The transition is now complete. While the Woody, Earle, and Cooper eras will always have a major impact on the tradition of the program, times have changed. Coach Jim Tressel now has 1 fall season, 2 winter conditionings, and 2 springs under his belt. There's no more of the "players getting to know coaches" or "coaches getting to know players." It was quite obvious this spring took on a different tone than last year. Everyone seems to be on the same page in 2002.
It seemed that the 2001 spring was a huge adjustment for the players. Where am I on the depth chart? Where do I go for the start of practice? Where do I line up in the huddle? Where do I line up in this formation? What are the "buttons" I can't push with my new coach? How long will we do this drill? The questions these players had were endless. The veterans couldn't answer them for the young pups. They knew Ohio State football to be one way, and that all got turned upside down a few days after the 2001 bowl game. Without question, from the very beginning, the players respected and admired everything about Jim Tressel. The fans and media were the same way. But that doesn't mean everyone knew what to expect. We all were curious to get our first look.
Thank goodness for sound senior leadership and a head coach that relates very well to 18-22 year olds. The transition was made and we even beat Michigan and got ourselves in a New Year's Day Bowl. But look out for this year.
As I mentioned earlier, this spring seemed to take on a different tone. The players were more vocal. The players seemed to be having more fun. The players knew when to knock someone out and when to spend time on the mental aspects. You are supposed to play football because it is fun, and that was definitely the case in April 2002. Coaches don't have to rely on film and depth charts from past seasons; they can now rely on their gut instincts.
You may be saying…"that's great, but what does that mean next fall?" Quite simply, I think it means the Buckeyes are back. Not because Doss returns, not because Smith or Gamble will soon be national names, but simply because the players realize what is expected of them. They will not be thinking. Instead, they will be reacting. With that being said, I can see this squad beating teams in the Big Ten convincingly. I think we have separated ourselves from the competition we will face. Now that is not saying we won't be in some serious dogfights. I don't think we will run the table. But I do think this year's team has the ability to dominate. We all remember the years that OSU would pour it on early and often. We remember the "3 and outs" by our defense, and the deep strikes of our wide receivers, and the blocked punts, and the 40-3 halftime scores. I think this team can get back to that because they without question raised the bar this past spring. Tressel's reputation got us through year one, but his reputation and system will now take over. The transition is done.