EAST LIVERPOOL - The Ohio players and coaches will experience something new this evening once practice gets underway.
The Buckeyes will be joined at the East Liverpool practice field by the participants of the Football Officials Academy which is also currently being held at East Liverpool. Today will be the fourth day of practice for the Ohio squad as the continue to make preparations for the 33rd Annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic to be held at 7:30 p.m. June 29 at Springfield High School in New Middletown.
Today will be the Buckeyes first day in full pads with full contact.
The Ohio team did some hitting Wednesday following all of the Media Day festivities. Wednesday, the Keystoners' practice consisted of stretching, conditioning, some 1-on-1 drills and some basic plays from scrimmage.
Practice is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. this evening, and the participants of the officiating academy will be there to take part in the action.
"They are ready to go," East Liverpool Assistant Principal Jay Kiger said. "They are excited. They got a little taste down on the field last week with our junior high and high school teams. Of course, there was no contact. It was just the offense and the defense walking through sets and things like that. Tomorrow will be the Ohio squad's first night to hit. It is their first chance to hit. It is going to be a baptism by fire."
Having officials on the field at practice will be a new thing for the players and the coaches.
"We haven't done this before," Ohio head coach Andrew Connor said. "It just kind of happened. It fell right into it, so I am happy about it."
The participants are expected to play a key role at the practice.
"It's going to be just whatever they want to do," Connor said. "They can come down and officiate the 1-on-1s to see if there is a holding call. They can come down and officiate the scrimmage when we scrimmage tomorrow. It will be kind of cool to have officials here to do it."
Today will be the third session of the officiating academy.
"We are going to do what we normally do," Kiger said. "We are going to bring them in at 5:30 p.m. We are going to feed them. Then, we are going to have a short 15 to 20 minute rule session.
"When we get down to the field, first we are going to have the Columbiana County officials who are helping with us, they are going to work first. They are going to work it just as they would a regular game so the young officials can see how do it. The Columbiana County officials will probably work their first five to 10 plays, and then we will start rotating the young kids in so they can get a taste of what it is like."
Kiger said Connor has been very supportive of the officials taking part in his team's practice.
"Coach Connor has been great," he said. "He has given us full access to his practice. We will work with them when they are breaking down and doing certain drills. He has been very gracious to allow us to invade his practice."