Two Ohio State Buckeyes, offensive lineman T.J. Downing and wide receiver Brian Hartline, returned home to watch their high school alma mater Canton GlenOak play on Friday. Both players starred at GlenOak before taking their talents to Columbus.
Downing is in his second season as a starter at guard while Hartline is expected to red-shirt this season as a true freshman. Both players talked about how this year has started at Ohio State.
"The Texas loss really took a lot out of us," said Downing. "We felt like we had the game and then to lose it the way we did really hurt. I think we suffered a letdown that lasted the next week at practice and a little bit during the San Diego State game."
Downing credited the coaching staff with getting the team back on track against Iowa.
"After the San Diego State game, it was like we were hung over," said Downing. "The next week in practice, the coaches let us know we had to raise our play to be able to compete with Iowa. They had signs all over the locker room reminding us of last year's score with Iowa. I knew from following Ohio State that they hadn't suffered a butt whipping like that for a while. Personally I was embarrassed and felt it was my responsibility to make it right."
Downing said the team is focused on Penn State even though the Buckeyes didn't play this week.
Brian Hartline speaks with his brother Mike
"We've gotten spoiled playing four straight home games," said Downing. "This game will test our character because Penn State is a good team and that's a tough place to play. We've used the off week to get healthy and give our bodies a break from the pounding. It's more a matter of staying focused on what we need to do to be successful."
Downing also spoke about his relationship with fellow lineman Kirk Barton.
"We've become really good friends," said Downing. "Kirk and I are rooming together, and that helps us on the field as well. Playing two feet away from the guy makes it important to be able to work together. It helps us know what the other guy is doing and we can trust that we'll pick each other up on the field. I love playing next to him."
Downing, who became a starter last year in the Michigan game, credited Ohio State coach Jim Tressel for the team's success.
"Coach Tressel is so good behind the scenes," said Downing. "He's the master motivator. He's a great person as well as a great coach. He can get his point across without yelling and screaming, but at the same time he's really intense."
Hartline is in his first year as a Buckeye and is enjoying his season so far.
"It's been going really good," said Hartline." It's been about what I expected but the speed of the game is so much faster than high school. I'm getting a lot of reps on the scout team. The receivers are so good and I'm trying to learn from them so I can be ready to contribute when I'm needed."
Even though Hartline is planning on sitting out this season he needs to be ready to play at any time.
"I talked with the coaches before the season started and we agreed that redshirting this year probably made sense," said Hartline. "They told me I would sit out unless the injuries started happening to the receivers. I dress for all the home games but I won't travel to the road games."
Hartline talked about what he's learned from some of his more experienced teammates.
"Santonio Holmes is so good at running his routes and I'm trying to become better at that," said Hartline. "I can see how strong Roy Hall is so I'm working hard in the weight room to get stronger. I weigh 190 pounds now and I'm stronger than when I first got here. With Teddy Ginn and Albert Dukes, it's about how to use my speed to get open. Tony Gonzalez is so consistent and he works so hard. All of these guys are so good and I want to make my mark like they have when I get my chance."
Downing and Hartline spent the evening encouraging the Golden Eagles, but unfortunately, their former team lost to North Canton 14-10. The Buckeyes will travel to Penn State on Saturday to take on the undefeated Nittany Lions.