That award, coupled with the selection of sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor as the preseason offensive player of the year, paints a scarlet-colored picture for the other 10 teams in the conference as the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon gets underway.
"Ohio State can play with any team in this country. I don't care what league they're in," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said. "You can't argue with the success Ohio State has had. Obviously we're all chasing Ohio State right now."
OSU has been voted as one of the top three teams in each season since 2001, being picked as favorites in 2003, 2006 and 2008 prior to this season. This year's honor comes in spite of the fact that the Buckeyes have to replace 28 seniors and three key juniors from a team that went 10-3 last season.
"From a team standpoint in the preseason rankings, even with 31 guys gone it's a reminder of the proud history that Ohio State has and the expectations that they have," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "It was a little bit of a surprise, but it's a neat thing."
In addition, the team has had a player be named either the preseason offensive or defensive player of the year in every season since 2002. Last year, the Buckeyes boasted the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year in linebacker James Laurinaitis and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, respectively.
Pryor is the second OSU sophomore to bring home the preseason offensive player of the year award, joining running back Maurice Clarett. After leading the Buckeyes to a national championship as a true freshman, Clarett was honored by the league prior to the 2003 season but never saw a snap as off-the-field troubles put an end to his collegiate career.
Tressel said he was surprised that Pryor was pegged as the preseason offensive player of the year with returning signal-callers Darryl Clark and Isiah "Juice" Williams also suiting up.
"I really was (surprised)," Tressel said. "I guess I had forgotten they do such a thing, and then when it was mentioned I got to thinking, ‘Man, there's a lot of good guys coming back in this league. I guess it's a good reminder from an individual standpoint of the respect they have for his ability."
Since the Big Ten began announcing preseason players of the year in 1996, nine players have gone on to also capture at least a share of the postseason award – five of whom were Buckeyes. OSU is working on a four-year such streak with A.J. Hawk (2005), Troy Smith (2006) and James Laurinaitis (2007 and 2008) having been named both pre- and postseason players of the year.
"I think he's a great player," Rodriguez said. "I prefer to talk about my own guys, but Terrelle, we recruited him and played against him last year. He's a tremendous athlete. He can beat you in a number of different ways."
Summer grades arrive Thursday, and Tressel said he will know then if any players will find themselves unable to report for fall camp due to any academic situations. However, he added that he did not expect any such problems to occur. Asked directly about the status of Keith Wells and Ray Small, he responded, "I think they're alive and well and at home, I'm assuming."
The Buckeyes will be without the services of Carlos Hyde, who did not enroll for summer classes due to a low ACT score. In addition, freshman Jamaal Berry was arrested for felony marijuana possession but had the charge reduced and will be in uniform this fall.
Tressel said Berry will not be limited on the field due to his legal troubles.
"He won't be held back any because of his external situation, but will he be in the mix? I've never seen Jamaal do anything," Tressel said of the former four-star recruit. "I hear from some of the kids that he's an explosive guy, but you've got to do it when the helmets go on and when we're not out there in shorts."
The bulk of the carries will go to returnees Dan Herron and Brandon Saine, but the position will gain some bulk with the transfer of 6-0, 227-pound Jermil Martin from fullback to running back. That switch has been made possible by the spring growth demonstrated by fullback Adam Homan, who will also have classmate Zach Boren working with him there.
"We'll probably leave (Martin) at tailback because we were really happy with Adam Homan," Tressel said. "With Adam and Zach, even though they'll be youngsters, they are the kind of guys who will be good at that and will free up a chance for Jermil to stay at tailback. We'll figure it out."
However, as Tressel pointed out, plenty of carries will come from other spots on the field such as wide receiver and quarterback. Enter Pryor into the equation, who could be in the running for a captain spot on the team if Tressel does not feel that is putting too much on his plate.
"I think the experiences Terrelle got this past fall were very, very valuable," Tressel said. "I think they were tough. When you step in and take over for a guy like Todd Boeckman who was our captain and a leader, I think that's a difficult assignment. He studies the game extremely hard. Loves to study film, loves to be on his own with his DVDs and grow as a quarterback."