Buckeyes Working To Move Up Draft Boards

About a dozen former Buckeyes are enduring Ohio State director of football performance Eric Lichter's daily workouts in preparation for potential futures in the NFL, and there are just about as many different stories as there are actors.

For three-year starting safety Kurt Coleman, the challenge is to prove he is better in coverage than the average safety and more physical than those whose coverage skills are their best attributes.

Doug Worthington wants to show NFL teams he can play just as many roles for them as he did while moving all along the defensive line at Ohio State.

Jim Cordle is hoping for a chance to play center again but betting his experience at tackle, guard and center will be a boon during the evaluation process.

Jake Ballard wants to show that the athletic ability that made him both a top football and basketball player in Ohio during his high school days have not gone away despite his sometimes-anonymous role as a tight end in the Buckeyes' offense.

Thaddeus Gibson plans to prove he was wise to leave a year of eligibility on the table in favor of realizing his dream of playing in the NFL, where his skills as a pass rusher are coveted.

The list goes on and on, but all of them have accepted a simple fact: After years of preparing to be the best football players they can be, their goal now is to prove they are workout warriors as well.

As such, Lichter and his assistants have the players doing many speed and agility drills they would not otherwise bother with for a high-percentage of the time.

"We spend maybe four weeks out of a year prepping our underclassmen for this type of stuff," he said. "These are performance indicating type tests, but you can be unbelievable at these tests and you might not be an unbelievable football player and vice versa. The training for the most part is very different. We wouldn't necessarily use the weight room programing that we have and compliment that with the speed programming when we're getting ready to play football.

"Basically, we're preparing these guys for a track race. It's a straight-ahead race that is a little bit different than all the multi-directional stuff that you get into as a football player."

Linebacker Austin Spitler sees this time of year as being about proving oneself.

"It's kind of a sad situation that they base it all on the track," he said. "A lot of guys can run track, but they can't play football and vice versa, but we're trying to play football here. But it matters, so we're going to have to go out there and run fast."

By running fast, Spitler hopes to prove he is capable of playing every down in the NFL, a place his skills might actually fit better than the current college football landscape that is littered with spread offenses.

For Coleman, speed figures to determine how many positions he could play in the league.

"I hope I've proved that (I can cover) and I think that by going out to the NFL combine and just showing them my true speed in the 40, I think that will really signify that I can play corner and safety," Coleman said.

Coleman will join Worthington, Gibson and kicker Aaron Pettrey in Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 24-March 2, then that foursome as well as the rest of the Buckeyes will workout for innumerable NFL personnel at the team's annual pro day in Columbus shortly thereafter.

Also among those working out at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center these days are defensive linemen Todd Denlinger and Lawrence Wilson and defensive back Anderson Russell

The time for Ohio State's pro day has not been announced, but all the potential pros involved have the same goal: to supplement their time on the field in in scarlet and gray with black and white numbers that will encourage NFL teams to move them up their draft boards.

"I think there are two phases to this," Lichter said. "You've got what you do as a football player. That's most important, and then they're going to give you an evaluation or a grade on what type of short-and-t-shirt athlete you are and how you perform under any type of stress or anxiety. That's the part that we're trying to train right now."


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