Fall Notebook: Winning Keeps 'Em Happy

In this collection of notes from fall camp, Brian Robiskie shares how to keep a team full of playmakers happy for a full season, Lawrence Wilson discusses his favorite class, Justin Boren talks about the fallout since coming to OSU and Todd Denlinger reveals an in-depth pre-game ritual. All this and more in this notebook.

It is a problem Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel frequently finds himself dealing with.

With a number of talented athletes who all have the potential to make big plays when they get their hands on the ball, how do you best distribute the ball to keep everyone happy?

That question figures to linger throughout the 2008 season with players such as Chris Wells, Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and Brandon Saine all figuring heavily into the OSU offensive attack. But with just one football to go around, it was Robiskie who had some words of wisdom on the topic.

The secret to keeping everyone happy, it seems, is winning.

"I think that when you're losing, nobody's happy and if you're losing and you've got a guy that's happy you don't want him on your team," he said. "I think that if we're winning games and we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, then we're happy."

Winning will keep the players happy regardless of what their roles are, he said, but that does not mean he would like to see wholesale changes in the day-by-day duties of the wide receivers.

"If we're out there blocking 50 times a game – I'm not recommending we do that, but if we have to do that, then that's what we have to do," he said with a laugh. "Everyone in our room understands that."

Bet You Didn't Know…

The team's media guide always lists random facts about each player, ranging from which car a specific player would most like to own to who his favorite former Buckeye is.

As a result, you can learn random facts about every player on the roster. Some are more exciting than others – safety Aaron Gant said he chose to be a Buckeye because "of my teammates," for example – but occasionally players will let their guard down and give more interesting answers.

Asked to list his favorite class at OSU, junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson cited a Caribbean literature class he has taken.

"I didn't know anything about it before the class," he said of the topic.

The credit goes to his teacher, a woman he referred to as Dr. Newton.

"She teaches a lot of African-American studies classes and she definitely makes the classes fun," he said. "She really brings the Caribbean culture into the class and you really learn. I really like the class."

No Caribbean food was provided during the class, however.

At perhaps the other end of the spectrum is linemate Todd Denlinger. The junior tackle said that before a game, he likes to "think."

About what, exactly?

"I just sit there and think, clear my head and go over all the plays and just picture myself making plays," he said. "Hopefully that way when I get into the game I won't have to think."

As a sophomore, Denlinger earned all-academic honors. A construction systems management major, he said he considers himself somewhat of an intellectual.

"I'd like to consider myself that," he said. "I'm a good student and I like to put things in perspective, but that also comes from hard work."

The Ugly Side Of Switching Sides

Justin Boren knew that transferring from Michigan to Ohio State would not be without at least some peril.

While that has not resulted in anything as serious as death threats or things of that nature, it has made logging onto his personal page on social networking Web site Facebook.com a little less enjoyable. Boren said he gets "at least one or two" pieces of hate mail a day – even now, months after leaving the program.

"I would think it would've stopped by now, but I don't know," he said. "Some bad, bad stuff that I can't repeat. You get the stuff like, ‘I hope you blow your knee out the first game you ever play here' and that sort of stuff, but I've gotten some stuff that has had really, really foul language."

Boren's approach is to simply ignore the comments, he said.

"I don't respond," he said. "I'm not going to give them the benefit of even knowing I saw it. I laugh at it. If you're going to waste your time doing that …"

Small Survives Big Impact

As a true freshman, wide receiver Ray Small displayed flashes of ability as he worked his way onto the field. However, that progress was abruptly curtailed in the ninth game of the season when Minnesota's Dominic Jones crushed Small after he caught a pass in the flat just shy of the Minnesota 20-yard line.

Knocked unconscious, Small stayed prone on the field, arms raised above his body, while teammate Roy Hall quickly motioned for trainers to attend to his injured teammate.

Now, nearly two years later, Small was standing in nearly the exact same spot in Ohio Stadium as he was asked if that hit remained engrained somewhere in his consciousness.

"Honestly, it made me tougher," he said. "I felt like I couldn't get hit as hard ever again. I can go through the middle and do whatever."

Another Shift For Torrence

After excelling on both sides of the ball during his high school career at Canton (Ohio) South, Devon Torrence was switched from defense to offense early during his freshman season. After spending the year at wide receiver, where he totaled four catches for 31 yards, Torrence was being looked at as a two-way candidate in the same vein as former Buckeye Chris Gamble.

But faced with the reality of having four defensive backs missing at least one game this season, the Buckeyes made the decision to shift Torrence back to cornerback to help shore up depth at the position.

It is a situation OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell, known for not wanting to lose guys to other positions, said he was comfortable with.

"Devon was doing a great job at wide receiver, but we had a need at corner and he's a team player so he went over to corner and he's doing a great job over there," he said.

Junior cornerback Donald Washington – one of the defensive backs who is suspended for the first two games of the season – said he thinks Torrence can be a contributor this season at his new position.

"Devon's a really great athlete," Washington said. "He picks up things on the defense well. He's a competitor. He's got playmaking ability. Now it's just a matter of how much he wants to study the defense and how much he wants to learn and how much he wants to put in."


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