Ohio State football: Players in close quarters during camp

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Linebacker Joshua Perry remembered a couple of years ago when, as a freshman, he checked into the Ohio State preseason camp hotel toting two bulging bags. Not yesterday.

As the Buckeyes moved in to the Hyatt Place at Grandview Yard before the start of the meat of their 2014 camp, Perry had a single bag, and even it seemed lightly packed.

“My freshman year I had a couple of bags, and they were filled with stuff, junk. And I had a bunch of snacks and everything,” the junior said. “But we’ve got all that stuff now, so you pack light and go to work.”

That seemed to be the theme as Buckeyes checked in, then walked out to catch buses back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where meetings and then the fourth practice of the preseason were about to start. To say the hotel will be their home for the next couple of weeks isn’t quite accurate, unless where one sleeps is the definition.

“You’re not even in there that much,” sophomore guard Pat Elflein said. “You go in there, you get in your bed, you wake up and you come right back on the bus.”

It’s a signal that for a couple of weeks the Buckeyes are sequestered to football “as one unit,” cornerback Doran Grant said. It also means the tough part of camp is right around the corner, with the first two-a-days on Saturday.

“It’s not dread, you’ve got to embrace it,” Grant said. “One of our mantras is ‘Embrace the grind,’ and that’s what we’ve got to do if we want to be successful, especially in training camp.”

But the hotel part is about two fellows sharing a room, even if most of that time is spent sleeping. Coach Urban Meyer prefers to match an older player with a younger one, or “younger brother,” in sort of a counselor-camper relationship.

“You kind of bring them in — it’s going to be a tough time in their life because they’re stuck in a hotel, they haven’t been through anything (like preseason camp), and by next week everybody is going to hate their life because they can’t go anywhere,” said senior linebacker Curtis Grant, paired with freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan “It’s just football, football, football.

“So they need to be with the older guys just to move forward.”

It so happens his roommate also is considered his competitor for the starting middle linebacker job, but Curtis Grant said they have a good relationship.

“That’s like my little brother, so we get along,” he said. “I kind of teach him the ropes. Something I didn’t have my freshman year.” He amended that by adding, “I kind of had it, but this is a little more welcoming.”

Safety Tyvis Powell agreed.

“Since our theme is ‘Brotherhood of trust,’ I feel like just spending time with people, getting to know them, trying to build that relationship, just makes a stronger bond out there on the field,” Powell said.

Powell expects his late-night conversation with freshman safety Erick Smith to be more tutoring sessions.

“I know yesterday he was struggling on some plays, so basically I’m just going to quiz him and make sure he’s got the playbook (down),” Powell said. “I just want to make sure that if anything ever happened to me I’d be 100 percent confident he could go in there and do the job.”

The upperclassmen still exercise a few seniority privileges, such as setting the rules for the room.

“Shut up, don’t snore, and sleep when it’s time to sleep,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said of his guidelines for redshirt freshman tight end Marcus Baugh.

“I just took the bed closest to the window, that was it,” junior center Jacoby Boren said of his pecking order with freshman lineman Kyle Trout. “That’s where I’ve always been, you have a little bit more room, and it’s by the AC (air conditioner) so I keep a little bit cooler.”

Doran Grant said his roommate is freshman defensive back Marshon Lattimore, but there’s no “senior-freshman thing” in terms of rules except for “get off your feet and just relax.”

As for the bed choice, he smiled and said “When I got up there he’d already called the window, he had his stuff on there, so it’s OK. As long as we both get a bed, that’s good.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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