Football Buckeyes reconvene while watching OSU basketball


COLUMBUS Football coach Jim Tressel said he's OK with Ohio State becoming a basketball school.

''For four days,'' he joked, referring to the Buckeyes men's basketball team's participation in the Final Four this weekend.

Tressel spoke today, two days before his team opens spring workouts.

He said tongue in cheek that his team's schedule for next week included a day off on Monday so the players could ''watch us win the national championship.''

Back for his seventh year as head coach, Tressel has an extremely young team there are almost twice as many redshirt freshmen (9) on the two-deep roster as there are seniors (4).

The Buckeyes will be looking ahead while still smarting from how the last season ended. The Buckeyes, No. 1 all season, were pounded 41-14 by Florida in the BCS title game on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

Asked what lessons were learned from that game, Tressel said, ''What do you want me to say? Depression?''

The Buckeyes ended their season 12-1, but fans have avoided even mentioning the embarrassing defeat in the desert. It's almost as if those numbers were reversed.

''The way life is, sometimes the 1 overshadows the 12,'' Tressel said.

Ohio State will have only four starters back on offense and five on defense. Gone are mainstays such as Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at quarterback, flanker-kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., receiver Anthony Gonzalez and top rusher Antonio Pittman. Half of the starting secondary is also gone, along with three starters on the defensive line.

Todd Boeckman, a junior who has seen sporadic action so far, is the front-runner to replace Smith. Robbie Schoenhoft and Antonio Henton will challenge him, although they have little or no experience on the field.

''God made him 6-foot-5 and he's worked hard to develop the rest of the package,'' Tressel said of Boeckman, who only played in three games and threw three passes last season.

Tressel doubts that anyone will have a lock on the starting job by the end of the spring workouts. The annual intrasquad scrimmage will be held on April 21 in Ohio Stadium.

''It's only 15 practices and no game,'' he said of the spring practices. ''It's hard to say that someone has 'arrived.' You have to be tested.''

Brian Robiskie, the third-leading receiver last year with 29 catches for 383 yards and five TDs, and Brian Hartline, with 17 catches for 256 yards and two scores, will try to fill in for Ginn and Gonzalez, both who left early for the NFL draft.

The Buckeyes won't be as deep at wide receiver, Tressel said. ''It'll be interesting to see if we have the playmakers,'' he said. ''Much of what we designed last year was to get Teddy and Anthony the ball.''

Chris ''Beanie'' Wells will get the call to replace Pittman, who also gave up his senior season to turn pro. Wells, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound load, rushed for 576 yards and seven TDs as a freshman last season.

The Buckeyes lost 17 fifth-year seniors from last year's team, which could create a leadership vacuum at the top of this year's squad. Tressel said that was the top concern voiced by almost all the returning players and assistant coaches when he met with them one-on-one during the winter.

Tressel plans to fly to Atlanta in time on Saturday to watch coach Thad Matta's Buckeyes play Georgetown in a national semifinal.

He said he was impressed by the players.

''I didn't fill out a bracket,'' he said. ''There would have been only one team in my bracket, and it's still playing.''

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