August 28, 2007

Make way for Captain Kirk

For a senior like captain Kirk Barton getting ready for the season should be old hat by now. After all this is the fifth time around for the Ohio State right tackle but it still holds a special meaning not only as the last season for Barton in the Scarlet and Gray but also being named a captain by his peers to lead the team onto the field. While the fifth year senior didn't lobby for votes he had plenty of players pledge their support before the Thursday vote.

"A lot of guys said they were going to vote for me," Barton said. "You never want to hope and you never want to be let down for some reason if something would happen but I was excited when it actually went down."

Barton knows that the leadership role comes with great responsibility on and to the team and he is not going to take any of the added duties lightly even if it means that it will hamper his social schedule some.

"There is a little more pressure on you to make sure you represent the program the way that it should be represented," Barton said. "That is something that I take pretty seriously, I will probably be staying at home a lot more because you don't want to do anything to embarrass the program."

Barton along with the other captains of Dionte Johnson and James Laurinaitis will be working with a younger team and for several players it will be the first time of running through the tunnel and hearing the band urge them on to victory.

"The biggest difference is that you are playing on TV in front of a big crowd," Barton said. "That's something that younger guys aren't really used to. Personally I have played in some pretty big games and I am used to playing in front of the lights and the fans."

Barton feels in better shape than he has before and has made some changes to his daily routine to maximize his time and be able to optimize his performance.

"Personally I schedule classes later in the afternoon so I could sleep in which actually sounds funny or lazy," Barton said. "You can tell a difference if you don't get eight hours of sleep and I could after I actually started getting eight hours of sleep."

With later classes and staying in more that should have an effect on what Barton will be out to snack on during the day.

"My diet is a lot better," Barton joked. "I had to cut out the junk food and going to Hooter's with T.J. (Downing). I go on a Subway run myself and I got to give T.J. a shout-out everyday because I am wearing his suit."

As for the offensive line as a unit the squad has been hampered with some injuries as Jon Skinner and Kyle Mitchum both are injured and will likely miss a chunk of the season nursing their individual injuries but several players have stepped up including the Bryant Browning who has set himself up to possibly play at left guard or even back up Barton at the right tackle spot.

Other players have stepped up too whether it be because of an opportunity because of an injury or just performing well in camp. Who on offense has made a move in the eyes of the veteran linemen?

"We've had a lot of guys step up at the receiver position and had a lot of guys making plays," Barton observed. "Obviously (Brian) Robiskie and (Brian) Hartline have had a good camp but guys like (Dane) Sanzenbacher and Taurian Washington, those guys have definitely stepped up along with our tight ends. Jake Ballard and Rory Nicol is the veteran and has been starting a few games, those guys have definitely been more of a threat in the passing game."

As Jim Tressel pointed out in the weekly press conference it is a little early to put any of the freshmen in the Buckeye Hall of Fame but the team has been impressed with what the young players have shown up to this point and will have a chance to solidify their status with a good outing on Saturday.

"They've worked hard and a lot of them physically are ready to go," Barton said. "Cameron Heyward, (Brian) Rolle is ready to go, Sanzenbacher is going a lot with the ones, Taurian Washington, along with the tailbacks Boom Herron and Brandon Saine. They are impressive and if we can use them then definitely burn the redshirt for it."

There is little doubt that the talent is there but the question comes down to how long it will take the talent to gel together. Even at this point several of the units are still trying to determine their identities. Does Barton feel that the O-Line is a better pass blocking unit or run blocking unit at this point?

"We pride ourselves on being able to do both because it is hard to be good at either if you got nine in the box or if you've got prevent defense," Barton said. "We try to be good at both. Hopefully pass blocking is something we try to stress with a new quarterback because we want to make sure that he is very comfortable in the pocket so he can step up and make his throws. We're pretty adept at run blocking."

The week before the season there are always a lot more questions than answers but one thing that Barton is sure of is what he is going to do during the coin toss with his captain's duties.

"I already know how I am going to go," Barton joked. "It rhymes with 'it never fails.'"

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