DURHAM, N.C. – How did it end up that the Ohio State Buckeyes got the opportunity to scrimmage against the defending NCAA-champion Duke Blue Devils last Saturday?
“I put out an email to all the coaches, saying ‘who wants to practice together on January 31st?” Duke head coach John Danowski said.
Ohio State head coach Nick Myers answered the call.
Not only did both teams practice and scrimmage together, but they had a team meal and a special guest speaker to listen to – a member of the Army attending Duke on a fellowship – Colonel Josh Rudd.
“We get two practices, we get to eat together,” Danowski continued.
“We don’t have a preseason camp – we don’t run two-a-days. We don’t get to do any of those things like maybe a Fall sport would do, so this is as close as we can get the guys together a bunch.”
For those wondering what a scrimmage like this did for both teams and their coaches, it was a great opportunity to view as many, if not all, players on their rosters.
Also, since the two teams’ wouldn’t face each other during the regular season, getting a glimpse of one another wasn’t threatening, but potentially helpful, if they were to meet in the postseason.
“A great opportunity – thankful for Coach Danowski and his staff to partner here,” Myers said.
“Anytime you’re the defending national champion, everybody wants to scrimmage you. We have that opportunity to spend some time with our men, but also get a great evaluation. What we did this morning was something a little different. We did a controlled practice together.”
Myers talked a little bit about his team’s physical shape at the time, a week before beginning the season.
“We’re a little more nicked up than I’d like,” he said.
“That’s part of the preseason when you go hard. Nothing that’s season-ending. We’ve got some guys who are gonna’ miss the first couple of games. It’s a next man-up mentality.”
What did the Buckeyes get out of the early part of the experience in participating in an hour-long practice with the Blue Devils?
“We’ve got some young guys who got a lot of experience in that first session,” Myers continued.
“I think for them to just get down here and get the nerves out and get an opportunity to make some plays and teachable moments. Season opens a week from now, so you can build off that experience. Anytime you can put a little adversity, if you will, a little different routine in front of the guys, see how they react. For us to see how we come back tonight will be a challenge for these guys.”
The two teams scrimmaged later that day.
It was that chance for Myers and his staff to assess what his team would look like against a team borne out of a championship and perennial postseason contending program.
“In the preseason, what we’re lookin’ at is, ‘how do we create as close a mold in terms of what we’re gonna’ see to start the year’. On a day like today, you’re on the road, you’ve got the hotel, you’ve got the meals – there’s all the little things that are important.”
Myers also used the experience to allow his on-field leaders to establish the team’s routine for the year.
“If you want to compete for the championship, and you want to have a successful season, you’ve gotta’ do all those things really well in terms of the leadership moments,” he pointed out.
“We just voted on captains Tuesday – those guys are sinkin’ their teeth into the grid. I think four great choices, and I think on your first road trip it’s the chance for them to kind of put their footprint on how they want to lead and how they want to do the little things.”
Myers indicated his approval of choosing to provide the experience to face Duke, one which would hopefully reap big dividends for his team later in the season.
“So far, so good,” he concluded.
“I’m really happy with the start – a great day here today. Knock on wood, both teams wanna’ stay healthy and go home with a lot of film to evaluate.”
After having a week to review the on and off-field road trip experience to Durham, Ohio State travels up to Detroit to face the Titans on Saturday and apply anything and everything that was learned when taking the field with the Blue Devils.