A handful of upperclassmen met with the media early this afternoon to discuss the start of camp and the new season. One of those was senior defensive end Simon Fraser.
When Fraser was asked about a possible theme for the 2004 season, he replied: "Probably the quote, `Today matters.'
"We're just going to go in each day and just focus on that day and what we have to get accomplished. We're not going to look forward to who we're playing two weeks from now. We just want to get done what we have to get done today and leave nothing behind."
The quest for championships is in the big picture, Fraser said. But none of that will happen unless the Buckeyes get to work during preseason camp.
"We expect to go out there every year and win a Big Ten championship and compete for a national championship," he said. "It's all about what happens during fall camp. We have to come out here and work hard and keep our intensity up each day. Hopefully, the cards will come out for us like they did two years ago.
"There are a lot of question marks. We have a lot of positions that are not filled yet. We will have some critical spots where there will be competition. We need to keep everybody working hard each day. Hopefully, that competition will create a better atmosphere. It keeps ‘em working, it keeps ‘em honest and they want to do better than they did the day before."
Fraser is the lone returning starter on the defensive line as Will Smith, Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson were all drafted into the NFL.
"All of them were three-year starters and tremendous athletes," Fraser said. "All of them are on teams now where they are about to start in the NFL. That's huge. That's something we have to replace. We will never find another Will Smith, Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson. But we just need the kids we have to step up and play."
Fraser believes the returnees on the defensive line will make the proper adjustments and become play makers in their own right.
"I think everyone on the D-line stepped it up," he said. "Everyone took it upon themselves to work hard. It's exciting to see these young guys are ready to go.
"This is my last year. I have to bring up this whole D-line. We have a lot of question marks on the D-line, but we have a lot of kids who can step up and fill the spots. I'm going to take it under my wing that this D-line will compete with the ones we've had over the last two years."
Fraser talked about the rigors of preseason camp, which stretches 2-½ weeks.
"The first week of practice is probably the most important week," Fraser said. "We see who is ready to go, who has that intensity to do the job and who wants it that bad. It's a real good team building experience. By that 17th day, you want to get back into that home environment. It's a time for us to get together and focus on what we're doing and what our goals are."
Fraser was a member of Tressel's first OSU recruiting class, signing with the Buckeyes in February 2001 after helping nearby Upper Arlington post a perfect 15-0 record and win a Division I state championship.
"It felt like just yesterday I was doing these interviews as a freshman," he said. "Now I'm out here as a senior. It's pretty exciting."
Fraser arrived as a raw-boned, 6-5, 240-pound kid. He enters his senior year as a 6-6, 280-pound man.
"Four years and 40 pounds -- that's about 10 pounds every year," he said. "I've been working real hard in the weight room. This is something I wanted to do. I wanted to get stronger and bigger so I could work a little bit on the inside. Hopefully it paid off.
"I worked on explosion technique and strength and keeping my agility up. I worked really hard with (strength assistant Mike) Cochran this off-season. I got a chance to work with (Mike) Vrabel. He was in every once in a while. I had a chance to talk with him. That was a lot of fun to meet him and talk to him."
Fraser seems a likely candidate to serve as a team captain, a responsibility he would relish.
"It would be a huge honor to be a captain my senior year," he said. "I would love to take on that responsibility. The last three years I've been an understudy to guys like Will Smith and Tim Anderson and Kenny Peterson. They were great leaders who led us to some great things. Hopefully we can continue that this year."
Part of being a team leader is working with younger players. One freshman who was on everybody's mind today was Ted Ginn Jr., the reigning USA Today national defensive player of the year.
"We want to just keep his head level and make sure his head doesn't outgrow his helmet," Fraser said. "We need to make sure he works as hard as everyone else is. He's a phenomenal athlete. There is a chance for him to come in and start early. He needs to go out and prove himself. With a young guy like that, you have so much thrown at you and you may not be used to the limelight. You just try and make sure he doesn't trip over himself."
Fraser wants to build on a junior year, where he started 12 of 13 games and finished with 34 tackles, seven tackles-for-loss and 1-½ sacks.
"I think last year was a learning experience for me," he said. "I got a good bit of attention, especially after that first game (with three TFLs against Washington). After that, I settled down and I had some setbacks with a little injury. I learned a lot and I'm glad I have a chance this year to improve my game."
Fraser's junior year was clouded by a knee injury suffered in the second game against San Diego State.
"I had a hyperextended knee and a slight hairline fracture of the knee," he said. "It healed up by the bye week, but I still wore a knee brace."
Stay tuned: We plan more reports from today's interview sessions, leading up to Wednesday's team photo day.