Ohio State Buckeyes: Time to take a break from football after trying season

What’s next for Ohio State football after being blown out by Alabama in the national championship game?

Rest, relaxation, relatives — and most certainly not football workouts.

Ryan Day — along with quarterback Justin Fields and a large group of Ohio State parents — was among those to push hardest for the Big Ten to reconsider a decision to postpone the fall season to winter or spring, but the Ohio State coach looked weary when meeting reporters over a video conference after the Buckeyes lost 52-24 to Alabama on Monday night in Miami.

“We need a break,” Day conceded. “We need to get away.”

The Buckeyes made no secret of their desire to play this fall being fueled by a belief they were a playoff-caliber team.

They proved that by thrashing Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals but ran into a Crimson Tide buzzsaw.

Before figuring out how his team can climb yet higher to contend with coach Nick Saban’s Alabama dynasty in 2021 and beyond, Day said some time off is in order — for everyone.

“Guys are missing their families, and we all just need a break,” he said. “We’ve already started to put together the schedule for the spring, but we all need to get away for a while. This has been a long, long road. Guys miss their families, and they deserve time to be with them.”

Who is available for the next run at the Big Ten title and perhaps more remains to be seen.

Like any year, a handful of underclassmen can decide to enter the NFL Draft or return to school, but in an unusual twist all players have the option of returning after the NCAA declared 2020 a free year of eligibility for all.

Fields did not say what he plans to do, but he has long been expected to go pro as soon as the rules allow (that would be now).

Monday night he spoke about his time at Ohio State, which began two Januarys ago as a transfer from Georgia, in the past tense.

“The last few years have been great,” Fields said. “I’ve made a lot of friendships and made a lot of brothers. We definitely wanted a different outcome, but I’m definitely going to miss everybody.”

Cornerback Shaun Wade said he did not regret coming back despite the Buckeyes falling short of their ultimate goal.

He was noncommittal on whether or not he will enter the NFL Draft, which he briefly decided to do before the season was reinstated in September.

“Oh yeah, definitely it was worth it,” Wade said of playing this season. “I see myself growing as a man and as a team, and all the young guys growing as men, all the things that we went through, the adversity. I’m happy I came back, and I’m just glad we got here.

“I’m upset we didn’t get the win but I’m definitely happy I came back and accomplished some big things with this team. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of everybody.”

Wade, whose father Randy was among the most vocal members of a group of Ohio State parents that started a movement to get the season reinstated, said he wants the 2020 Buckeyes to be remembered for the adversity they faced trying to play in a global pandemic.

“The season was canceled, so everybody was down and we went through a whole September where we just didn’t know and ended up having a season,” Shaun Wade said. “Then we had camp during school and no one has ever done it where you have camp during school, and it’s just crazy how much we just kept staying focused and just kept on fighting every day.”

Even if Wade goes pro as expected, Ohio State should have most of its contributors in the secondary back, and a group of 2020 signees will look to push them during what figures to be a more normal offseason than last.

Fields will be harder to replace, but Day has four-star 2020 signees C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller plus 2021 new arrival Kyle McCord, a five-star from Philadelphia, to choose from.

“I was just telling the young guys that they have a lot more years left, and I was just telling them to remember what this feels like, never let it happen to them again,” Fields said. “Of course they were down. They have time left, so I encouraged them to get back to work as quickly as possible and just remember this feeling of walking off the field with a loss. I just told them to remember the feeling.”

While receiver figures to again be a strength even if Chris Olave goes pro, multiple tight ends and the majority of starters on the offensive line likely will have to be replaced.

Day wasn’t ready to worry about that yet late Monday night.

“We’ll unwind for a little while, have an opportunity to reflect on what the season has been, and then get back into it,” Day said. “But you can’t just go back into work here. You need some time to rest and reflect.”

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