From Helmets to Spring Game, Changes Abound at Ohio State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Things are going to be different.
For the first time in 11 years, the Buckeyes will have a new head coach on the sideline when they open the season against Akron this September.
Things are going to be very different.
Jim Tressel isn’t going anywhere any time soon- at least we don't think so - but Ohio State’s head coach will have to sit and watch as newly-appointed assistant head coach Luke Fickell runs the team for the first five weeks of the season.
“It'll be difficult,” said Fickell, who will serve as the interim head coach while Tressel serves his suspension.
“We have to know whose team it is. It's our team. It's the seniors' team.”
Tressel will continue to operate as commander-in-chief of Ohio State football throughout the spring and into the summer, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be major changes around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
For starters, the Buckeyes will have a whole new look when they take the field at Ohio Stadium for the annual Scarlet and Gray Spring Game on April 23. At Tressel’s request, the team has placed their usual shiny silver helmets with a custom duller gray that mimics the military’s “camouflaged” pattern.
“Our helmets this spring, and this won’t be for the fall, will be letting our United States military know how much we appreciate them,” Tressel said.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting thing, to have our kids proudly wear that.”
The new helmets, which were specially painted in a silver, gray and black camouflage pattern, were on display during the first practice of the spring Thursday, and the Buckeyes will continue to wear them for all 15 practices this spring. They will also feature an American flag decal on the front to honor the service men and women of America.
“It’s been no secret around here we take a lot of pride in United States military. We (learn) a lot of lessons from the United States military. We study them,” Tressel said.
“We invite folks that have been on deployment or folks who are getting ready to go on deployment to spend time at our practices so that our young people have an appreciation.”
The Buckeyes wore alternate Nike “Pro Combat” uniforms for the Michigan game last season that were designed to honor the 1942 Ohio State team, along with the members of that team who served in World War II.
Much like they were for those uniforms, the players were excited to wear the new “camo” helmets this spring.
“One thing I’ve learned about young people is they love to have different things, especially when it comes to what they wear,” Tressel said of his players.
“They were excited. They were “oohing and aahing” when they saw it last night.”
The helmets will also feature a Jesse Owens commemorative decal on the back. The Buckeyes will pay tribute to the 75th anniversary of Owens’ Olympic performance in Berlin during the spring game.
Afterward, all but 25 of the new-look helmets will be repainted in the traditional Buckeye silver. Each of those 25 remaining helmets will be individually numbered, autographed by coach Tressel and then sold, with the sale benefiting the Ohio National Guard Family Readiness and Warrior Support Program, LiFE (Learning in Fitness & Education).
More Than Just Helmets
The new helmets won’t be the only thing that looks different during this year’s spring game. The Buckeyes may also use an entirely new format to make up for the fact they don’t have enough numbers on the offensive line.
“I’m not sure that we could field two teams,” Tressel said.
“We have 10 offensive linemen and we don’t know if any of them have sprained an ankle by the time we get to the spring game. It may have a different format.”
That group includes walk-on Ben St. John and preferred walk-on Ivan Blackman, who transferred from Robert Morris. It also includes senior Mike Adams, who will miss the first five games of the season, and true freshman Tommy Brown, who enrolled early for spring ball.
With the Buckeyes coming up short in offensive line recruiting the last two years, it’s not a surprise to see low numbers up front. It is startling, though, to realize that this team may not be able to field a full two-deep because of it.
Tressel said the Buckeyes are also thin at the wide receiver position, where they lost seniors Dane Sanzenbacher and Taurian Washington, along with sophomore James Jackson, who left the team and is considering running track this spring.
The change in format will likely eliminate the always-amusing spring game draft, but it could actually create a more enjoyable game for the fans.
“Sometimes when you draft up teams there are some mismatches in situations and then the coaches say, ‘You’re only allowed to run these five plays and you can only play these three defenses,’ ” Tressel said after asking the players what they would change about the spring game.
“They’ve never felt like we got the full use out of that practice No. 15. Some of their thoughts were to make it a little more competitive and perhaps have a jersey scrimmage to end the spring.”
The jersey scrimmage is usually the Saturday before the spring game, and is always the most competitive thing the Buckeyes do during the off-season.
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