Players In Chicago Ready To Move Forward

The three players representing Ohio State at the Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago are ready to turn the page and get back to the gridiron when fall camp starts next week. In the meantime, though, the players have a lot of talking to do in the Windy City, and questions about football never sounded so good considering the NCAA mess that hit the program is still a hot topic.

The questions at the Big Ten Media Days can get pretty stale after a while.

First, each program's head coach is given 15 minutes at the ballroom lectern to address hundreds of reporters about the state of his team and the league. Then the coach is whisked into the hallway to elaborate on his comments – all while surrounded by up to 50 more writers.

Then the real fun starts. Each coach and three players per team rotate through five stages, spending 15 minutes apiece at each table while answering questions from the local television stations from across Big Ten country. To conclude day one, players and coaches move to the ballroom lobby, where they do live radio spots with stations from across the country while also answering questions from whoever else happens to be nearby.

The topper comes on day two, when starting at 8 a.m. the coaches and players are stationed one per table and are available for a grueling two hours of interviews with local and national writers.

Of course, there are only so many questions that can be asked, so the queries from even the best-intentioned reporters can be a bit stale. Given that each coach and player appears in front of at least seven different groups over two days mean the same questions come up repeatedly.

In normal years, then, questions about quarterback battles, big games on the schedule and depth-chart updates get a little old.

Then again, this is no normal year for the Ohio State football team. Considering the offseason has included the departures of head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as well as the confirmation that the program faces major NCAA violations, questions about football – even those asked a seventh time – are almost music to the ears of the Buckeye players.

"I'm still getting some quarterback questions, but it has been nice to move away from the other questions about everything that went on and to have it a little bit more about the season – going to Nebraska, the Miami game, stuff like that," OSU center Michael Brewster said.

For the most part, the questions asked of the Ohio State players through day one in Chicago were about moving forward. There's the quarterback battle Brewster alluded to, along with the fun factor of going to Nebraska to play the OSU program's first Big Ten battle in Lincoln. More than a few reporters have asked players what they think it'll be like to play for Tressel's replacement, former OSU linebackers coach and defensive lineman Luke Fickell.

But there have also been a few questions about the status of the program in the wake of the scandal, too. That's to be expected considering this is the first chance many in the national media have had to talk to the OSU players since Tressel's May resignation, but players Brewster, safety Orhian Johnson and linebacker Andrew Sweat have been put in the position of having to answer for problems at Ohio State that were not of their own doing.

"I think we're so used to it by now that it is what it is," Brewster said. "We've done a really good job of just blocking it out. We just know we can't let it affect us."

Johnson said the questions are a bit annoying given that the trip to Chicago is supposed to be a reward for the team's best players, but he's taking the attitude that discussing the tough stuff now will at least get such discussions out of the way.

"It's something that we have to talk about it," he said. "We can't stray away from it. But once we get football back, we'll start getting those football questions again, more about what's going on in the season. It just comes with the hat that we wear."

There's a good chance the Buckeye players won't have to answer many more questions about non-football questions in the near future. The Big Ten media event serves as the unofficial kickoff of the actual season, which means gridiron action isn't far away.

The Buckeyes are set to report for camp over the Aug. 6-7 weekend, at which point the focus – both of the players and the Columbus media – will be mostly on football.

That'll be a relief in more ways than one. While most years players might dread the amount of work camp entails, that's not the case for many this time around given what a rocky offseason the players endured.

"I think it's been a long time coming," Sweat said. "We're excited to get to what we love. That's the unifying theme. We all love football, from the coaches to the players to the equipment staff. That's what we love to do, so we're excited."

"It was a great summer," Brewster added. "Everyone is ready. The conditioning test is Sunday, we have a few team workouts, have a few days off, get to camp, and everybody knows what's on the line this year."

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