To me, Media Day is one of the best days of the year in my profession – and one of the worst.
The chance to spend some time in Ohio Stadium and talk to any player, coach, staff member or parent is obviously one that everyone in the OSU beat media relishes. At the same time, the pressure to tuck all of those once-a-year interviews into an hour can be stifling, and when the dust settles, there is plenty of work to be done.
At least there wasn’t any rain, which forced the 2006 Media Day into the stifling heat of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and pushed the 2007 gabfest onto the sweltering, winding concourse in the Horseshoe. The football gods must have been smiling on Ohio Stadium, pushing a sporadic line of storms away from the banks of the Olentangy.
Media Day also doubles as a day for the families of the Ohio State players to mingle on the stadium turf and take photos of the players in uniform with all of their buddies. This is when much of the goofing around takes place, so I dutifully carried my camera around in an attempt to document some of the fun, which follows.
Jim Tressel leads the Buckeyes into Ohio Stadium.
Steve Rehring, who appears to notice he is having his picture taken, is among the offensive linemen entering the Horseshoe.
Curtis Terry sports the scarlet jersey bearing his new No. 99.
DeVier Posey makes time to talk to a television reporter.
Believe it or not, Terrelle Pryor is in there somewhere. He knows how to attract a crowd, and things were no different Thursday.
Mike Adams, Michael Brewster, Pryor and J.B. Shugarts post for a photo. That's four players with 20 stars between them.
Willie Mobley (96) soon joins the group...
...as does Jacob Stoneburner.
The class of 2008 wide receivers get together. Lamaar Thomas sits between Posey and Stoneburner.
One of the more popular photos of the day was this one with many of the freshmen posing together. The mass of photographers resulted in the unfortunate appearance of a limb in the lower left corner of this photo.
Once that is over, the team photo is taken on a bleacher set up across the width of the field near the closed end of the Horseshoe. Next up are position group photos as well as shots of players from specific geographic areas, such as the Cleveland area and southwest Ohio. At the same time, players and coaches become available to the media for about an hour, so players often have to cut some interviews short in order to spend more time in front of the cameras.
On this day, I have been tasked with getting enough information for writing the story about the running backs in the print edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. That is priority No. 1, and after that I am free to attempt to work on any other story ideas I can come up with.
However, running backs coach Dick “Doc” Tressel is needed for photos as things begin to break up, and I – as well as a few other reporters – notice quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels is mostly free of the crowd and ready to talk a bit.
I have a number of subjects I’d like to discuss with Daniels, not the least of which is his health. Of course, Daniels was in and out during the spring while continuing to deal with health problems, leaving Nick Siciliano to act as quarterbacks coach during the spring.
Daniels has been pretty quiet on his health over the years, preferring it not to be a story, and he's not acting out of character today.
“Good,” is his answer to the first question about how he’s feeling. “Not bad. Getting stronger.”
Later, he admits that the time away from the team, especially during the spring, was rough.
“It really ate me up,” he said.
However, Daniels had a pretty good support group to help him through the time, not the least of which was his family. He was one of the few people at the May OSU Scholar-Athlete banquet who had two children receive the award – walk-on football player Matt and daughter Kaitlin, who was on the cheerleading team.
Joe Daniels said that having his son in such close proximity since his health started to become a problem in 2006 helped the situation.
“Oh yeah, no question,” he said. “He’s my kid, I know, but he’s a great kid.”
Matt had a year of eligibility remaining for this season but instead decided to intern with the coaching staff this season.
“It’s what he really wanted to do, so that part of it is good that he got a chance to do what he wanted to do,” Daniels said. “The other thing is it’s obviously just great to have him around and see him every day.”
On To Beanie
The interview with Daniels actually was split into two parts, with a timeout taken in between after I see a pool of reporters surrounding Chris Wells. I dart over to see what Beanie has to say, and am quick to get in a question suggested on the premium message board about who the hardest hitter on the defense is.
“We have a lot of guys that can lay the wood,” Wells said. “We have guys like James, Marcus Freeman, Lawrence Wilson, even Malcolm Jenkins. There’s some head knockers.”
Next is the type of question you ask hoping to get an answer but not actually expecting to get one: Who’s your favorite guy on the defense to go up against?
Most players won’t answer it for fear that singling out one player will make the other teammates look bad. However, Beanie, to his credit, has a quick answer.
“I personally always like to go against James because he’s one of the best linebackers on the team and one of the best defensive players in the country,” the Big Ten preseason offensive player of the year said of the Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year.
Soon after, Wells is called over for a photo of all of the players from the Akron and Canton areas.
An Offensive Coach’s Dream
When it comes down to it, the Ohio State team really does have an embarrassment of riches at tailback. There’s Chris Wells, a shoo-in on all lists as a top-five preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. There’s Maurice Wells, a fourth-year back with plenty of experience whose blocking and pass-catching add versatility to the lineup. There’s Brandon Saine, a sizeable back with blazing speed, great hands and the ability to create mismatches all over the field. Finally, there’s Boom Herron, a quick back with the ability to dart through the tiniest crevice inside.
The man who gets to tinker around with this group is Doc Tressel, and his only problem is that you only get to play football with one ball at a time. This is not a rule Tressel approves of at the moment.
”As far as I’m concerned, that’s a problem,” he said. “If we had two footballs, two of them at a time could help the team.”
I think defensive coordinator Jim Heacock would beg to differ, but I’m not about to argue with Doc. The coach started our chat by saying he was excited about his charges in every regard, and it’s not hard to see why. Even Tressel agrees that this could be a special group – with a caveat.
“What we ask them to do is what the team needs them to do,” he said. “It’s hard to predict, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to gain more yards, or do this, that or the other,’ because we’re going to do what the team feels we need to do to win. But there’s no question, this could be the deepest and best group. But time will tell.”
He thinks it over for a second.
“As long as we don’t fumble,” he said.
We Used To Be On The Same Side
Curtis Terry and Marcus Freeman spent four years attending meetings in the linebackers room. Now, the only meetings they have are at full speed on the field.
Terry was moved part-time to fullback during the spring and appears entrenched at the position as the probable starter this fall. What that means is that he’ll spend each game meeting some of the best linebackers in the Big Ten in an attempt to plow open holes for the tailbacks – and doing the same in practice against players like Freeman and Laurinaitis.
“It’s different,” Terry said. “It’s different from what I am used to.”
In some ways, it’s a great twist of fate that Terry has been moved to fullback, where he still has the chance to have a bond on the field with the Buckeye linebackers. What used to be a competition to have the most tackles or make the biggest hit on the opposition is still a competition, only this time the combatants are physically going against one another.
When asked if that has bred some trash talk between Terry and, say, Freeman, the fullback quickly responds “definitely.”
“I think I made Marcus a little mad at me, you know,” Terry said. “I got after him a little bit after a play. It’s definitely a lot of fun.”
Although Freeman assuredly gets the positive end of the stick every once in a while, he made it sound as though meetings with Terry in the hole are less than enjoyable.
“It’s a collision,” Freeman said. “He definitely brings a lot of power when he does come out, and it’s something I don’t look forward to doing.”
As I leave Freeman to try to make my way back to any other players I would like to talk to, I see them getting up and heading for the exits. Media day is over.
As the players begin to file out, I see sophomore linebacker Tyler Moeller sneak up behind Chris Wells and douse the hulking 237-pound power back – one of the most feared players in college football – with a water bottle.
As I walk off the field, I have a final thought: I would not want to be Tyler Moeller right now.