COLUMBUS: After grinding for 10 consecutive weeks, Ohio State doesn’t have a football game Saturday.
It would be a mistake, however, to call it a week off.
The Buckeyes practiced Thursday, as they did Tuesday and Wednesday. The intensity befits a typical week.
“Coach Warinner is coaching us like we’re playing the Super Bowl on Saturday,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said of offensive line coach Ed Warinner. “They don’t let up.”
But at least the weekend will be theirs for the first time since summer. Quarterback Braxton Miller plans to visit his family in Huber Heights. Running back Carlos Hyde will go to Cincinnati to see his mother.
The Buckeyes, tied for fifth in the Associated Press poll, are on a roll. As a result, they have mixed feelings about interrupting their season. But their bodies are telling them to cherish the respite.
“It’s good to get a break,” Hyde said. “We went 10 straight weeks without a break. So to have a break late in the season is definitely good. We get some guys back from injuries, so it’s good.”
The most notable is linebacker Etienne Sabino, who has missed a month because of a fractured leg. Other Buckeyes are taking time to nurse the inevitable wounds that accompany a season.
“It’s about freshness in your legs and body, getting all the bruises out,” Miller said.
Compounding the toll on their bodies has been a longer academic calendar. This is Ohio State’s first year in the semester system. When the Buckeyes’ academic calendar was divided into quarters, their classes didn’t start until late September. Now it’s a month earlier, so players have been working in the classroom longer than they’re used to.
“Academics are big for us,” receiver Corey Brown said. “We know we have to strive in school before we can do anything on the field. We take academics as seriously as football.”
The football work this week has been mostly on honing fundamentals, with an eye toward next week’s game against Wisconsin. Asked if the Buckeyes have done any work in preparation for the season finale against Michigan, coach Urban Meyer said they had not.
As for Meyer, he will take Saturday off to visit his daughter, Nicki, a senior volleyball player at Georgia Tech.
“My daughter’s got her Senior Day at Georgia Tech, so I’m going to watch her play,” Meyer said. “It’s unbelievable. Her career is winding down.”
Meanwhile, Meyer’s assistants will hit the road recruiting, as they did earlier this week. Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel left Wednesday. Others went Thursday. The practice Thursday was being run by Meyer and the four co-coordinators on the staff.
Based on their enthusiastic posts on Twitter, Buckeyes assistants seem to be reveling at being able to sell Ohio State. Meyer said recruits have been quite receptive.
“It’s all positive,” he said. “They kind of like the style [of play]. Kids nowadays want to see points. They also know there’s an opportunity here for them. We have some holes we have to fill, and our numbers are down. It’s going pretty well right now.”
Even if his team is flawed, it is undefeated. The players are binding their wounds and gearing their minds to finish the season the right way.
The team reunites on Sunday, their task clear.