Trapasso An Elder Statesman For OSU

Most players don't reach their fifth spring practice session at a given university, but that's the situation a few OSU football players find themselves in, including A.J. Trapasso. The fourth-year starter at punter said he'd try to use that experience to his advantage this year, while looking forward to a high-profile arrival.

If someone at Ohio State had a good sense of humor, the purchase of three rocking chairs would be in order.

Said someone would place the chairs at the lockers of Steve Rehring, Marcus Freeman and A.J. Trapasso, the three Buckeye football players who just finished their fifth springs. After enrolling for the season back in 2004, the three fifth-year seniors just went through the 2008 spring as the old hands of the squad.

"We feel like we're the veterans around here," Trapasso said with a laugh. "We have a strong team and strong team unity. It keeps you interested, it keeps you involved and we all enjoy it very much."

For Trapasso, spring is no time to sit around and pick daisies. The Pickerington, Ohio, native continues to refine his craft despite going into his fourth season as Ohio State's starter, and though punting is a skill that requires timing and sharpness, much of the work that goes into such attributes is done in spring.

"Being my fifth spring, I would say, yeah, it's always important," Trapasso said. "You can't take any of this lightly. Any chance you have to get on the field and do live reps with the team in front of you, it's always good. I always try to make it a point not to take that stuff for granted. I never take spring for granted. It's a perfect opportunity to work on the things you need to work on."

Trapasso's punting in the spring was at times hit or miss. In the spring game, he had just two punts that totaled 72 yards with a long of 37 and one boot that stopped inside the opposing 20-yard line.

But the real time to shine for kickers is in the kick scrimmage, which was held two days before this year's April 19 spring game. Though no stats were given to the media, Trapasso described his day as a mixed bag, and one of his kicks was returned by Ray Small for a touchdown.

"Personally, there were a few kicks where I'm not really sure what I was doing," he said. "You just try to straighten those out. We have some work to do, but the way everybody's hitting the ball, I like what we've got going into the summer and the fall."

Trapasso's goal for the spring was the same as the goal he's had every year going into the season: kick the ball with more consistency. He's done a fairly good job of that so far at when his punting averages are concerned.

Taking over the job as a freshman in 2005 for Kyle Turano, Trapasso averaged 40.4 yards on his 43 punts. A year later, that number went up to 40.6 on 49 punts before he raised that nearly a yard to 41.5 in 53 punts.

Ohio State's goal is to finish atop in the conference in net punting, and each of the last two years the Buckeyes came in third in that category, just a yard or two off the pace.

"I'm always working on consistency," he said. "Punt placement and height and distance, that's basically my whole job, and I try to get better at that every day."

Trapasso, in addition to being a punter, is a player who can fill a variety of roles. He became one of Ohio State's kickoff men last season and did fairly well, averaging 64.4 yards on his kickoffs and dropping nine of 26 for touchdowns.

In addition, he can run the ball when necessary, earning a first down on a run against Minnesota on a fake punt. Toting the pigskin is a skill he learned at Pickerington High School, where he ran for 3,754 yards and 50 touchdowns in his career.

The joke is that the 6-1, 229-pounder is the leading all-time rusher in kick scrimmages, during which he usually gets at least one fake punt to run, but has only had that one chance in a game. He said that irked him at first but he has now come to grips with reality that running the football is not his meal ticket.

"In retrospect, I'm happy for it," Trapasso said. "We have some incredible running backs here, and I'm nowhere near that category as far as production. I've focused for five years now on a skill and hopefully that skill will pay off one day. If not, it was a great experience."

Now in his fifth year, Trapasso will have a new experience this season. Ohio State will welcome in ballyhooed punter/kicker Ben Buchanan of Westerville Central for his freshman campaign, and the recruit has designs on taking over both jobs before his career is over.

Trapasso said he plans to serve as a mentor to Buchanan, a role he's never quite had the chance to fill during his time as a Buckeye.

"I think it's great," he said. "What I hope that he should be ready for and what I'm going to prepare for is more of a learning experience for him for this first season. It's something that coming from his spot, I know what it's like to go from high school to college. That transition is very big."

But the main concern will still be to make sure Trapasso is a consistent option and weapon for a team that knows the benefit of having excellent special teams. To hear him tell it, head coach Jim Tressel doesn't have much to worry about.

"I feel really confident with my punting right now," he said as spring neared a close. "I'm hitting the ball well. It's going to be a good season I think."

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