August 11, 2010

Freshmen getting noticed

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Camp continues to take its toll on players both young and old for the Buckeyes as the temperatures hover in the low 90s with higher than normal humidity percentages making it feel even more unpleasant.

But for 17 incoming freshmen who have reported to date this is a first taste at what a collegiate camp is like and while high school camps may have been tough the curve goes up dramatically once you graduate to the next level. With camp getting ready to enter its second week however it is not as if the true freshmen haven't had a taste of what to expect having spent several weeks on campus (at least) in preparation for Camp Tressel.

"Our freshmen have been here since mid-June and all the reports I have gotten have been excellent," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said on Sunday evening after meeting with the local media at Photo Day. "From the academic people and the strength people... they can't say enough about their dependability to accountability and effort."

The class hopes to grow to 18 if/when the paperwork for running back Roderick Smith comes back in order. The staff is optimistic that it should only be a matter of time before the Fort Wayne (Ind.) running back is able to report and join his classmates. He of course will be a little bit behind the curve having missed the amount of practice time that he has with his team and should be a candidate to redshirt even though that is not a given.

Of the remaining 17 players in the class there is still a question as to who might see playing time in some aspect as a true freshman and who might be better served with a redshirt season. A week of practices under the eyes of the coaches is not nearly enough time to tell if a player like Andrew Norwell is going to be fully healthy after a senior year injury and ready to assume a role in the offensive line rotation. Or if a player like Corey Brown could emerge at wide receiver. Or if even someone like Johnathon Hankins can try and shore up a spot at defensive tackle backing up a very talented two-deep. But one thing is known for sure.

"They seem to be kids who are good learners and you don't have to tell them twice," Tressel said.

Two freshmen for the Buckeyes however appear to be on the fast track to potentially having their numbers called in the 2010 season.

"I have seen enough of Drew Basil and Carlos Hyde because they were in early to tell you that they are going to be very good, both of them." Tressel said.

Is being ranked a blessing or a curse?

National publications and poll groups have been coming out with preseason rankings for the 2010 during the last several weeks and Ohio State has been in the top three with many of them and has even been ranked No. 1 by Playboy magazine.

But while rankings help sell magazines and create buzz (Playboy really doesn't need help in either of those categories... at least with football rankings) you won't find a coach or player who will put too much into a ranking that comes out before a single snap of football is played and more importantly until the final snap of football is played in the regular season.

In the information age of today however it is impossible to escape the overload of data and while the Ohio State coaches and players may not know who has them ranked exactly where there is still knowledge that the Buckeyes are considered a top two or three team nationally. Is that a good thing or a curse?

"I don't know if I have a preference one way or the other. I think when you are preseason ranked it is typically because the history of your school is very good which ours is," Tressel said. "And two you probably have a decent number of guys returning which in this case we do."

And in a lot of regards it is a good thing to be well thought of going into the season because a program like Ohio State would never be given the benefit of sneaking up on another team.

"Would I rather be that way (being ranked highly)? Yeah," Tressel said. "I don't know if that does us any good but it is a reality and that is where we are and we will see if we can uphold that type of recognition."

Not so special

During Jim Tressel's time at Ohio State the team has been known for strong defenses and stellar special teams. Last year the defense held up its end of the bargain but the special teams suffered for one reason or another but in the end they did not reach the bar that had been set. That was evidenced in the Rose Bowl game when the Buckeye kick coverage team suffered at the hands of Kenjon Barner and Cliff Harris of the Ducks.

But that all was added to a laundry list of bad breaks suffered by the special units.

"From a kicking game stand point but the end of last year I thought we had faded a little," Tressel recalled. "Aaron Pettrey was out, we weren't punting the ball as well as we did at the beginning. We weren't covering things. We were doing pretty well in terms of making field goals and that was a good thing. We had four or five key special teams guys that were out."

Players who weren't in the mix included Andrew Sweat, Marcus Williams, Tyler Moeller and Aaron Gant.

"Those were all guys that were big parts of our special teams," Tressel said. "I thought offensively and defensively we probably improved as the year went and I don't know if that happen on special teams."

Three of the four players mentioned above will be back and ready to go but there are some departures from last year's team that will have to be addressed going forward.

"Now you lose Pettrey you lose Jon Thoma and you lose Ray Small, who were all numbers-wise great contributors, so we have some work to do." Tressel said. "I have been pleased through the first three practices (at the time of this interview) but I don't know if you assess your kicking game until it is under pressure."

Expansion still rules the airwaves

With the start of Fall Camp it feels as if Big Ten Football Media Days happened a month ago in some regards. Tressel was asked to reflect on one thing that really stood out to him from his time in Chicago (Ill.) when he had a chance to meet with the conference media.

"I thought it was kind of interesting that there was so much discussion of expansion and how the divisions will line up and you had 20-some seniors there and those guys don't give a hoot, they are not going to be here next year in those divisions or playing Nebraska or any of that stuff," Tressel said. "So I thought it was kind of ironic that the focal point was seniors and the discussion was 2011."

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