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At 5:45 this morning, Ohio State's first fall camp under new head coach Urban Meyer officially began. With the incoming freshmen not practicing until later in the day, the veteran Buckeyes were up nice and early to get the Meyer Era in Columbus officially underway.
A new intensity
The start of fall camp means that it's time to put aside conditioning a weightlifting, and start focusing on football. After a long summer of working with new strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, the Buckeyes are glad to have their attention turned towards their Sept. 1 game with Miami (Ohio).
"It feels great, getting back to football again. In workouts, getting up at 6 a.m., working out, looking forward to the season," quarterback Braxton Miller said. "That's what you work for."
After just one brief practice- without the full team present- the Ohio State players have already noticed a difference in this year's regime, compared to the last one.
"You can tell just by practice, it's totally different than (former Ohio State) Coach (Jim) Tressel," cornerback Bradley Roby said. "Just the whole intensity of practice is just more urgent, more intensity, more competitive, but they stressed the competitiveness, so it brings out more."
A summer to remember
While today's practice may have seemed tough- as Meyer promised it would be- the Buckeyes were prepared for it, thanks to one of the more difficult offseasons in Ohio State history. Roby said that despite the intensity and physicality of the summer, he's confident that the past few months will pay off in the long run.
"It was very hard. It was probably the hardest training I've ever done in my life. It was just high intensity every day," Roby said. "Every day, it was a lot of stuff that we had to go through and stuff and I think we grew together more as a team because of that."
Running back Carlos Hyde also participated in drills this summer with his position group, and said that he's already noticing a payoff from the hard work that he and his teammates put in.
"We all came out here and we all did drills almost every single day. Working on jump cuts and stuff, pass blocking, getting ready," Hyde said. "So today's practice, (running backs coach) Stan Drayton was surprised with how we came out just looking so fresh and like ready to go."
With running back and kick returner Jordan Hall still out with a foot injury, the Buckeyes are looking for players to fill his role. While players are still auditioning to replace Hall in the offense, it appears that Roby has taken over as the Buckeyes' primary kick returner.
"I've been trying to tell them to put me back there, so I was back there for spring and had a couple of good returns, so they put me back there," Roby said.
An elite wide receiver coming out of high school, Roby is aware of what it takes to be an elite kick returner.
"You can't be scared, you just gotta run," Roby said. "When you see a hole, you just gotta hit it and make a play."
Passing the looks test
On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest questions surrounding the Buckeyes center around whether or not a passing game that Meyer described as "non-functional" will improve. Miller said on Friday that wide receivers Devin Smith and Corey Brown have especially stood out in summer drills.
"Just working in the offseason by myself and with the receivers out here and indoors and stuff like that," Miller said. "Just working on my accuracy and stepping through the throws and stuff like that."
As a player who competes against the wide receivers every day, Roby said that he's confident that the OSU wideouts will make a big leap in 2012.
"They're getting better at running routes and understanding how I play, because football's a mental game, so the receivers have to know what we're thinking, we have to know what they're thinking," Roby said. "With me coming in as a DB, I just help them to show what I'm thinking in certain situations and stuff and that's what other DBs will probably think too."
With one of the most accomplished coaching staffs in the country and a roster full of talent, many seem to be confused about what to expect from this Buckeye team that finished 6-7 a season ago. Inside the Ohio State locker room, however, there's no confusion as to what's expected for the 2012 season.
"Our goal is to go 12-0. Even can't go to a bowl game, we still have to get out there and play," Hyde said. "So we're just going to get out there and play and have a chip on our shoulder since we can't go to a bowl game and let the world know who the Buckeyes are this year."
Roby agreed with Hyde's statement that despite a bowl ban, an undefeated season is still what's on the Buckeyes' minds.
"It's very high. We're a hungry team. We're an ambitious team. So we're going to go out there and try to win every single game."
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