Ohio State offensive linemen Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis spoke with the media on Thursday via teleconference to discuss how they are staying prepared for a 2020 season shrouded in great uncertainty.
The teleconference marked the first time players have been made available to the media since programs were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
While many different scenarios are being tossed around regarding a model for the 2020 season, should it be played, that season being played without fans in the stands is becoming increasingly likely. Although not ideal, the prospect of playing in empty stadiums isn’t deterring either of the two from wanting to hit the field this fall.
“Yes, absolutely,” Myers said when asked if he would still want to play without fans in the stands. “I would do anything, really, to play this season. I don’t know what I would do without football, to be honest. But with that comes sacrifices and, personally, I am willing to make those sacrifices.”
Davis echoed that sentiment, acknowledging that it wouldn’t be the same without fans in the stands but that would not affect him wanting to play the season.
“I just love the game of football, and I miss being in that competitive type of atmosphere,” Davis said. “So, fans or no fans, I would want to play.”
Asked about the concerns he might have in returning to football, Davis said there would be obvious concerns about spreading the virus, given the nature of the sport with players operating in close quarters. He added that not having spring practice is a big deal in factoring in how long of a preparation window teams will need before they’re ready to play a season.
Myers said his greatest fear with the virus is spreading it to his family, stating that he would feel better by being on campus and away from them in order to eliminate that chance.
“Being back in Columbus, obviously I would not be with my family,” he said. “It would be unfortunate that I wouldn’t get to see them, but at least I would be sure that I couldn’t give (the virus) to them if I did get it.”
Before a season model can be outlined, programs and conferences must first address the time frame needed for players to return to campus and prepare for the season. Myers said his ideal scenario for a restart to practice would be a two-week training period before the hitting begins to reacclimate to the grind of the offseason, adding, “I know if anyone can get us completely right in two weeks, it’s coach Mick (Marotti).”
Until facilities are permitted to open again, players have been tasked with owning their preparation for the season without the watchful eyes of a coaching staff to ensure they are putting forth the effort. But regardless of personal drive, the reality is not all players, depending on where they call home, have the necessary tools to accomplish what they normally would inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
For offensive linemen, in particular, there are certain aspects of a typical workout that simply can’t be replicated without the equipment available to them at the Woody. Myers pointed to the 300-pound sled the linemen push around on the practice field, which forces them to continue moving their feet upon contact, as something that is difficult to replace at home.
“From the lifting side, we have a lot of the things we need,” Myers said. “But when it comes to drills, we just don’t have those resources.”
Fortunately for Myers, he said his brother, Zach, has been available to help him in drills. Zach played offensive line at the University of Kentucky from 2012-15.
Davis, who is back home in California, said he has been successful in finding a place to lift, but finding a field in which he can go through drills on the field and simulate a game series has been difficult to come by without getting kicked off the field.
“It is just so important, playing offensive line, that you keep harping on those things because of muscle memory and stuff like that,” Davis said. “You tend to get sloppy if you’re not going to work on things for a long period of time. For me, I just want to make sure I’m as crisp as I can be when it’s time to come back, and that I have somewhat of that same short quickness ability that I had before this pandemic took place.”
Davis added that conditioning is another big factor for players during their time away, saying, “You can lift all the weights you want, but if you can’t last a 10-plus play drive, it’s essentially pointless being that strong.”
Aside from the physical capabilities of players upon their return to campus, another question regarding the impact of the break will be how the chemistry within position groups and teams as a whole will be affected. For Myers, camaraderie will not be a question at all. Rather, he expects chemistry to be even better than it was when players were forced to leave as they’ve developed a better appreciation for the opportunities they have received.
“It’s hard sometimes, you get so into the routine of things that you can take things for granted,” Myers said. “And then when you don’t have it anymore, you realize how precious what you had was, and I think that’s what I feel is going to be the general, overall feel of our team when we get back together. That’s the feel I get from meetings and I can’t imagine it being any other way when we get back. It’ll make our bond stronger.”
Davis added, “This pandemic has shown us that football and everything that comes with it can be taken away just like that, and I think, overall, people are just more appreciative of what we have going on.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.