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At Big Ten media day in Chicago, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said that his first fall camp as the Buckeyes' head coach would be "really, really hard." With the first three days of that camp now in the books, it's clear that Meyer wasn't kidding.
Whether it's the increased sweat dripping off of their bodies, the tired tones in their voices, or the sudden need to enjoy a Gatorade during their post-practice interviews, it's apparent that the first three days of Meyer's fall camp have been unlike anything that's ever been experienced by the Buckeye players. And they're not even halfway through their first week.
"Wooo. It's tough. It is tough," an exhausted Corey Linsley said following just the Buckeyes' second full day of camp under Meyer. "It's comparable probably to the 10th or 11th day of practice of spring ball. But I feel like we're crisp, guys are running routes right, guys blocking assignments right, but it's now the little things."
A redshirt junior, the Ohio State first-string center is now enduring his fourth camp in Columbus, and it's clear that through three days, this has been the toughest. Linsley said that the difference in this year's camp is not just on the field, but in the meeting room as well.
"You can see in the meetings when we're watching film and stuff it's now not so much where we're going- although we do spend a lot of time on that, making sure we're crisp- but it's more so how we're doing it," Linsley said.
One reason why this year's camp may seem harder for the Buckeyes is the hurry-up offense that Meyer is trying to install. The breaks- or lack thereof- in between plays have certainly played a part in exhausting Ohio State players, although they've already witnessed the benefits that the uptempo offense can provide.
"It's huge. Especially if we're in shape. I felt like in the spring, if we were doing some of our scrimmages, if we got into that seventh and eighth play of the drive, the defensive linemen were like, 'Man, we've never seen something like that,'" Linsley said. "Players like us going as fast as we can and getting the play off as fast as we can. So it's a huge advantage."
Ohio State's first two practices have been broken down into 25 five-minute periods, forcing the players to constantly be on the go. With the coaching staff urging the Buckeyes to run instead of walking in between drills, it's easy to see how two-plus hours of being on the move- coupled with the August heat- could wear out a player.
Despite the physical toll that the first three days of fall camp has taken on his body, junior wide receiver Corey Brown is confident that a tougher August will make for an easier fall.
"It's grueling, but it's good for us at the same time," Brown said. "We really try to do all of the fast-paced team periods at the end of practice to try to get us to run when we're tired, so the fourth quarter when we're playing against our opponent, we're in better shape than they are and we can just keep going."
It's not just the offense that's adjusting to Meyer's uptempo philosophy. Even though most of the defensive coaches from last season were retained by the Buckeyes' new head coach, the Ohio State defense is still getting used to facing an offense as fast-paced as the one that Meyer wants to run.
"Coach Meyer has that motto: practice hard so the games are easy," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "He's doing that. Everything's really fast, you don't get a rest, so that when the game comes, the eight seconds in between each play, you're loving it."
But while playing in games might sound like heaven to the Buckeyes, they still have more than three weeks until their Sept. 1 meeting with Miami (OH). And Meyer has made it clear that the worst of fall camp is yet to come for his players.
"Out of 125 teams in division-1, 125 of them show enthusiasm on the first few days. It's day 10 and day 11, when they're sore, they're beat up, they've got finals coming up, their girlfriend told them to pound salt, will they still come out and play hard?," Meyer rhetorically asked. "Let's talk about day 10, day 11. That happens to be, I think, our second or third two-a-day. And so it's going to be the 10 and 11 day and they'll hear that phrase again. That's when I evaluate do you really like it? Do you really like football?"
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