Mickey Marotti has a plan.
"We're going to be doing a lot of things here in the coming weeks that I know (the players) are looking forward to," the team's new assistant athletic director for football sports performance said, drawing a chuckle Thursday from an assembled crowd of media.
"Well, I am," Marotti then added with a bit of a wry smile. "I don't know about them."
The Buckeyes have already got a taste of Marotti's work. The team started offseason workouts this week – doing so earlier than scheduled, a fact that shouldn't come as a surprise given the intense, never-stop work ethic of the new OSU coaching staff.
"We were supposed to start next week but we pushed it up a little bit," Marotti said. "We just get antsy. Time to go. I think the biggest challenge that we have is, I don't want to say time, but I'm ready to get going."
So far, it's safe to say the Buckeyes haven't exactly passed Marotti's first tests with flying colors.
"It's average right now," head coach Urban Meyer said of his team's conditioning. "I don't want to jump over the top but three days into it, you walk around saying, 'That was decent.' The first day, you kind of had a sick feeling to your stomach like, 'What was that I just watched?' So it's getting better."
In a way, though, Marotti said that's to be expected.
"I think they're probably like the rest of the schools that played a bowl game on Jan. 1 that have a lot of young players back," Marotti said. "I think January is a time where you start and develop your team. No matter what year I go through this, in January, to me, they're all the same. They need rehauled, everybody, whether I was in Florida in '08 or here in 2012. We're going to start from scratch and we're going to go on."
Marotti knows of what he speaks. A native of Ambridge, Pa., who has master's degrees from Ohio State and West Virginia, Marotti is in his 26th year in strength and conditioning. He is one of 100 strength trainers to be known as a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach, the highest honor conferred by the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association.
Such honors are why Meyer called Marotti the most important hire he will make at Ohio State, a plaudit that provided a stark reality for Marotti.
"I just think it makes you feel that you have a lot of job responsibility, that you better make sure you do your job," he said. "He's leaning on me for a lot, so I make sure I'll get it done."
To that end, Marotti said the team's offseason work won't really ramp up until the 24th of January. Until that point, the new director of strength and conditioning will ease – and we use that term loosely – the Buckeyes into his program.
"We're just doing a little bit of work capacity stuff out on the field just to see where we're at," he said of the early-morning workouts. "And get them attentive, I guess, is the word. That's a great word – attentive. We're doing attentive training now."
Once February hits and the class of 2012 has been put in the books, the intensity will really step up as the team's coaches come off the road. At that point, mat drills and competitive drills will be the order of the day, Marotti said.
Mat drills – repetitive conditioning drills of intense bursts that may or may not involve a wrestling mat – are often the bane of a football player's existence at any school, while the competitive drills are designed to separate the Ohio State players from others.
This year, the strength staff – which will include Marotti, No. 2 man Rick Court who comes from San Diego State, holdovers Jeff Uhlenhake and Anthony Schlegel, and former Florida assistant Kenny Parker – will have players at each position group compete against one another for top honors. Later, the players will be separated into teams that will compete for bragging rights.
"We'll do agility drills, but instead of just going through bags or going around cones, we'll do it like me against you," Marotti said. "Ready, set, go, and there's a winner and a loser. We're trying to teach them in the game of football and sports, there's a winner and there's a loser. This is how winners feel, this is how losers feel.
"You try to be competitive, and that brings out the best of everybody. It tells you a lot about a player in a competitive situation. They either rise to the top or they don't. It usually correlates from the field to the drills to the weight room to the classroom. They're all the same."