Let The Preparations Begin

More than three weeks removed from a victory against Michigan, Ohio State is now focusing on its repeat berth in the national championship game. Get the latest on how a few injured Buckeyes are coming along, who might be switching positions and what the next few weeks will hold here on BuckeyeSports.com.

Bowl season has officially begun in Columbus, and the Ohio State's Jim Tressel greeted a throng of national media members to discuss his team's upcoming matchup against Louisiana State.

In what can almost be described as a "State of the Buckeyes" address, Tressel maintained that his team has one solitary focus: performing to the best of their abilities when they take the field Jan. 7 in the BCS National Championship Game. In doing so, the Buckeyes have a chance to avenge themselves against a team from the Southeastern Conference after being embarrassed one season ago in by Florida in the title game.

But according to Tressel and his players, there are very few parallels being drawn between this year's title game and last year's 41-14 defeat. Instead, the focus is simply on becoming a better team practice by practice.

"Quite frankly, the time leading up to now we've really worked hard on our own fundamentals," Tressel said. "We've worked hard on some of the things that we've scouted ourselves that we need to work to get better at."

The OSU coaching staff has been kept busy during the past few weeks as they have hit the recruiting trail, leaving no fewer than three coaches on site at all times. Beginning Friday, however, Tressel and Co. will be solely focusing on getting their team ready to play the Tigers.

This weekend, the coaching staff will begin fully studying LSU and preparing the team for the title game and creating the team's game plan. Those preparations will continue through next week, with the players leaving to go home for the holidays Dec. 19.

The Buckeyes will return to campus one week later, and from there they will put in one week of work before they head to New Orleans for the game. The team will arrive in the Big Easy on Jan. 2 and work out there until the game begins.

The team that will take the field might have a little different look than the one OSU fans have seen all season, however. Sophomore quarterback Rob Schoenhoft has been moved to tight end, a position he is manning on the scout team. In his place, redshirt freshman Antonio Henton seems to have ascended to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind junior Todd Boeckman although the movement is not reflected on the most recent depth chart.

"It's a little different," Boeckman said. "I think he has a few things to work on, but I've heard he's possibly coming back after the bowl."

Tressel did say that Schoenhoft "has not changed his position," but that he is helping with certain tight end looks.

Sophomore defensive end Rob Rose, who has suffered through a somewhat disappointing season, underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday. His prognosis for the bowl game is unknown, as is the extent of the injury.

News was a little better regarding junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who suffered a broken leg in the season-opening game against Youngstown State. His prognosis for the bowl game remains up in the air, but the possibility exists that he could return in a limited role.

"That's a close one," Tressel said. "I think if we would've played on the first, I don't think so. Playing a little later, he's got a chance. It wouldn't be a whole-game thing. It might be a 20-play thing.

"I tease him a little bit and say, ‘Hey, maybe if you're not ready that means you're going to be here on '09.'

The plan with Wilson is to wait until the team reconvenes after Christmas and see how he feels after having some rest. He is currently doing agility and strength drills, but has been held out of contact.

Although all of the names were not immediately known, 13 juniors on the team filed paperwork with the NFL in an effort to gauge where they might be drafted should they leave following this season. From there, the players can go home during Christmas and return with a better understanding as to what their future might hold.

Although Tressel encourages his junior players to do so every year, the approach this season was a little different in that last year, the focus was on telling players who thought they could go pro to fill out the paperwork.

This year, he talked about it in a team meeting with all eligible participants.

"I guess it's a reality check that the next level is coming soon for a lot of us, even if it's this year or next year," said junior linebacker Marcus Freeman, who was one of the players to fill out his paperwork. "We knew that the day was going to come to do it. I think the biggest thing is we just wanted to get the feedback and go on from there."

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