COLUMBUS, Ohio – Now that classes are about to begin at Ohio State, the Buckeyes on the football team are even busier and less isolated.
Despite a 3-0 start heading into Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan (0-3), the No. 2 Buckeyes have plenty of areas to address at the same time they're solving problems in the classroom.
"Classes begin tomorrow, so we've got to make sure that we can handle one more thing," coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday. "Our players are looking forward to it. They've been here training since June 18th, and I think there's just a certain energy and electricity that's on the campus when the students come back."
No longer can the Buckeyes crawl out of bed late in the morning and spend the next eight hours at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, watching film, lifting weights, practicing and meeting with their position coaches.
Now they must cram classes, studying and tests into an already busy day.
"I'm ready for school to start in the sense of we go to class and stuff like that," defensive back Tyler Moeller said. "But I'm not so much ready for the studying and the tests and the midterms."
Tight end Jake Stoneburner said hitting the books means maximizing your time.
"You just have to be able to get your rest and be organized better," he said. "Obviously, we have classes in the mornings. We have to make sure that we go to them and study, but you still have to commit a lot of time to football. You can't stop watching film, you can't stop working out. You just have to be able to organize your time."
It's a particularly troublesome time of year for freshmen, who have already had to adapt to the next level of football and now must face new academic challenges.
"We have so many things we have the freshmen do extra: mentoring programs to study table programs with more hours," Tressel said. "There's a lot asked of our freshmen. By early November, they're kind of like, 'Whoa, I've never gone at this pace for this long.'"
Moeller is used to the transition from athlete to student-athlete, since he's a fifth-year senior.
"It is a good change to have people on campus again and to go to class — especially for a guy like me," he said. "I have about five classes left to graduate. So to finally get my degree, it's nice to start up again."
The Buckeyes have plenty of work to do on the field, too.
Even though they have gotten off to a successful start, there are areas of concern.
Ohio State has spent lots of time tying up loose ends on special teams in the wake of a punt and kickoff return touchdown by Miami and lengthy returns in last year's Rose Bowl in addition to the games against Marshall and Ohio. The coaching staff has also put in extra time after several drives inside the opposing 20 have not produced points or ended with a field goal. Also of concern is that the Buckeyes have had a punt and a kickoff blocked already this season.
Finally, the running game has been effective but not overpowering in the first 25 percent of the regular season.
While the Buckeyes deal with those minor flaws, Tressel is pleased that his players won't have so much free time on their hands.
"(Classwork) forces them to be just a little more efficient," he said. "They may even have a little more bounce in their step, because they're sitting around a little bit less and can get their thumbs off those (video games) and their rear ends off those sofas."