National Signing day at Ohio State had a very much new-era feel to it this year. Just like the old days, everybody kept track of the letters of intent as they came in, but this year there were nine – count ’em nine – members of the recruiting class who enrolled early as Buckeyes a month ago.
The early enrollees included linebacker Baron Browning, running back J.K. Dobbins, quarterback Tate Martell, offensive lineman Josh Myers, defensive back Jeffery Okudah, safety Isaiah Pryor, cornerback Shaun Wade, receiver Brendon White and defensive back Marcus Williamson.
The advantages of early enrollment are obvious. Most of them boil down to learning the ropes of college in general and the OSU football program in specific. The enrollees can acclimate to college-level academics, being away from home, and of course get to know their teammates and experience their first exposure to how a college football program operates and what the expectations are.
As far as football goes, players certainly see the playbook, but there is almost no actual football that takes place at this time of year. It’s basically meetings and conditioning, something they all did in high school, but to a man, the enrollees admitted to a bit of culture shock when it comes to the conditioning program. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that things are bit different at Ohio State. It took only as long as the first warm-up session.
“The first day we didn’t even know that was a warm up. We thought we were doing the workout, and they said ‘We’re almost done with the warm up,’ and we were just looking at each other,” said Baron Browning.
Browning was not alone in his surprise at the intensity of the warm-up session.
“I’m not used to doing a 40-minute warm up before we actually start the real workout,” said Jeffrey Okudah.
“Some of us are trying to figure out when the warm up stops and the workout starts.
“I still haven’t distinguished that yet. It’s intense. I think it might be a workout but they call it a warm up, so I’m still trying to figure out everything.”
Now that the initial shock is over, the newest Buckeyes are warming to the routine.
“They’re pretty hard but I can get through it,” said J.K. Dobbins.
“The warm-ups when I first got here were the hardest thing. It was the most difficult thing.”
“Every day has been hard,” said Browning.
“I just had to embrace it. In high school we might have one or two hard workouts then we might have a day where you could just lollygag and get through. Every workout has been hard and you really have to take it one day at a time.”
They’re all getting the hang of it, but those warm ups definitely made a lasting impression.
“Once I found out that was a warm up I knew I couldn’t get my hopes up,” said Browning.
“I just had to try to make it through. The ice tub became my best friend after that.”