“It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career, no doubt.”
That’s what Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti said last month about dealing with the separation of his players and the OSU weight room due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resistance bands were sent to the players and workouts were designed based on what the players had access to, which oftentimes wasn’t much.
All of it was done so that when the players were finally allowed to come back to campus, the amount of makeup work would be lessened.
Now with the Buckeyes beginning their return to voluntary on-campus workouts today, Marotti can begin his assessment of what each of his players need.
“Yeah, that’s gonna be the challenging thing,” Marotti said. “First thing we’re going to do is obviously go through all the testing that we have to do in terms of the COVID and all the medical protocols that we have to follow. And once all that stuff is cleared, I would love to get a DEXA scan, which is a measure of lean muscle mass — body fat, if you will.”
As Marotti alluded to, however, before the workouts can begin, each player will undergo testing for COVID-19. They will also receive a medical checkup and be educated about physical distancing, hygiene, and the like.
Once that is done, then the workouts can begin. Almost.
The DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, which can measure bone density, muscle mass, and body fat percentage, will give Marotti a starting point for everyone prior to the start of the workouts.
“That will tell us a lot because that’s like comparing apples to apples, so we can actually compare back to what they were in March before they left for spring break and kind of give us an idea of where they’re at physically,” he said.
“And again, you have to be smart and slowly progress. I think that body fat DEXA scan will tell us a lot. And then we can kind of get them in separate groups. Because you’re gonna have, again, think about 120 guys, you’re gonna have like four or five subgroups.”
Of course, subgroups is part of life for everyone right now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. No more than nine players are allowed in each workout, so even the subgroups will have subgroups.
Marotti’s expectation is that there will be a group of veterans who show up having not missed a beat because they know what it takes to succeed at Ohio State. But there will also be younger players who will be bringing up the rear because they have no idea what it takes. And then you’ll also have players in the middle of the two groups.
Marotti compared it to the “10-80-10” principle that Urban Meyer subscribes to, in which 10% of a team will be leaders, 80% will be followers, and the bottom 10% will be bringing up the rear.
Except his numbers were a bit more optimistic given the circumstances.
“Right now we’re probably in my mind, maybe 30-50-20,” Marotti said. “Thirty percent are just probably in the best shape of their life, and then 50% in good shape, and then you got the 20% that maybe has fallen behind a little bit.”
Wherever those players come in — whether they are the 30, the 50, or the 20, Marotti will have to keep those groups together in order to get the most out of them.
And putting somebody from the bottom 20 percent into the first group of 30 percent wouldn’t be a wise move.
“I think you’re gonna have to train those athletes when they come back differently because they’re going to be in different spots,” he explained.
“You can’t have a program based on the top 30%, and then have everybody else expected to keep up. That’s unsafe. So we’re probably gonna have to slowly progress one group, we’re gonna have to moderately progress another group, and then we can accelerate another group. So yeah, it’s gonna be a little challenging. I think the more time we have the better, but I just think that’s the approach you’ve got to take.”