Buckeyes adjust to new spring schedule

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maybe it looks like a leisurely pace for spring practice.

Ohio State reported back to work earlier than it seems to have ever done, knocked out a couple workouts and then took a week off for spring break.

But don’t be fooled by the number of afternoons on the practice field or the temporary pause in drills that the reporting date and the academic calendar combined to give the Buckeyes. While the actual number of practices can’t change, the coaching staff can do a bit of massaging with how it uses those 15 dates -- and the benefits for the young Buckeyes are perhaps best measured instead in weeks and hours during camp.

“We felt it was really important, especially with this outfit, to get the 20-hour work week as often as we can,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “That means Monday, Wednesday and Friday we get a significant amount of meeting time. Then when we get back we’re going to go [practice] on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday again.

“Why? Because we get three days of a lot of meeting time, which is obviously [helpful] with where we’re at with a lot of youth in spots on our football team. We’ll have four-hour meeting days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s significant, the first time I’ve done it, and so far I love it.”

Meyer hasn’t had long to evaluate his new approach yet, but it only took two days and one practice for him to start raving about the potential benefits when camp officially opened last week.

The weather isn’t perfect around Ohio State’s campus in early March, so the Buckeyes were forced to move their practices indoors at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The gap between workouts due to spring break, which a school spokesman called “unprecedented” for the program, might not be ideal, either.

But when the Buckeyes report back to work for a second time, they’ll be cleared to put the pads on and go live. And they’ll still have four full, busy weeks of work ahead of them as the coaches try to speed up the learning curve with so many fresh faces needed to fill voids, particularly on defense.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “It’s going to be different.

“The idea is that it’s spread out over a little bit more time and we have more time to learn the game of football. We’re looking at it as extremely positive. The only bad thing is you’re starting three weeks earlier than you normally would have, maybe the weather with eight inches of snow isn’t exactly what we’re used to so we just have to practice inside a little bit.”

Plenty of work was already going to be done indoors anyway, with the meeting time critical in the development process for a group of largely inexperienced linebackers and a crop of defensive linemen who have seen some action but must now take on starting roles.

Meyer has typically favored a four-practice schedule each week during the spring, putting his teams on the field Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Buckeyes have cut down one of those on-field days, instead going on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with the exception of the week leading up to the Spring Game on April 13 in Cincinnati.

That opens up a bit more time in the classroom, all without sacrificing a single practice day allotted by the NCAA in the spring.

“This is early now, March 5 and we’re out there going,” Meyer said. “Usually it’s almost the end of March when we’ve started in the past.

“[Strength coach] Mick [Marotti] has always wanted me to do this, it gives you another couple weeks if someone gets dinged up in preparation for summer. And I like it.”