OSU's Conditioning Will Be Key

With an unusually long layoff from the end of the regular season until its bowl game, a lot of people have wondered how Ohio State will perform against Florida in the BCS National Championship Game. One thing OSU fans can be sure of is the Buckeyes are ready to play physically thanks to their strength and conditioning staff.

Ohio State senior offensive lineman T.J. Downing says he believes Director of Football Performance Eric Lichter and Speed Coordinator Butch Reynolds have found just the right blend of lifting weights, running and agility drills to give the team a great chance to deal with the Gators' speed.

"Our strength coaches, Eric Lichter and all those guys have done a great job of getting us ready foot wise and we will be able to contend with them (the Gators)," said Downing. "We did some different conditioning drills and some footwork drills just to tighten up our agility. You go through a whole season and there is so much stuff going on that you just don't have enough time to keep your conditioning and your weightlifting up. Once we got done with the Michigan game, we knew we had a lot of days off so we really got after it with the speed work. So I think that is something that is going to help us out."

While Downing says the team has been able to do more training than it usually does during the regular season, it has not been the type of work it does during the off-season.

"The off-season is a whole different thing," the fifth-year senior said. "There are no meetings to worry about. There is no film study or game preparation to worry about, you just get into it. You are running all day, you're lifting all day and doing that is a lot more tiring than what we do now."

Despite the sacrifices the team has to make in its strength and conditioning during the season, Downing says as long as the players follow Coach Lichter's and Coach Reynolds' regiment they will perform well on game day.

"Eric and Butch are very talented guys in their field," said Downing as he sat in the stands of University of Phoenix Stadium at media day on Friday. "I think we're on top of our game and as good as we can be right now."

The players are not the only ones that are confident the team is peaking physically as the title game approaches. A certain former track world record holder says he has no doubt the Buckeyes can run with any team in the country.

"We had a good regiment between the Michigan game and when we arrived out here in Arizona," Butch Reynolds said. Since we got out here we have really tapered off a lot. We gave them some time off for Christmas, but then we got after it again."

Reynolds claims it's not hard to whip the Buckeyes in shape when the person at the top of the program understands the importance of strength and conditioning.

"Coach Tressel is very good at keeping things together with this type of layoff," Reynolds said. "When I say keeping things together, I mean morale. That is what you are really looking for. Once you're here, you're here. There is no way you can make these guys any faster or stronger. We are maintaining the top level that we are at. Now, we are keeping our workouts simple, no complexity at all."

And since nearly every fan and analyst in the country has had their say about Florida's speed and whether or not OSU can keep up with the Gators, Reynolds wanted to get in his views on the subject too.

"Being the speed coordinator you hear all of the speed jokes. I've seen it in my own athleticism. When I was in college I always heard it from Texas, Florida and LSU. They all had good teams, but at Ohio State I held my own. I won an NCAA Championship. It is always the west is the fastest or the south is the fastest and we are like dirt. But, win is a win and I will let that do the talking."

Senior defensive tackle David Patterson claims while their off the field workouts have been good, it is their practice routine that has them in top shape.

"We really get conditioned in practice," said Patterson, as he sat on his perch fielding questions from the media. "We try to go a lot of plays in a row. We go first offense against first defense for about six or seven, maybe eight plays in a row. That is really what works on your conditioning. When it comes to playing a football game, no matter how much you run, that cannot get you ready for a football game. The only thing that gets you ready for a football game is playing football."

Patterson says while it is important to get lots of work in practice to get ready for the game, the team's lifting routine has been just as important.

"Lichter's lifting program is great. We have done short sets and short reps, but we have six or seven different exercises. We might have hang cleans with three sets of four and bench press with three sets of six. More exercises but less reps."

Whatever Lichter and Reynolds are designing for the team it seems to be working. Everyone will find out on Monday night if it has been good enough.

Dave Rice will be covering the Ohio State Buckeyes for Scout.com as a fully credentialed reporter throughout National Championship Week.

Rice has been working in the local and national media field for more than a decade. He has a degree in broadcast journalism from Northern Arizona University and has been serving as a writer, editor and producer of sports and international news for a national wire service for nearly ten years.

Originally from the Cincinnati area, Dave is a lifelong Cincinnati Reds and Ohio State University fan. He enjoys spending time with his wife, young daughter and by watching high school and college sports.

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