"I have never spent this much time on practice schedules. I stare at the board for two hours a day. Every practice I’ve probably gone over five, six, seven times to make sure we’re getting everything."
Ohio State’s training camp heading into 2016 could not be more different than that of 2015. With so little experience on both sides of the ball, and so few returning starters, Urban Meyer and his position coaches have the tall task of not only selecting starters at each position, but also of ensuring that they are adequately prepared for the season ahead.
Last year, with the likes of Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott and Darron Lee returning, Meyer’s emphasis in camp was simply to "stay healthy." He was able to focus on problem areas, since the majority of players came in with a thorough knowledge of what they were supposed to be doing in most situations.
Now, however, 46 of 85 scholarship players on the Buckeyes’ roster have never seen the field for Ohio State -- and they will need to be able to be as comfortable in all of the same situations as their predecessors. Practices, then, have become even more critical for Meyer, who has worked tirelessly to ensure that the players are able to get their needed reps in for each contingency. He has prioritized the situations the team is likely to see early in the year -- such as defending against the spread in the Buckeyes’ opener versus Bowling Green -- while delaying some of those less likely to be encountered until later, like power run defense.
To complicate matters, Meyer and his assistants have yet to name many of the 2016 starters, leading Meyer to set a "line of demarcation" to determine who the new starters will be. While the onus lies with the position coaches, who have the most knowledge of individuals in their position groups, Meyer will have final say in each position battle.
"How good do you want to be? Do you want to be OK, or do you want to be great? It’s not like you do what’s required of you. You have to do the extra. It’s been good so far."
Despite high turnover from last season -- having lost a dozen starters on both sides of the ball -- the Ohio State Buckeyes understand just how important their time has been leading up to the start of training camp next week. Strength training behind coach Mickey Marotti has been of particular importance since the team broke from spring practice in April, especially given that less than half of the current scholarship players have ever seen playing time at Ohio State.
Mitchell has been emphasizing the importance of being accountable and continuing to work through the offseason. Quarterback and captain J.T. Barrett echoed this sentiment at Big Ten media days last week, adding that accountability breeds trust on the young team: "If you’re a minute late to a workout, can I trust you to make sure if we’re running a certain pass play to run the right route?"
In Barrett’s mind, though, there is still room for improvement for the squad as they continue to progress towards the 2016 season, but that critical leadership is "spread thin" with so few seniors on the roster. Only center Pat Elflein and punter Cameron Johnston are returning senior starters. While there were a significant number of leaders among all position groups last year, Barrett has extended himself beyond his own position group in preparation for this season, working with all the offensive skill positions, while linebacker Raekwon McMillan has taken over the detense. Still, with so few returners, younger players are getting more reps, and have the opportunity to make an impact heading into the season. True freshman guard Michael Jordan, for example, could wind up starting come September.
"Nov. 26 is the most popular date for in-demand matchups, with that Saturday boasting 5 games in the top 25."
With a median ticket price of $196 per home game, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the second-most expensive team to watch live for the 2016 season after Notre Dame. And the hottest ticket -- versus Michigan Nov. 26 in Columbus -- is the third-most expensive individual game to watch in the country as determined by median ticket price, with a value of $489. Though not factored into the team’s value, the Buckeyes’ road matchup against Oklahoma has a median ticket price of $493, making it the second-most expensive ticket for the 2016 season behind the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama ($524 median price).
Last year, Ohio State’s matchup against Michigan was just the 16th-most expensive ticket, despite it being Jim Harbaugh’s first year at the helm for Michigan, coming in at a median value of $292 per ticket. The Buckeyes’ games against Michigan State, Penn State and the season opener versus Virginia Tech all demanded higher prices than the rivalry game in Ann Arbor.
Here are the top ten most expensive games for 2016, as determined by median ticket price per home game:
- Auburn at Alabama ($524)
- Ohio State at Oklahoma ($493)
- Michigan at Ohio State ($489)
- Oklahoma vs. Texas ($441) *game taking place in Dallas
- LSU at Wisconsin ($399)
- Michigan State at Notre Dame ($395)
- Florida vs. Georgia ($369) *game held in Jacksonville
- Notre Dame at Texas ($368)
- Alabama at LSU ($355)
- (T) Oregon at Nebraska and Penn State at Pittsburgh ($325)