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Student Appreciation Day more than ‘just a practice’ for Ohio State football

Tim Kubick / For The Lantern

In Ohio State football’s second annual Student Appreciation Day, coach Urban Meyer’s squad held an open practice that saw a student kick a field goal and Brutus Buckeye, perhaps unexpectedly, get leveled.
For its 11th spring practice of the season, OSU opened its doors Saturday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to about 2,500 OSU students and their families.
Students were able to watch from the sidelines as the team scrimmaged for about two hours, then formed a circle surrounding the players during the team’s end-of-practice field goal kicking drills. Multiple female kickers also received the opportunity to attempt a field goal during drills.
Following the practice, students had the opportunity to mingle, take pictures and receive autographs from players and coaches from the OSU football team. There was also a live post-practice performance from FBA, a Columbus-based rap group, for which multiple OSU players went up on stage to join the fun.
Sarah Stapleton, a fourth-year in special education, said she enjoyed the experience although she did not have a great view early in the practice.
“It was fun,” Stapleton said. “At first we couldn’t really see a whole lot, but once we got moving around a little bit, we got to see.”
Stapleton said she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for closer interaction with the team before graduating at the end of the semester.
“This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to Urban Meyer and the football players,” Stapleton said. Yongzhe Zong, a fourth-year in history, said it was “awesome” to get closer to the players and coaches than they would be on a typical game day.
“It’s a good opportunity for students to come around with those players, coaches and be excited for next season already,” Zong said.
As for the players, they said it motivated them to have students there supporting them during today’s practice. “It’s great to have the student body come out and support us,” said senior guard Andrew Norwell. “It wasn’t just a practice today, it was Buckeye pride.”
Senior kicker Drew Basil, who had the experience of kicking field goals with the large group of students surrounding the formation, said he hopes his fellow students feel that the support is reciprocated from the football team.
“It’s awesome that all these students come out here and support us,” Basil said. “We just hope that they know that we’re on their side, too.”
Sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas said having the student support at made practice “more fun.”
“They’re a great part of our success,” Thomas said.

Highlights of the day
The offense and defense scrimmaged against one another for most of the two-hour practice, a scrimmage that appeared no less intense or competitive even with the added festivities surrounding the event.
One of the biggest plays of Saturday’s practice came late, when Thomas extended for a one-handed grab on the left side of the end zone with a cornerback behind him committing defensive pass interference.
Thomas said he expects to make big plays like that throughout the season. “That’s what my coach teaches me, draws it up and I just have to go make a play,” Thomas said.
Another memorable moment from Saturday’s practice came when the Buckeyes decided to have some fun by having team mascot Brutus Buckeye come in to take a snap at quarterback. Brutus ran the ball from out of the shotgun and took off upfield, but his run was ended abruptly when sophomore linebacker David Perkins took him out with a big hit.
Perkins received treatment on the sidelines earlier in the practice, but returned soon after.

Getting healthy for the Spring Game
The Buckeyes have three more practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to Saturday’s LiFESports Spring Game. A few of their key players, however, remain limited due to injuries.
Junior outside linebacker Ryan Shazier was back in an orange jersey Saturday, signifying his status as injured while he continues to recover from a sports hernia. Shazier did not participate much in practice, and said his status is uncertain for the Spring Game.
“I feel like I should be back pretty soon, I’m just taking it slow just trying to get back and get back to 100 percent,” Shazier said. “I don’t know yet (about playing in the Spring Game), I’m just letting the trainers let me know.”
Starting redshirt senior center Corey Linsley was limited in practice due to a foot injury, while redshirt senior running back Jordan Hall remained limited with a hamstring injury.
The Spring Game kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

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