Spring Practice: A Time of Great Excitement
Guest Column by Jon Thoma
(Editor’s Note: Jon Thoma was a punter for the Buckeyes from 2005-09. A product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Louisville, Ohio, Thoma was a swimmer, track star and baseball player, along with the Division III player of the year in soccer, before joining the football team his senior year. He accepted an offer to be a preferred walk-on at Ohio State under Jim Tressel and served as the Buckeyes’ holder in 2007 and ’08 before taking over for A.J. Trapasso as the team’s punter in 2009. Thoma averaged over 37 yards per punt his senior year, pinning 23 kicks inside the 20 yard line and booming five of them over 50 yards.)
Photo by Dan Harker
Recently, I was asked to provide a glimpse into the mindset of players heading into spring practice. As I started to think about it, I never imagined how difficult a proposition this was. There are so many different views and emotions from the different players going into the first practices of the year, but it is a time of great excitement for all.
The number one most exciting aspect was that we are playing football again. Especially in years coming off of a bowl loss, getting out on the field feels amazing. Additionally, we are no longer in the grueling process of winter conditioning. We are getting better at football, and as Kenny Powers said, we were no longer trying to be the best at exercising.
I bring up the different mindsets because, depending on your role on the team, spring could mean completely different things. To returning starters, spring is a time to improve technique, build off of past successes, and stay healthy. Conversely, for back-ups and walk-ons, spring football is the time to prove yourself, go balls to the wall, and prove why you deserve more playing time.
The general excitement level of the team is always high, but the goal of each individual certainly differs greatly from one player to the next. This can be seen in every practice throughout the spring and culminates in the Spring Game.
Although the spring typically brings better weather to Ohio, springtime is hell for kickers and punters. With the changing weather typically came blustery and gusty winds. Specialists complain about wind more than, well, pretty much anything. It is the only force, other than ourselves, that can prevent a favorable outcome. (Also, the linemen can miss an assignment, but complaining to them would prove very detrimental to our physical shape and/or ruin any chance of us ever fitting in with the real football players.)
The struggle to find our rhythm while fighting Mother Nature can lead to a very frustrating spring for the guys who kick the ball, so take it easy on them Buckeye Nation!
Perhaps most importantly, spring practice is the first time that this version of The Ohio State Buckeyes will be a team. Gone are the past leaders, both on the team and off, and new leaders must take charge and assume their leadership roles.
This year, that transition will be an exponentially bigger challenge. With the new coaching staff, there will be a huge onus placed on learning - both learning the new systems, as well as learning the coaches and players - will be an exciting and complicated conversion.
Though it may seem daunting, the experience and past successes of the new staff will aid the process greatly. With a young team returning, Urban and company should have no problem getting the team to adjust on the fly.
Through it all, spring football is a time of endless possibilities for everyone involved with the team. The Buckeyes start with a clean slate, and nothing can bring the lofty dreams and goals of the collective unit back down to earth.
After all, in the only game of this brief season, even when the Buckeyes lose, the Buckeyes win! Buckeye Nation is extremely excited to see the new crop of Silver Bullets, and to who will step up to be the next household name. Keep those expectations high fans; the boys out on the field wouldn’t have it any other way.
To those whom much has been given, much is expected. There is no doubt that Coach Meyer will have success. None. Zero. Zilch. These are great days to be Buckeyes, and for a few weeks in the spring, no other team matters.
No team other than the Buckeyes on the hard court that is. Beat Kansas.