Buckeyes Rise And Shine For New Meetings

As college students draw closer to graduation, the desire for most grows to schedule classes for later in the day to avoid having to wake up early in the morning. But this spring, an experienced Ohio State roster is finding most of its oldest players trekking to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to sit through some non-mandatory extra football meetings.

Few college students relish having to go to class in the morning. Even fewer still enjoy having to be seated in a classroom before the sun comes up.

But this spring, as Ohio State counts down toward the annual spring game, the majority of the team's upperclassmen have been doing just that: rubbing the sleep from their eyes while sitting in an early-morning classroom.

At least in this case, the topic at hand is pretty relevant to their day-to-day lives. With assistant football coaches at the podium, the topic is football. One 45-minute session at a time, the Buckeyes are gaining a deeper knowledge of the game of football.

"We've done all the training before and we didn't get (a title), so what extra added edge can we do with the training to get us back again and keep us focused?" wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "There's some method to the madness with keeping us excited, but we want to be more challenged. We want to add more to our game."

The brainchild of head coach Jim Tressel, the meetings are designed to help a team that returns virtually all of its starters from a squad that lost the national championship game one season ago grow from its past experiences. One of the stated primary goals for this spring was to challenge his players to grow mentally and expand their overall football knowledge in the process.

Topics range from how teams battle each other in the trenches to what wide receivers try to do attack a Tampa-2 defense – and conversely how that type of defense attempts to bottle up opposing wideouts.

It is all about raising the collective football I.Q. of a team that is long both on upperclassmen and playing for national championships but short on winning them.

"We really want to stretch them as to what they truly know and talk a little bit more from a conceptual standpoint," Tressel said. "We're going to focus a little bit differently rather than methodically putting a little bit of everything in."

Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said he feels those goals are being met.

"The first couple of ones didn't really help me because it was offensive line protection, but once they got into other stuff like the Tampa-2 or why they line up in certain formations and how they read coverages, that's something that can help me out a lot," he said. "It was interesting to see their outlook on it and what kind of things they're looking for. What are their keys?"

On the other side of the ball, Hartline said he enjoyed getting a better feel as to how to attack specific defenses.

"If you understand you're running this route versus this coverage, it's just going to help you take advantage of where the zone pockets are," he said. "There's a lot more to it than you really think than just being fast and big and strong and catching the ball and running. There's more to it than that. The more we take advantage of that the better we're going to be."

That particular lesson was taught by OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell.

"What that does is it gives you an appreciation of how they see things on the defensive side," Hazell said. "We see things different. The exact same thing, we see it completely opposite. It's good to get a different perspective."

The meetings are not necessarily mandatory, Jenkins said, "but this is Division-I football. Most guys go." Originally designed solely for the team's upperclassmen, all players are welcome to attend.

According to Hazell, it's all about a healthy dose of perspective for a team that has already gone through spring drills numerous times.

"I think the things that the guys get out of it is a different perspective," he said. "You hear one thing said from one perspective, but you can see it completely different from another perspective. That will help them. It's just the little things. Nothing massive, but just little things."

Still, these are college students who are not thrilled about the prospect of waking up so early in the morning.

"I do wish I could sleep in, but it's helping," Jenkins said with a laugh.

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