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Ohio State to take break before looking at 2021

Ryan Day looked tired after Ohio State’s 52-24 loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night.

What coach doesn’t look a little tired after a loss is probably a valid question. This seemed like something different, though. Not many coaches actually talk about being tired at the end of a season in a press conference. But nobody has gone through a season quite like the one college football had in 2020, either.

“We need a break. We need to get away,” Day said on Monday night. “The guys are missing their families and we all just need a break.

“We’ve already started to put together the schedule for the spring, but we all need to get away for a while. This has been a long, long road. We’ll unwind for a little while, have an opportunity to reflect on what the season has been, and then get back into it.

“But you can’t just go back into work here. You need some time to rest and reflect,” he said.

When you consider the amount of time athletes at OSU’s level devote to football and the 12-to-14-hour days their coaches put in regularly, their definition of a break and some time away might be different than yours and mine.

They will be back at it in the weight room and offices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center soon, maybe sooner than they think right now, after a break and time to rest and reflect.

The hope is that by the 2021 opener at Minnesota on Sept. 2 football subjects will dominate the conversation about college football instead of COVID-19, positivity rates, contact tracing, quarantining and which games have to be canceled.

That might be wishful thinking when you see the number of people who trust something they read on the Internet more than science. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Ohio State will have a number of football questions to think about when it does return from however long a break it takes.

The first big question will be who is staying and who is leaving. The date for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 18.

There could be as many as seven new starters on offense next season after all the draft decisions are made.

It is a foregone conclusion that quarterback Justin Fields will enter the draft and be selected early. Running back Trey Sermon, wide receiver Chris Olave, offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers are also expected to enter the draft and it’s possible junior tight end Jeremy Ruckert could, too. And left tackle Thayer Munford is a fourth-year senior.

Defensively, on the line, Jonathon Cooper and Haskell Garrett have used up their eligibility and Tommy Togiai is weighing entering the NFL draft. Linebackers Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard all will be gone.

Cornerback Shaun Wade seemed like a lock to declare for the NFL coming into this season and briefly did that when it appeared the Big Ten would not play football in the fall of 2020. He returned but did not have an impressive season, which could hurt his draft grade. OSU’s other defensive backs are expected to return.

The position battle sure to draw the most attention is at quarterback, where three highly rated recruits will be competing to replace Fields, the most dynamic quarterback in Ohio State history.

None of those three players has ever thrown a pass in a college game, though.

C.J. Stroud, a 4-star recruit from California, and Jack Miller, a 4-star recruit from Arizona, enrolled early in 2020 but did not get the usual head start that provides when spring practice was canceled. Kyle McCord, a 5-star recruit from Philadelphia, will enroll early this year.

One of those three will probably be the starter. But with Day’s success with transfers, like Fields and Trey Sermon, maybe you can’t rule out someone else coming in to compete for the job.

The pressure to find answers to all the questions will return soon. But for now, it’s time for a break.

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