Ohio State’s incoming freshman class of football players met Columbus media at midday Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center, but this was no high-noon showdown.
While some nerves were apparent, many of the players seemed at ease as they introduced themselves and talked about what their early weeks (and in some cases, months) of college have been like.
Offensive lineman Chris Carter led off the day’s proceedings with perhaps the most newsworthy information: his weight.
Though head coach Luke Fickell told reporters in Chicago for Big Ten Football Media Days last week that Carter had recently weighed in at 390, Carter reported he is already down to 375.
“My first month has been challenging,” the Cleveland JFK product said Wednesday. “I came in here a little out of shape, but I’m getting there and I’m more than willing to work.”
Attributing his initial weight gain to “building muscle and the freshman 15,” he said he hopes to get down to 360 eventually.
Several of his classmates also showed signs of taking advantage of a college training regimen for the first time.
Tight end Jeff Heuerman reported bulking up from 224 pounds to 254 while quarterback Braxton Miller said he has gained 15 pounds and weighs 215 at the time. While both Heuerman and Miller took advantage of being part of winter workouts after enrolling in school at the beginning of January, tight end Nick Vannett said he had put on about 10 pounds since enrolling in June.
Of course, more has changed within the Ohio State program in the past few months than just a few player physiques.
Jim Tressel, the man the freshmen thought would be their head coach when they signed letters of intent in February, was replaced by Luke Fickell in May, and the program has been the subject of intense media scrutiny as well as an NCAA investigation.
Though some admitted to wondering about what they were getting into after Tressel was forced out, all the freshmen sounded content with their decisions.
Some said they never wavered.
“From the time I committed and then everything going down, I don’t really ever remember a point where I was like, ‘Maybe I made a wrong decision,’ because there is a lot more to Ohio State than a coach or that one mistake can erase,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett of Centerville, Ohio, said. “Being here with my teammates and the coaches has made it more concrete. It doesn’t feel like we’ve lost a step at all. Everyone just feels like we’re 100 percent, maybe even going harder.”
Perhaps owing to his strong presence on the recruiting trail as an assistant for nine years, Fickell seemed like a solidifying force to many of the players, including Columbus Eastmoor safety Ron Tanner.
“It’s just kind of tough because growing up as long as I’ve been watching Ohio State football, I’ve known Jim Tressel as the coach, so I always looked forward to playing for him, but Coach Fickell was also part of recruiting me throughout the process so I developed a relationship with him as well,” Tanner said. “The transition’s not too bad, actually, because he’s a great guy and I know he’s still looking to do great things with the program. No matter who the coach is, the program will always be strong.”
Heuerman, one of several players wearing a black wristband with the letters ‘JT’ on them in recognition of Tressel, produced probably the line of the day when asked about the coaching change.
“I kind of got to be under Tress for a little while for spring ball, but I think ‘Fick’s’ going to be great,” said Heuerman, a Naples, Fla., native. “He’s a hard-nosed guy, and we’re going to kick some people’s asses, I’ll tell you that much. Tress was a great guy, and an awesome coach, but I really like ‘Fick’, too. It doesn’t really affect me very much. We’re going to have fun either way. We’re going to win either way. We’re Ohio State.”
The freshmen are scheduled to report to the team hotel for training camp Saturday with the veterans to follow a day later.
The first day of practice is Monday.
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