Things are heating up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for reasons that have nothing to do with a broken air conditioner.
Fall camp for the Ohio State football team officially begins Monday morning, and the Buckeyes reported for action saddled with high expectations and big goals. In other words, it is business as usual in Columbus.
And on the eve of the team’s first organized mandatory day of conditioning, senior Alex Boone could not be more excited.
“This is probably the only camp I’ve ever been excited for,” said Boone, a fourth-year offensive tackle. “It’s the last one. After this, it’s on to something else. It’s my last time with the guys. This is when you become the closest to them.”
Boasting a roster that has 47 players in their fourth or fifth seasons with the program, the Buckeyes have plenty of experience to lean on. Much of camp feels similar to players such as fifth-year senior linebacker Marcus Freeman – “I know the routine and not much has changed,” he said – but both Freeman and Boone said increased focus on technique and fundamentals is something they enjoy going through every fall.
According to an OSU spokesperson, every player listed on the team’s roster arrived on time for camp.
The Buckeye coaches have apparently not been content to sit back and let the team’s experienced players coast through the spring and the summer. As a result, they expect more of the same this fall.
“I think we did a great job,” Freeman said of the team’s growth throughout the spring. “I think the coaches did a great job of pushing us. They didn’t say, ‘We’ve got a lot of older guys so we’re going to take it easy.’ We got after it. I think we made ourselves a better team.”
That desire to push the players apparently was raised to another level during the summer when, under the instruction of OSU director of football performance Eric Lichter, the Buckeyes went through a hellacious regimen of workouts.
Freeman referred to it as “by far the most difficult summer we had” in his five years in the program, while junior strong safety Kurt Coleman said players were dropping like flies at various times throughout the summer months.
The intensity reached a point that players would argue and occasionally fight about the required workouts.
“People were getting mad,” Coleman said. “(Lichter) tested everyone’s will. That’s what I like. If you’re not making me better, what’s the use of you being here? It was great. It was a great summer. I got a lot better speed-wise and strength-wise.”
That “great summer” ended Sunday morning when the first preseason poll was released. In the coaches poll, the Buckeyes were picked as the No. 3 team in the nation behind No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 USC.
“I guess you always want to be No. 1, but at the same time, hey, No. 3 means you’ve got a lot to shoot for,” Freeman said.” This is preseason. We just hope at the end of the year we’re No. 1.”
Despite all the work put in and the preseason accolades – the Buckeyes essentially have a player on the watch list for national awards at each position – Boone said the coaches are cautioning the players not to buy into the hype.
“Everyone’s saying this and that and we block that out and say, ‘We need to improve on this, this and this. This is what we’re going to focus on, and this is what we’re going to do,’ ” he said. “We like to push ourselves.”
Practice begins Monday and will run up until the Buckeyes take the field against Youngstown State on August 30 in Ohio Stadium. Fans who can’t wait that long to see OSU in action will have the opportunity to see the team’s Tuesday morning practice aired on the Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. that same day.