COLUMBUS - When the Ohio State receivers got together for their first spring meeting with position coach Darrell Hazell, they instinctively lined up by seniority, with the youngest players in the back of the group.
It was at that moment Dane Sanzenbacher realized that if the group had a couple of gray beards, one of them was him. After just two seasons with Ohio State on his resume, the former City League star was now one of the Golden Buckeye card holders in the unit.
"I looked around, and I was one of the guys sitting at the front of the table," Sanzenbacher said. "I knew coming in that we'd lost a couple of veterans, and we got a lot younger as a group, but it kind of hits you at that instant. You're now one of the leaders."
Sanzenbacher, who will be a junior in the fall, has played in 24 games for the Buckeyes. Among the receivers, only senior Ray Small has been around longer. But injuries and a couple of stints in the doghouse have limited Small's impact.
Sanzenbacher was in Ohio State's top three receiver rotation last year, with senior Brian Robiskie and junior Brian Hartline. Robiskie's OSU career is over and he is headed to the NFL. Hartline opted to leave the Buckeyes a year early to enter the draft.
That left Sanzenbacher sitting in the first chair.
"I like having that responsibility," Sanzenbacher said. "It kind of came on fast, but I like being the person that guys will come to with questions. It puts more responsibility on me, and that will only make everyone better in the long run."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he is comfortable with Sanzenbacher providing direction.
"Dane is evolving into one of the leaders, and he's a great one to show guys how it's done by setting an example," Tressel said. "He has the work ethic and the dedication to getting better every day - the things you want to see passed along to the new guys. I expect Dane to lead like a veteran, and that's what he'll do."
The Ohio State coach said he recruited Sanzenbacher out of Central Catholic because he liked Sanzenbacher's combination of versatility, speed and smarts - and the fire within.
Sanzenbacher, who had also played quarterback and defensive back for the Fighting Irish and helped them win the 2005 state championship, was an all-state sprinter and a sleek athlete whose size - 5-11, 175 pounds - did not scare off Tressel.
"Dane is so highly competitive," Tressel said. "And he can certainly run well enough. He's a very fast football player, and a guy who was a state finalist in track. The program there at Central Catholic really prepared him well, and highlighted him to make plays."
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said Sanzenbacher is part of a receiver group that is loaded with speed and highlight reel potential. Small, sophomores Lamaar Thomas and DeVier Posey and junior Taurian Washington join Sanzenbacher in the playing rotation.
"We've got some bad boys," Pryor said. "We have some players that can catch a three or four-yard pass and take it to the house. Ray, Dane, Lamaar, T-Wash, DeVier - we've got some players here, and I think a lot of people will be shocked."
Sanzenbacher said he agrees with Pryor about the collective giddy-up of the Ohio State wide receivers.
"We're as fast as we've been," Sanzenbacher said. "Everybody out there who touches the ball can run. There's competition, but that is the best way for everyone to get better."
Sanzenbacher, who tweaked his ankle in a recent practice and is uncertain if he will be cleared to play in tomorrow's Scarlet and Gray spring game in Ohio Stadium, said over the last few weeks he has grown accustomed to his new role with the Buckeyes.
"There was so much to learn when I first got here - on and off the field - but after almost two years I'm pretty comfortable understanding the system and all," said Sanzenbacher, whose first reception as a Buckeye in the 2007 season opener went for a touchdown.
"Everybody has a role to play, and if my role includes a leadership thing, then that's OK with me. It's an important part of any team that the more veteran guys present a good example for the newer guys to follow. People did that for me, so it makes sense that now it's my turn to lead."
FOOTBALL PLUS: The Ohio State men's lacrosse team will close the regular season by hosting No. 3 ranked Notre Dame (12-0) in Ohio Stadium at 11 tomorrow morning. The spring football game will follow at 1:30.
Last year, the lacrosse portion of the doubleheader attracted a crowd of 29,601 to see the Buckeyes beat Denver prior to the spring game. That crowd set lacrosse national attendance records, topping both the regular-season mark of 20,180, set March 3, 2007, in Baltimore, and the on-campus stadium record of 19,850, established April 18, 1987, in College Park, Md.
The lacrosse Buckeyes (7-6), who won 16-10 Sunday at Denver, are 3-1 in the Great Western Lacrosse League and have qualified for the postseason tournament next month.
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When the Ohio State receivers got together for their first spring meeting with position coach Darrell Hazell, they instinctively lined up by seniority, with the youngest players in the back of the group. It was at that moment Dane Sanzenbacher realized that if the group had a couple of gray beards, one of them was him. After just two seasons with Ohio State on his resume, the former City League star was now one of the Golden Buckeye card holders in the unit.