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Ohio State’s Friday night kickoff clashing with high school football games

With the Buckeyes kicking off at 8:30 p.m., high school football coaches are worried their attendance will drop

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“We all know and appreciate that Friday nights are sacred for high school football. When this plan was announced a few years ago to play some Big Ten games on Friday, we strongly voiced our displeasure with it, and there’s no need to harp on it now. I get the reasons: It’s all financially oriented and about the television revenue.

- OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass, via Steve Blackledge, Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State playing Northwestern on a Friday night has sparked quite a bit of conversation—most of which has been negative. Buckeye fans are set and stone on their tradition (lookin’ at you, anti-black-uniform folks) and anything that threatens that is a no-no. Those of us who cover the team are annoyed because deadlines are moved up. However, the group that arguably has the best reason to be upset are the coaches, players, parents, etc. of high school football.

Ohio State’s game against the unranked Wildcats kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network— right smack in the middle of most high school football games which typically kick off at 7 p.m.

Some high schools rescheduled their games to Thursday or Saturday.

“We went ahead and moved our game not long after the Ohio State game was announced,” Westerville North athletic director Wes Elifritz told Blackledge. “This is a sister-school game and literally our biggest game of the year. We didn’t want our fans to have to make that decision whether to go to our game or watch Ohio State on TV.”

Others are sticking to their regular start times, confident that their fan base will show up and support their program.

“People love Davidson football,” Hilliard Davidson athletic director Nathan Bobek said. “If you’re invested in our football team, you’ll be there.”

And some schools are sending a message by asking their fans to boycott the Ohio State game all together.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he hasn’t “heard one word” from high schools since the schedule was announced.

“It’s something people have understood is happening and (there’s) not a lot we can do about it,” Smith said. “We’re into the contract now, and it’s not like we’re going to go back and change it.”

Smith said he initially didn’t agree with the idea of the Buckeyes playing on Friday nights. However, he and the other 13 members of the Big Ten unanimously approved of the change to help Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany negotiate a six-year television contract.’s happening. Ohio State is playing on a Friday night for the first time since 1959. I think Snodgrass said it best.

“There’s also something called a DVR. And I’m sure an awful lot of people will follow along on their phones. Life will go on.”

“Ohio State’s current crop of commitments has a number of the country’s best players, but it’s a group of young men with offers from Stanford, Notre Dame, Northwestern and schools of that ilk. That’s the competition now for the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail. The commitment to winning on the field hasn’t changed, but it has opened doors that many believed Ohio State wasn’t willing or wanting to walk through in the past.

- Jeremy Birmingham, Lettermen Row

Is it true? Has Ohio State finally shaken its “football factory” label? According to Birmingham, Ohio State is making more of an effort to recruit guys who “play school” as well as they play ball. (I’m sorry, Cardale. I want that quote to die as much as you do).

The Buckeyes currently have the Big Ten’s second-best Academic Progress Rate behind Northwestern.

“All the different things and majors and different areas that guys can come in and do a great job in competing at the highest level (on the field), but also then competing at the highest level in the classroom,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “That really has opened up a lot of doors for us and a lot of opportunities for recruiting different people.”

Those “different people” Day speaks of include 6-foot-4, 300-pound All-American Harry Miller—former valedictorian at Buford High School in Georgia who enrolled at Ohio State in June, 2020 commitment Luke Wypler— who could have gone to any school in the country, and 5-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson who also had offers from Stanford and Notre Dame.

Former head coach Urban Meyer made sure Miller met some of the top doctors and engineers from Ohio State’s medical and engineering facilities, since he couldn’t decide between the two programs, Miller told Lettermen Row.

“That showed me the care, the attention and it showed me the true care for academics that Ohio State has,” he said.

Day said now that they’ve opened their recruitment to everyone, they’re not only competing with schools like Alabama and Clemson, but also some of the top academic schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, and Northwestern for the best student-athletes.

While Ohio State’s football factory is still up and running, they’re on the path to becoming one of the best academic programs in the Big Ten, as well. You might be thinking, can’t we at least let Northwestern have their No. 1 academics ranking? The answer is no.

“But he’s a kid. He’s 17, 18 years old, and you can’t forget that. But when you put them in our culture, you tell them what you expect and you train them — you train him hard, but you can’t train him any differently than any other athlete. It’s just the results on a guy like that, they happen a little quicker. The ceiling is so much higher than other guys.”

- Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti, via Austin Ward, Lettermen Row

Preparing Chase Young for greatness was not a difficult task. As you can imagine, the Ohio State junior defensive end has shown potential since day one.

However, even Young had improvements to make, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson rattled off everything he wanted him to fix before he took a snap at Ohio State.

“Loved his get off,” Johnson recounted to Ward while watching Young’s high-school clips. “But I have to fix his stance, his back leg is not crossing the line of scrimmage. Pushing on his front foot and not gaining ground. Have to get the first step across the line of scrimmage to gain ground faster for pass rush and run fits. Pass-rush techniques, hands are down. He would call me and I would say: ‘Your knee is way down on the ground, you have no power.’”

Otherwise, Johnson and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff knew what Young was capable of. The only thing to be determined was whether or not he had the work ethic it took to reach his full potential.

With the help of Marotti and the D-linemen who came before him, Young didn’t really have a choice. Watching film of Nick and Joey Bosa has helped Young study, learn, and compare his style of play to theirs.

“Nick, he used to push me naturally,” Young said. “I used to study Nick, even when he was here. He used to push me in workouts. I would be on his heels every day, trying to beat him at anything. If I beat him at anything, I’m like, ‘Whew, I just did that.’

Now, he’s in the NFL, had a good game, NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Now he just set the bar even higher. Now I know going into Northwestern next week, I’ve got to get two (sacks), I’ve got to get three. It just keeps going and going and going.”

Young could have gone to the NFL last year, but decided he still had a lot left to give as a Buckeye. He wasn’t wrong. He’s currently on pace to become the best D-lineman in Ohio State history—which is saying a lot— as he enters the second half of the season with 8.5 sacks already.

So, let us just appreciate the work Johnson did to get Young to Ohio State, the improvements he’s made since, the last several games we have with him, and the fact that he ever so humbly said he’s going to get two sacks against Northwestern. I don’t think there will be an upright purple quarterback until the end of the fourth quarter.

Speaking of which, anyone want Chase Young staring you down like prey every time you check your phone? Because I do.

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