It is sometimes forgotten that unlike most college students, the summer is not a time off for college football players. Even while still taking classes, the summer is one of the most important times for football players to develop and prepare for their upcoming season.
It is essential for players to be in the weight room and work on their own in the summer if they want to excel in the fall and improve from their spring ball play.
“Making sure that you’re finding those avenues that are going to lead you come August. That you’re able to then press the button and say, ‘Okay, now it’s time to crank it up and be much better than the spring,’” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said when asked this spring what the summer meant for his players.
Sophomore safety Isaiah Pryor, who was in a position battle in the spring and will be again in the fall, knew early on that summer work is a very critical part of the process in continuing his development. He also experienced it as a true freshman in 2017, and used it to help move his way into the two-deep as a rookie.
“[The summer] is pretty important because you don’t want to lose any edge that you have,” Pryor said.
The summer season is the time that will set players apart, having the opportunity to develop from spring workouts until fall camp begins in August. Players will come into fall camp ahead of the game if they continue working in the summer.
But if the players are not working as hard as they should over the summer, the coaches will notice.
“In almost all cases, the guys who have the most successful falls, typically you can circle back and say the leap they made from spring football to fall camp often times is a phenomenal predictor for the success of the football team and them as individuals,” Grinch said. “If the same guy in practice 15 is the same guy practice 1 of fall camp, then you got issues.”
But Grinch is confident that at a place like Ohio State, the player development program is too well run and they spend too much time over the summer making sure that that does not happen.
Part of what the Buckeyes are doing in the summer include team runs and workouts, but a lot of the work being done is mental. Players actually have time during the offseason to study their positions and every intricacy that it involves.
“In the spring it’s more of working out, getting stronger,” Pryor said. “But when we transition more towards the season, you need to make sure you know exactly the coverages, formations, stuff like that. More of the knowledge of the game.”
Pryor’s mindset is precisely how Grinch wants his players to look at the summer, as they aren’t allowed to have practices.
“The one thing you don’t have over the course of the summer, obviously you’re not putting the pads on and not playing the game, so what you have to do is you have to find the means to improve your skill set on the physical side of things, the athletic side of things and the mental side of things,” Grinch said.
Working over the summer is also important in order to remain competitive for the players who aren’t penciled in on the depth chart as starters. The players know that everyone should be working in the summer, and for those still competing for spots, their summer improvement could be the difference between winning and losing a position battle.
Although it is an individual effort, choices made and work done over the summer greatly affect the success of the team. The Buckeyes’ approach toward getting better over the summer isn’t unique, which is also why it is so important.
And the players who work the hardest will generally be rewarded for it.
“Especially compared to other players,” Pryor said. “Players will continue getting better over the summer and you want to make sure you stay on top of your game.”