COLUMBUS — Ohio State should be nearing the end of spring practice, and Buckeye fans everywhere should be gearing up for the annual Spring Game in a couple of weeks.
Instead, the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the sports world to a halt, and news from the Ohio State program is few and far between as most players have returned to their hometowns and activity inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center is nonexistent.
Despite the uncertainties, he, like everyone else, faces, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with the media via conference call on Wednesday to provide any updates he could on his team, what working from home is like for him, and to speculate on what’s to come when football returns.
Day started off the call by acknowledging how “strange and unique” the times are currently, and he offered his thoughts and prayers to all who have been affected by the virus. He also thanked the leadership, both at the school and at the state level, for their handling of this pandemic.
“I think Governor (Mike) DeWine, (OSU) President (Michael) Drake, and (OSU Athletic Director) Gene Smith have really done an excellent job so far in getting out in front of this, communicating, and just handling this the right way,” Day said. “With their lead, we’ve been doing the best we can to follow the protocol with our players.”
Day said everyone is taking one day at a time, and with each week seemingly “unveiling something new, we’re just going to keep doing the best we can.”
Although all in-person recruiting activities have been shut down as part of the quarantine, Ohio State has seen considerable success in its 2021 recruiting class of late. Asked how he and his staff have been able to keep the success rolling recently, despite a rushed schedule in the winter and now limited contact due to quarantine, Day credited the work the staff was able to do previously in establishing firm relationships.
“I thought we maximized our time really well,” Day said of the time constraints as a result of the Big Ten Championship Game and preparing for the College Football Playoff in December. “But also, we got ahead of this thing. Even last year, (player personnel director) Mark Pantoni, our staff, they’ve done a great job of staying in touch with this class from this time last year. We’re working so far ahead that those relationships are very strong.”
Day credited the staff’s ability to communicate during these times, as well as the general excitement surrounding the program, as reasons for the good recruiting news during the time off.
With current players forced to maintain their fitness and shape on their own accord, Day said the staff is trying to stay in constant communication with the players to relay what they should be doing during this time away from campus and to provide feedback.
“Their lives are so structured when they’re here,” Day said. “Now we have to make sure we can do the best that we can remotely to give them that structure as well.”
This week, Day said the first priority was making sure all his players were comfortable with their new realities academically, which has shifted entirely to online platforms. As for their workouts, Day pointed out that workout capabilities are circumstantial based on where the players have returned to and what resources they have at their disposal.
In regards to what types of lasting impacts he anticipates this break having if there is still a regular football season this fall, Day said it is hard to say at the moment. He added that much of the lasting impact will be decided by how long the quarantine lasts and how good of shape the players are able to stay in while they’re away.
Day said he would support a model similar to the NFL’s mini-camps or Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as a means for programs to make up for lost time before fall camp begins, should time allow for it.
“We’re all going to get together as Big Ten coaches and athletic directors … I’ve already talked to some other Big Ten coaches about their thoughts,” Day said. “I do think that some places have already had nine spring practices. There are some places that have had more than that. I think that’s a little bit of an unfair advantage … We certainly understand that the situation is very unique, and we have to take that into consideration. But once we know when we’re going to get back into this thing, then we’ll try to come up with something.”
Day went on to say that “until we know what the parameters are, it’s hard to create anything.”
Asked about how his own days are structured during this time away, Day said he uses the morning to watch a lot of film, whether that be film from spring practices or on 2020 opponents. From there, his day transitions into recruiting, including watching film on targets and trying to communicate with as many of them as possible.
With the order for many to work from home, the adjustment has been difficult for those who rarely — if ever — had done so in the past. Day said it helps to be able to get outside from time to time, and the added time with his family is a silver lining during the quarantine.
“It helps when the sun is out and you can walk outside, walk around the yard and neighborhood a little bit,” he said. “When it’s raining and cold, and you’re kind of couped up in the house, it’s not as much fun. But we’re trying to look at it like how many times as a football coach are you going to actually have this much of an extended period of time with your family? We’re trying to make a positive out of a negative.”
As for what’s keeping him occupied outside of his responsibilities to his family and the Ohio State program, Day said he’s been using the crockpot often.
“It’s pretty easy, you just throw some stuff in there in the morning, you put it on low and let it cook all day, and then it’s ready for dinner,” he said.
Specifically, Day said chili is what he’s currently working on trying to perfect in the crockpot. The results thus far have been up and down. “One was a good one, the other was a complete failure,” he joked.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.