After a Year of Winging It, Ryan Day and Company Relish the Return of Reps

By Johnny Ginter on April 16, 2021 at 10:10 am
Ohio State's tight ends in practice

It's hard to get back into shape.

Any kind of shape, really. In August of 2019 I broke my collarbone riding my bike (bicycle, lest you think I'm cool), and when that finally healed enough for me to get back into the gym or do some exercise, COVID hit. I spent last summer riding as much as I could, but it got cold and I got lazy and that was that. And while I do have a stationary bike at home and even occasionally use it, the person typing the words you're reading right now sometimes feels like a meat byproduct stuffed inside a sausage casing.

Something tells me that Ryan Day looks at his team and feels the same way.

“I think the more practices we have, the more times we can put them in game situations, the better feel we'll have,” Day said on Monday. “But you never stop learning. You see some of these guys who maybe go on to play in the NFL. Sometimes it takes five years. Sometimes it takes one year. Sometimes it takes two years. You just don't really know. As long as they continue to get better and keep growing, then we're going to keep working with them and try to figure it out."

Day said that on April 4th, which means everything's good now, right? Not necessarily!

“We’ve actually done a good amount of tackling this spring, more than I can ever remember,” Day said. “There’s been three or four practices where we’ve had 60-plus snaps of guys getting tackled to the ground and live scrimmages, because we’re so far behind fundamentally, just coming off of last year."

That was in reference to the Spring Game being no-contact, which sucks from an entertainment perspective, but the Spring Game hasn't ever really been about entertainment anyway.

To be clear, I'm not trying to create some kind of "Ohio State is going to be bad" narrative. In fact, this is the indication that Ohio State has coaches who understand the importance of what was missed over the last 12 months. Because as much as we'd like to see the Buckeyes effortlessly dominate every opponent they come across, it doesn't happen magically through sheer talent or force of will.

Chris Olave, for example, is one of the huge surprises of the past year. He's already a great player who had established himself to fans and observers as a clearly NFL-ready wideout. But he doesn't think of himself that way, saying that he needs to get stronger and that there are "flaws in his game." My untrained eye honestly can't find a whole hell of a lot of those, but if Olave can, I believe him.

Day, for his part, has said that this spring has just been about "fundamentals and techniques." Anxious Ohio State fans might look at that as a negative, but I think it's more the result of a loss of a ton of senior leadership and also an acknowledgement that this edition of the football Buckeyes has a lot of ground to make up in the coming weeks and months.

That's a good thing!

Transition is one of the hardest things for any sports program to overcome, and now, a few years into the Ryan Day era, it is truly his program. If he wants to continue Ohio State's winning tradition, and not allow the program to slip from its lofty heights, he knows what he needs.

And Day needs "a million reps." A million reps is a lot of reps, but shaking the cobwebs off a long and tough year is going to require more effort and hard work than what would normally would be required. It's heartening then, to see and hear the Ohio State football team acknowledge this as they put in some damn work.

This weekend I'm going to clean my bike. I'm going to degrease and re-lube the chain, fix any problems with the tires, readjust the seat, and maybe even replace the handlebar tape if I'm feeling cocky. And then I'm going to take a few incredibly terrible laps around the neighborhood, sweat my ass off, and do it again and again and again. Not a million times, but a lot.

Because that's how you improve.

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