COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 550 family and 175 media members showed up for Ohio State’s annual media and photo night with Thursday evening in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes began preseason practice on Monday and will hold their fourth practice of the year Friday. They will kick off the season Sept. 5 at home against Navy (Noon ET, ESPN).

Ohio State returns 12 starters from a year ago, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was selected as the Big Ten’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Other starters on offense include guard Jim Cordle, center Michael Brewster and tackle Bryant Browning. Tight end Jake Ballard made six starts in 2008.

Defensively, the Buckeyes return eight players with significant starting experience: ends Lawrence Wilson, Cameron Heyward and Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Doug Worthington, linebacker Ross Homan, safeties Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman, and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.

Ohio State has been selected as the preseason favorites for the 2009 football season by media members attending the conference’s football media day. Penn State was tabbed to finish second, and Michigan State was third. Ohio State enters the 2009 season in search of its fifth consecutive Big Ten title. OSU finished last season with a 10-3 overall mark and tied with Penn State for the conference title with a 7-1 mark during Big Ten play.

Media Day Quotes

Dane Sanzenbacher, junior wide receiver
On his ankle injury
“More than anything, the ankle injury was just a very frustrating thing to deal with. Summer was more of a rehab time than anything else. It was important to get healthy.”

On his leadership role
“The past two years have been learning experiences, but this year I’ve been put in more of a position to lead the team and I’m really enjoying the opportunity “

Jermale Hines, junior defensive back
On his team role
“Right now I’m the nickel player, but I’m really what I like to call the rover — a little of linebacker, a little defensive back. I’m just a little bit of everything when I’m out there. When it comes down to it, I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team out and win ball games.”

On his growth as a player
“Last year I was just relying on my athleticism and football skills, but this year I’ve been anticipating much better as a whole. I think that after last year I definitely have the opportunity to be a big factor on the defensive unit.”

Dexter Larimore, junior defensive lineman
On preseason preparation
“Training so far has been going great. The defensive line has been working really hard to get better and get ready and we’ve all just been training really hard to prepare ourselves for the season.”

On teamwork
“It’s key that we work as a team out there, that everybody is out there cheering each other on and getting everybody ready to play-that means coaches AND players. We need to use momentum to help us.”

On the schedule
“In the Big Ten, every single game is big and we have to use each game to help build off the others. Personally, I always like playing Michigan. There really is just that aura about the entire game.

On the game with USC
“Right now we’re working on Navy and looking at some other teams. The USC game isn’t really a distraction for us right now; we’re just staying focused. This is going to be a good chance for the young guys to prove themselves.”

Brian Rolle, junior linebacker
On the home opener versus Navy
“It’s just like any other football game that we play. The Navy players are very disciplined when they play and as a defense we’re going to have to match that discipline. I would say that discipline is probably the biggest key against Navy. We don’t want to fall into that classic ‘trap’ game.”

On the USC game
“Whether we’re playing them first or 12th, we’re going to have to stay focused on the game at hand. For now, we’re going to just focus on our team and start looking more at USC as that comes along.”

On his work with the special teams
“I think I’m going to be working with punt protection and kickoff. They’ll never be able to take that away from me, even if I somehow become an All-American linebacker. I just like to be out there and hit people.”

On the linebacker unit
“We’re not mourning the loss of James Laurinaitis or Marcus Freeman. We have a great coach in Coach Fickell who puts us in a position to be successful.”

Jon Thoma, senior punter
On his knowledge of football
“Coming in I knew the sport my entire life basically, but I never really had focused on any one sport or position as much as you need to with punting. It takes a lot of practice to get things to the point where they’re perfect as possible.”

Mike Adams, sophomore offensive lineman
On camp
“Camp just started, and we’re working hard and we look good. We still have a long way to go. We have got to stay tough and every year we strive to win the Big Ten and the national championship.”

On position competition
“We have got some great competition and we have some great players waiting to play. We will wait and see who they pick. I am sure they will pick the right guy.”

On his improvement
“I have improved my all-around game and become more aggressive. The more time you spend on the field, the more it helps your all-around game.”

On his size
“I lost about 40lbs and then put I few back on. I am right around 300 now just by diet and eating right. I feel faster and I’m moving better.”

On having a year of experience
“Now you know what you are doing, and coming into your second year, you know everything better, which will allow you to play faster and play harder.”

Jake Ballard, senior tight end
On being a mentor
“I am an older guy now, so I have got a couple of years on the younger guys. You can always learn more and rehearse plays.”

On stepping up
“We have got to keep doing our job. Last year, Robiskie and Hartline made it hard to get to the ball sometimes. We weren’t overlooked, but we weren’t the biggest part of the game plan. “

Terrelle Pryor, sophomore quarterback
On his running game
“It’s all in the mix. I have to wait and see what Coach calls. I’m the quarterback, but I’m as much of a runner.  It’s up to Coach and the offensive coordinators if they call a run play. “

On the difference between high school and college football
“In high school ball you go and have fun and try to score touchdowns. In college, you have great coaches to help and teach you. It’s a lot different.”

On his improvements
“I know the defense now. I know where to keep my eyes on the field and know where the safeties are. Studying film and knowing where to go with the ball is one of the most important things. I’ve also been working on technique with my footwork and follow through. With my footwork, I’m trying to get it to become second nature.”

On studying film
“We’ve kept working in the film room and it makes a big difference. The coaches are teaching me a lot so I can keep on getting better.”

On the receiving squad
“They are all good all-around athletes, and it is up to me to get the ball to them.”

Lamaar Thomas, sophomore wide receiver
On transitioning to the wide receiver position
“I thought it would be easy to go from running back to receiver. You think with a receiver you just have to run and catch the ball, but things have to be done in the correct way or you won’t play. I still have some little things and some more technique things to work on.”

On his improvement
“I look at myself from last year, and I see improvements. You can’t guess on plays. Once you know what you’re doing it gets easier.”

On Terrelle Pryor’s 40 time
“I ran in the first group and Terrelle ran in the second. When I heard his time, I thought ‘this can’t be true.’ But it’s really the truth.”

On kick returns
“I got the call the week of Purdue and was told that was my opportunity to make something happen. Every week I wanted to get better and take one to the house. Hopefully I can do that this year.”

J.B. Shugarts, sophomore offensive lineman
On gaining size
“Right now I am right around 305. I don’t really have a goal weight as long as I can move. I don’t want to get so big that I can’t move.”

On his injury last season
“I was bummed out; I had never had an injury before. I’m doing great now. I had surgery right after the Texas game in the spring. “

On the team’s improvement
“As a team, we need to work on the mental part, but physically we are ready to play. We have had a great summer.”

On the possibility of a national championship
“We have to take it one game at a time and concentrate. Last year we had a lot of hype and a lot to live up to. We kind of have a chip on our shoulder now and we’re excited. We have a great schedule and there is no reason we couldn’t win the Big Ten and a national title.”