COLUMBUS, Ohio – Members of the Ohio State football team spent about two hours on the practice fields behind the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Thursday afternoon, the first of 15 spring practice dates for the five-time defending Big Ten Conference champion and the 2010 Rose Bowl champion.

Practicing in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, the Buckeyes went through a spirited workout under crystal clear blue skies with temperatures in the mid-70s, and also under the watchful eyes of approximately 30 members of the media, who were invited in to watch the proceedings. The team will practice one more day in shorts – Friday – before donning full pads Saturday.

Position of the Day: Defensive Line

Two senior members of the defensive line – Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore – met with the media on the practice fields after the first session. Also addressing the media were defensive line coach/defensive coordinator Jim Heacock and coach Jim Tressel.

The two D-linemen will be key members of a defensive line that loses five off the unit from last year, with starters Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington – 18.0 tackles-for-loss and six sacks between them – and part-time starter Todd Denlinger (4.0 and 2.0, respectively) the most significant losses to overcome.

Heyward, who led all defensive linemen with 46 tackles last year, including 10.0 TFLs and 6.5 sacks, was asked whether he would like to be a team captain this year.

“That’s a goal,” Heyward said. “I want to be a captain but if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. We have lots of leadership on this team with guys like Rolle (Brian) and Ross (Homan), and on the offensive side people like Terrelle (Pryor), DeVier (Posey), Dane (Sanzenbacher)…we just have lots of leadership.”

The Returnees  Asked whether Ohio State had a better chance to win a national championship because he returned for his senior season, Heyward said “lots of guys came back who had a chance to go out…Ross, Chimdi…it wasn’t just me.

“Enjoy It”  Along the subject of turning pro early, Heyward was asked about the situation that Buckeye hoopster Evan Turner, a potential Top 3 NBA draft pick, is in:

“Enjoy it,” Heyward said. “He should do whatever makes him happy. He is in a Blessed situation. I want to be like him.”

Larimore, whose most important statistic outside his 20 tackles last season is two – the number of offensive linemen it typically takes to block him – was excused from practice about five minutes before the end because of a class. He talked about the leadership on the defensive line.

“The biggest thing [during spring ball] is leadership,” Larimore said. “We’ve got to bring the younger guys up. We can’t replace the guys we lost in terms of leadership because most were seniors, but we can bring the younger guys up through knowledge and in time they can replace them in terms of talent.”

Both Praised  Heyward and Larimore were each complimented by Heacock. “Cam has done a good job playing and working hard,” Heacock said. “Now he has to step up and be a leader. Coach Tressel expects that.

“And Dexter, too. Dexter Larimore has done a good job being a leader for us [through the offseason].”

D-Line Needs  According to Heacock, the upperclassmen “need to step up and be dominant players and the back-ups need to step up and be quality players for us.”

After Thaddeus  Heacock said Nathan Williams (8.0 TFLs; 3.5 sacks in 2009) and Solomon Thomas know Gibson’s position is open and “both are competing hard for that spot.”

Younger players along the defensive line whom Heacock expects will step up this year include John Simon, who played in all 13 games last year as a true freshman and had 16 tackles and four TFLs, Adam Bellamy and Garrett Goebel.  

Misc. Numbers…

Seven – Number of scheduled post-practice interview days; April 1-2-8-9-13-15-16.

10 – Number of new faces/names on the spring practice roster. Most of these young men are walk-ons, but scholarship running back Carlos Hyde, from Naples, Fla., and kicker Drew Basil, from Chillicothe, are within the group.

15 – Number of April practices for the Buckeyes as part of 2010 spring drills.

22 – Number of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools with new head coaches for the 2010 season. Schools – some major powers – with new coaches: Akron, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Marshall, Memphis, Notre Dame, San Jose State, South Florida, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas Tech, UNLV, Virginia and Western Kentucky.

5:30 – Approximate start time for media interviews Friday with offensive linemen Bryant Browning and Justin Boren, and line coach/offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. Interviews will take place on the practice field behind the WHAC. Once again, this practice is open to the media, but there are no cameras or cell phones allowed.