D'Andrea continues his return from a knee injury. Every day he is able to practice without complications is a step back toward seeing the field for the Buckeyes.
"Through three days of practice, I've been able to do everything," D'Andrea said at Thursday's OSU media day. "So far, so good."
But defensive coordinator Jim Heacock told media members on Saturday that D'Andrea had experienced some soreness after at least one of the first-week practice sessions.
Accordingly, Heacock said the OSU staff will not push D'Andrea too hard during camp.
"We're going to back off," Heacock said. "I think the key is getting him through two-a-days. Getting through this period is tough because there is a lot of pounding, but we're counting on him."
Heacock is hopeful D'Andrea can be a factor on the field during games this fall. He is willing to trade some missed practice time to increase the chance that D'Andrea will be available for games in some capacity.
"I think he's been a lot better than he was in the spring and he feels good about it," Heacock said. "That's the important thing. When he was out here, he looks good. He gives us some experience and he is a tough guy. Hopefully, we can get him to one-a-days and on into the season and he can help us out."
It has been a long and winding road for the 6-3, 248-pound D'Andrea. He came to OSU with much acclaim as one of the plums of the school's star-studded 2002 recruiting class. He sat behind Matt Wilhelm as a freshman during the national championship season.
He then split time with Fred Pagac Jr. in 2003 before a shoulder injury ended his season. He then was the starter early in 2004 before a knee injury sent him to the sidelines. He came back and played just three games in 2005. When the NCAA granted his petition for an extra year, there was hope that D'Andrea would make an impact in 2006. But he missed spring football as the knee problem continued to linger.
D'Andrea discussed his rehab, which has included work in a rehabilitative pool.
"I came back a little bit last year and still had problems with it," D'Andrea said. "In the spring, I still had problems with it. I did some pool work. The good thing about pool work is you can get that muscle and do a lot of different things with it without hurting the joint. I think that really helped it."
As noted, the knee has cooperated so far. But D'Andrea isn't taking the progress for granted.
"I'm just hoping for the best," he said. "I really want to be in there every day, but I can't get too greedy about it right now.
"I just want to be healthy throughout the whole season."
D'Andrea showed up for preseason camp with fellow fifth-year senior John Kerr as the listed starter in the middle. Kerr, a transfer from Indiana, is also a Cleveland-area native. D'Andrea said it is ironic how the long path led them to this point.
"We haven't really talked about it," he said. "It's weird how things play themselves out. I think we're both in position to do some great things this year."
D'Andrea said he has been impressed watching this 2006 team come together. The No. 1 ranking is a lot to live up to, but he thinks this team is capable of big things.
"I think we have a lot of team chemistry compared to other years," he said. "You think about the rankings, but everybody believes in this team."
D'Andrea was asked if he ever thought of giving up.
"No, not really," he said. "You might think about stuff like that when you have a major surgery.
"The only thing you can do is stay into it unless you're going to quit. I'm here going to school and doing everything. There's no way I can quit. The biggest thing that pushes me is looking forward to that day when I'll be 100 percent."
D'Andrea understands that he must work to impress the coaches and earn playing time.
"Right now, I know it's probably hard for the coaches because I haven't played in so long," he said. "They want to slot me into the right position and make sure I am doing everything right. It will probably take some time. I've practiced three days in a row and hopefully I can keep that up."
Just to get on the field, D'Andrea has to perform rehab exercises and go through post-practice ice sessions.
"I'm always rehabbing and always icing it," he said. "I always try to do the little things to keep the swelling down. Occasionally, I'll get swelling and sometimes I won't."
But all of the waiting and hard work will pay off when and if he is able to get back into the linebacker rotation for the Buckeyes.
"To be on that field and playing again, that would complete the dream, I guess," he said.