College football is a grind. Twelve-plus weeks of nonstop, hard-hitting action can take its toll on even the most well-conditioned athletes.
So, heading into their first midseason bye week in two years, it is no surprise that Ohio State players are welcoming the time off.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome,” co-captain Dane Sanzenbacher said after OSU’s win Saturday over Minnesota. “From the standpoint of getting your body back a little bit, it’s a grind of a schedule, so whenever you can get a little time off it’s always good.”
With football consuming players’ lives since summer practice, coach Jim Tressel wanted his team to use the break to catch up elsewhere.
“Our guys put a lot of time and effort into football,” he said. “This gives them a week right in the middle of the academic term to have a little bit more time and energy and emotional energy to invest in that.”
On the football side, Tressel said trying to get healthy will be the main emphasis.
The Buckeyes have suffered an abundance of injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball, in their first nine games.
“I feel like we have a lot of guys banged up,” co-captain Brian Rolle said. “So to get this bye week and let guys get healthy and be able to get in the training room and get whatever is wrong with them healed up, it’s going to be tremendous for us.”
The defense might benefit most from the rest. Tressel said he expects to get linebackers Ross Homan and Dorian Bell back after the break.
Injuries aside, the extra time will be helpful on the field, as the Buckeyes find themselves in the thick of a four-team race for the Big Ten championship.
In an attempt to stay sharp for a title run, the Buckeyes will be going back to the basics, Tressel said.
“As you go through a nine-straight-week situation like we just did, you spend so much time trying to learn what the other team is doing,” Tressel said. “Sometimes your own fundamentals can take a backseat just from a time investment standpoint.
“So what we would like to do Wednesday and Thursday is make sure we do a great job of spending time on our fundamentals, not getting so caught up in game planning and have a little more individual periods so we can work on things.”
Between suspect special teams, an inexperienced secondary and sporadic play away from Columbus, there is plenty of room for improvement. And with games against Penn State and Michigan at home, along with a crucial trip to Iowa looming, the Buckeyes hope to address these issues.
“There are some obvious things like kickoff coverage, and you can’t miss field goals,” Tressel said. “There are probably a multitude of things that we’ve got to get better if we want to go into November and have a chance to contend for the conference championship.
“We’ll make great use of this week.”
But the Buckeyes haven’t in the past.
Tressel is 2-4 after a bye week during his OSU tenure.
Although the Buckeyes have outscored their opponents, 101-10, in two games since their disappointment in Wisconsin, the break could halt the team’s momentum.
Defensive tackle John Simon thought otherwise.
“It’s a good week for a bye for us,” Simon said. “We got a big opponent, Penn State, coming up so we have to start working on them right away.”