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Published: Monday, 4/26/2010

Focus shifts to fall as Buckeyes eye another Big Ten title and more

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - In a little over three months, the Ohio State Buckeyes will reconvene en masse, and the preparation for the 2010 football season becomes an intense and concentrated exercise. In slightly more than four months, they play Marshall in the first game on the schedule.

"We know we've got a lot to do between now and August," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said after Saturday's spring game put the wraps on a month of practice. "It's up to the players to kind of initiate that, and I know they'll do that."

The Buckeyes, five-time defending champions of the Big Ten and the conference's outright title holder in 2009, will likely be picked at the top again when the preseason polls emerge. Some post-2009 polls targeting this coming season had them ranked as high as second in the nation behind defending national champion Alabama.

"We know we'll probably be up there in the polls, but that's something you expect and something you live with here at Ohio State," Ohio State senior linebacker Brian Rolle said following his final spring game. "Some people say spring practice is over and now it's time for fun, but the fun can wait - this is the time for us to get better."

Rolle and his veteran teammates played sparingly in the spring game, while the Buckeyes' coaching staff got an extended look at many of the youngerplayers. Tressel said that with many of the starters back from the Rose Bowl championship team, his concern was primarily about having the second and third-string ready.

"We really felt going into the last week of spring practice that we weren't sure if our depth had progressed as much as we'd like it to," Tressel said, "and we worked hard this week leading up to the game, to just keep getting better. You need to have a deep team to have a chance at the championship."

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, two months removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, played only a quarter of the spring game and crafted a four-play, 78-yard scoring drive. He hit wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher on three straight plays to get the ball in the end zone.

Pryor's backups - redshirt freshman Kenny Guiton and junior Joe Bauserman - got most of the work the rest of the day. Guiton, who tweaked his knee late in the game but appeared fine less than an hour later, threw a couple of touchdowns passes, while Bauserman had two interceptions.

The Buckeyes also spread the ball around, with sophomore fullback Zach Boren catching four passes, and sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner catching three.

"That's an important

focus of spring practice and the spring game - to get more guys involved so they get the experience," Sanzenbacher said. "It's like coach Tressel said, you need depth if you want to win any kind of championship, so every player out there is part of that. It's great to see those guys making plays, and that will help us be a better team this fall."

One aspect of the team that did not come out of spring with a clearer picture of a defined pecking order for the backups is at running back. The Buckeyes expect to have at least seven players competing for carries this fall, but Ohio State did not get an extended look at any of them in the spring game, since it executed just 38 running plays, while passing 58 times.

Dan Herron and Brandon Saine remain the co-starters, while Jordan Hall, Jermil Martin, Bo DeLande, and Carlos Hyde all saw some work. Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry was held out of the game with a sore ankle.

Once the spring semester ends in a little more than a month, the Buckeyes will focus on a weight-lifting and conditioning regimen, targeting the start of fall camp in early August.

Sanzenbacher said that

early-summer period is one of the most beneficial for the team, in terms of building friendships and chemistry.

"It's my perspective, but I'm more excited about finishing up spring practice and going into summer," Sanzenbacher said. "I think it's one of the most fun times of the year. It is more relaxed than when we are in school, and everybody just gets to go in and go to work on the conditioning side of it and the lifting side of it."

Sanzenbacher, the former Central Catholic standout who is preparing for his senior season, said he felt it was a successful month of practice.

"I'm happy how spring ball turned out, and I think a lot of guys got a good amount of work in," he said. "I think we made steps in the right direction."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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