled out following the Rose Bowl as the first area that needed to be improved heading into the spring.

To do so, Day and the coaching staff were proactive in fostering scenarios within the offseason program that would both define what it means to be a leader and how to lead groups of men.

“Through a process, we ended up explaining to everyone what leadership was,” Day said of the offseason program. “We asked who wanted to be the leaders of this team. They then volunteered, we then voted through a voting system to put guys on a leadership committee. We voted 24 guys onto that leadership committee, and then during the offseason program, we assigned 12 squads. In those 12 squads, two leaders were assigned to each of those groups. Through that seven-week period, we really forged a lot of leadership throughout the group.”

Day said strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and his staff challenged the squads in a variety of ways, many of which were geared toward competition, and punishments for shortcomings such as being late included community service on the weekends for the whole group to promote team accountability.

Asked if he felt there was a shortcoming last season in the leadership department, Day didn’t hesitate in nodding in agreement before saying he believes the relative youth of the 2021 team had a lot to do with the lack of leaders.

“We were really green, and guys were just trying to get lined up and play and do well,” Day said. “But when you have a team that has the experience returning that we do (this season), now you can put some more focus on leadership. That’s what happened in the second half of the Rose Bowl. The leadership stepped up at halftime. We didn’t have that in the (Michigan) game, which is the truth.

“When you think about some of the games that we’ve had here, like the (2019) Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, we were kind of reeling at halftime and we come out and play really well in the second half. There’s going to be opportunities like that, and we really wanted to focus on that over the last seven weeks.”

Day went on to say, “I think we’ve really made a lot of progress there, but the proof will be in the pudding moving forward.”

Ohio State hits the field again on Thursday for the second spring practice before enjoying spring break and returning on March 22.

Ohio State defensive linemen J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Jerron Cage go through drills during Tuesday’s practice.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2022/03/web1_BucksDL.jpegOhio State defensive linemen J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Jerron Cage go through drills during Tuesday’s practice. Dillon Davis | The Gazette

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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