Bucks begin summer conditioning

School's almost out... football is still months away... you might think the team isn't busy right now, right? Not necessarily. Dave Biddle checks in today with a look at team workouts in the offseason.

The three months between the end of spring practice and the beginning of preseason camp is considered the "down time" of college football. But the summertime can prove to be just as important to the athletes as any other time of the year.

At Ohio State, the late spring/summer conditioning is broken down into two 5 1/2 week phases. Coach Jim Tressel spoke a little more about what is going on right now with the Buckeyes.

"We're in what you would call phase one of our summer program," Tressel said. "We have a 5 1/2 week phase that goes right up until finals week which includes three days of lifting and running and they have two days of supplemental lifting where they come in on their own and maybe work on some of the strength areas that are unique to their needs. They're also doing some 7-on-7 and that type of thing on their own. The only instruction we're allowed to give them is in the weight room with the running and so forth. But, they are full-speed into it.

"We'll finish up these 5 1/2 weeks and then take final exams and then take the week after that off. Then we'll have another 5 1/2 week phase and then we're back at it (for preseason camp)," Tressel said.

So, if you didn't catch that, the Bucks are working out five days a week - three with the coaches and two on their own. Not exactly a summer "vacation" huh?

Free safety Donnie Nickey talked a bit more about 7-on-7 drills and had an interesting comment on who has emerged as one of the team's leaders.

"We have a lot of fun with the 7-on-7," Nickey said. "The leaders, mostly Craig (Krenzel), set up the times to meet, but we usually do it Tuesdays and Thursdays after conditioning."

Nickey said that all of the 7-on-7 drills are done without pads, but that doesn't mean a Buckeye won't get "drilled" from time to time.

"We knock each other around sometimes, but it's mostly non-contact," he said.

One problem with "voluntary" workouts - whether you're talking about the high school level, college, or pros - is they are just that, voluntary. The players don't have to do them and many decide not to. So, what is Tressel doing to make sure that the attendance is high this summer?

"Actually, while we are still in school, we are allowed to have mandatory strength and conditioning workouts. We are allowed up to eight total hours a week... Once the school year is out and we are into the summer, now you're talking about a time where it's totally voluntary. So how does it look if someone doesn't follow through (with the voluntary workouts)? Well, we sit down and talk at length about guys and their goals and what it takes to achieve those goals. And then I think you're always talking about, 'Does your behavior follow up moving towards reaching those goals?'"

Tressel then gave an interesting analogy on lazy, wannabe doctors and lazy, wannabe football players.

"It's just like a guy who wants to go to med school, but you can't get him to go to study hall. It's not going to happen for him and you have to have those discussions. Now, you don't tell him that he can't take the medical boards, but you tell him he's going to have a tough-time passing. And it's the same thing when it comes to the physical preparation to be the Big Ten champions. You know, we're not going to throw someone off the team, or move them to fourth-string or whatever, but you're going to tell them that the competition is going to be strong - both on our field and in our conference - and you better get prepared."

What to take out of all that? The word "voluntary" doesn't exist in Tressel's mind, nor in the mind of any good coach.

Word is, the attendance at the University of Miami's "voluntary" workouts last summer was 100 percent. That means the third-string punter didn't even miss a day. The Hurricanes were of course rewarded with an undefeated season and the national championship.

Will the same thing happen for the Buckeyes if they get perfect attendance this summer? Probably not, but who knows? But I really like the way Tress has set up OSU's summer program and I love his attitude towards players that might blow it off: That's fine, you'll still be on the team. You might never play, but you'll be on the team.

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