Ohio State football head strength coach Mickey Marotti took part in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. He spent 45 minutes answering questions about the challenges he and his staff have faced in keeping the Buckeyes in shape from a distance. Marotti called the current situation of things the most challenging thing he’s ever had to do in his career. Throughout the call he detailed many of those difficulties, while acknowledging that many have it worse than Ohio State does at the moment. Here are the highlights.
+ It has been a challenge for everybody to not be in day-to-day, face-to-face communication. “It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career, no doubt.”
+ On the challenge: It’s like if you were in charge of people, but you can’t actually be in charge of people. “It’s just so hard.” It’s easy to give a message to a group of 30 players training. Now it’s 30 separate different calls and emails and texts. They are twice as busy as they would be if they were in the Woody.
+ It’s a concern every night when he goes to bed — he’s hoping everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing. The message he gives is that when this thing is over is that you’re either better or worse than when this started. You can’t make excuses. The competitors are working, but are they working harder than you are? Yes, it’s difficult for everybody, but at some point this thing is going to be over, so are you going to be better or worse.
+ There are NCAA guidelines right now that workouts are voluntary. The players can’t be required to do the training. They can’t video things and send it back to them. They have to do things voluntarily. They have implemented a strength and conditioning app that gives workouts based on what the players have on hand. They have also sent out workout bands to players.
+ This roster is well-equipped to handle this situation. They have a lot of guys who have played. It’s a test every day of who we are. It’s a test of the culture and the strength and conditioning. He looks at it as an opportunity for growth. Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner and Tuf Borland are great leaders.
+ The final season of development is crucial for a lot of players and their respective future, so this is a concern. “We have no idea what the season looks like.”
+ Any anxiety from the players regarding their final shot to show the NFL what they can do? Everybody has some anxiety right now because the changes have been massive. The first week or two was family time and it was cool, but now some players are bouncing off the walls. Justin Fields would be walking around in circle facetiming with Marotti and Marotti would have to tell him to relax. They have told the players to find a routine and stay there. As time went on, you could really see the maturity in guys as the routines have set in.
+ On trying to get the most out of his players right now: “It is by far the most difficult endeavor of my coaching career.” He’s never been away from his players for this long. When he sees them on Zoom meetings, he wants to reach out to them, smack them in the back of the head or hug them or just have some interaction with them.
+ There have been numerous meetings regarding the amount of time teams will need to get back on the practice field. There are a number of reports about how much time, but nobody knows for sure. The longer, the better. The longer they have, the safer. If they don’t have that time, his concern is that some teams won’t do it safely.
+ There have been some unique workouts. Matt Jones had some scary stories from Brooklyn. He filled some milk jugs up with dirt and was using those as dumbbells. Jeremy Ruckert and his father built a squat rack out of wood. Players have backpacks with rocks in them. They push cars and lawnmowers. “Whatever they can come up with.”
+ There are five strength coaches checking in on 25 guys each on what they have and what they can do. The hard part for Mick is just reaching out to everybody. Everybody is Facetiming.
+ There are two different workouts that have been “prescribed.” One for those who have access to weights and the other based on the bands they have sent. Players let them know what they have and they tweak the workouts based on that.
+ What is the biggest challenge for the offensive linemen right now? Not all of the linemen had access to loaded weights, but they all do now have something, which is huge. Not that you couldn’t work without the weights, but they need to move mass and weights help that happen.
+ Nutritionist Kaila Olson is probably the busiest person on the staff because every player has their own plan and everybody has their differing availabilities. Players keep Mick up to date on where they are weighing in.
+ Every player was sent 3 bands of differing resistance. 75, 50, and 10-lbs. They have all received exercises regarding the bands that can be done in the house. Nicholas Petit-Frere was doing pullups on the outside of his house and tore the gutters down, so his mom wasn’t too happy about that and they had to find a new plan for him.
+ When everybody does get back to the Woody, they will do a scan of lean muscle mass, which will tell them a lot on where everybody is physically so that they can be smart on how they progress. Players will be in different spots when they return, so you can’t have everybody do the same workouts. “It’s going to be a little challenging. I think the more time we have the better.”
+ He has talked to former interns who are in D-II programs now because they have shorter offseason programs. They are talking about how they do it and how they get it done. A lot of it is putting the accountability on the players over the summer to come back to school in shape. It’s similar to what is going on now at OSU.
+ Marotti played D-II football. Nobody stayed in the summer. You worked a job. You were given a workout program that you did every day. Then when you got back, you were tested. The guys that were most prepared got the first shot on the field because they put in the work and time.
+ He believes this will bring everybody even closer together because they are all apart right now. He’s gotten calls from players and they have made mention that when they do run into other players from other programs, it stands out on how much harder OSU players work, so there’s a sense of pride there. “I really do think that it’s a test of their character when they’re away from their teammates.” You don’t want to let these players down.
+ It is really hard to make physical gains right now as if you were in the weight program at the Woody. Guys can make gains, but it’s hard. From what the players are telling them in a general sense, they believe they are getting stronger. The younger the player, the more of a ceiling they have to improve if they have the right mindset.
+ Marotti hasn’t read a book in 25 years before this, but has read 11 books now on his elliptical machine at his house.
+ Back in the winter, Wyatt Davis gave one of the most inspiring talks to the team he’s ever seen. Marotti was in tears. Other guys were in tears. Davis was just talking about the process of going from highly-touted and not playing, then finally getting playing time and being ready and how he didn’t want to let the team down when he started two games in 2018. It’s been great to see the growth and leadership from both Davis and Myers.