Caila Olson even goes on grocery trips with players to make sure the candy bars and potato chips stay on the shelves. This is point of spring practice where everyone is taught to prepare and recover.
Columbus – These are building block days for Ohio State football players until the pads are put on for the first time Wednesday, and a large part of this time has dealt with how the younger players in particular prepare for and recover from practices.
Kaila Olson is not on the coaching staff, but her role as the team’s sports dietician is important in diverting players from Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s and getting them on real nutrition.
Kale, sprouts and brown rice anyone?
Olson, who played softball at the University of California-Davis, was a dietetic intern with the university before being hired full-time at this position in July 2019.
Coach Ryan Day said it’s imperative that players know how to treat their bodies, which is their vehicle through life.
“How do you do that? You take care of yourself,’’ Day said of being ready to practice and play. “You recover. You take care of your body. You get your sleep. That sounds like an easy thing, but for a lot of guys it’s not.’’
Enter Olson. She has gone so far as to go with players to the grocery store.
“Kaila has been excellent for us,’’ Day said. “She has grabbed on to this role and run with it. She’s a former athlete who, in my opinion, goes above and beyond for the guys. She takes them to the grocery store. She customizes each of their diets if they have to cut weight or put on weight. If they have certain restrictions, whether it’s allergies or things that or things they like in their diets, and teaches them how to cook. She has been over the top and we’re lucky to have her.’’
The Buckeyes took advantage of the late April-like weather to practice outside on Monday.
As far as running plays and the like, the coaches haven’t seen much by design.
“Really, it just comes down to how much effort they are giving,’’ Day said. “After you have the first practice it’s how well do you make the corrections on the field from the day before. If you are making the same mistakes twice, then something’s not right. Really, what it comes down to as you start to move on in practice and start to stack practices – anybody can have energy the first day of practice – is who can continue to bring it every day.’’
In 2020, spring practice was cancelled after three days because of the state-wide quarantine against the spread of COVID-19.
The team is trying to make up for lost time.
“It feels like things are getting back to normal,’’ Day said. “Now, we’re really getting into the meat of it and it’s very important to us. It hurt us. It set us back as a program, and so we desperately need these practices.’’
Quarterbacks JC Stroud, Jack Miller and freshman Kyle McCord won’t be exposed to contact until pre-season practice.
Day said it might be tempting to go live with the quarterbacks “after a bad read or something like that,’’ but that there is too much risk at this time.
Of course, every fan, alum and booster yearns to know how the position battles are shaping up, especially at quarterback, linebacker and the secondary.
Day did say that he expects redshirt freshmen Lejond Cavazos and Ryan Watts and true freshmen Denzel Burke to make great strides at cornerback. He said Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant, Cody Simon, Mitchell Melton, Tommy Eichenberg and Craig Young are vying at linebacker, but did not go into detail.
There are no set first- and second-teamers at any position.
“We’re rolling right now. We’re just rolling guys at different positions,’’ Day said. “We do some different drills, half-line things, seven-on-seven things and even in team work we’re kind of rolling with a bunch of guys. We typically have two teams and the twos and threes get mixed in as we go. We just want to get a lot of guys reps. We talk about how the spring is about getting guys better individually.’’
MUNFORD IN A PAPER CHASE
Left tackle Thayer Munford, a fifth-year senior, didn’t enter the NFL draft in order to make good on a promise he made to himself and his family when he signed a national letter of intent.
He declined an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, a post-season all-star game that is an important step in the scouting process.
“I love this place,’’ Munford said. “The reason I came back was I had to get my academics together. I’m one semester away from graduating. Another part of it was my mom. She also wants me to graduate with a degree. I can be the first person in my family to graduate from college. That’s a big part of me. Football is good and all, but school is more important for me. I’m the first (in my family) to go to college.’’
Munford has started 33 games and played in 46.
The time frame has him graduating in the fall.
Munford has designs on becoming a football coach and/or athletic director at the high school level. Two years ago, he shadowed the athletic director as his high school, Massillon Washington.
As for spring ball, he was asked how the quarterbacks look.
“What stood out to me is they love to work,’’ he said. “I see them out after every workout just throwing balls to wide receivers. They are just trying to get better and want to compete. When you see that as an offensive lineman, we’re actually more comfortable blocking for them. They make everybody else feel a lot better for the team. Where are we without a quarterback?’’
HARRISON ANSWERS CALL TO LEAD
Coaches were raving about how junior defensive end Zach Harrison of the suburban Columbus high school Olentangy Orange has transformed himself into a leader. His work ethic was high during winter workouts.
Harrison was being compared with Joey and Nick Bosa and Chase Young as a five-star recruit.
“I just made the decision at the end of last season going into this off-season that I am going to give everything I’ve got to this program in every workout, every sprint, every rep, and I think the coaches are seeing the results of that,’’ Harrison said. “That’s the thing for me: I’m not trying to be a leader. I’m trying to be myself. I feel I’ve built a bond with these guys, and they trust me and I trust them. It goes both ways. They know if I am doing something I’m not supposed to do (on the field) that they can tell me, ‘Zach, you have to run to the ball, tighten up or whatever.’’’
What helped spur him to raise the compete level was his 2020 season. Playing on a deep line, he played in seven of nine games and had six solo and eight unassisted tackles, two sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble.
“Year 2? To be honest, I didn’t have the year that I wanted, and that’s why I changed my mindset going into the off-season,’’ he said. “Hopefully, this fall you will see the results of this hard work.’’