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This is March: Spring practice has begun

The Buckeyes were back in the Woody on Monday morning

Head coach Ryan Day on the first day of spring practices
via @OhioStateFB on Twitter

Ohio State basketball is hot in the streets right now. After a thrilling victory this Sunday over rival Michigan to sweep the season series, the Buckeyes are up to No. 19 in the AP Poll, and are looking to close the year out strong as they fight for a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. While the hoops squad is certainly in the midst of an exciting run, the football team still managed to dominate the headlines on Monday morning as the team held its first spring practice.

With OSU football back on the practice field, you know what that means! It is officially time to overreact to every little nuance of day one of what always shapes out to be a long and ever-changing offseason. We here at LGHL are here to get you up to speed on all the observations around the Buckeye beat from today’s action.

As college basketball insider Jon Rothstein loves to say, this is March.

Let’s start off with who was out there and who wasn’t. Two of the most notable players not to take the field on day one were running back Marcus Crowley and safety Josh Proctor. Crowley’s absence is an obvious one as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered last season, expected to be healthy by the summertime. Proctor’s injury designation is more surprising, but Ryan Day did not seem overly concerned with any of the injuries in his presser. “Just have a few guys nicked up, but they’ll be back soon,” Day assured.

Monday provided a first look at some of Ohio State’s 2020 early enrollees, and almost everyone in attendance seemed impressed by their showing. Both Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba received praise across the board, with Smith-Njigba specifically turning heads on day one. The Buckeye offensive line looks to be in good hands as well, as Josh Myers lined up next to a rotation of Harry Miller and Matthew Jones at left guard.

OSU will also have a spirited battle for its backup QB job between early enrollees CJ Stroud and Jack Miller as well as grad transfer Gunnar Hoak, with Stroud making a great first impression.

In addition to left guard, there will be a competition at right tackle between two very competent guys in freshman Paris Johnson Jr. and redshirt sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere. Despite being a first-year guy, Day did not hesitate to say that Johnson will start if he is indeed the best player at the position. Sevyn Banks also reportedly had a great day rocking his new apropos No. 7, coming away with a pair of interceptions.

In the ongoing quest to finally find a way to utilize the skillset of Demario McCall, Ohio State is experimenting with using him as a slot receiver. Day did not rule out moving McCall back to running back if need be, especially with the position at bit thin at the moment without Crowley. McCall was also seen returning punts alongside Garrett Wilson and freshman receiver Mookie Cooper. Wilson also received reps in the slot.

In addition to discussing his plans for the spring, Ryan Day spoke to the media for the first time since receiving his contract extension. On Thursday, the board of trustees approved a five-year contract for the Ohio State head coach, paying him over $5.7 million annually through the 2023 season. Day will receive $6.5 million total in 2021 and $7.6 million in 2022, while the compensation for the 2023-26 seasons will be determined at a later date.

When asked what this raise means to him on Monday, Day explained that it was big for he and his family, especially knowing his kids won't have to change schools again anytime in the near future.

“The number one thing that we’re the most excited about as a family is we get to be in Columbus again for hopefully the next seven to 10 years, hopefully 20 years. We want to be here as long as we can,” Day said. He went on to say that he was more exciting about the years than by the money aspect, reiterating he and his family’s love for the city of Columbus.

We’d be remiss to not at least mention the terrific run Ohio State’s basketball team has been on of late. If you throw out the entire month of January, the Buckeyes would likely be one of the best teams in the country right now. Unfortunately, that month did in fact happen, and as well as OSU has played recently, they are still fighting their way back from that dreadful period of time.

That 2-6 start to Big Ten play included a stretch of losing five of six conference games, including bad home losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, when the calendar flipped to February, Ohio State flipped the switch. After defeating bottom-dwelling Northwestern to end January, the Buckeyes would win seven of their nine games in February, including a sweep of a home-and-home against Michigan and a big win over No. 7 Maryland. The team did have their slip-ups against Wisconsin and Iowa, but overall they looked much more like the group that began the year 11-1.

What has been most impressive during their current three-game winning streak is that they have done it all without Kyle Young and D.J. Carton. Young injured his ankle after playing just 10 minutes in the team’s win over the Terrapins, and has missed the previous two games. Carton took a leave of absence from the team on Jan. 30 to focus on mental health issues, and while he has resumed classes at Ohio State, still does not appear close to a return this season.

The Buckeyes will hopefully at least get Young back before the start of the Big Ten Tournament, but nothing is certain as of right now. Ohio State only played seven guys in its win over the Wolverines on Sunday (six if you don't count Justin Ahrens’ eight minutes), but will need to get closer to full strength if it wants to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. If this team is healthy and playing its best basketball, they have a serious chance to make a deep run in the tourney.

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