Since this was my first Media Day at Ohio State, I thought I might share some
of my impressions and a few details. For many in the Columbus (and national)
media, this is old hat, but it is all new to me. To be honest, I felt more like
a kid in a candy store with no adults around than a guy doing working for a
5:01 I arrived right on time. Ok. Maybe a minute late. I had left the house later than planned while trying to make sure I had something to wear without wrinkles. I jumped in car and feverishly hoped that the police would have their radar guns off for the evening - or at least catch the poor person next to me. Passed several cars pulled over by patrolmen. Each time I grinned like the cat that ate the canary.
5:01 Part II – I arrived close to right on time, parked the car, but then had to walk all the way around the stadium. I somehow (it is my lot in life I guess) managed to find the exact spot in the parking lot that would require me to trek the farthest distance. I am just lucky this way people. I always find the shortest line in the Supermarket or at Wal-Mart only to discover that my checker is a sloth dressed in a uniform or that the person right in front of me wants to see a manager, etc. Lucky me.
5:07 I reached the field entrance but then had no media pass and thus could not get past the usher. Instead of bugging the poor fellow, I chatted with him to find out where I needed to go to fix the problem. I walked back out to the entrance I had just come in and explained the situation to some folks who were handing out the passes - I.e., Bucknuts has passes but has not been formally issued them as of yet. Thankfully they gave me a media tag and waved me through.
5:08 I looked at the tag. While feeling exceptionally cool (hey – it is the
little things in life) for a moment or two, I now realized the Rubicon had been
crossed. I am officially media. The feeling of ultimate coolness left, but
returned in a moment when I…
5:10 I reached the field and then began walking across it. The new grass looks great. There were a few patches here and there (probably from the recent concert or just the occasional divot). However, it is a beautiful field overall. The grounds crew gets a solid A for their work this offseason. Ohio State has a first rate surface to play on (and should for the money it cost). Don't give me this stuff about field turf being better than grass. Football was invented on grass and should be played on it.
5:13 After scanning the crowd, I saw Dave Biddle walking towards me. Dave and I chatted while watching the team pose for pictures. We picked out players who looked good. In particular we noticed that Simon Fraser looks like he has filled out and the offensive linemen look flat out incredible. Devin Jordan gets the best face for a fake photo ID award in my book. The guy may be just 18, but he looks older than Joe Germaine – now.
5:24 I made a quick mental note, Lydell Ross is about the nicest guy you will
ever meet, a true Buckeye. Maurice Hall looked like a pretty good kid as well.
However, you do not want to anger either of these young men while in some dark
alley. Hall and Ross both look very good right now. Neither has been
taking the offseason lightly.
5:27 Dave Biddle and I watch a little girl interact with Chris Gamble. He was great with her and posed for a picture. Biddle commented, "Why can't all Ohio State players be like a Chris Gamble?" Amen. Despite all of the press he received last year, Gamble is still courteous and kind to everyone. Then Dave and I watched the little girl go over and grab Jim Tressel for a photo. He too posed. After they took their photograph, she wanted to show him what it looked like (she had a digital camera). He stopped what he was doing and bent down to look at it with her. Give me 100 Jim Tressels as head coaches at every major program in the country, and I will give you a sport that everyone could be support.
5:35 Since the team was still posing for their pictures, I stood there for a few moments just recognizing the impact of where I was and what I was doing. What a complete blast. Me. Charles Babb. Standing on the floor of the Horseshoe (and not getting maced). Even better, unlike the last time I walked into the stadium (other than a game), I did not have to pose as a construction worker. This time I was without my Inspector Gadget disguise - the hard hat, work boots, gloves, and even a pair of safety goggles - all allowing inspect the progress on the Horseshoe renovations. This time there was no risk of being kicked off the premises for trespassing. There were no cold sweats when I passed people. I was actually supposed to be here. I was about to call someone just to tell them where I was and what I was doing when the players began to finish the team photograph and reporters descended on Michael Jenkins like locusts.
5:40 After feeling a bit sorry for Jenkins and scanning for other players
that were available, I grabbed Drew Carter. I talked with Drew about his senior
year and what he wants to do. Drew looks good folks. He is long and lean. Put
him out there with Gamble and Jenkins and Holmes and the defensive secondary is
going to be as jumpy as Saddam Hussein in a room full of United Nations'
5:45 I moseyed over to speak with Ira Guilford. Unfortunately for Ira, his school screwed up and did not send in his paperwork. He told me that the school claimed they had had computer problems. So, instead of Ira being able to practice - the NCAA clearinghouse has not given the thumbs up for him to play as of yet. Considering the current depth chart at running back that is a serious kick in the pants. Ira was being nice about it, but you could tell it bothered him. Because of someone else not doing their job, he was unable to be a part of the team picture his freshman year and could end up with a missed opportunity for playing time.
5:50 I spoke with Adrien Clarke. He looks GOOOOOOOD. Very good. Clarke probably dropped 50 lbs. Right now he is at 325-330. When I asked about the last time he weighed that much (legitimately - not according to the media guide) he told me that it was when he was a sophomore. Clarke said he ate lots of salads. Was it worth it? You bet. Adrien could parlay his hard work into an NFL ticket if he plays up to his abilities. John Porentas of the O-Zone and I were both talking to him for a bit. John and I had about the same idea when adding up the pounds the line had shed (about 200). He asked Clarke if he realized the line had lost the equivalent to a running back. I told Clarke that they could think of it as 200 lbs or one Maurice Hall.
5:57-6:07 I talked briefly with Mike D'Andrea and Anthony Schlegel as well as Robert Reynolds. I will tell you that I personally would not want to be a running back coming through any holes against Ohio State. This could get ugly. It might be a little like that carnie game where you have that hammer and try to slam it down on the little animals popping up from the board. If running backs do manage to break through the defensive line, the linebackers should be largely roaming free and headhunting... Schlegel is committed to helping the team this year even though he cannot play. Reynolds is feeling comfortable at LB and the coaches are moving him around a bit at OLB or MLB.
5:55 Think of this like one of those movie scenes where the viewer grasps that the director has taken them back in time in a flashback. The times here are rough estimates considering I had no watch and it all went pretty quickly. I spoke with Nate Salley and Underwood briefly. Both are working hard to get playing time. Salley looked almost like a linebacker with his size. At some schools, he might play at that position with a little added weight. Underwood looked slighter of build but still solid. If I can put it this way - almost like a dancer. Considering the athletic demands of the cornerback position, this is a good thing.
6:10 I talked to Alex Stepanovich for a moment or two. Step has lost 20-30 lbs as well. Unreal. This line looks very good.
6:12 I looked around to see who was being mobbed once again. Then I looked over at the bleachers. Most of the team was sitting on the bleachers not being interviewed. Sure, folks want to hear about some of the stars, but what about the rest of the team? Ohio State would not have won the title last year without players coming off of the bench. One of those players this year might be Doug Datish or another offensive lineman. So, I walked over to talk to Doug Datish. He pretty much confirmed what most believed regarding his redshirt season. He has spent his time learning to pass block. He feels good about where he is progressing, but like all players is leaving the decision on who should play up to the coaches. Not a single player I spoke with supplied anything controversial. I was not trolling for anything in any way, but they were very measured in their words.
6:17 After looking around for a few minutes, I went over to Louis Irizarry. The team was being called out of the stadium, so we talked as we walked. Hey – who said I could not walk and chew gum at the same time? Louis supplied some great stuff that I will put on the premium boards (see the term "shameless plug" in the dictionary) sometime soon about Tressel's recruiting style versus other college football coaches.
6:20 Another reporter wants to ask Louis a few questions so out of courtesy and because I had some stuff already, I looked for another player. Simon Frasier was nearby, and I had wanted to grab him anyway. Chalk a spot of good luck up for me – normally a contradiction in terms. Me and good luck. Anyway, I spoke with Simon. He seems to be a fine young fellow. When Hartsock leaves, expect Frasier to get more interviews because he was fun to talk with. Pity the running back trying to escape his wingspan. When Simon stretches out his arms, it looks more like an albatross than a human being. I cannot help but think of Rien Long from last season's Washington State squad. Rien's strength was/is that pair of arms that suddenly appear to grab a running back who look ready to squirt through a hole.
6:22 The team gets on the bus. Dave Biddle and others were filing into a room
for a Jim Tressel press conference. We went up a stairwell in the stadium and
entered a room full of chairs and already set up television cameras. Jim Tressel
and Steve Snapp were up on the dais sitting at a table. Taking a seat next to
Dave Biddle, I was again struck by just where I was at and what I was doing. I
felt pretty privileged to be able to be there and almost like a member of some
secret society. I waited for them to pass out the Orphan Annie Secret Decoder
pins but no luck. Maybe next time.
6:25-6:35 I patiently waited for the press conference to begin. Tressel, considerate as ever, was waiting for all of the reporters to saunter into the room.
6:52 I began to get a bit bored in the press conference when the 8,245,618th question was asked about the running backs or Maurice Clarett. If I had a dollar for every question I heard on him yesterday (either to Tressel or to others), I could buy my own private island in the South Pacific and be made the chief of some tribe. I understand the issue here. Some of the reporters at media day were not local and had been sent by their editors to "Get a story on Clarett or don't come back." Still, there are over 80 other scholarship players and a host of walk-ons and a number of coaches to talk about. Whether or not Ohio State repeats is not going to be about Clarett but the offensive line and the defense.
6:54 I make my first attempt to steer the questions to the rest of the team. I wanted to know about the offensive line. If games are won and lost in the trenches - I figured this would be something that just might be important with wins and losses this fall. My hopes were raised momentarily that it might be successful until another running back question was posed. Time to slump back down into my seat.
7:04 Attempt #2 to steer questions to the rest of the team. I asked about the offensive line once again – this time tying it to play selection. Considering this was one of the bigger questions for fans entering this season, I thought it might be interesting to hear what Jim Tressel thought about the impact of a slim, trim offensive line on a playbook.
7:07 Dave Biddle followed shortly thereafter with a question on Krenzel that
went unanswered because the press conference was ending – too bad because it
was a good question.
7:10 It was freebie time. Most of the teams in the Big Ten sent media guides to Ohio State. I picked up Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Penn State. Sadly Purdue did not send enough and so they were gone before I could grab one. Ohio State had only one small box there as well, and so I had to go without. I felt like some sort of junkie getting a fix with "the good stuff."
7:24 I began my trek back around the stadium carrying more weight than the offensive line lost (or so it seemed) with all those media guides. Note to self - ask teams just how many trees died to put together their media guide this year. Michigan State alone is bigger than most Chemistry textbooks. Still, it gave me a certain feeling of confidence. I knew that if anyone messed with me for any reason, Sparty could be used as a serious weapon.
7:37 After getting everything in the car and noticing with a sigh of relief that Traffic and Parking had not issued me a greeting in the form of a ticket, I drove home with a smile on my face the size of Texas. Even the idiots on 315 with their impressions of Evil Knieval did not put a dent in my mood. All in all it was a great experience. Yeah, maybe the more seasoned veterans of such media days might be unimpressed or think my joy at the simple things is a bit overboard. However, I ask myself, "Just how many folks would kill to be in my shoes?" The answer tells me just how fortunate I am. And I get paid to do this? Amazing.
I spent the rest of the evening last night posting on the Bucknuts premium board and corresponding with friends. Most responses were along the lines of, "You lucky dog. Thanks for the information." I felt as popular as a pastry chef at a Jenny Craig Convention replete with my envious and devoted hoards.