Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Sian Cotton was one of the young players that stood out in the spring. Over the summer, he worked on getting stronger and quicker and it looks like it paid off.
"I'm right about 300 pounds," Cotton said. "I've lost some of my baby fat. I've been hitting the weights hard, running, I've been working with a nutritionist to watch what I eat… I feel great."
As well as he played in the spring, Cotton was not satisfied.
"I'm not one to give myself compliments," he said. "I think I played all right, but I've got a long way to go. I just want to keep learning the system and help contribute to the Buckeyes this year."
With the graduation of Tim Anderson and Darrion Scott, there are opportunities available at defensive tackle. Yes, Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson are the likely starters, but Cotton feels he will be in the mix.
"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "The opportunity is there. If I don't grab it, then it's all on me. I'm just excited for the season. Coach (Jim) Heacock is such a fair coach that the best is going to play. No matter if you're a senior, or a freshman, so I'm just excited and ready to get going."
Looking back, Cotton is glad he redshirted last year.
"During the year, I didn't like it too much," he said. "I'm not used to riding the bench or whatever. But from a hindsight point of view, getting redshirted, I think it was a good thing. It helped me to get stronger, get faster and now I know what I'm supposed to do. I think it was just a good thing for me."
Cotton missed most of preseason camp last year, so redshirting him became a no-brainer for the coaching staff.
"Well, pretty much, the way it worked for me, nobody told me, I just knew I was going to redshirt," he said. "Last year when I came in, I didn't get here until the second to last day of camp. The university wouldn't let me in at first, so we had to go through an appeal, but things worked out."
The defensive line has been the strength of the team the last two years. Cotton wants to make that three years in a row.
"I don't' think we're going to miss a beat on the D-line," he said. "Coach Heacock is a great coach and he knows how to get his guys ready. I think we're even deeper on the D-line this year and that's a good thing for the defensive line position because you can rotate in and out, in and out. I think everybody will be ready to step it up and take those guys' places."
Cotton sees the big picture. He enjoys being a college student, but is already looking ahead at what the future might offer him.
"I feel like the sky is the limit," he said. "I've got a great opportunity to get my education for free, play for a great school and possibly make it to the next level if I keep my head on straight. That's just what I'm trying to do right now."
Junior safety Nate Salley is coming off an impressive 2003 season, but he's ready to put that in the past. The Florida native is talking like a seasoned veteran. He wants his teammates focused on this season, not looking back on what they accomplished.
"We want to be the best we can be and not try and live off of 2002, or even last year," Salley said. "We want to make our own mark."
Salley added about 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and is now up to 215.
"I worked out a lot, did a lot of running, you know, just tried to get better and get ready for the season as much as possible," he said.
He made a promise to himself that if he bulked up, he needed to work on his speed quite a bit as well.
"I said if I was going to put on weight, I also needed to get faster," Salley said. "I think I am faster, even with the extra 10 pounds."
Salley was fourth on the team last year with 77 tackles. It was a breakout season for him, but he says it took a while to get going.
"At the beginning, we were battling and I kind of struggled coming into the season out of camp," he said. "But after a while I told myself, 'Just go out there and have fun,' so that's what I did, I just played the game and had fun. And that's what I plan on doing this year: just have fun, because that's what it's all about. Too many times people get caught up in schemes and looking at the crowd and everything. I just try to have fun and hopefully great things will continue to come."
Salley had several big hits last year - including a huge sideline tackle in the Michigan game. Was that hit his favorite?
"It might have been that one," he said. "Either that one, or the one I had against Iowa. That's always a lot of fun when you can make a big hit and hear the crowd go, 'Oooh.'"
The Buckeyes' secondary is stocked with talent this year. Dustin Fox is one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten, E.J. Underwood is ready to make a name for himself and there is plenty of talent at safety as well.
"Yeah, it's a great group," Salley said. "We've got a lot of great guys and a lot of great young guys coming in like Ted (Ginn) and everything. We've got Donte (Whitner) who's going to play a lot this year and we've got guys that came in with me like Brandon Mitchell and Tyler Everett who have a lot of talent. I'm very comfortable knowing we've got guys like that. There's a lot of good competition in practice because you know there's a lot of great guys behind you, so you can't really slack, because if you slip, they can have your job in a second."
Freshman Ben Person is probably going to challenge for playing time right away. He looks like the most impressive of the incoming offensive linemen. It doesn't look like he's going to redshirt, but he knows nothing is a sure thing.
"I don't know," Person said. "That's really up to the coaches more than it's up to me. We'll have to see how camp goes. I'd rather not redshirt, but it's the coaches call."
Person might have been the best lineman on the field for the Big 33 game.
"I feel like I played very well in the Big 33," he said. "It was a great time and my body felt like it was in great shape. I didn't get tired. I played hard the whole game."
Person is slated to be a guard at OSU, even though he has never played there before (with the exception of all-star games).
"Right now, they have me at guard, but things can change," he said. "I played tackle in high school."
Person knows the Buckeyes lost three starters to graduation, but has a lot of respect for the upperclassmen still on the roster.
"Yeah, there are some spaces available, but there's a lot of good guys ahead of me and there's a lot of competition and they know everything," he said. "I'm just trying to learn the playbook and do what I need to do."
"I talk to Robbie a lot," Person said. "He's my roommate during camp and he's been helping me out. Nick's been helping me out a little bit also."
Person likes what he has seen from offensive line coach Jim Bollman so far.
"He's laid back, but he gets directly to the point," Persons said. "When we get confused he's not going to yell, he's going to help you out."
Person worked out with the Buckeyes for most of the summer.
"After the North-South game, I came in and worked out with the guys up
until the Big 33 game," he said. "I've just been excited to get to
camp. A little nervous, something new, but definitely excited to get here."