Despite coronavirus issues, Ohio State football practiced Thursday and still plans to travel to Illinois

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Whatever coronavirus issues Ohio State football is dealing with have not shut down preparations for Saturday’s game at Illinois.

The Buckeyes practiced as scheduled on Thursday, though it was unclear if the structure of that workout had to be altered due to the reported increase in COVID-19 cases within the program. One source told cleveland.com the positive tests, or associated isolation due to contact tracing, are affecting players, coaches and support staff.

Ohio State did publish a series of photos from Thursday’s practice on Twitter. Players showcased as attending practice included quarterback Justin Fields and offensive linemen Josh Myers, Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Another photo showed coach Ryan Day holding the Illibuck trophy that will be at stake in Saturday’s game. A video about the team meal featured starting linebacker Baron Browning. Another video featured starting defensive end Jonathon Cooper.

Reports first surfaced Thursday evening about an increase in positive tests within the program. Ohio State has not confirmed anything, other than Thursday’s practice occurring and Friday’s travel plans remaining intact.

Ohio State typically releases a status report on Friday mornings at approximately 10 a.m. That report does not differentiate between injury, illness or disciplinary absences. Due to the daily COVID-19 testing throughout the Big Ten, that report has also been more fluid than usual because new absences could pop up after the report comes out.

In other words, what the team releases Friday, if anything, may be a best-case scenario regarding its roster for Saturday’s game.

Any players who tested positive will be unable to play in any of the final three regular-season games, per the Big Ten’s policy mandating 21 days out of competition. After the Illinois game, Ohio State is scheduled to play at Michigan State on Dec. 5 and at home against Michigan on Dec. 12. The Big Ten championship game follows on Dec. 19.

It is also important to remember that, depending on testing thresholds, Ohio State could reach a point where whether it plays or practices is out of its control.

Per Big Ten protocols, teams experiencing cases among more than 5% of team members and more than 7.5% of the program “population” — a combination of players, coaches, managers, trainers and other staff — must halt operations. Any canceled games cannot be made up. Ohio State already missed one game due to Maryland’s outbreak.

Positive tests in the 2.5-5% range for a team and 3.5-7.5% for the population mean a program must alter its practice and meeting schedule and “consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition.”

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