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free dispatch article

Tough initiation for coach
New OSU assistant juggles big numbers at summer camps
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Ken Gordon

New OSU assistant coach John Peterson helped coordinate recent football camps that drew more than 3,500 high-school players, including this large group at the Woody Hayes Center.

On the eve of the onslaught, John Peterson smiled ruefully.

He is a veteran of Ohio State’s high-school football camps — first as a student in Middletown and then as a guest coach while he worked at other Ohio colleges.

But last week, he was preparing to debut as co-director. It was a daunting prospect to Peterson, who was hired in April to replace Bill Conley as Buckeyes tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.

"I don’t know if I’m a product of these camps or a victim," he said. "We’ll find out soon when the masses come."

And they came. The Buckeyes welcomed an estimated 200 kickers and punters June 16-17, then hosted two groups of about 1,500 players each for consecutive four-day camps that wrapped up Friday.

The ordeal finished with two one-day camps for elite "senior-only" players, numbering about 250 yesterday and 100 today.

That’s more than 3,500 players. For the past decade, Conley ran the show. He announced his resignation April 1, and Peterson was hired 11 days later.

Partly because the camp has grown so much, though, no longer does one man hold the title of director. Peterson, OSU linebackers coach Luke Fickell and passing game coordinator-/quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels formed a trio of directors this year.

"It took three guys to replace Bill Conley," coach Jim Tressel said, "but when you do it that many years, we need a lot of help to make sure we do it just as well."

It was a big two weeks for Peterson, who returned to his alma mater after spending most of the last 13 years as an assistant coach at Cincinnati, Akron and Miami University.

Those programs have had some success. But Peterson is on a new level. High-school All-Americans are commonplace and winning a national title is an annual goal.

"There’s always pressure," he said. "I don’t know if it’s more pressure, just excitement. Coach Conley is a great mentor of mine and has been a tremendous help in my coaching career, and I still rely on him on a consistent basis."

Peterson said he and Conley, now in private business in Dublin, "have very good communication."

Tressel said Peterson, who lettered four years as an OSU linemen from 1987-90, "has done a great job. He has fit in fine because he loves Ohio State and he’s a people person."

Because Peterson arrived at OSU after national signing day, his first major tasks were the May recruiting period and these camps.

The Buckeyes netted two early commitments for 2005 in May: defensive linemen Todd Denlinger of Troy and Ryan Williams of Mission Viejo, Calif.

In recent days, two elite national prospects have made unofficial visits: Maurice Wells, a running back from Florida, and quarterback Mark Sanchez, Williams’ teammate at Mission Viejo.

The camps have become a vital part of the recruiting process. In 1994 and 1995, Penn State started to aggressively sign Ohio juniorsto-be to early commitments. Former OSU coach John Cooper said the answer was to promote and boost attendance at the Buckeyes’ camps.

"We didn’t like to offer (a scholarship) unless we were sure they could play here," Cooper said, "so we made a real push to get these camps, because the camp was the difference. It went from 1,500 kids to 3,000 real quick.

"We made an effort to get the top juniors and even sophomores and freshmen in camp, where we could evaluate them. Once they were on campus, we could find out who the players are, and then early recruiting (signings) escalated."

Though Peterson and Co. will be eyeing all classes of players each day, Tressel said the one-day senior-only camps this weekend are a growing trend.

"Everybody wants these seniors to go see their campus," Tressel said, "so to ask them to go spend four or five days on your campus and four or five on a campus wherever else is asking a lot of them. So everyone is having these one-day camps, and that’s important for their schedules."

The camps also are the last big item on the coaching staff’s schedule until preseason camp opens in August.

Players will conduct five weeks of weight training and drills beginning Monday, but coaches are not allowed to participate.

So in July, Tressel said, "Our coaches will be scarce. They need time to refuel. They’ll be sleeping, golfing, exhausted, wherever."

ozone article from earlier in the week in case you missed it

another Ozone article