OSU coach Jim Tressel and his staff are afforded, by NCAA rule, eight hours of off-season physical training time with their team. They use a little bit of that time in 10 different 6 a.m. sessions spread across 2-½ weeks.
The workouts are designed to improve each and every player's quickness and agility. But there are also some team building concepts involved when over 75 guys, the strength coaches, Tressel, his assistants and the trainers all get together for some early morning pain on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"That was a pretty good workout," senior cornerback Dustin Fox told the media, who were invited to watch today's session. "The guys are working hard. We're focused on getting the young guys into these workouts and making them work hard.
"These young guys haven't seen the tough times of Ohio State football. If we're able to have a few of these workouts and implement some of that suffering, that will be good for us."
Fox said he doesn't mind getting up early.
"I think it is tough for a lot of guys, but I kind of look forward to it," Fox said. "This is my third year of doing it. You go to bed at 9 o'clock and get up at 4:30. You just try to come out here and lead these young guys. This is my last time to go through it.
"I'm also looking forward to it being over," Fox added.
But why at 6 a.m.? Couldn't the same type of conditioning and team building exercises take place at 3 in the afternoon or in the early evening. Tressel had the easy answer for that."Why 6 a.m.? Because that is the only place where there are no class conflicts," he said. "From 8 o'clock on, every practice you could come to, whether it's in the spring or the fall, someone will be missing because of academic commitments. By having it at 6 a.m., there is no reason why they won't all be there.
"Plus, in the winter, our facilities are so crowded with the spring sports teams waiting to get outside. I think that helps them to have us in and out of the way in the morning. At some schools, they have actually gone to having spring practices in the morning because of class conflicts. You run into cases where guys need a class and it is only offered at this time or that time."
Defensive end Simon Fraser also discussed the morning routine.
"It's good for the coaches because they can get out here and beat us up a little bit," Fraser said. "For us kids, we just try and survive. It's a time we can build teamwork and push each other and really see who's going to step up."
Fullback Branden Joe said it is interesting to see how first-year players respond to the grueling workouts.
"I think it's kind of a privilege to have the young guys ask me, `What's next?' " Joe said. "I just say, `Keep going until the whistle blows.' "
Today's session saw the players congregate by position groups for stretching. Then they rotated between eight stations at about three minutes apiece. The stations included a race where players push a board across the floor for 20 yards, a race around a pair of 5-yard circles where a player tries to catch his teammate, two sets of agility drills, rope jumping, form running and sprints/bursts.
"Everybody's favorite drill is jumping rope," Joe said. "That's because you can stand in one place and that's all you've got to do. Probably the one you like the least is the one where you have (defensive coordinator Mark) Snyder in your ear. He's got all that adrenaline going. When you finish, you want to tackle him."
Sure enough, Snyder was hoarse following the workout and could hardly speak to reporters.
Following the stations -- yes, there is more -- the players congregate at one end of the field. First, they "attempt" to carry a teammate 100 yards downfield, then switch and go back down to the other end. For the skill position players, this could be accomplished on somewhat of a jog. But for the linemen, who drew position mates in the same 300-pound range, it became somewhat of a chore.
"You look for who is the lightest guy out there," Fraser joked about selecting a partner. "But really you just match up with somebody your size. Then, you just close your eyes and go and let them count down the yards until you get to the other end. I had Joel Penton today. He's right around my size."
Then, the players took turns "wheel barrowing" each other to the 50-yard line. This is where a player crawls to the 50 while a teammate holds their legs up and walks from behind.
Finally, the players work on sprints and backpedals in decreasing increments from 50 yards down to 15.
It is tough work, but the players know there is a method to all of the madness.
"This is how you get to the top," Fraser said. "This is what it takes."
* Following the workout, Tressel and his assistants were available to the media. We will have comments from them in the days and weeks ahead leading up to the start of spring football April 1.
One notable announcement today was the promotion of veteran assistant Jim Heacock, the defensive line coach, to assistant head coach.
"I'm not sure yet what that means," Heacock said. "I will have to get with Coach Tressel about that. I imagine I will meet with the media when Coach Tressel doesn't want to. I will do what I've done in the past and continue to try and help him make his job as easy as we can."
Heacock seemed less than pleased, though, with the performance of his young defensive linemen in the workout.
"We've got work to do," he said. "I think you get spoiled when you have three seniors like we had. I'm not disappointed as much as we have a real high expectation level."
* Tressel said he hoped to name his new running backs coach by Thursday or Friday. There was no discussion, however, on media reports that he plans to hire his older brother, Dick Tressel, currently the assistant to the director of football operations, for that job.
* A number of players did not fully participate in the conditioning session, presumably due to injuries. A.J. Hawk worked on a StairMaster, while Maurice Hall worked out on a simulate skiing machine.
Adam Olds, coming off hip surgery, participated in about half the drills. Mike D'Andrea is slowly working his way back into playing shape after a shoulder surgery, linebackers coach Luke Fickell said.
* Players who caught our eye, for one reason or another, included Santonio Holmes, Bobby Carpenter, Fraser, Marcus Green, Tim Schafer, Marcel Frost and many others.
Early enrolling OL Steve Rehring and LB Marcus Freeman were also participating.
* We hope to have some photos from today's workout this afternoon.