Finally, it is game week for college football teams across the country, and we here at BuckeyeSports.com are just as happy to see it arrive as you are. Expect to come here every day for the latest on what is happening with the Buckeyes as they tune up for Youngstown State, but first let us whet your appetite with a few tidbits from the conclusion of camp.
Quarterbacks Overcome Rocky Start To Camp
At the conclusion of spring practice, Jim Tressel said Todd Boeckman would be his starting quarterback if there were a game on the horizon, but that countless workouts and practices in the ensuing months would determine if that remained the case on Sept. 1.
As it turned out, Boeckman appears to have weathered that storm. Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels told reporters the junior from St. Henry had opened up some breathing room in his competition with Rob Schoenhoft and Antonio Henton.
While that was essentially a confirmation of the feel coming out of recent interviews, Daniels also had something that was more of a revelation.
"The first few days of practice all of them were nervous, and it was making me nervous," Daniels said. "I was like, ‘What's going on here?' I was ready to open up a new can of quarterbacks or something, but they settled down."
Shortly after Daniels revealed that nugget, Tressel offered his own confirmation.
"I thought (Todd's) first couple practices were average, and I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. He's waited all this time…' ", Tressel said, perhaps betraying a fear that Boeckman would let overexcitement cause the starting nod to slip through his hands after a wait of four years.
"I think he didn't sleep for two days before camp started," Tressel said. "I thought, ‘Man, we've gotta figure out some way to settle him down.'
"And I think after the first couple, his practices have been very solid. I see him getting better and better. He's got a long way to go and he knows it, but I think he learns. You have to get in an error in order to learn and get in and succeed in order to learn, and he's very capable of learning."
With all of the quarterbacks struggling, experience turned out to be the key to Boeckman's retaining the job. As each layer of the offense was added, it was Boeckman who was the most familiar with the lesson.
"It's a building process," Daniels said. "That again is where Todd has an advantage. Most of the things that we've put in, he's had exposure to somewhere along the line over the last three or four years. So there's no doubt he has some type of advantage."
Meanwhile, sophomore Schoenhoft remained just off the pace.
"Robby is only now starting to settle in," Daniels said. "He's a young kid. You've got to keep that in mind. He has come along each day. I think he feels a little better about himself and what we're doing offensively."
Healthy Henton Helps
While Boeckman and Schoenhoft were always considered the main characters in the quarterback battle, Daniels made it clear Henton played more than a cameo.
Daniels revealed that upon Henton's arrival last fall, a sore arm prevented him from showing off all the talent the coaches thought they saw as he was leading Peach County High School to the Georgia Class-AAA state championship.
With that physical problem cleared up, the 2007 camp was more productive.
"He has really, really improved drastically," Daniels said. "This is only his second go-round so he's really young as far as learning the offense is concerned, but we've really been happy with what he's done."
OL Coming Together – More To Come
Offensive line coach Jim Bollman spent all of preseason camp working around the injury-induced absence of juniors Kyle Mitchum and Jon Skinner along with true freshman Evan Blankenship, but the coach is hopeful the long-term effect will be a positive one.
"When Jon Skinner and Kyle Mitchum come back it will make things a lot easier, but on the other hand when they come back there's going to be some guys that have got their feet more wet and they'll be able to help us too," Bollman said. "We'll see.
"I've said earlier that I don't know if we could end up getting a second line in there like we did a little bit last year, but the more I sit and think about it, we may be closer to that than I thought so we'll have to see what we can do."
The cause for Bollman's reconsideration is Daniel Dye, a senior walk-on from Napoleon, Ohio. Dye, fellow walk-on Andrew Moses and scholarship redshirt freshmen Connor Smith and Josh Kerr now give Bollman a unit he seemed comfortable with as it backs up a starting group that figures to consist of tackles Alex Boone and Kirk Barton, Ben Person at one guard, Jim Cordle at center and Steve Rehring and Bryant Browning alternating at the other guard.
With injuries having forced Bollman to mix and match lineups on the varsity field during practice, just about every player has seen time at more than one position.
Rehring, Bryant and Person all took reps at tackle, while Cordle and Bryant can play all three positions.
Skinner would be a jack-of-all-trades on the line if he were healthy.
Bollman declined to speculate on when Skinner or Mitchum might return other than to say he expects both back in time to contribute this season. As camp wound down, Blankenship was able to join in some individual drills with his teammates, but Bollman said as of Aug. 26 he had yet to take even one snap in a team setting.
No Shame In Schedule
Fans have largely panned a 2007 OSU schedule that includes three teams from Ohio – including I-AA Youngstown State – and no matchups with a team receiving votes in either major preseason poll, but one person not bothered by that is Tressel.
"I was on board totally with the philosophy we came to an agreement for, and that's to have a national home-and-home going on – we are finishing with Washington – and to have our in-state teams have an opportunity because we need home games," the head coach said. "We have 36 sports, unlike most people. That's very necessary. I'm on board for that and I think Washington's probably a lot better than most people think."