Director of football performance Eric Lichter, to whom head coach Jim Tressel ceded the field for interviews when the activities were over, said he looks for the players to exhibit toughness, determination and character during the agility and conditioning drills.
"It's tough. You're going through physical exertion beyond what's normal, and we just want to see guys compete in every single drill, not quit and give their best effort," Lichter said.
He looks at the week of 6 a.m. workouts as a cap on the organized winter training period that started in late January after a three-week discretionary period in which the players work out on their own.
Team testing was last week, and many players showed progress.
"We had a lot of improved performances on vertical jump, broad jump, three-rep max and bench and those types of things," Lichter said. "Those are really individual goals and this is more of the team coming together and working on toughness and building that bond that gets you through tough times."
He has liked what he has seen from a ton of guys in the weight room, but the five freshmen who enrolled early - quarterback Braxton Miller, defensive lineman Joel Hale, linebacker Ryan Shazier, tight end Jeff Heuerman and defensive back Jeremy Cash - have particularly stood out.
"I'm really, really impressed with those guys, especially considering they're really only seniors in high school and they're up here competing and hanging with our veterans," Lichter said.
Still recovering from surgery on his right foot, quarterback Terrelle Pryor was part of the group working out on the side. That group also included defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and Melvin Fellows and safety Corey Brown for the entirety of the workout. Safety Zach Domicone and linebacker Andrew Sweat also worked with them for part of the morning but did some other drills with their position groups.
"Terrelle is a tremendously hard worker," Lichter said. "He's in the weight room all the time. I want to close the thing at 8 at night and he wants to come back. I'm sure he's eager to be out there with his team, but he's doing a good job over here leading the injured guys and making sure the expectations are high there."
C.J. Barnett and Tyler Moeller, two safeties who had season-ending knee and chest surgeries, respectively, both worked out fully with their group and did not look limited in the agility and conditioning drills.
Lichter said the staff is being conservative with Moeller's upper body lifting as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle but that the senior can do all lower body activities.
Lichter called the winter workout period a time to get stronger and said with a young group such as this one he stresses accountability.
"It means doing all the little things right - not being late for workouts, going to class, not missing tutoring sessions, finishing every workout, dressing the right way in the weight room, treating the nutrition room the right way," Lichter said. "At this level, everyone is competing hard. No one wants to lose their job to the next guy so getting guys to train hard is not hard. When they show up, they're ready to go. What's hard is being able to focus on today not next season. Do everything right today. That's the tough challenge, to be honest with you."
He was happy to have Cameron Heyward going through the drills with the team as the All-Big Ten defensive lineman works on recovering from elbow surgery and preparing for the NFL draft.
"He's part of what I consider to be the best senior class we've had here in terms of wins and doing everything right," Lichter said. "Cam will be a great leader and someone to look to how you do things, how you conduct yourself. Cam will be in the locker room and just saying the right things and doing the right things. He's mature, and it's great having those guys around."
Lichter looks for the class of rising seniors, including Pryor, center Michael Brewster, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey to step up and lead the group.
"That's what Coach Tressel's program is built on - it's built on your seniors. Those guys have gone through their fourth and fifth year. Certain guys take shorter or longer to figure it out but everybody figures it out. Our guys are prepared for life when they leave here. They're good football players, no doubt, but it's a senior-based program and it's time for our seniors to take a leadership role and set the pace of the team."