Downing Wants To Be Leader On Offensive Line

Offensive lineman T.J. Downing is back for his fifth preseason camp with the Buckeyes. Downing, who started last season at right guard, discusses the rigors of preseason camp, what is expected with the offense this season and OSU's mind-set heading into the season. Click here for more.

Ohio State offensive lineman T.J. Downing is keyed up to lead the Buckeyes in what will be his fifth season with the Buckeyes.

"I've been here five years," said Downing, who started all 12 games at right guard last year and logged an impressive 340 minutes of playing time. "It's sad it's starting to come to an end. Like everybody says, it goes by in the blink of an eye. I'm just going to enjoy it while I'm here and take it for what it's worth."

Downing said the Buckeyes are prepared for the grueling 12-game regular season that awaits them.

"With (strength coach) Eric Lichter coming in, we worked a lot harder this summer," said Downing, who goes 6-4 and tips the scale at 305 pounds. "There was an added emphasis on working harder from the beginning. We wanted to get into game shape. It's nice to be here now and start the process. It's almost a relief. The lifting we were doing was ridiculous.

"(Lichter) has talked about how we have 13 hunts this year – and the last hunt is on Jan. 8."

Besides working out, Downing was asked what the "coolest thing" he did over the summer.

"The coolest thing I did this summer?" Downing said. "I got to read ‘360 Degrees of a Leader' by John Maxwell. It's a great book. Coach Tressel introduced me to it. It's kind of exciting. I think it helped me develop my leadership skills. You have to have leaders up front."

Downing talked about how the Buckeyes get through preseason camp.

"Guys hang out in each other's rooms and we talk about practice or whatever else is going on," Downing said. "If they get too annoying, I just throw in the iPod and go by myself. I'm not big on the (video) games. I'm a music guy all the way.

"As far as on the field, it's not really the heat. You have to psych yourself up because it's just a long day. You're up at 6 in the morning, knowing you will not be able to lay it back down until 10 o'clock. It gets long and the days drag on and it doesn't look like it's going to end. But then you get to that third week and you're able to count it back and you get to move out. It's going to be fun."

Of course, you have to be under a rock not to know that Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the USA Today preseason coaches poll. But Downing said the rankings are the last thing the team members need to concern themselves with.

"You have to forget about it and put it out of your mind," he said. "It's not where you're at at the beginning of the season. It's where you're at at the end that counts. I'm confident enough in this team that we'll be No. 1 at the end. All that's left is to go play the season and find out."

With Ohio State riding a seven-game winning streak to end the 2005 season, Downing said hopes are high that the offense will pick up where it left off.

"It rolls over to this year," Downing said. "Just like the Michigan and Oklahoma State games in 2004. We finished strong against those guys and we rolled over to the next season. We stumbled along the way. We were clicking against Texas, too. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep it going."

Downing reflected on OSU's last outing, the Fiesta Bowl where the Buckeyes piled up 617 yards total offense in a 34-20 win over Notre Dame.

"That was fun," he said. "We were throwing deep to Ted (Ginn Jr.) and Santonio (Holmes) and we got Antonio (Pittman) loose for the game winner. That's fun stuff. That's what I am expecting from the offense this year.

"We're going to be fun to watch. In the last few years, people have maybe felt we were boring and we weren't fun to watch. But the offense is going to be fun this year. We should be able to move the ball around and put a show on for the fans. It's fun to go into the Horseshoe and entertain. It's like you're a gladiator or something."

Downing talked about the weapons returning on offense, led by quarterback Troy Smith.

"It is nice having Troy back there," Downing said. "He is a heck of an athlete. We know if, for some reason and it usually doesn't happen, we slip up on the offensive line, he can usually make something happen.

"We saw it last year. We know what Troy can do and we know what Ted and Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) can do. We're going to see what Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline can do real soon. When you've got that confidence and that swagger, it helps you out."

Downing talked about how OSU may miss departing line starters Nick Mangold and Rob Sims.

"Last year, those guys were good," Downing said. "It was proven on draft day how good they were. But I think we have the talent to be better this year. Doug is going to step up moving down to center. That's going to be big for him. I'm looking for Alex and Kirk to step up at the tackle spots."

Participating in his fifth fall camp with the Buckeyes, Downing was asked what advice he would give the incoming freshmen.

"It's not all fun and games," he said. "It's not high school any more. It's more of a business than anything. There's no time for clowning around and goofing off. When you're on the practice field, you have to be serious. With the No. 1 ranking, people are going to be shooting for us. We have to make sure we are down pat with everything we're doing."

Downing said the veteran players are not concerned about the lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball, where OSU must replace nine starters.

"The defense is going to play," Downing said. "We aren't going to worry whether A.J. Hawk is back there or not. He's gone. We have Marcus Freeman and John Kerr and (James) Laurinaitis. Those guys will be the next Bobby Carpenters. They'll be making plays. I count on them, just as they count on me."

Downing is glad to see the Buckeyes rebuild the depth on the offensive line. This camp includes 13 scholarship linemen and four walk-ons.

"When we're able to run three lines at one time and nobody has to run with second and third group as well, that makes it nice," Downing said. "We're coming in with 16 or 17 offensive linemen."

Downing is as entrenched as anybody as a starter. But he is not taking anything for granted.

"You can never sleep because somebody is always out for your job," he said. "Getting comfortable will kill you. You always have to stay hungry and say, ‘Maybe this isn't my spot. Maybe the right guard spot is open. It's not T.J.'s spot. Nobody put T.J.'s name on it. I can put my name on it if I work hard and practice well.' "

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