"After working out and doing seven-on-seven drills all summer, we're kind of ready to get out there and start hitting again," Salley said while attending the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon festivities in Chicago. "It's very exciting right now."
Salley and the Buckeyes have been engrossed in OSU's Bottom Line conditioning program since late June.
"We work extremely hard," he said. "It's like a year-round type of job. In the summer, some people try to take some classes or they'll even have a job on the side or something. You have to go work out and run. It makes for some long days. But it's all a part of what we're doing. We have a goal to be the best so we have to put in that work.
"Some people get to go home and be with their family. But I would rather here, working hard, instead of being at home and thinking that somebody is working harder than I am."
The Buckeyes, considered by many as a top-five team nationally in the preseason, have put that work in as they hope to build off a disappointing 8-4 season from a year ago.
"I believe we just have to focus more," he said. "I think we lost our focus and lost track of what we need to do. We just have to take care of things day by day.
"We had some injuries last year, too. There were games when we were missing three or four guys. It was crazy, but that all comes with the game. A lot of guys play hurt. I believe that hurt us a little bit. But we learned from it."
Salley, a two-year starter at free safety, figures to be among the senior leaders this fall.
"We have a lot of great seniors and we also have a great group of redshirt juniors," he said. "Those are guys who came in with us and have been through a lot of the same things we have. That experience will help us a lot."
OSU's nine returning starters on defense bring a combined 14 years of starting experience.
"It's very exciting, especially this year because everybody has some experience," Salley said. "We don't have anybody coming in who hasn't played before. They've already been through the ups and downs of the season. I think that will help us a lot with the experience we already have in the defensive backfield, the linebacker corps and the D-line."
One guy making a move will be senior Tyler Everett, who shifts from playing safety and nickel back to the open boundary corner position.
"We're excited about that," Salley said. "He knows pretty much everything. He has played a lot of safety with Donte (Whitner) and myself. He's a good athlete, extremely fast. I believe he'll do well. He's been doing great in seven-on-sevens, locking guys down."
The Buckeyes also have a nice crop of young defensive backs, Salley said.
"You look at Shaun Lane and Sirjo Welch probably at corner," he said. "Then we have a guy named Nick Patterson at safety. He's a smart guy. He reminds me of myself a little bit when I was a little younger. We have Jamario O'Neal coming in. He's been looking good in the seven-on-sevens. We have Brandon Underwood. He's been looking good. We have a lot of young guys. You don't know who is going to burst on the scene. You don't know who will do it, but all of them are capable of doing it."
The 6-3, 220-pound Salley was a second-team All-Big Ten pick a year ago, when he tallied 55 tackles and a pair of interceptions for the Buckeyes. He is mentioned on several preseason All-Big Ten teams.
"That's always been a goal of mine," Salley said. "I want to keep pushing toward it. I know I have to be a smart player and not miss tackles. I have to be fundamentally sound and also be a good leader and be vocal. If I do that and go out and play my heart, all those accolades will come with the territory. If this defense does well, all of that stuff will come with it. That's my main goal."
The start of preseason camp will be a bit different for members of OSU's secondary. Mel Tucker, their mentor since they arrived at the school, left last February for the Cleveland Browns. In his place, OSU will have Paul Haynes coaching safeties and Tim Beckman coaching the corners.
"I think they're great guys," Salley said. "Coach Haynes came in for the spring and I think guys jelled with him. It took a little while to get used to him because Coach Tuck is a different kind of guy. But Coach Haynes is a real cool guy once you get to know him. He's a real friendly guy, easy to get along with. We're going to have a lot of fun back there. We have some guys with a sense of humor and he has a sense of humor. We like to play hard and have fun. I believe that's what he wants from us."
As for team goals, Salley believes the sky is the limit for OSU in 2005.
"We ended so strongly against two pretty good opponents," he said. "Our big thing has to be that nobody has bigger goals that we have set for ourselves than we do. If somebody says, `You should be national champions,' we're already thinking that. We have huge goals for ourselves. Nothing should be a surprise to us or pressure on us because we already expect it."