Fifth-year senior WR John Hollins has had his ups and downs during his Buckeye career and hasn't had many chances to contribute at the receiver spot, but this year, he might finally get the chance. We also caught up with Hollins after practice on Thursday.
"I'm just trying to work hard everyday in practice," Hollins said. "Not necessarily worried about the depth chart, but just bettering myself as a receivers."
Right now, Hollins is on the two-deep. Staying there must be a goal of his, but he's not letting on.
"I think by pushing myself to be the best receiver I can be, that things will work out," he said. "I'm not in control of depth charts. I can just do what I can do. I'm going to continue to do that and everything will work out."
Hollins enjoys spring ball. He buys into the theory that these 15 days of practice are critical.
"It's all about competition," he said. "Going out and competing against whoever it is across from you. You're just trying to do better; get yourself better. Just preparing now. Coach Tressel always says, ‘You can't win the Big Ten championship right now, but you can lose it.' So, it's just about preparing."
Overall, there seems to be some quality talent and depth at receiver.
"Very talented group," Hollins said. "We're young and right now we're… I wouldn't say raw, but we're just fine-tuning things and preparing for a big season."
Hollins thinks the intensity has been turned up a few notches this spring among the receivers. There are jobs on the line and that wasn't necessarily the case last year.
"I think we're a little more focused because in years past, the starters had kind of been solidified (in the spring) with Mike Jenkins coming back and my freshman year coming in Ken-Yon Rambo and Reggie Germany," Hollins said. "So, this is kind of a time for everybody to focus and get things ready because nothing is solidified right now. So, everybody is working hard trying to win a spot."
None of the young receivers in particular have really stood out to Hollins. They are all getting the job done.
"It's hard to pick out one person," he said. "Everybody is doing real well right now. They threw a lot on us with learning new concepts with the new receivers coach (Darrell Hazell), but everybody is doing well."
Hollins enjoys working with Hazell. He is bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the practice field.
"He's been great for me," Hollins said. "Just the way he pushes the whole receiver corps. The little things… he emphasizes the little things and his enthusiasm about everything - whether it's a blocking drill, or receiving drill, whatever it is - he wants the best out of all of us. And you see that from Santonio to a walk-on receiver, he's getting on each player the same way."
Hollins says he can play flanker or split end.
"I can play anywhere they need me to play," he said.
He'll also be an important cog on special teams, just like last year.
"Yeah, I'll be in there on special teams again: kickoff return, punt block and kickoff," he said.
Hollins of course scored a touchdown in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl after a blocked punt by Harlen Jacobs.
The Huber Heights Wayne product knows that the kickoff return team was horrid last year and says the coaches have emphasized improving in that area.
"Last year we didn't do too well on kickoff returns, so that was a major point in this first week of practice," he said.
Hollins will be up front blocking on kick returns this year.
"They want to have more athletic guys up front so we can get on guys, latch on and actually stay with guys running down the field," he said. "Not just necessarily the big contact, but just being able to get a body on a body."
Hollins thinks all three quarterbacks have done well so far this spring.
"Looking real good," he said. "They're working hard. Spending a lot of time in the film and a lot of time studying themselves.
"Right now, it's so close, it would be hard to actually pick somebody (as the starter). If we had a game today, I feel for Coach Tressel having to make that decision."
Hollins was asked which quarterback he prefers and he dug into the politically correct bag for an answer.
"The quarterback that throws me the ball," he wisely said.
Hollins goes up against OSU's defensive backs everyday and has been impressed so far.
"Talented," he said. "We've got a lot of speed back there. They're young, but they all work hard. Even with the loss of Will Allen and Chris Gamble, I think we'll be all right."
Which of the DBs have stood out the most?
"All of them," Hollins said. "The competition is there, there's really only two spots open, so they're all working hard and trying to get in there and state their case to be the man out there. So, they're all hitting hard, running fast and doing a good job on coverages."
Hollins is one of the many Buckeyes who recently took up yoga.
"It's probably the hardest workout I've been through," he said. "The positions you have to hold your body in, the muscles that you didn't know you had being used, the breathing, everything.
"There's the yogas where it's more about relaxing. But this one is more strengthening and conditioning."
Hollins knows it's not the most macho thing in the world, but he's in the business of winning football games.
"It's kind of embarrassing because you have young ladies in there that go 5-foot-2, 110 pounds and they go through it like it's nothing," he said. "And we're in there hurting, bad."
The team is not doing yoga during spring ball, but it plans on picking things back up next month.
"We did it during the winter and we're going to do it again in May," Hollins said.