Justin Hilliard Confident in Season and Leadership Structure at Ohio State

Staff Writer

Doing their part and proceeding as planned.

That is the mentality of the Ohio State football team as the college football season approaches. It seems that will be the recipe for success for not just the Buckeyes, but all FBS teams - if they not only want to have a winning season, but a season at all.

With the announcement that the Big Ten will proceed with a 10-game schedule, the confidence is increasing that college football will kick-off the first week of September.

One of the captains, sixth-year linebacker Justin Hilliard, does not see his final year as a Buckeye being scrapped with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing.

“I am real confident. That is all we are thinking about right now,” said Hilliard.

“As a team, we can’t control obviously the many other things that are going on out there … We are doing our best to social distance, wear masks, wash our hands as much as possible.”

The Buckeyes are slated to start their 2020 campaign on Sept. 3 at Illinois. In order for that to go on as planned, positive tests need to be low or non-existent for both Ohio State and Illinois. Keeping the cases low and guys healthy requires discipline by all the players, as just one positive test can create a potential program outbreak.

Part of how Ohio State will try to keep its team COVID-free is by players monitoring other players, to ensure each one is doing their part. As a captain, that’s where Hilliard’s role reaches prominence.

“It is a totally new transition and responsibility that leaders have to keep track of. I think it is important, especially now, as students start coming back, we can’t have that lifestyle,” he said.

Hilliard is the most veteran player on the team, which means his teammates will rely on his experience on and off the field throughout the season. That includes the young guys, who are entering an entire new world.

“They just got to college and it is going to be tough for them to be locked away,” said Hilliard. “They have to understand — we have to help them understand — we can’t live that same lifestyle as we usually do in order for us to have a safe season.”

In the coming weeks, most students will be moving onto campus, which makes for more of a challenge than perhaps even the Buckeyes' week one opponent. Hilliard recognizes the obstacles that lie ahead.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I am 100% confident that we will be able to adapt to it.”

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