After a hard winter conditioning program, winter quarter exams and spring break, the players seemed raring to go. As always in the spring, the talk of being a potential national championship contender was in the air.
"I think that's definitely what everybody is talking about in the locker room," said senior outside linebacker Bobby Carpenter, one of 17 returning starters. "We've got a lot of guys coming back here. Personally, for me as one of the members of the 2002 recruiting class, all of us came in with big ambitions of winning a national title ourselves. This may be the first year we have a chance to fulfill those. This is really our last shot."
Carpenter talked about what this spring will be all about.
"It is about developing those younger guys," he said. "But in the same sense, we have to continue to hone our skills. We'll put in some new packages defensively."
Junior flanker Santonio Holmes talked about what the team hopes to accomplish this spring.
"You go in with an open mind," Holmes said. "You're looking forward to correcting things you made mistakes on the past and working on things the pro scouts are looking for. You also want to help the younger guys as they get the chance to play."
The questions have already begun (again) for Holmes as to whether this will be his last year at Ohio State.
"I'm looking at it as to how I'm going to take care of my family over the next two or three years," said Holmes, who has two young children back home in Florida. "When the opportunity presents itself, I'll make the decision as to whether I should leave or stay. Right now, my family is being well taken care of."
Senior middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel will ease his way into spring drills after coming off off-season surgery.
"They're talking about (national championship) because we have 17 guys back and we had some real solid games there at the end of the year," Schlegel said. "On both sides of the ball and special teams, everybody was flying around. Everybody has those last two games in their head – Michigan and Oklahoma State – and those were great games for us.
"Every year at Ohio State, we have that anticipation of wanting to be a national champion and why not have that? It just makes you work that much harder. It gets people focused on the mission at hand."
Tressel said he'd have to harness Schlegel from the urge to get back on the field too quickly as he recovers.
"I just want to be out there," Schlegel said. "You have to listen to (the medical staff). Coach is always looking at the bigger picture. Sometimes, that's how we are as football players. We want to get into the heat of the battle and start hitting people.
"People don't understand that spring is a fun time."
Senior safety Nate Salley also discussed the high expectations at Ohio State.
"In a way, it doesn't matter," Salley said. "We have to go in humble, knowing that preseason rankings don't mean anything. We have to go out there and play ball and earn what we get. If we approach it that we haven't earned anything yet, I think we'll be fine."
Senior defensive end Mike Kudla will also be curtailed this spring due to medical concerns.
"By the way we peaked at the end of last year, that lets us just start where we ended up last year and go on from there," Kudla said. "Last year, we were trying to find ourselves as a team and find our identity. I think we finally did that at the end of the year."
Look for more on these players on Bucknuts.com over the next several days.