The Buckeyes hit the ground running Monday morning, heeding the words of their head coach.
"When the sun comes up, you better be ready to run," Jim Tressel said he told his team Sunday night. "Our guys did an excellent job." And so that is how the 118th season of Ohio State football got underway.
Tressel told reporters this group appears – at least after one day – to be better conditioned than the No. 1-ranked squad he began breaking in one year ago, and he attributed that to the overall youth of his newest team.
While the 2006 Buckeyes had 17 seniors, this year 11 figure to suit up alongside 35 juniors and 24 sophomores.
"Last night at the first team meeting, the senior group stands up and is not very big, and then the junior group stands up and it like goes for three counties," Tressel quipped.
Most epitomizing the youthful exuberance the coach perceived was the incoming recruiting class. "Just watching the running this morning, Dane Sanzenbacher and Taurian Washington toyed with it," the coach said. "It was very impressive. For Brandon Saine it was just kind of a jog in the park because the tailbacks run with what we call the ‘Lions,' which is the middle group, and Brandon's faster than all the ‘Cheetahs' so it wasn't a real challenge, but he was just so smooth. Cameron Heyward was very impressive running. You can go down that freshman group was kind of what the older kids said they'd be: They're a pretty impressive group."
But long before any of those freshmen figure to earn a permanent spot on the depth chart, Tressel must find a quarterback from a group of three – junior Todd Boeckman, sophomore Rob Schoenhoft and redshirt freshman Antonio Henton – that just recently became four with the arrival of Joe Bauserman.
Tressel joked he had not seen the member of the Buckeyes' 2004 recruiting class throw a football since youth camp. Bauserman spent the summer working out on his own and now joins the Buckeyes as a walk-on.
While he is the longest of shots to see meaningful playing time any time soon – if ever – none of the quarterbacks vying to replace Troy Smith figure to be anointed the permanent starter before the end of the month.
The quarterbacks will rotate evenly for the first five days of practice, and Tressel talked as if he has no plans to settle completely on his man until well after the start of the season.
"I would say you'd like to have it unfold such that you could have more than one quarterback have opportunities early in the season. I guess, A, to make sure that you have fair competition and B, in a long 12-game season you're gonna maybe need Scotty McMullen to come in and win a game," Tressel said, referring to the backup quarterback who relieved an injured Craig Krenzel in the middle of the 2003 campaign.
"I think (an ideal situation would be) if you can get ample opportunity for multiple guys early in the year but really be feeling good about your situation when you enter conference play."
Healing Up – Eventually
Tressel identified three players who are hobbled at the start of camp: junior offensive linemen Jon Skinner and Kyle Mitchum and sophomore cornerback Andre Amos. He said all three are expected back by the end of the season, and all were seen walking around practice Monday. Skinner and Mitchum put in time on stationary bikes.
Meanwhile, Tressel said sophomore defensive back Anderson Russell – penciled in to reclaim his starting safety spot – showed no ill effects from a knee injury suffered last September.
"And he ran fast, too," Tressel said.
Others Late For Other Reasons
Aside from the wounded, another pair of Buckeyes were late reporting.
Schoenhoft was in his hometown of Cincinnati Sunday for a funeral but made it into town in time for practice Monday evening, while Tressel said he had yet to see freshman safety Jermale Hines. The Cleveland Glenville grad was finishing up paperwork from summer school, the coach said.
Expecting Deep Wells
Another of the spring walking wounded expected to play an important role this fall – sophomore tailback Chris Wells – ran well on camp's opening day, a good sign for the Buckeyes because Tressel said the coaching staff is preparing the man known as "Beanie" to carry the ball "an unlimited number of times."
Heat Good For Long Run
Ever the optimist, Tressel found a bright side to the sweltering Ohio temperatures, which are expected to stay in the 90-degrees-Fahrenheit range all week.
"It's all part of the work that you do to put together a good team is suffer through the heat. It's one more thing you've got tucked away when you have to experience that in a game, which may be that first one early in September."