"Well, this morning for our running test, it was beautiful," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "We need some sweltering (days), but we need to get some things organized and get the young guys… they looked at our playsheet that we started with today and about dropped over. So, we need to have a little bit of a comfort situation for the younger guys to get started and we need it hot when we have the pads on."
It's no secret that OSU's freshmen have a lot of catching up to do.
"When you're a guy starting practice 16 like the older guys are (counting spring ball) there's a lot longer list of plays than these guys starting practice one," Tressel said. "But, you know, it will be fun."
Junior quarterback Troy Smith will serve the final game of a two-game suspension in the opener against Miami University. Tressel was asked how often Smith will work with the starters leading up to the opener.
"He'll have a rotation within the group of quarterbacks," Tressel said. "Not a whole bunch of time with the 1's, because obviously he won't be with the 1's for the opening game. But he'll have some time with each group, and then some time with the scout team."
Tressel was asked if camp will be a battle for the No. 1 quarterback job for the Texas game.
"What we're doing is trying to have each guy be the best quarterback they can be," he said. "And then as time expresses itself, game one, we know who's in that battle. Then, game two, we think we know who's in that battle. Now, we don't know who's injured and things like that. But really, preseason, it's a battle against yourself. How good can you become? And that's the way hopefully our guys are looking at it. I hope they're not on their tip toes looking out to the opener. I hope they're not on a ladder looking out to Texas. The need to be really grounded and looking at, ‘How can I get better at today's practice?'"
Tressel was then asked if Smith is still in "a little bit of a doghouse" with the coaching staff.
"A little bit of a doghouse? I don't know how you would define that," Tressel said. "We have a plan for everyone. We have a plan for Troy. And it's not a matter of a doghouse thing, it's a matter of making sure you execute the plan. So, I just want to see him do the best he can at what's prescribed."
The first five days of camp are basically spent working on fundamentals. The Buckeyes won't put the pads on and hit until Saturday.
"Well, you put in a lot of things these first five days," Tressel said. "You kind of re-introduce it to the guys who've had it in the spring. Totally new introduction for the guys that just got here. Getting used to how we do things. What's the purpose of each drill? What's the tempo of each drill? Today and tomorrow is just helmets. Then you have a couple days with just shoulder pads, and then you put the pads on. And so, really it's a learning process through these first five and I think with the new rules the way they are in the last year or two, there's a acclimatization period of these five days, just to make sure that we have the best percent chance of safety as we possibly can. Get through that and learn as much as we can and then when we get to two-a-days, which is next Monday, a week from today, just turn it up a notch."
Camp opened with perfect attendance. All 105 Buckeyes were present and accounted for.
"We're not missing anyone," Tressel said.
However, linebacker Mike D'Andrea is still working his way back from knee surgery. It looks like he will be ready to go by the first game, but he's not where he needs to be quite yet.
"You know, I don't know that I would call him 100 percent," Tressel said. "The trainers and doctors did not want him to run the full test this morning for instance. We don't want to have anyone in our fitness testing take a half-step backwards. So, I would say Michael, in my mind, is probably in the 85 to 90 percent. But, I'm not a trainer talking. I think he'll be able to do what we do in these practices. He'll be able to do the shorts, he'll be able to do the shells and I'm sure he'll be able to do the pads come Saturday."
If D'Andrea is not 100 percent by the opener, the staff could decide to redshirt him.
"You just see how things are going," Tressel said. "We don't ever want to put a guy in a game who is not ready to go 100 percent. And it's a little more complicated in his case because you don't want to burn a season if all of a sudden you'd be talking redshirt.
"And on the other hand, it's no secret we've appealed for an extra year anyway. So, I think we're waiting and in his case it's a little bit different. We're waiting for a little communication from an appeal. Obviously, most importantly, we have to see how he's doing medically. And the ideal thing for us would be that he could be rockin' and rollin' by game one and play two more years. That's the optimal. We'll see."
Even with possibly the best group of linebackers in the country, Tressel says D'Andrea is an important cog on the team.
"Oh gosh, Mike D'Andrea is a good football player," he said. "Most of you have been here a long time and know from the standpoint of when he's in the game, he makes plays. It's just unfortunate, bad luck, injuries, whatever you call it, he hasn't had as many chances in the games as we would like, but when he's in there, he makes plays."
Punter Kyle Turano's status is still up in the air. He is appealing for a sixth year of eligibility.
"Haven't heard a thing, and therefore, we did not put him in the 105," Tressel said. "So, at the earliest, if we heard anything, that he could be (eligible) for the second game."
(Unless something drastically changes, look for redshirt freshman A.J. Trapasso to be the Buckeyes' punter this season.)
As for the fitness test which marks the beginning of every camp, Tressel was more than pleased with the way it went.
"Everyone completed it," he said. "I'm not going to go on record saying everyone passed it. But I'll say this: I thought it was probably the best one – and we've done the same test for five years – I would say that was the best performance by the group as a whole in the five years."
Tressel explained how the test is set up.
"Well, we have what we can intervals, which is 106 yards with one turn," he said. "They run 20 of those with a short rest in the first 10 and a little longer rest in the next 10 and prescribed times according to position. It's difficult. It's a tough test. I thought it was the best our team as a group has ever run it."
Years ago, football players would use camp as a time to get in shape. But no longer. They must come to camp in shape and ready to go.
"You really do," Tressel said. "The kids are in unbelievable shape. I mean, you cannot be on the football team here and not be in some semblance of shape. They workout so much. They train and commit so much. And that's why as I watched them this morning, that was even the best I've seen them, which shows me the commitment is deep."
Tressel was asked if he has ever considered moving some of the practices to the evening to help beat the heat.
"We haven't had a summer yet that we felt mandated that we do that, because Sept. 3 (against Miami), it's going to be at noon," he said. "So, really, I'm more toward wanting to practice how it's going to be (in a game) unless it gets unsafe. Now, we have trainers who do that wet bulb and if they ever tell us that the humidity is beyond what we should do, or we need more frequent stops, obviously we do that. But, I haven't been in a preseason here in Ohio that mandated that we change our schedule."
Sophomore phenom Ted Ginn Jr. will get most of his reps on offense during camp. But he will also be in there on special teams, as well as defense.
"It will be, probably, 75 percent of the time on the offensive side, and 15-20 percent of the time with the special units," Tressel said. "And then maybe five or 10 percent of the time with the defense. But probably not a whole bunch here in the first few days."
Last year during camp, Ginn was almost strictly a defensive player. Don't forget, most scouting services ranked him as the No.1 cornerback in the country coming out of Cleveland Glenville.
"Oh yeah, it was 90 percent defense, which is what he wanted," Tressel said. "We've always said in recruiting, whatever a guy wants to play, we'll have him play. And then when things unfold and people look around and we look around, we reserve the right to ask for guys to make changes and we did that."
Tressel says there is no doubt true freshman Andre Amos will play corner. He is still listed as a wide receiver on the roster.
"Well, he's a corner at Ohio State," Tressel said. "In fact, he changed his number. He's out of 86 and into 14 or something like that."
Another big topic of discussion is the play of OSU's defensive line. If the Buckeyes can get pressure up front, the back seven is talented enough to dominate. But questions still remain about the defensive line. There is plenty of talent there, but many of the players are still unproven.
"I think they need to become even more disruptive and even more dominant, more productive," Tressel said of the D-line. "I would really be disappointed – because of the fact that they are all a year older – I would be disappointed if they don't make that step."
One of the things that Tressel wants to see out of the defensive line is more sacks.
"Oh sure," he said. "I think you could talk to (defensive coordinator) Jim Heacock, he's done a little bit of a study on tackles-for-losses and sacks and a year ago we weren't where we were in 2002 and 2003 and that type of thing."
Freshmen used to report to camp three days before the upperclassmen. But, after a new NCAA rule was implemented in 2004, everyone now comes in at the same time. Tressel doesn't seem to mind the rule.
"You know, it was kind of a trade-off," he said. "From a safety standpoint, they said we're going to go to this 2-1-2-1 so we don't have quite as many two-a-days in a row. If we said, ‘OK, we're still going to have the freshmen come in three days earlier even through we're bringing everyone in a little bit earlier,' that pushes the freshmen back even more. Now you're talking about budgets and kids' time and so forth. So, I think the trade off with moving the whole outfit a little earlier was, ‘Let's not bring the freshmen quite that much earlier.' So, you do miss that a little bit. We're doing a little bit of what we did last year which is keep the freshmen in the meeting room a little longer, trying to give them a little bit more attention."