Strength Staff Pushing Bucks This Offseason

Just when members of the Ohio State football team think summer conditioning workouts are over, they have another thing coming this year. The strength and conditioning staff has added tough exercises to the end of each session in an effort to build mental toughness going into an uncertain season, and the players are happy for the changes.

Surely, members of the Ohio State coaching staff – including new head man Luke Fickell – would like to be spending more time around the Buckeye players this summer than NCAA rules allow.

However, the coaches who are allowed to work with the players – the strength and conditioning staff – are doing their best to get the Buckeyes ready for the 2011 campaign.

One of the most obvious – and new – ways Eric Lichter and his staff are doing so is by adding a new set of grueling finishing workouts to the end of the regular summer lifting sessions.

"There are a couple of new things that our strength staff has instilled in us, mainly adversity things," senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "I'll give you an example – when we're lifting, they'll add a surprise finisher, just to overcome adversity and to get used to the adversity we're about to experience this year."

Both Sweat and fullback Zach Boren pointed to an exercise like the bear crawl – in which a person "crawls" on all fours with knees up in the air while keeping the torso as close to the ground as possible – added to the end of a workout as an example.

The first time the extra exercises were added, Boren said, some heads were definitely turned.

"It was kind of new, but it's going along with that attitude this year," Boren said. "We're all about winning, and we're all about getting the results. In order to get the results and get through those tough games, you have to do some mental toughness now."

While the exercises are physical in nature, they are designed to engage the Buckeyes in a mental way, as Boren points out. And while the ability to function while it is toughest – when the players are fatigued and the game is on the line – is key in any season, the situation in which the Ohio State program finds itself helps make such exercises all the more important.

By now, the story of head coach Jim Tressel's resignation, the departure of Terrelle Pryor and the suspensions of five other players – not to mention the uncertain NCAA fate awaiting the team that could preempt any chances at a postseason run – are well-known distractions as the team gets ready to defend its six straight Big Ten championships and extend its equal streak of 10-win seasons.

The players have all talked about how not much has yet changed in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center under Fickell, but the initial shock of the departures and the eventual acclimatization process under Fickell come fall camp mean the road as smooth as can be.

"It's kind of more mental toughness stuff because there is a lot of mental toughness stuff going on right now in the program," Boren said.

Junior safety Orhian Johnson said the Buckeyes should be equipped to handle the situation because Tressel started preparing the group in December when six players including Pryor were originally suspended.

"We already knew ahead of time going into bowl season the adversity we would possibly get a chance to face," Johnson said. "I think Coach Tressel definitely prepared us for a lot of that stuff. He always prepared us for adversity, so I think we're handling it well."

Boren said conditioning – which is voluntary, according to NCAA rules, and can take place under the coaches for up to eight hours per week – takes place Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of every week. Signs in the WHAC indicate some days include workout groups, while other days are reserved for the whole team with workouts beginning at 6 a.m.

So far, Boren said, there haven't been very many slackers.

"I tell you, right now, the conditioning this year has been the hardest we've ever had since I've been here," he said. "This has been by far the hardest summer we've ever had. It's probably the hardest the whole team has worked since I've been here. It's nice to see that."

Now, appropriately, this story about workout finishers will end with another quote about that very subject.

"It's just stuff to test your mind and test your focus," Johnson said. "You work out and you push yourself to the limit, and then all of a sudden you hear another whistle and it's time for another drill. It's things like that that get you ready so you'll be prepared for the unknown."

Don't worry, you don't have to do a bear crawl now.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories