Buckeyes Begin Practicing For Fiesta

There has been plenty of studying going on throughout the Ohio State campus this weekend, but the end of finals today means the football team can now concentrate on playing Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. Practice begins anew, and head coach Jim Tressel has a few goals for his team for the coming weeks.

With finals out of the way, Ohio State can now turn its focus to its biggest football test of the season: The Texas Longhorns.

Post-finals practice gets underway today for the Buckeyes as they prepare for their Jan. 5 showdown with the Longhorns in the Fiesta Bowl. But although this will mark the team's return to the practice field, it does not mean the Buckeyes are focused on Texas just yet.

Beginning with today's practice, the focus will be on tending to fundamentals and other aspects of the game that often get overlooked during the weekly grind of a regular season.

"You get in the midst of a season and you're game-planning so much and you're working on little nuances and so forth and sometimes your fundamentals go down," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "We'll come back in the Thursday after finals and have another fundamental practice because we really won't have had time to game plan much because coaches will be out recruiting."

The Buckeyes held two practices last week, but involvement on the part of the coaches has been limited due to the fact that most of them have been on the road visiting high schools and meeting with coaches and players. Like today's practice, those OSU went through last weekend were primarily designed with the team's younger players in mind.

For older, more experienced players, fewer reps will be on the docket.

"We won't overdo the veterans," Tressel said. "In bowl practice you can cut back a little bit on their repetitions and give the young guys a little more."

Linebacker James Laurinaitis is one of those veterans who will likely see less work than he did during the regular season. In his case, though, traveling the awards circuit will also cut into his availability.

Thursday morning, Laurinaitis flew from Houston to Orlando so he could be a part of ESPN's College Football Awards Show. He will have to be in California for the awarding of the Lott Trophy, but he will make a stop in Columbus in between.

"I'm getting back here so I can practice on Saturday," he said.

Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is set to start in his first BCS bowl game, finds himself in the opposite category. After being thrust into the starting position following the third game of the season, Pryor has not had much time to fine-tune his abilities.

The next few weeks will go a long way toward helping Pryor grow as a quarterback, Tressel said.

"In the preseason he had very limited reps," Tressel said. "Then all of a sudden he was in the lineup learning the game plan ever week so his fundamental work, there just wasn't as much of it. This will be a big fundamental month for him."

As soon as this weekend, however, the Buckeyes will start sprinkling in plans for the final game of the season. The fact that they have an opponent to focus on after more than two weeks of waiting has been a welcome change, senior quarterback Todd Boeckman said.

Prior to the Dec. 7 bowl announcement, the Buckeyes had been training without a specific foe in mind.

"It's been somewhat difficult not knowing who you've got to prepare for and where you're going to go and little things like that, but it's all said and done here," Boeckman said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Tressel often points to the extra month of workouts that bowl practices afford a team as one of the primary benefits of qualifying for a bowl. The overall growth from a fundamental standpoint that comes from extended practice time is the top priority for his team between now and the Fiesta Bowl, Tressel said.

"You've got to juggle a little bit with recruiting, but I just hope fundamentally we get better and go out and enjoy a tremendous opportunity," he said. "Ohio State versus Texas – it doesn't get much better than that."

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