Players Say Offseason Work Progressing Nicely

The Ohio State football coaches left the Buckeyes with the task to improve during the offseason, and it appears the team has taken that message to heart. A number of players said Thursday that the late spring and early summer have been filled with players trying to get better.

When the Ohio State football team finished its 15 spring practices with the April 21 spring game in Ohio Stadium, new head coach Urban Meyer left his charges with a very direct task for the summer months.

"We identified our issues," Meyer said as he addressed the media postgame. "We also identified our strengths. I just told them it has to be the best offseason in the history of college football. That has to happen. It starts Monday."

Meyer and his coaches followed that with a series of individual meetings during which a detailed sheet describing the coaching staff's evaluation of each player was handed out. Speaking last week, Meyer put the onus on his quarterbacks, Braxton Miller and Kenneth Guiton, charging them with bringing along the team's flagging passing attack with their offseason leadership.

Thursday afternoon, the players got to respond, and their take was that their efforts during the offseason have lived up to what was asked by the staff.

"Workouts are real intense," defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "They maximize our energy. Every day we go out and we work hard, 100 percent. Everything is really intense with Coach Mick."

While Meyer and the full-time assistants on the staff aren't able to put the team through any paces at this point in the year, the strength and conditioning staff – led by director Mickey Marotti – does have the ability to work directly with the players for most of the offseason.

Marotti and his staff went to work reshaping the team's physiques during the winter, work that was met by rave reviews from coaches and players alike. So far, the coaches seem to like what they've seen in the summer, too.

"The strength coaches have said that we've had a great offseason so far," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "I feel the same way. I think there's been a lot of energy. Guys are coming in and getting extra work by ourselves. The leaders to the team are really starting to step up and make sure everyone is being accountable. There has been a lot of growth in strength and speed, so it's been a great offseason."

When it comes to players going above and beyond, tight end Jacob Stoneburner pointed to the work he's done with Miller and Guiton as an example. The quarterbacks are meeting with receivers five or six times a week, in the words of Stoneburner, to work on improvement in the passing game.

"We're working on routes, timing, everything that we can incorporate on the field," Stoneburner said. "A lot of the routes, we've ran before, so the more reps we get, the better we'll be in fall."

The senior said the sessions don't last that long but allow the Buckeyes – one of the worst passing teams in the country last year with the freshman Miller at the controls for much of the season – to put together a plan to attack defenses come the fall.

"We'll pick a certain thing to do that day and we'll just work on it," Stoneburner said. "We'll watch film together and be like, ‘All right, let's run this route on Cover-2.' We'll rep that five or 10 times and go on to the next route against the same coverage just so we get a feel for the different variations. (Miller is) definitely getting a better feel of it."

Stoneburner said that's a change from the way things were done a year ago when the program was in turmoil.

"We did but we didn't," he said. "We had team seven-on-sevens. They were good, but we weren't doing as much work as we're doing now. If you're not doing it, you feel like you're not working as hard as someone else."

Offensive lineman Corey Linsley said he's seeing that kind of work throughout the team.

"I've talked to all the guys after every (conditioning) group," he said. "We're getting in there lifting, coming out here and doing some position drills. We're working in the sand, we're working in the chutes and punching the bag. It's going great. It really is."

That would be music to the ears of the coaches, who have used their limited contact with the team of late to make sure the team is still putting in the necessary work to compete this year.

"They're just making sure that everybody understands that it's a short summer and we have to make sure that we're ready for the first game and for August," Bennett said. "I think everyone really does understand that because everyone keeps reminding us. When the coaches do get to talk to us, they're making sure we're grounded and we understand that we need to keep working. I don't think anybody has lost sight of that."

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