Start of Camp Represents “First Step in A Long, Long Journey” For Ryan Day and the Buckeyes As They Lay Foundation for 2022 Campaign

By Griffin Strom on August 5, 2022 at 8:35 am
Ohio State Buckeyes

As a freshman at New Hampshire, Ryan Day did not take particular pleasure in preseason camp.

The Buckeye head coach likened the middle of the fall practice schedule to “the middle of the ocean” with no land in sight. Lost in the slog of mental and physical preparation, it took the leadership of Day’s teammates to provide him with direction. 

Don't worry about it, we've been there before. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, we're gonna get through this thing.

Day’s been through a few more camps since then, and knows it’s only the start of the arduous trek that awaits over the next five-plus months. As a coach, Day’s learned just how important it is to set the stage and lay the foundation for the season ahead, and that goes double for a year that begins against as stiff a test as the Buckeyes face in their first matchup against Notre Dame.

“It's just the beginning of a long journey. It's the first step in a long, long journey,” Day said after Ohio State’s first practice Thursday. “And there's a lot that comes with that. … There's the football part of it, and that's thinking about where you're going and where this journey's going to take you and what this team's like and what it needs. But that's the fun part. 

“And this time of year is great. Preseason, you learn a lot about your team, you kind of hunker down, and the good thing is it's just football for these guys. Finals are done and they don't start again until I think the 23rd. So it's just football for them and they can focus on that. A lot can be done over these next couple of months.”

As Day and the Ohio State coaching staff learn about their 2022 roster, they’re also working on instilling the principles they believe will guide the Buckeyes through the toughest parts of the forthcoming season. Schematically, Ohio State is sure to build on the elements it installed during the spring – especially on defense with first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles running the show.

But drilling in the basic characteristics Ohio State’s players may have to lean on down the line is the first priority in the opening couple of practice sessions at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“Everyone's going to be juiced up for that game, but it's certainly not going to overwhelm anybody. We've been there before, we've been in the bright lights, we know what that's like.”– Ryan Day

“For the whole team, preseason is toughness, discipline and skill. Those are the three areas we really want to just focus on,” Day said. “Overall toughness in preseason, and the reason we say that is because we have to keep each other upright, we got to take care of each other, we got to work with each other. But at the same time, we're going to build that callus and that edge. So that's the first thing. 

“Discipline of just playing the game; penalties, discipline of your position, coming out every day and working hard, taking care of your body. And then skill; the skill of your position, the skill of playing the game. So those are really the three areas that we're kind of focused on across the board.”

Thursday wasn’t the first time Day has mentioned the words “callus” or “edge” this offseason. While he hopes to continue building those qualities within the team, Day said last week at Big Ten Media Days that some of last season’s results have hardened a group that largely lacked experience heading into 2021.

Ohio State’s losses to Oregon and Michigan to bookend the regular season made the year largely unsuccessful even before rebounding to win the Rose Bowl in January. The Buckeyes get no reprieve from tough games or big spotlights in Week 1, as they take on a potential top-10 opponent in Notre Dame.

Day has far more confidence in the experience his team has from playing in a number of high-stakes affairs a season ago, and he’s hoping that will allow the Buckeyes to change the couple losses they suffered in 2021 into wins this year.

“They've been in big games. And they know they got scars. They've got stars on their chest from winning games, but they've also got some callus and I think that makes it good,” Day said. “They understand it, there's some experience there. I mean listen, everyone's going to be juiced up for that game, but it's certainly not going to overwhelm anybody. We've been there before, we've been in the bright lights, we know what that's like. But we know how important it is to go win that game. Certainly in the back of everybody's mind here in camp.”

Another term that Day appears to be fond of heading into 2022 is “competitive stamina,” as he wants Ohio State to both start and finish the year strong and perform consistently from week to week. The Buckeyes’ lack of ability to do those things last year cost them a chance at championship hardware, and it’s something Day has placed an emphasis on in preseason camp.

It can’t be achieved in the first day of practice, but the chance to persevere through hardship will come soon as the Buckeyes get bogged down in the adversity that coincides with camp.

“It's something we gotta hammer all year long, I mean there's no way to really build that in terms of the length of the season. But I think we can talk about it in the second half of practice, the middle of camp, the end of camp when the newness has worn off,” Day said. “It certainly was up on the slide last night, it's something we're hitting. But today, everyone was jacked up today and flying around.

“That's gonna be coming up real soon, though, is that middle of practice and the end of practice. You got to really play some of your best football. And then as we get into camp too, it's the same thing. That third, fourth day in a row of pads when it gets hard, where are you? That'll be part of it.”

Hopes are high for what the Buckeyes can accomplish in the season to come, and they’ll have 24 more preseason practices to lay the groundwork for those potential achievements.

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