Like most of the other Buckeyes, nose guard Tim Anderson is tired of hearing about the Maurice Clarett saga. But he doesn't think it will have a negative affect on the team, because they've been there before.
"We dealt with a lot of those things last year," Anderson said. "You deal with adversity and you overcome it. We did that last year and I'm confident we will again this year. We've dealt with problems and not just his problems. Other guys on this team have issues too. We've faced adversity from the time we starting winning last year and we'll continue to face adversity whether we're winning or losing. So, I'm confident that we'll continue to deal with it in the best way like we have since it started."
Is it a little shocking that a college player is getting this much national press?
"He's a star," Anderson said. "There's no question about that. He's one of the best tailbacks in the country and he did a lot as a freshman. In my opinion, no, it's not much of a surprise that he's getting all this attention. He's one of the best players in the country and everybody knows it. Everybody knows he plays for us and with that job comes a lot of good and bad."
Anderson, a preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy, says that the offseason went by extremely fast.
"For me, it flew by. It was a real quick offseason. I can't believe we are in camp already. It feels like we just finished the season yesterday. But we got a lot of good work in, guys had a lot of fun with the workouts, so I'm confident."
Anderson does not think that there is still a national championship "glow" around the team.
"We pretty much turned the page right after Jan. 4," he said. "We had a great season last year and we're proud of it and we're proud of everything that we did. But the fact is that this is a new year and there is no national championship for this season. Everyone is 0-0 right now, so we've got to play every game one at a time like we did last year."
The big senior had one specific thing he wanted to improve on this summer.
"First and foremost, my pass rush," Anderson said. "It's lacked a little in the past couple years. It's been good enough to get me by, but I need to do more with that and help produce better for the team. That's obviously one major focus that I had this year. And then just to get better at everything else I do."
How does a player improve his pass rush skills?
"Just work on techniques, which I've been doing throughout the spring and summer," Anderson said. "Just little things: working on your speed, your quickness, your techniques, your hands, that type of thing."
Between the Fiesta Bowl and the spring game, Anderson put on about 15 pounds of muscle. Is he still at the 305-pound mark?
"Yeah, I'm right at 305. I feel comfortable there."
Darrion Scott played mostly at tackle two years ago and mostly at end last year. This year, he will start at tackle and Anderson likes the possibilities.
"I'm pretty excited about Darrion in there," Anderson said. "He's been looking good; he's worked real hard. He couldn't work out in the winter and spring time because he had shoulder surgery, but he came back and worked out real hard and I'm pretty excited to see what he can do and find out what the young guys can do. But I know Darrion is going to step in there and do a good job."
Is it safe to say that Marcus Green is going to be the third D-tackle?
"It's early and it's hard to say right now, I haven't seen the freshman that are coming in," Anderson said. "We've got to see how the other guys have improved. You can't really say right now who is going to be stepping in there, but Marcus is a guy that has worked hard and will be in there fighting for a job."
The D-line was arguably the top unit on the national championship squad. Anderson sees no reason why it can't be even better this year.
"We're hoping we will be," he said. "We have three returning starters from last year and we're hoping to improve and get even better and hopefully be the best unit in the country and try our best to help this team win games."
With losing the guys up the middle on the defense, is there even more pressure on the D-line to perform well this year?
"I don't think so," Anderson said. "We had some great backups last year that are going to fill those starting roles this year. I don't think it adds any pressure. We still have to go out there and every guy has to do his job. You know, if we do our jobs, the linebackers and DBs all do their jobs, we're going to be fine."
There will be five new starters on the defense this year. But thanks to some valuable playing time as reserves last year, Anderson does not anticipate a big adjustment period for them.
"In my opinion, it's not that difficult to go from backup to starter," Anderson said. "A lot of those guys got a good amount of playing time last year. You talk about someone like A.J. Hawk who played quite a bit last year. For him to step into a starting role this year is not going to be a big adjustment. The same way with Will Allen. Those backups played in big games in key situations last year. So, I think stepping into a starting role won't be a big deal for those guys."
With all the negative national attention, it seems that some people are making digs at the Buckeyes any chance they get. But Anderson doesn't take offense when he hears those comments.
"Well, I think it's important to realize that we are getting all this stuff, but it kind of comes with the territory," he said. "If you want to be the best, you are going to be looked at and criticized the most. Any sport you look at, that's the way it is. So, to do the things that we did last year, you have to kind of expect it."
But is it fair when people go searching for negative things, or exaggerate the truth?
"Well, life's not fair, so it doesn't really matter I guess," Anderson said.
We also asked Anderson if the incoming freshmen are at a major disadvantage since they don't get a couple days of practice days by themselves.
"That's hard to say, I really don't know," he said. "We'll find out over the next few days. I think the only bad thing with it is that they'll feel kind of lost. They don't have a basic idea of what we're going to be doing when we get in here. They're going to be kind of following us around the field and that kind of thing. But maybe they'll adjust to it fine and there won't be any problems."
Tight end Ben Hartsock was the next OSU player to be flooded with questions about Clarett. As usual, he had some insightful takes.
"I think Maurice might not be the outgoing, extroverted type of person like an Alex Stepanovich or a Craig Krenzel, somebody who's going to call you to go out and watch a movie at night," Hartsock said. "But whenever we're here at practice, that's kind of when he's in his realm. He may have an unorthodox way of dealing with things, but that's one of the great experiences of playing college football is you see every type of person. I look at different types of people - Maurice included - as a way of learning how to manage and how to co-exist with people and it's something that is an experience that you can use even after football."
Hartsock is not sure if we'll see No. 13 in the Buckeye backfield this season.
"Hopefully he'll be back," he said. "I don't know what the details are, so I don't know if he will. But the little bit I do know, it doesn't sound like they have a whole lot of grounds (to suspend him). I'm not the expert, so he could be gone for good and that's unfortunate, but if he does get back, I think guys - this senior class - genuinely want to learn a little more about him and try and make things run a little bit more smoothly."
Fullback Branden Joe ripped a pectoral muscle working out a couple weeks ago. Hartsock didn't see the injury take place, but explained a little more about it.
"I think it happened when we were doing our lifting test, trying to figure out where our max was at towards the end of the summer," Hartsock said. "I wasn't there. I think Branden was bench-pressing and it's an unbelievable amount of weight he can lift. I think he was lifting it and was repping it off pretty solidly, but something just came loose and he tore his peck and they said it was pretty gross. It kind of curled up into a ball right there on his chest. The only time I've seen that happen was at one of those weight-lift competitions and they're not fun to watch, that's for sure. But now they are saying that it might not have been as bad as they thought, so hopefully we'll get him back early in the season."
With all 11 starters back on offense, there are no limits on how good OSU's offense can be this year.
"Offensively, we've got all the talent we would ever need," Hartsock said. "We've got a stable of receivers that I think anyone would drool over."
(A reporter asked, "Including yourself, right?")
"Well, I wouldn't say that," Hartsock continued. "They always call my the ‘yackle.' In the wideouts, there's the X, Y, Z and the tight end is the Y. But they call me the ‘yackle' instead of the Y because I look more like a tackle.
"I think our offense is so deep, obviously with so many seniors and a veteran O-line. But, you know, our offense struggled last year and we were the same group. Hopefully with another year of experience, we're going to be able to become a little more dominant. Our main focus right now is to become, instead of an offense that doesn't lose games, an offense that goes out and wins games for us."
If Clarett misses all of preseason camp, is Hartsock concerned that Clarett will be extremely far behind when/if he is finally cleared?
"Yes and No," Hartsock said. "He is going to be a little behind as far as timing, as far as the intricacies of our game plans, there's no doubt about that. You can't sit here and say that not being here isn't an impact, because if he didn't need to be here, none of us would be here. So, that's going to be an issue. But, as far as him physically as a football player, I'm sure he's going to be working out on his own while he's not here. He's not silly enough to do something like that, to go home and just be sitting around during this time. He's got to make sure he's ready; he could be called back up in a couple of hours. We all hope that happens, but if it doesn't, we've got to keep going where we're going as a team."
Hartsock wouldn't give a prediction on whether or not Clarett will be back by the opener.
"I don't know enough about it, I really don't," he said. "I hope to find out more about it this evening. We've been gone for a couple days. I really hope to find out some more details. I guess you always hear that NCAA investigations take a long time. Hopefully the university will do their own investigation and do it in a timely fashion so there can be come closure to this, one way or the other."
Ohio State's players, especially veteran guys like Craig Krenzel, Stepanovich, Anderson and Hartsock, seem very good at blocking out distractions. Hartsock agreed.
"Yeah, we've done it before," he said. "Not just with Maurice, but with other instances. With guys getting hurt, with guys getting sick. Our offensive line was patchwork at times last year. We threw in Rob Sims and Nick Mangold into the mix and those guys really flourished in those situations. When you have as many quality players as we do - Maurice Clarett is a superstar and is a spark to this team - but we've got a lot of very capable players waiting in the wings that are just looking for their chance, for their opportunity. If I were Maurice Hall, or Lydell Ross, I would be chomping at the bit right now thinking, ‘Here is my window of opportunity to go out and turn some heads.' Because I remember Lydell Ross at the Indiana game two years ago, everybody was looking at him saying, ‘We've got ourselves another Eddie on our hands.' So, we just need a couple chances like that and I think we can turn some heads even without Maurice."
Even with all the negative publicity, Hartsock doesn't want to hear any nonsense about a "tainted title."
"No, you can't taint the championship for me," he said. "Whoever is the national champion, no matter what year, there is always going to be a little something that comes up. I've never gone through a complete year of watching Sportscenter and not seeing a little bit of controversy after a team wins a championship. The world isn't quite as picturesque as we would like it to be and that includes sports. You just have to - as we've done in the past - deal with what's going on and look forward to Washington."
Hartsock is not worried that some of his teammates are a little apathetic after winning a title.
"Coach (Jim) Tressel has talked to us about how it's a much different experience this year," Hartsock said. "You look back and people come up to you and say, ‘Man, you've done it all. You've won a national championship. What drives you next?' You look at a guy like Craig Krenzel, or a guy like Mike Jenkins, they're mythical creatures in Ohio State lore now. They are going to be remembered forever just for winning one. But, if we can win two, now that would be something that people will be talking about for a long, long time. That would really set yourselves apart. So, I don't think there's any concern of anyone on this team of having a lack of desire to try and go out there and do it again.
"It's a completely different mindset this year," Hartsock added. "It's a whole different set of rules. It's a whole different environment to be playing in. Everybody is going to want to knock off last year's champion. And everybody on this team is extremely excited to get the chance to go out and defend that title. Not just try and go out and win one, but to go out and try and defend one. That is going to be a whole different experience and we are going to try and become a much more dominating team."
Hartsock got married a little over a month ago.
"We had a chance to have a great honeymoon in Mexico," he said. "It was as great a week as you can ever imagine. It was nice to go somewhere and get away from football a little bit. You go down in Mexico and they don't watch the Buckeyes as much as they do in Columbus. Ironically, on the way down on the plane, some people found out (who I was) and there were some Buckeye chants going on at the back of the plane. We had a great time."