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What you should know about Ohio High School Football's updated 7-on-7 rules

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The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday that it has expanded offseason 7-on-7 competition for football players and teams.

While off-season training and conditioning sessions have long been permitted in football, this sport has different off-season competition rules than other sports. For this reason, for example, basketball players are allowed to play in AAU and baseball and softball players can participate in summer and fall leagues.

The OHSAA change is effective retroactively to August 1, 2023.

Because this was a change to the organization's general athletic regulations, it was adopted by the OHSAA Board of Directors and was not subject to a vote by members.

What is 7v7 football?

It essentially serves as practice for so-called “skill position players,” including quarterbacks and wide receivers, as well as their defensive counterparts at linebacker, safety and cornerback. The focus is on the passing game and pass defense. Linemen do not participate and there is no tackling.

Flags are removed or opponents are touched to symbolize tackles and stop play.

How do football players and teams use the offseason?

Many players participate in other sports such as basketball, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse and track and field, but when it comes to football-specific work within their program, players were limited to off-season conditioning exercises and 13 days of contact between May 15 and July 31.

Teams could use these days at any time during this window, where contact and equipment other than helmets and cleats are prohibited. Some saved those days for the end of July to get a jump on preseason training, which typically begins Aug. 1.

Many players also participate in college camps individually or with their teams.

Under the new OHSAA rules, a maximum of seven players from the same team will be allowed to participate in the 7-on-7 tournament before May 15, and there will be no limit on the number of events. The limit on the number of team members in a team will be lifted after May 15th.

Participation in 7-on-7 play is not permitted during football's “28-day no-contact period immediately following the season,” the OHSAA said.

Have any Ohio players participated in 7-on-7 competitions?

In February, Shaker Heights safety Trey McNutt, one of the state's prospects, was suspended one game for participating in an out-of-state 7-on-7 tournament, which was against OHSAA rules at the time. McNutt openly welcomed the OHSAA's about-face to allow 7-on-7.

A handful of regional players, including Marion-Franklin's Dawayne Galloway and Pickerington North's Preston Bowman, have announced in recent days that they will compete in national 7-on-7 competitions, as have Bellefontaine and Ohio State quarterback Committed Tavien St. Clair.

The OHSAA announced Friday that no players who participated in previous 7-on-7 competitions will face penalties.

Will there be a 7-on-7 state tournament?

The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association has hosted a 7-on-7 tournament in the summer for several years. Participation is voluntary.

Nate Hillerich, Pickerington North coach and OHSFCA vice president, didn't rule out a different format in the future. Hillerich suggested it could mimic the Texas model, which features qualifying tournaments across the state that culminate in a two-division tournament at Texas A&M each summer.

7v7 segments are now permitted for Showcases held before May 15th.

Why did the OHSAA expand 7-on-7 opportunities instead of approving spring football practice?

According to Tim Stried, director of media relations, the OHSAA has a universal answer to these types of questions.

“It’s the same answer for all of our team sports,” he said. “Individual lessons and small group work are permitted, but no complete team training. Girls' volleyball, for example, cannot be fully trained in the spring. Many fall sports coaches also coach a spring sport, and our goal is to have kids play multiple sports.”

Can an athlete play a spring sport and compete in 7-on-7?

According to Stried, this is up to each school, not the OHSAA. But in short, the answer is yes. This is no different than a kicker playing football in the fall.

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@DispatchPreps