Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
To Sugar Bowl champions, it’s never too early for football.
Spring practice for the Ohio State football team kicked off Monday with players going through conditioning drills starting at 6 a.m. all week, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor was limited while sporting a protective boot as he recovers from surgery on his right foot.
Director of football performance Eric Lichter said the early morning practices are meant to cap off what he said was an impressive winter conditioning program for the Buckeyes.
Winter training is meant to focus on individual performances in areas such as bench press, broad jump and vertical jump. Mandatory workouts began at the end of January, Lichter said, three weeks after the 31-26 Sugar Bowl win against Arkansas.
The program lasted four weeks, concluding with the coaching and training staffs testing the players individually to measure their improvement in those areas. Monday’s practice started drills that are meant to unify the players.
“This is more of the team coming together and working on team togetherness and team toughness and kind of building that bond that gets you through tough times,” Lichter said.
Now, the team is experiencing the type of conditioning rigors that require trash cans on the field, just in case any of the players lose their “cookies,” an energetic Tressel said as Monday’s practice concluded.
Lichter said he was excited about the performances of the new freshmen recruits who have come to work with the team early. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, safety Jeremy Cash, linebacker Ryan Shazier, defensive tackle Joel Hale and quarterback Braxton Miller enrolled at OSU for Winter Quarter to get a head start on preparing for another BCS run next fall.
“Really, really impressed with those guys,” Lichter said, “especially considering they’re really seniors in high school and they’re up here competing … hanging with our guys, our veterans.”
Former Buckeye defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has been at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center working out and has been a welcomed veteran voice to a team that’s much younger than last year’s squad.
“It was good to have Cam around,” Lichter said. “He’s a part of what I consider the best senior class we’ve had here. … Cam will just be a great leader and someone to look to for these young D-linemen and everyone on the team.”
Heyward is preparing to take part in OSU’s pro day with former linebacker Brian Rolle, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, guard Justin Boren, defensive back Jermale Hines, linebacker Ross Homan, running back Brandon Saine and cornerback Devon Torrence.
NFL scouts will be on hand to evaluate the outgoing Buckeyes on Friday at the WHAC. Lichter expects representatives from all 32 NFL teams to be there.