One week after head coach Ryan Day offered a “State of the Ohio State Football Team” address, strength coach Mickey Marotti met with the media to give his take on what the Buckeyes have done so far in the weight room this winter.
Here are five takeaways:
1. The Buckeye are working out in three groups.
“Right now in January it’s general training,” said Marotti, whose title is assistant athletics director for football sports performance.
“We have the developmental group, which would be like freshmen and sophomore guys that don’t have a whole lot of reps that they’ve played on the field, you have your advanced group, so your Josh Meyers, Wyatt Davis, Jonathan Cooper — guys that have played a lot of ball here so they’ve taken a lot of hits so we got to train them at a different pace — and then you got your new guys which are your 15 mid-years.”
2. The staff is not integrating the freshmen into the rest of the group as quickly as usual.
The “mid-years” are Ohio State’s record 15-man class of early-enrolling freshmen who started class at the beginning of winter semester.
Many are expected to make an impact this season, and Marotti’s staff is handling them a little bit differently than predecessors.
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“We’ve separated them just because it’s such a big group,” he said. “So we’ll separate them all the way until the end of January and then we’ll start integrating with the other guys.
“This year I just thought we gotta keep this group together, because you’re putting 14 or 15 guys right into spring football (in March) so I just want to make sure when it’s time for them to go in there ready to be integrated with the rest of the team.”
3. January, February and March are different in the Ohio State weight room, but there is only one goal.
“The month of February is kind of the month that we hold our hat on,” Marotti said. “That’s when it’s dark and it’s early and it’s hard and it’s adverse and it’s everything that you want out of it. In the month of March, you got spring ball.
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“I call it perpetual development, from the time they walk in that door, from the first day to the time they leave and go to play in the Senior Bowl, it’s perpetual development. You’re trying to get better. Every day you’re in here, every month, every year as you go through.”
4. Yes, the Fiesta Bowl loss is being used as motivation.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 16-0 lead on Clemson on Dec. 28 and led 23-21 in the fourth quarter, but they could not hold off the defending national champions. The Tigers rallied to win 29-23 — a score that is posted in the weight room for all to see.
“It’s real,” Marotti said.
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Will that be as effective as the rug Woody Hayes had made with the score of the 1969 Ohio State-Michigan game 50 years ago? The 1970 Buckeyes avenged a shocking upset loss to the Wolverines with a 20-9 victory in Columbus.
“It can be as effective as you want based on what kind of team you have,” Marotti said. “The good thing is the quarterback’s back, and he’s completely different than he was 365 days ago because of what he did and falling short.”
5. Justin Fields appears to be much more comfortable this winter than last.
A transfer from Georgia, Fields arrived as a former five-star recruit with one year of college football under his belt but no starts.
The Peach State native was far from home and uncomfortable last January, but that is far from the case now for the 2019 Big Ten Offensive Player and Quarterback of the Year.
“Last year when he showed up he was quiet, he was trying to fit in, he was trying to find the nutrition room, he was trying to find his classes, he wasn’t sure about the workout, he didn’t know who his buddies were,” Marotti said.
“It’s cold. Everything. I mean he didn’t know anybody. Now all of a sudden he’s the starting quarterback. He’s earned a reputation of being a hard worker. He knows he’s the leader now. He knows what needs to be done. He has a whole different mindset of the offense and where that needs to go. He knows that he has to do a great job with those young receivers. So to me it’s like completely different.”
Marotti also said Fields is not working out with any physical restrictions after finishing the season with a sprained knee.
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