A few days after the Fiesta Bowl victory over his hometown team Miami, Chris Gamble was sitting around, wondering what he could do to get better for the 2003 season.
There were a lot of little things he knew he could work on, but more than anything else, he thought he needed to get stronger.
So, Gamble put his nose to the WHAC grindstone and added about 15 pounds in the offseason.
"I'm up to about 200," Gamble told Bucknuts.com. "I played around 185 last year. I wanted to be able to come up and jam receivers and be physical."
Although Gamble more than held his own against Miami's Andre Johnson – the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft – it served as a learning experience for him.
"Andre Johnson, I didn't really try to jam him because I knew he was bigger than me and I didn't want to lose that battle."
Didn't even try once?
"Nah. I probably jumped at him a couple times, but I didn't want to try and touch him. That's why I was trying to lift all summer, so I could get big and have the confidence to do that (jam receivers). This year, I am going to show that I can. That's why I put on this muscle."
Gamble was not worried that he might lose some speed while adding strength. In fact, he says he's in the best condition of his life.
"I feel quicker and faster," he said. "I spent a lot of time with the guys working out and all we did was run and lift. I stepped on the scale the other day, I was like 200 pounds and I was surprised. But I can still run the 40 in like 4.3. Low 4.3. I feel real good."
Gamble says the team is eager to repeat. He doesn't think anyone is satisfied.
"Everybody out here has come back hungry, you know, everyone is going to want to come to play and make big plays. We're just coming back, trying to win a championship again."
The Ohio State coaching staff has spent a lot of time telling its players to expect a dogfight each week. Teams always circle the Buckeyes on their schedules, but even more so this year.
"They are going to come hard at us, but we know we've got to practice hard and just maintain," Gamble said. "Playing the defending champs, they might be trying to play harder, but we're just going to go out there and play our game."
The laid-back Gamble isn't all that concerned with the "Days of our Clarett" saga.
"I know it's a problem, but we're just trying to stay focused and just worry about the season and try and win a national championship again," he said. "Just play for that. We've got other good running backs too, so, I mean, whatever happens, happens. We're just going to go out there and not think about none of the allegations and just go out there and play our game and have fun."
Some fans have wondered how much Gamble will play on offense this year. He is certain to play cornerback, as well as return kicks and punts, but how much wideout will he play? There is a stable of good receivers behind go-to man Mike Jenkins, including Drew Carter, Santonio Holmes, Roy Hall, John Hollins and Bam Childress. But Gamble still wants to make his mark on offense. And with Clarett possibly out, there might be more of a need for Gamble's explosiveness on offense. We asked him if he thought he was on the same page with the coaches about his playing time, or lack thereof, on offense.
"Yeah, most likely we are," he said. "Probably, the first five games, it's going to be hot. Then, throughout the middle of the season, I'll probably play a lot like I did last year. I'm going to be going defense a lot, but I'm going to play a lot on offense too. The first five games, the temperature is going to be warm, so they're going to try and save me and try and give me my rest. But those middle games, I'll probably be playing 100 plays again."
Gamble does not think OSU's offensive game plans will change if Clarett is out.
"I mean, we've got a lot of good receivers and a lot of good running backs, so I don't think it will change anything we do. We're going to do good."
Gamble is clear that he wants to continue starting both ways. He doesn't want to be a "spot" offensive player once the Big Ten season rolls around.
"I want to be on the field as much as I can," he said. "I might get tired a little bit, but I just want to help the team out. I just let the coaches know if I'm tired or not. I want to be in there on offense so I can help the team."
What if the coaches told him that he would not be playing much offense against Washington?
"Right now, it's probably OK. But when the game starts, I'm going to be telling them that I want to go in," Gamble said as he laughed.
The 6-foot-2 junior from Sunrise, Fla. has excellent stamina, but it took his body a while to adjust to playing 120-plus plays last year.
"I was real tired after the Penn State game, cramping up and things like that (the night he slept for 17 hours straight). But after that, I got used to it. I didn't really have any trouble the rest of the year. But I was pretty tired after the Miami game, too. I was in bed the whole night. I didn't go out or anything."
Gamble is about as humble as a star college athlete could be. He really doesn't think that going both ways is a big deal. Never mind that it hasn't been done by a Buckeye in 40 years.
"For me, I just have fun. I just want to help the team out any way I can. I always did it since high school, so why not do it in college?"
Yes, he did it in high school, but he didn't play very much cornerback. His high school team played primarily against running teams. Despite that, he made the adjustment to corner look pretty smooth last year. Sure, he looked absolutely raw at times, but he also made some eye-popping plays. Like his pick against Wisconsin where he turned his head at just the right time and timed his jump perfectly. Jim Sorgi thought he had a game-clinching touchdown. First down Buckeyes at the 20.
"It's just simple (the adjustment to cornerback), because I play receiver too and I can tell what a receiver is going to do," Gamble said. "So, it's just simple."
Does he work more at corner, or receiver, in practice?
"Half and half sometimes," Gamble said.
Losing captains Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey, the Buckeye secondary will be looking for some leadership to emerge. Gamble doesn't mind being vocal, but looks at someone else as the "leader" of the DBs.
"Probably Will (Allen), because he's the senior," Gamble said. "I'll probably say a couple of things – along with Dustin (Fox) – but Will is the senior, so we listen to what he has to say."
Gamble returned home to Florida with bragging rights earlier this year, but some of his friends still hadn't gotten over the loss.
"I went home for the first time after the spring game and they were talking about we cheated and all that, but I didn't mind. I just told them, ‘We won.'"
A year ago at this time, the team was talking national championship as a goal, but Gamble isn't sure everyone believed it.
"We talked about it before the season started," he said. "We was talking about how we wanted to go to the national championship and bring one back to Ohio. But, you know, I had some thought that we'd go to the championship, but I thought someone was going to beat us because it was always a close game."
Gamble is brimming with confidence heading into the season. He started to stay that he thought a return trip to the national championship game was a possibility, then took it one step further.
"We've got a lot of good athletes coming back and I think… I know we're going to go back to the national championship because we've got those good athletes coming back. A lot of starters and a lot of guys that played."
Gamble is a preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but he doesn't seem to care.
"I don't really think about that," he said. "I just try and go out and play my game and have fun."
After a summer in the weight room, he's glad to finally be playing football again.
"This (Wednesday) was our first day practicing and I thought we started off good today and I think we're going to have good two-a-day practices when those start," Gamble said. "I like this new rule (less two-a-days; no back-to-back two-a-days). Last year, I was tired. But this year, I'll be all right. I just can't wait for the games to start."
When the games do start, Gamble knows that having one of the nation's best defensive lines will make his job a little easier. Not too many quarterbacks are going to be camping out, looking down the field against the Bucks.
"Yeah, it's going to be easier, because you've got Darrion Scott, Will Smith and all the other guys and they're real fast and they are going to want to go sack the quarterback and that's going to give us more time to make plays," Gamble said. "There might be a deflection in the air and someone could pick off the ball, or they could get a sack. We are going to be all right on the defensive line."
The Bucks are not game planning for Washington just yet. But Gamble has been thinking about the Aug. 30 opener for quite a while.
"I've been thinking about Washington before we started camp," he said. "I've been watching film. We're just going through the basics right now, but probably sometime next week we'll start getting ready for Washington."