Carpenter checked in at 6-3, 260 pounds and says he's ready to begin the season.
"Yeah, it's my last year, so it's definitely exciting," he said. "And all the potential that this team has, there's kind of been an anticipation all summer, everyone has just been anxious to get in here, get started and see what we got."
A.J. Hawk gets most of the national publicity – and with good reason – but Carpenter is also an All-American candidate. As a junior in 2004, Carpenter was second on OSU's team with 93 tackles (46 solo). He also had 6.5 tackles-for-loss, three interceptions and two sacks.
With 4.5 speed in the 40, Carpenter is a true athletic freak. Team goals are most important to him, but he also has some personal goals in mind this season.
"Well, I guess all that stuff, it really comes with how good your team goes," he said. "But if I didn't want to be an All-American here, I'd be lying to you if I told you that. So, that's been my goal since my freshman year when I came in. You look at the teams that have all the big-name players are the successful teams. Look at USC and how many guys they've had drafted and how many All-Americans and All-Pac 10 guys they've had, that's because of their success as a team.
"So, if we win a national championship around here, there's going to be a lot of guys with their names out there. When you look at the (2004 NFL) draft when we had 14 guys drafted from the 2002-03 team, that was a reflection of how good the team was. So, I'm trying to put the team first this year. Trying to be as successful as we can as a team and I think all the personal stuff will come after that."
With Carpenter, Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea – all seniors – OSU has, perhaps, the best group of linebackers in the country. And there is also a talented crop of young 'backers behind them, led by sophomores Marcus Freeman and Chad Hoobler.
"Those young guys push us," Carpenter said. "Don't think just because we've got a lot of guys with experience, you know, (linebackers coach Luke) Fickell will put the best guys in there, whoever is playing. So, we've got to go out there and compete everyday for our starting jobs. Those young guys are good and they've got some experience now, a full year under their belt, so they're ready to go."
Like most teams, Ohio State runs its preseason camp like a military boot camp.
"Yeah, I'd say it's pretty much lockdown," Carpenter said. "Everyone's girlfriends are pretty much upset. You've got to come in here for three weeks and you can't really leave, except for maybe one or two nights here and there after the jersey scrimmage or something. But, other than that, we're here. Wake up in the morning, come over, meetings, practice, meetings, eat, practice, meetings, that's it. That's pretty much how our day goes. You get to watch about a half hour of TV at night before you fall asleep and that's just a bonus.
"Everyone just tries to enjoy their freedom the last couple weeks. Play a little golf. Just do anything to try and relax the last few days before camp."
Carpenter thought the Buckeyes worked especially hard during summer conditioning. He specifically felt the offensive line looked good.
"I'd say summer conditioning went well," he said. "We had a lot of guys in here this summer as always. Everyone was in here working hard. This is probably one of the best in-shape O-lines we've had. The guys look good running so far and we have our conditioning test (Monday) and I guess that will tell how in shape everyone really is, but really, to me, it looked like everyone was running well, lifting hard. Everyone is tuned up ready to go."
Some are throwing around comparisons between this year's OSU team and the 2002 national champions. Carpenter was asked for his thoughts on such a comparison.
"Probably the thing with the '02 team, we had a couple guys who were here that redshirted in '98 when they were pretty special," he said. "So, part of the carryover is that we've got a lot of guys who were here our freshmen year the year we won the national title who are seniors now. So, we know what it takes to win a national championship and whether we can achieve that remains to be seen, but we know what it takes and we know how to push the younger guys and hopefully bring everyone together. In the end, it's whoever has the best team that works together. And that's what we have. We might not necessarily have the best players every year, but I think we have a family atmosphere around here and that really helps everything."
Carpenter could be jealous of all the attention that Hawk receives, but he isn't. The two are actually close friends and Carpenter is happy that Hawk is already being mentioned along with the all-time greats at OSU.
"AJ and I came in and we've played side-by-side for four years now – even as far back as the North-South game," Carpenter said. "It's been something pretty special playing beside a player who is as talented and athletic as he is. That's always something special when you're in the presence of someone who is going to be up here someday (points at the murals of OSU greats in the lounge at the WHAC). So, it's special for me and it makes my job easier."
The two linebackers have somewhat opposite personalities. Hawk is reserved, where Carpenter is more of a free spirit.
"A.J. is one of those guys… he reminds me a lot of my younger brother (Jon) actually," Carpenter said. "He's got a quiet intensity to him. He doesn't really talk a whole lot – he's very reserved – but in the end, he's a very intense person.
"I guess I'm a little more outgoing. I show my emotions a little more; I kind of wear them on my shoulder and everyone knows what's going on with me. So, I guess that's good and bad. Everyone has their own way of doing things and I guess we're a good compliment to each other."
Carpenter and Hawk are also competitive about everything. Whether they are playing golf, video games, or pool, they want to win.
"I guess we are pretty competitive," Carpenter said. "We'll be watching film the day after a game and if he misses a tackle or something, I'll rag on him and he'll do the same to me. I guess we all want to do the best and we're out there everyday competing and trying to do the best between each other and when we're doing that it just makes each other better. I think that's why we've been so successful around here."
Carpenter's father – Rob – was an NFL fullback with the Houston Oilers and New York Giants. Prior to that, he was an NCAA All-American at Miami University. Needless to say, there are strong football bloodlines in the Carpenter family.
"It was very special to have that," Bobby said of being raised by an NFL father. "I benefited tremendously from that. My father gave me a lot of information and helped me a lot that I think other players were not fortunate enough to get. So, from my situation, I feel very blessed to have a father that has as much athletic ability as he did. But also, he's a tremendous person. He helped me out and he told me what it takes to get to the next level. What it takes to succeed, both in college and in the NFL. So, I just try and take all that in and absorb it and see how I can translate that on the field."
Carpenter does not remember much about his father's NFL career.
"I was pretty young, but occasionally he busts out the tapes," he said. "And I was getting recruited by a lot of different schools, he knows a lot of different guys at a lot of different schools that he either played with, or against, or even coached him. So they would always tell me this, that, and the other and how good he was.
"I think the biggest thing that I took away from him was how hard of a worker and intense of a competitor he was. He always told me that he had enough ability to make it, but he never would have made it as long as he did if he wouldn't have been as hard of a worker. He always said he was never going to get outworked. So, I try to emulate that. I didn't know how much ability I had in high school, so I was just going to try and work as hard as I could and hopefully get somewhere."
Carpenter finds it difficult to believe that he is in the final season of his OSU career. It feels like yesterday when he ran down the field and made the tackle on the opening kickoff of the 2002 season against Texas Tech.
"It's definitely been a memorable career," he said. "I look back on my freshman year and we won the national championship. And looking ahead this year to Senior Day, when everyone gets to run out and you have the tunnel of pride and everything, I think it's something so special when they call your name, especially when you're from Ohio, central Ohio even, on that last home game when they call your name and you go running out in front of 105,000 people. I think that just kind of your way to kind of taking a bow for your career. I don't know how many Senior Days we've lost around here, but it can't be too many. It's definitely a special feeling."
Carpenter and a few other Buckeyes (like Hawk) have continued to grow their hair out like an 80's rock bad (OK, not quite that bad). Yes, it's extremely long at this point, but don't expect these guys to see a barber anytime soon.
"That remains to be seen, I guess," Carpenter said. "We're supposed to get it trimmed every now and then so it doesn't get too unmanageable, but I guess it's something that we all talked about. Everyone has had short hair for so long, we decided we were going to change it up a little bit and grow it out and see where that takes us this year. And I guess if we win a lot of games and don't lose any, we're going to keep it and ride it as long as we can."
But how is it that old-school head coach Jim Tressel doesn't have a problem with the long locks?
"Well, Coach Tressel is usually pretty strict about everyone cutting it, but I think he's starting to loosen up a little bit in his older age," Carpenter said with a laugh. "He understands – my dad gives me a hard time, my mom, I know AJ's parents have – we tell them that everyone had long hair back in the 70's. I've got pictures of my dad when he had long hair coming out the back of his helmet. So, you know what, he can chill out a little bit. I told him I would cut it after the season for sure, maybe a little bit before that. But I like it. I think it's something different. Maybe something that we'll be known for around here. I think it looks good a little bit. Something to distinguish us. I always try and tell Coach Fickell – he yells at us about it – that it looks like how Kevin Greene had it back with the Steelers."
Carpenter was asked if Tressel really got the "cornrows" in his hair as promised after the 2002 national title.
"Yeah, he did," he said. "He came into a 6 a.m. workout and he had his cornrows in for two days. That was the real thing. He grew it out for a couple weeks and he got one of the guy's girlfriends to braid it out for him."
Ohio State has a new defensive coordinator this season – veteran coach Jim Heacock – and Carpenter believes that the Buckeyes' defense will be among the nation's best.
"I think if you look at the last five games of the year, we led the Big Ten in most statistical categories the last five games," he said. "So, I think we turned it on strong at the end of the season and that was key to our success and we really came together. A lot of people were on us when we lost those three games and the defense didn't really play as well as we needed to. But I think that was a process – you become fortified under pressure – the defense came together and everyone got better.
"This year, I think the biggest thing is that we've got a lot of intangibles as a unit. The cohesiveness that we play together with is something that a lot of teams can't have. So, I think that's what special about us."
Carpenter and his teammates will not soon forget the 33-7 drubbing they were handed by Iowa last year. This season, the rematch will take place Sept. 24 in Ohio Stadium.
"That was pretty much the turning point of our season," Carpenter said. "I guarantee that's one game that no one on this team will have a problem getting ready for this year. I can't remember any time Ohio State got embarrassed like that, especially when they were supposed to be as good as we were. So, that's definitely an embarrassing moment for us. We worked hard from that point on. I think everyone really came together and rallied around it."