COLUMBUS — Ryan Day says one of his favorite things about spring practice is that it is all about teaching without the stress of preparing for a new opponent every week.
That teaching begins on Friday for Ohio State’s football team when the Buckeyes get on the field for the first of 15 spring practices scheduled in March and April.
OSU was in the very early days of spring practice last year when it was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the Buckeyes had three non-conference games and three Big Ten games canceled last fall. So there might be even more teaching crammed into spring drills than ever before if they take place with no further disruptions.
Young players, especially the three young quarterbacks competing to be the starter, do not have the experience they would have gained in a normal year.
But before they can run —and pass — they have to learn to walk.
“The first knee jerk reaction coming off the season was we just have to have game reps, game reps, game reps because I was so nervous about not playing games,” Day said on a Zoom conference on Wednesday. “But the more I talked to our staff we knew we can’t just jump into that. We missed a lot of fundamental work and we have to make sure we are fundamentally sound in our foundation before we jump into those things.”
The quarterback competition among C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, both in their second year at Ohio State, and freshman Kyle McCord will be the most scrutinized aspect of OSU football from now until the opener at Minnesota on Sept. 2.
Stroud and Miller both played in one game last season but neither has thrown a pass in a college game. McCord, a 5-star recruit, enrolled at Ohio State in January.
“We’re going to try to get them as equal a number of reps (practice repetitions) as we can and try to rotate the guys the best we can,” Day said. “We’ll know when the time is right. They all have a lot of learning to do, they haven’t had a lot of snaps. As we start to get them in game situations in the spring and fall we’ll have a better idea.
“Being a leader is the No. 1 job of a quarterback. I’m looking for leadership and the ability to learn, day in and day out, and not making the same mistake twice. You don’t just jump on a bike and start riding. You’re going to make mistakes and fall. If you’re making the same mistake for two or three days that’s not a good sign for a quarterback,” he said.
Asked about other positions, Day had lots of good things to say about defensive lineman Zach Harrison.
“Some guys have had great offseasons. One guy who sticks out for sure is Zach Harrison. His body is already changing, his work ethic is off the chart. He just looks different. He just has a different look in his eyes. There are several guys like that but he just sticks out.”
Asked about the status of safety Marcus Hooker, who was arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence last weekend, Day said, “We’re very disappointed and taking what happened very, very seriously. We’re going to let the process play out. He is suspended indefinitely right now. As things move forward we’ll make the decisions as we go. But I want to get all the information first.”
With anyone 16 and older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination starting March 29 in Ohio, all of OSU’s players could get a vaccination.
Day, who said he has a vaccination scheduled Friday, said that decision is up to each individual. “They won’t be required but we will have a plan. I would assume most guys would want to take it, but maybe not. That’s kind of up to them. We’ll kind of leave it up to them and their families, whatever decision they make. But we’re surely going to make it available and see how it goes.”