Few players enjoy summer workouts. It's hot, workouts can drag on and on and much of the work done is designed to help the players get into shape.
During the summer of 2007, however, four players would either rise early or stay late with goals of helping each other hit the ground running when the season began. And after just one game, most of them are already noticing a payoff.
Junior quarterback Todd Boeckman – the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback job this fall – was joined by wide receivers Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and Ray Small. The drills were simple, reflecting the goals of those participating in them: Helping young guys get better quickly.
"A lot of it, maybe the one-on-one stuff would just be timing," Robiskie said. "I think that even then, it wasn't a lot of one-on-one because Brian Hartline was always right there with us. Any time you can make that timing easier on the quarterback it's going to help you."
The drills were nothing fancy. The players would line up, facing no opposing defense, and simply run timing drills over and over again.
Boring? Maybe. Beneficial? You bet.
"We knew we were going to be younger receivers coming in so we knew we had to put in extra work to maybe get that older status, that experience or that feel," Hartline said.
The extra work appeared to pay off in a big way for the Robiskie. In the Buckeyes' season-opening 38-6 victory over Division I-AA foe Youngstown State, he caught nine passes for 153 yards – both career-high numbers.
Hartline, who finished with two receptions for 22 yards, said the work helped the receivers as well as Boeckman.
"All three of us can run, so it was more of the technical concept," he said. "Realizing that if someone's on you and you can get out of your break faster than he can you're going to be separation. Simple things like that."
Boeckman said the work put in helped him feel more settled in what was his first collegiate start.
"I think so definitely, just by showing I can go out there I can be able to throw the ball against a live defense, actually going out in Ohio Stadium and making those throws," he said. "It's timing routes – throwing the ball when they're not looking so defenders can't make that break on the ball and pick it off. It's little things like that that just give me a great confidence booster."
While Small did not play after suffering an ankle injury during fall camp, the immediate reaction of many following the game has been that Robiskie is now Boeckman's go-to receiver. At times, the signal caller did appear to be locked onto Robiskie – or "Robo" as his teammates call him.
Boeckman's first three passes were all completed to Robiskie, totaling 64 yards. He hauled in a 16-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, then picked up 41 yards on a deep fade along the sideline. The final seven yards came as the Buckeyes quickly moved into YSU territory.
After the game, however, both Robiskie and Boeckman denied having any sort of special connection. Instead, the message was that Robiskie just happened to be the player who was open and that any of the team's other wideouts could also have made the plays.
While Robiskie was named the team's offensive player of the week, Hartline said he does not think the team needs a go-to receiver.
"It's maybe who the quarterback gets in a rhythm with," he said. "That's part of football. That's going to happen. Everyone will have their day. We don't have a system as much designed around one person or trying to get the ball in one person's hands. That could change every day."
If it does, however, smart money would be on the guys who were there putting in extra time during the summer.