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Buckeye Football Notebook: 'We weren’t chirping and letting everybody know we were going to be a good team'
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — So much of the success of the Buckeye offense in the Fiesta Bowl will depend on how well quarterback J.T. Barrett is throwing the ball. How well he is throwing the ball will somewhat depend upon how quickly he gets into a rhythm.

So how does he normally find a rhythm?

"With me, in order to get a little rhythm, or knock the little butterflies you got, run the ball and get hit one time and 'All right, we’re good,'" Barrett said. And also, too, just completing a pass, see the ball leave my hands complete to a receiver, I think that’s something else. Either one of those I feel like get me going."

The lack of experience on this team has been a constant topic of conversation both in Columbus and around the college football world. Despite the large amount of youth, however, here the Buckeyes sit just a few days away from playing in the College Football Playoff.

While there may have been doubt about this team's potential outside of the program, the players never seemed concerned.

"I think within the team we were definitely confident in our skills," Barrett said. "We knew we were young and were going to have to get a lot of experience pretty fast, and I think that’s what the road games helped us with, losing at Penn State also helped us in that as well.

"At the beginning of the season we weren’t chirping and letting everybody know we were going to be a good team. We put our heads down and went to work in order to show that for ourselves more than anything, so it wasn’t anything I feel like we were lacking to be where we’re at right now. I was confident in all nine units, special teams, everything we’re a part of in order to be where we’re at."

When the Buckeyes began preparing for this season, Larry Johnson wanted at least eight defensive linemen rotating in and getting playing time. Unfortunately, they lost starting defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle in the season opener. Despite that setback, however, Johnson has gotten the rotation that he wanted.

Part of the reason for wanting a rotation is that it keeps those players fresher throughout the course of a game. Another part, however, is that it keeps them fresher throughout the course of a season.

The Buckeye defensive linemen enter the Fiesta Bowl as a group that has not been overworked, and they expect that rotation to help them once more against Clemson.

"Definitely keeps us fresh," said defensive end Tyquan Lewis. "I mean especially when the ball is out in like 1.8 seconds or something like that. Guys have to chase after the ball, rush the quarterback, all that. It gets tiring, but the thing is that when we rotate like that it keeps the defensive line fresh and keeps us fast. It’s like a wave of guys coming in time after time. The O-line, I don’t know how much of that they can sustain after a while because of course they’re getting tired because they don’t rotate."

And what does a defensive lineman do when he's not out on the field?

"I take mental reps," Lewis said. "You can tell some O-linemen play some of us different because we all have different techniques. I probably use more power than speed or something like that. The main thing is like I watch and I can see how everybody is doing on the defensive line. I’ll be looking on the field and I’ll look at replays and see what someone else did."

Football coaches love bowl games, and it's not because of the swag. There's a reason that Maryland was happy to be playing Boston College this week, and it certainly was not for the glory. They do it because the extra practice helps the team grow for next year.

So why do some younger players seem to make a jump during these bowl practices?

"I think it’s because there’s nothing else but football right now," said defensive end Sam Hubbard. "Exams are done and you get plenty of sleep, all your focusing on is football and you really put your mind to just football. I don’t think there’s another time other than camp, that’s just a mental grind, that you can really have time to yourself to focus on your game, like just spending extra time in the weight room or extra time on film and even extra time on scout team is where the young guys really improve."

Player profiles relevant to story:
6 - Hubbard, Sam | 16 - Barrett, J.T. | 25 - Weber, Mike
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