"It has definitely flown by," Carpenter said. "Three years ago, I would not have thought it would have gone by this fast. But this is a great opportunity for us. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else going into my final spring. I've had a great time here and I am very excited about the season ahead.
"I came back here for one reason and that is to win a national championship. I know a lot of other guys are here for the same reason for their senior year."
The 6-3, 255-pound Carpenter returns for his second season as the starter at the strongside linebacker position. He is one of 18 returning starters, a group that has given rise to high expectations in the Buckeye camp this spring.
When asked about his national championship comment, Carpenter said, "I think that's definitely what everyone is talking about in the locker room. We've got a lot of guys coming back this year. This is our last season, so this is our last shot."
Carpenter, of course, was a valuable special teams player as a freshman on the 2002 national championship team. He was asked what he learned from that experience.
"The biggest thing is working hard in the off-season to get prepared for the season so you're healthy enough to play the whole season," he said. "Those young guys have to learn how to practice hard day in and day out. The guys who haven't been playing have to rise up. I think that was a big thing in 2002. We had some guys rise up. They really stepped up. Craig Krenzel was a first-year starter and he stepped up to the challenge like that."
The push for a championship begins in the spring, Carpenter said.
"The spring is mostly for the younger guys and developing them and seeing how they come along," he said. "But we also have to continue to hone our skills and put in some new packages. We're kind of banged up at linebacker and we will roll some guys through there."
In years past, OSU has rested some of its most valued veterans during the spring.
"(Linebackers coach Luke) Fickell told us the upperclassmen may have their reps cut down a little bit during spring football," Carpenter said. "But I'm looking forward to going out there and having some fun and playing. It's nice to be able to play without having a game. It's nice to just go out and play and not worry about preparing for an opponent. You just work on getting better."
Even the veterans need work on the fundamentals, Carpenter said.
"There are some things we need to improve on," he said. "You always need to work on your open field tackling. We've talked about putting in different types of Cover-2. We have four or five guys who have had significant playing time at linebacker. We want to continue to hone our skills and bring the young guys along at linebacker. We'll move some guys around to get a different feel. You never know during the season when you may have to move guys around and play a different position."
Carpenter is one part of what figures to be one of the best linebacker corps in the nation with All-American A.J. Hawk at the wideside spot and Anthony Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea in the middle. Schlegel and D'Andrea will each miss practice time this spring, though, giving some of the team's young linebackers a chance to play.
"We're definitely going to put Chad Hoobler and Brandon Smith in there," Carpenter said. "Those are two young guys who have been playing in the middle that will get an opportunity to play there a little bit. They will probably roll me through there a little bit. A.J. will probably play there some as well. We want to help the young guys come along a little bit and help them get lined up because sometimes the mental part is the hardest aspect of the game."
After a 3-3 start, the OSU defense shaved a touchdown off its points allowed average in the final six games. That's when the Buckeyes closed 5-1. Carpenter hopes that strong play carries over to the new season.
"That's what we would like to do all season – be consistent, stop the run and hold our opponents to under 13 points a game," he said. "That's always our goal. Once we got that going, we kind of fed off of that. That was a good step for us to come together as a defense and see what we could be capable of."
Carpenter is playing the role of an older brother, of sorts, this spring as offensive lineman Jimmy Cordle, who played for Carpenter's father Rob at Lancaster, has enrolled early as a true freshman.
"I picked him up this morning for a 6 a.m. workout and took him back to his dorm," Carpenter said. "I'm trying to help him out. It's difficult when you're a freshman coming in early and you're supposed to still be in high school. I'm doing everything I can to help him out and see how things are going for him."
A sign for the Rose Bowl hangs front and center in OSU's team meeting room. That is the goal every year for the Buckeyes, to represent the Big Ten in Pasadena. But this year it takes on new meaning as the Rose Bowl will host the BCS national championship game.
"That's a goal every year, coming to Ohio State," Carpenter said. "It's 11-0 or 12-0 and beating Michigan and going to the Rose Bowl or whatever other bowl we get to go to. I think this year with the expectations coming in with our recruiting class and what we were supposed to do and what we're capable of, 8-4 really wasn't acceptable.
"We did finish off the season strong, but we'd really like a chance to get out to Pasadena. This would be our first Rose Bowl in a while, going back to 1997, and we're looking forward to it."