CHRIS RUSSELL Enlarge
COLUMBUS - While Wall Street quaked and trembled earlier this year over the Bear Stearns bailout and Microsoft's proposed shotgun marriage with Yahoo, things were not nearly as tumultuous in and around a different kind of stock market - one where shares in Scarlet and Gray futures can gain and lose value on an almost daily basis.
As Ohio State went through its winter conditioning and workouts, and then held the group practices and scrimmage sessions that make up spring football, certain players for the Buckeyes bulled their way up the depth chart, while others saw their value slide. A few were even pulled off the board, by injury or a stay in the doghouse.
For Toledo Central Catholic grad Dane Sanzenbacher, his first season of spring ball with the Buckeyes gave him significant exposure, and indications are that the former City League player of the year responded.
"He has taken his game to another level," Ohio State assistant head coach and receivers coach Darrell Hazel said. "He is where he is supposed to be all the time in the passing game. He never makes any mistakes and he is extremely consistent catching the football."
Sanzenbacher, whose first collegiate reception went for a touchdown in Ohio State's 2007 opener against Youngstown State, had options this spring. With starter Brian Robiskie being held out of action while he recovered from a knee injury, and Ray Small holding a sub-prime rating with the coaching staff for off-the-field issues, Sanzenbacher got a lot of playing time with Ohio State's veteran-laden first unit.
"Any time you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it, and working with the first team offense was a great opportunity for me," he said. "It also meant working against the first-team defense, and that was tough to deal with, but it forces you to be at your best every play."
Sanzenbacher, who also got in some work as a punt returner this spring, said adjusting to a more full-time role was critical. He played in 12 games in 2007 as a backup receiver, and had 12 receptions for 89 yards.
"Last season, sometimes I was on the field about every fourth play, so you go through a game pretty rested, but being out there for longer stretches makes you deal with fatigue, and learn to play when you are a little gassed," he said. "You had to get your football legs back in a hurry."
Hazell said he was very pleased with Sanzenbacher's work this spring, and is anxious to see what the two-time All-Ohioan will do this coming season, when the Buckeyes will attempt to win a fourth straight Big Ten title.
"Dane made great progress, and I think he's going to have a phenomenal year for us," Hazell said.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel indicated that he sees Sanzenbacher, along with fellow freshman Taurian Washington, and Small playing vital roles in the fall, when defenses will key on Robiskie and Brian Hartline. Tressel wants his young receivers, plus tight ends Jake Ballard and Rory Nicol and backup running back Brandon Saine, ready to exploit any defensive double-teams.
"Our [young] guys had some experience, and gained some more experience this spring, and we needed them to. We need them to step up and be playmakers because you never know what people are going to do," Tressel said.
"They're going to find ways to put two people on Brian Robiskie, find ways to put two people on Brian Hartline, and when those things happen, guys like Jake Ballard and Rory Nicol and Dane Sanzenbacher and Ray Small and Taurian and Brandon Saine are going to have to make sure they win in one-on-one matchups."
Earle Bruce, a former Ohio State coach who remains close to the program and took in some of the spring workouts, said Sanzenbacher has managed to distinguish himself on a roster crowded with top athletes.
"I thought his freshman year was very impressive, and he did a good job filling the role they wanted him to play," Bruce said.
"It's exciting to watch his development. He's growing and he will continue to get better and better. That's how it is supposed to work, but not every kid is willing to put in the time and make the sacrifices to be a good college football player. Sanzenbacher has obviously responded to the coaching, and the level of competition."
Sanzenbacher, who got the attention of a lot of schools when he led Central Catholic to the 2005 state championship with 140 yards in receptions in the title game, said he keeps his attention locked in on the team's goals, and anything he can do to contribute to meeting those goals.
"When it came down to picking a place to play, there was really no other choice for me. I always loved the tradition here at Ohio State and wanted to be a part of it in some way," he said. "I can't say I expected to get to play that much as a freshman, but things have worked out pretty well, so far. I've taken some steps in the right direction, and I just need to continue to do that."
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