April 14, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Inclement weather forced Ohio State facilities and operations personnel to move Saturday’s student-centered practice indoors, but that didn’t dampen the crowd or the enthusiasm. Approximately 3,100 students and staff showed up for a hard hitting, two-hour practice that was full of ooohs and aaahs and included a live field goal drill with hundreds of fans on the field surrounding the action.
Coach Urban Meyer wanted to bring the students closer to his team, and his team closer to students, and consider that effort a smashing success.
“I see a ton of students here,” Markus Sievers, a senior and All-American swimmer from Hamburg, Germany by way of Martins Ferry, Ohio, said. “It’s always good to be able to see the inside of other programs. I’ve always wanted to see the team’s locker room at Ohio Stadium, and I got to do that.”
Tours at Ohio Stadium, a part of the originally scheduled day, still took place and approximately 2,000 individuals took part in tours of the stadium, locker room and press box areas.
But clearly, having a chance to watch the Buckeyes practice, and then to be able to spend 30 minutes after practice mingling with them and having a huge group photo taken, was the highlight of the day…for the students and the players.
“We feel so much closer to the players now,” senior strategic communications major Raquel Aquado said. “It just seems that now the players are much more approachable.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller said the students were into the action.
“I loved it,” Miller said after practice. “And the students loved it. They were involved. Every time you looked at the crowd their eyes were just focused on the play. And then every time coach asked them to do something, like move up, they did it. It was a lot of fun.”
Field goals over students: Late in the practice the field goal team kicked field goals over the students, who were sitting across the 20 yard line and 10-deep in some places. As the field goal distances got shorter and shorter and the players started backing up into the crowd, Meyer motioned the displaced crowd to gather around and kicker Drew Basil then had about a half dozen attempts with a ring of hundreds of students surrounding him and the other players. He made four of six, with one blocked and another wide right.
Finest moment in football practice history…perhaps? Once Meyer motioned for the students to gather around his field goal teams, every student by this time was ignoring the no camera rule and dozens of cell phones and cameras were raised into the air and judging by the energy and charge in the crowd, the moment will go down as, perhaps, the finest fan-based moment in Ohio State football practice history.
It’s ok to cheer for the defense: With most of the crowds roar ensuing after big plays by the offense, strength and conditioning assistant Anthony Schlegel, a former standout Buckeye linebacker, let the fans know the defense was making plays, too.
“You are allowed to cheer for the defense,” Schlegel said somewhat seriously but with a smile. “It’s ok, you know, to cheer for the defense.”
Biggest cheers of the day were heard after Braxton Miller connected with Devin Smith on a 45-yard touchdown pass; when Bri’onte Dunn took a pitch from Kenny Guiton around left end for a 62-yard score; and when Miller hit Smith for a 25-yard gain down the left sideline. The defense did feel the crowd’s appreciation when Orhian Johnson intercepted a tipped Miller pass.
More notes from a big day on campus: At one point when the crowd started chanting and clapping “UrbanMeyer… UrbanMeyer… UrbanMeyer.” … Think about it: Ohio State had 3,100 fans show up for a practice that had a change-of-venue within an hour of its start. … The crowd didn’t seem to mind watching indoors. Most had never been inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and they were much closer to the players during practice. … Big Johnathan Hankins gets the credit for the blocked field goal attempt. … Former Buckeyes in attendance included Archie Griffin, Jerry Rudzinski, Joey Galloway, Jim Harrell and Dave Adkins. … Receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer met with the media following practice, as did receivers coach Zach Smith and kicker Drew Basil. A notes and quotes from their sessions:
- Spencer said he has a broken bone in his shoulder but that he hopes to be back working out in about two weeks.
- Both Devin Smith and Spencer said they use Coach Meyer’s comments about the need to find a “wow” player at receiver as “motivation.”
- Spencer on the receivers as a group: “I think the receiver group will be dangerous this year.”
- Devin Smith talked about the offensive learning curve: “At first [learning] the new offense was tough. They threw a lot at us, but we’re starting to do fine. We keep working hard every day to try and get better.”
- Devin Smith on his goals this year: “I want to make plays.”
- Zach Smith on pressure: “Pressure is a positive. It brings out the best in our players. Pressure is an extremely positive thing for my group. Everyone knows the pressure is on them. They know. They’ll develop from this.”
- Zach Smith on expectations: “Expectations for the receivers are extremely high. The receiver group needs to make plays. It is expected to make plays. It will happen.”