Junior center Nick Mangold is clearly one of the leaders of the team. He received valuable playing time as a freshman on the national championship squad and was a starter last season.
This year, Mangold has embraced his leadership role.
"Yeah, I'm personally excited," he said. "Before, I was the center and I was making the calls, but there were guys who were older and better who were there being leaders. And now, I'm still the center and still making the calls, but I've got that sense of being a veteran. I've been here longer and being a leader is definitely exciting. It gives me a chance to try to bring guys up just like the guys before me and try and keep that going."
Camp just started and it's a slow time for the veteran Buckeyes like Mangold. The coaching staff is focused on just working on the basics and getting the freshmen in the flow.
"As of right now, we're just trying to get a feel for what's going on," Mangold said. "Trying to get our younger guys up to speed of what's going on. We're just trying to get settled in to what's going to be going on as soon as we get in our pads. When Sunday rolls around (first day of pads), a lot of things are going to be going real fast, so we're trying to build up to there."
It is not easy to judge football players when contact is limited. When there is no hitting, you really don't know how good someone is.
"I personally think it's real tough to evaluate because you really can't get a good feel for what's going on," Mangold said. "We talk a lot about getting our helmets in guys' shoulders, but you can't do that without helmets and shoulder pads on. (Friday) we get the shells on, so we'll start to see some improvement there."
Mangold is optimistic about the offensive line. Only he and left tackle Rob Sims are returning starters, but this will clearly be a more athletic OSU line.
"I think we're potentially a great line," Mangold said. "I think we need to do what we're supposed to do, do things smart and do things faster and we'll be a great line."
Say what you want about the Buckeyes' offensive line the last two years, but the fact is that three of those players are in the NFL: Alex Stepanovich, Shane Olivea and Adrien Clarke. The one knock on those guys was lack of quickness. That is something that fans won't have to worry about from this year's line.
"We're definitely doing a lot of things with our speed - running around, getting guys out in front of our runners," Mangold said. "We're trying to integrate that into what we're trying to do offensively."
Even without pads on, Mangold can already tell a difference in terms of speed and quickness on the O-line.
"I think so," he said. "I think we're moving real well for the beginning of fall. We've already got into a quickness ideal, and we're using it already.
"I think we have the potential to be better than last year's line because of what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it. I think we'll be able to get on our blocks quicker and we'll be quicker at getting to the point of attack."
Above all else, offensive line coach Jim Bollman is stressing the importance of pass protection to his players.
"Pass blocking is going to be crucial because we've got a young quarterback back there and if he's getting hit every play, it's going to hinder his improvement," Mangold said. "So, we're working on keeping him from getting hit. Pass blocking is going to be a big one and then hopefully run blocking comes in after that."
Working against OSU's defensive line in practice will only help the young offensive linemen, says Mangold.
"I think having a lot of guys on the D-line that have seen time - Simon (Fraser), Marcus (Green) - I think they'll be good for our guys. Being able to say, ‘This is what you're going to have to go up against every day in practice.' And I think that will give guys a feel for what's going to go on in games."
Mangold doesn't like this no-contact stuff. He is ready to strap it up and play some real football.
"Oh yeah, I've had enough of this running around with just a helmet, I don't really like it that much," he said. "It will be nice to get the pads on and get going."
Mangold was asked by reporter Ryan Miller - a former Buckeye - what the players like to do during their down time. Miller even took a shot at Mangold saying, "Obviously not getting hair cuts." The quick-witted Mangold shot right back with a crack of his own.
"Coming from a guy that's balding up there a bit," he said to Miller, eliciting laughter. "We hang out a little bit, we watch a lot of extra film with the younger guys, because a lot of the younger guys are going to have questions. After a day's worth of practice, there's a lot of stuff going on, so they'll have a lot of questions and we'll go over it. And a lot of video games get played; a lot of people playing cards and stuff. Me personally, I still have two weeks left in a class, so I'm doing a little bit of classwork right now."
Mangold thinks the offensive line has developed a good work ethic. He says all of them are eager to learn and get better.
"There's a ‘want to learn' and I think that's going to increase our ability to play," he said. "Wanting to learn I think will make guys do things right every time, instead of doing things how they may have done things before, or make the same mistake twice. The wanting to learn is going to keep guys to one mistake and done."
Even though it's early, Mangold has been impressed with a couple of the young linemen.
"I know from watching Ben Person, he's got some pretty good feet already, which is a good plus," he said. "And then after that, Steve Rehring has been doing a really good job at tackle, he's really learning. He's got a kick for pass blocking; he's doing really well as we've just started out here."
* Third-year sophomore defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock is running with the first team and says the experienced he gained last year was key.
"It was definitely valuable," Pitcock said. "Just getting the nervousness out, the butterflies, that really helped. And just learning the speed of the game really helped. Even though I didn't get in that much, I worked hard in every practice and was preparing to play, so it was definitely a big help."
Pitcock redshirted two years ago and looking back, he thinks it was a smart move by the coaches.
"Yeah, I'm definitely glad I redshirted," he said. "Had time to get stronger, lift more. I actually dropped a little weight this offseason, but you can always gain it back. That's easier than trying to drop weight."
Pitcock played at about 300 pounds last year, but wanted to add some quickness to his game this year.
"Right now, I'm about 290, but I'll play at 295 or so," he said.
With the possible exception of senior defensive end Simon Fraser, it looks like all the jobs are open on the defensive line.
"As coach (Jim Heacock) says, all the spots are available," Pitcock said. "No one really has a spot yet. So, that really makes things competitive out there. Even the freshmen, they're working hard, asking questions and we'll help them out. Everyone is just working for a spot."
"Losing those guys is tough, don't get me wrong, but we re-load around here," Pitcock said. "We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't believe we could pick right up where those guys left off. They were great players. Great players. But I think we have a lot of good players on this D-line and we're just going to work hard and see what happens."
There seems to be a lot less tension in camp this year. There are no Maurice Clarett distractions and the Buckeyes aren't the defending national champions with a huge target on their back.
"Yeah, there's a little less tension," Pitcock said. "We're just trying to block everything out. We just want to do our thing and practice hard just like we always do."
Pitcock is ready to get the pads on and start hitting.
"Oh definitely," he said. "I think everyone is anxious. Just going with helmets, we just supposed to walk through things fast, but people are still getting bruises everywhere and banged up. So, we just can't wait to get into pads and start to hit. All the guys want to hit. We've been waiting all year to do it and just get some aggression out."