Jard Work: Fall Camp Begins

What does Justin Boren think of the battle to find a left tackle? How are Ross Homan and his hometown coping with the loss of a local legend? What did Brandon Saine think of Chris Wells leaving early for the NFL? The answers to these questions and more in this edition of "Jard Work."

With 14 players listed as starters on its pre-Rose Bowl depth chart returning, Ohio State still has a few holes to fill this fall. Included among them are left tackle and strongside linebacker.

On the offensive side, the Buckeyes leaned on senior Jim Cordle to hold down the left tackle spot for the final six games of the season. Two players will battle throughout fall camp to try and grab the position: junior Mike Adams and senior Andy Miller.

The battle there figures to be the most scrutinized on the roster this fall, with head coach Jim Tressel saying a winner might not be decided until a few games into the season.

At left guard, senior Justin Boren outlined what he is looking for in a linemate.

"You have to be a smart football player," he said. "You have to have real good feet and be a good pass protector, but I like playing next to guys who are mean and want to get after it. I think both Andy and Mike can definitely get after it."

On the other side of the ball, OSU graduated a captain in Austin Spitler who served as the team's strongside linebacker. Although he saw action in all 13 games, Spitler earned 183 minutes of playing time as he left the field for OSU's nickel defense. By comparison, the other two starting linebackers – Brian Rolle and Ross Homan – saw 323 and 301 minutes, respectively.

This year, junior Etienne Sabino will likely have to fend off classmate Andrew Sweat for Spitler's vacated role.

"Camp is a grind and it's all about competition," Homan said. "The first couple weeks it's all about coming out to compete. They'll play the best 11."

Sweat missed the final six games with a knee injury that required surgery, but Homan said he is back to full health.

"He handled it very well," the senior said. "It was hard for the team because we lost a great player. He rehabbed and came back this summer and wasn't holding back at all. He had a great summer for us and we expect big things for him in camp.

"Andrew competes at whatever he does. He's a great athlete with great instincts and has all the intangibles."

Bye Bye Beanie – When running back Chris "Beanie" Wells left OSU after his junior season to enter the NFL, Buckeye fans were sad to see the bruising back go. It is fair to say that running back Brandon Saine, now a senior, had mixed feelings.

In the first year without Wells, Saine finished as the leading rusher among running backs with 739 yards. He also managed to stay healthy for an entire season for the first time in his OSU tenure.

That kind of production would have been curtailed had Wells stuck around for another season in the scarlet and gray.

"I'm not going to say I'm glad Beanie left, but if he would've stayed last year would've been a lot different," Saine said. "It's hard to think how it would've worked out. He's a great running back and he had to do what's best for him but I'm just glad that he made the decision that was best for him."

This year, Saine will enter the year as a co-starter of sorts along with junior Dan "Boom" Herron. Behind them is a stable of backs including sophomore Jordan Hall, redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry and freshman Carlos Hyde.

"Everybody knows Boom," Saine said. "We call him Boom because he can hit and he's got a great burst. Jaamal is the quickest guy on the team. Jordan has it all: he's quick, he's fast, he's got great vision and Carlos is just a big bruiser. We've got it all."

Quotable – Boren, who transferred into the program from Michigan, on if he considered leaving after his junior season: "I always intended to be here this year. I thought when Coach Tress gave me the opportunity to come here and play I owed him two years. It never crossed my mind about leaving early."

Still Coping – This will be a year of lasts for Homan – last camp, last Michigan game, etc. – but it will also be a year of a few painful firsts.

The former prep standout from Coldwater, Ohio, said goodbye to his former coach when John Reed passed away May 7 after battling esophageal cancer. Homan, who helped a Reed-led team to the 2005 state championship, said it has been tough to go on without his former coach.

"It was pretty hard at first," he said. "He's a mentor and a person I always went to. I'm losing that this season. We used to e-mail back and forth but I know he's in heaven looking down and he'll have the best seat in the house for every Saturday."

Reed has been succeeded by Chip Otten, an assistant under Reed for eight seasons.

"I think (the team) is doing pretty well," Homan said. "It sounds like Coach Otten has taken the team and had a great offseason with the guys. I think everyone is upbeat right now and playing for not only Coach Reed but the whole Coldwater community."

Added Tressel: "John Reed is the best. Any kid that got to play for John Reed was prepared for life. If you happen to have talents like Ross Homan, you're prepared for the likes of Ohio State. Ross is obedient, focused and a guy who listens, which John demanded."

No Hard Feelings – As a Florida native, Rolle figures to have a little more at stake Sept. 11 when the Buckeyes host Miami (Fla.). However, the native of Immokalee – located about two hours northwest of the Hurricanes' campus – said it will be just another Saturday to him.

"It's just one of the games on the schedule that happens to be the team from where I'm from," he said. "I played against some of those guys. I don't know them personally but I played against a lot of them in high school."

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