COLUMBUS - Before the Ohio State coaching staff sat down and mapped out its game plan for the Buckeyes' spring football workouts, it was time for a field trip.
There was an opportunity for research, and most of the Buckeyes coaches visited programs in the South, where the weather allows spring ball to commence at an earlier date.
"Our coaches have had a chance to go out and visit some spring practices, and now we have a chance to come back together and work this spring," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
He added that this year's exchange program had the OSU staff members mostly traveling to areas where they could observe a number of programs.
"The biggest trip we did is we had 14 guys go down to the 'research triangle' in Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) and they were able to spend time with
N.C. State, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest," Tressel said.
Tressel said that since those programs are a month or so ahead of the Buckeyes with their spring schedule, his coaches could get some idea of what approaches were working best, and how other staffs teach and coach different techniques.
"For us to be able to go down to four places in such a tight location and speak with guys that have already done their practices and those types of things was good," he said. "We decided before we went down there that those are four pretty good coaching staffs right now."
While most of the position coaches were taking notes and sampling the cuisine along Tobacco Road, the Ohio State strength coaches were elsewhere scrutinizing the ancillary aspects of two top programs that the Buckeyes have faced in bowl games over the past three years.
OSU strength coach and former Buckeye Jeff Uhlenhake (1985-88) visited the University of Texas, the same school Ohio State played in its most recent game, a 24-21 loss in the Fiesta Bowl.
Another member of the Ohio State performance staff, strength coach Doug Davis, was in Gainesville, Fla., to watch the spring workouts at the University of Florida. The Buckeyes faced the Gators in the national championship game at the end of the 2006 season, and dropped a 41-14 decision. Davis also visited the training facilities of the Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL while in Florida.
Tressel said the OSU staff huddled extensively after everyone returned to campus, and that although he is always tweaking things and introducing new aspects on both sides of the ball, he does not expect drastic changes.
"What can we add? It's nothing in the grand schemes of things," Tressel said. "We're not going to conceptually become a 3-4 rather a 4-3 (defense), or a 4-3 rather than a 3-4. To me the magic is, here is what we've been doing well, here's why we have, and we better keep emphasizing it so we keep doing it well."
The Buckeyes are a week into their spring schedule, which calls for 15 workouts, and then closes with the annual intrasquad spring game in Ohio Stadium on April 25. OSU will open the 2009 season at home on Sept. 5 against Navy.
Tressel outlined his approach for the spring session with his team.
"We know when we keep it simple, we can do it better. But then on the other hand, you better have enough to be competitive," he said. "You have that fine line of how much tinkering is enough and how much is too much."
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