Ohio State has first spring practice

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With two fresh banners hanging inside Ohio State's practice facility, the Buckeyes hit the practice field for the first time Tuesday since putting the finishing touches on an undefeated season.

Near midfield, hanging with the rest of the signs honoring the past national championships, was a new addition paying tribute to last year's 12-0 record.

Hanging just behind an end zone was another banner referencing simply, "The Chase," in big, bold letters.

While Ohio State coach Urban Meyer rattled off plenty of things the new banner could allude to for various individuals, he stopped short of saying what it might mean for the overall team.

"It's within the team, but we're all chasing something," Meyer said after the opening practice in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. "We're 15 practices behind a lot of teams. Matter of fact, behind every team that played in a bowl game last year, so the chase is on.

"Some guys are chasing starting positions, some guys are chasing a bowl game, some guys an NFL contract. ... It means more, but that's where we're going to stop."

The banner itself represents something of a starting point for the Buckeyes, though, giving a label to a training area in the complex with football-specific equipment like blocking sleds and tackling dummies.

With the coaching staff unable to take advantage of the invaluable bowl practices to help develop younger talent and unable to work with them during the offseason due to standard NCAA rules, the onus was on the Buckeyes to embrace the message hanging just behind the end zone.

And while Meyer made a point not to "use the two words [the Buckeyes] don't use very often" when asked about contending for a national championship now that the bowl ban has expired, the other new banner made clear how high the stakes are for the program as it went back to work.

Even with a roster that will have to replace six starters in the defensive front seven and a passing attack that still has room to improve on offense, Meyer had little to complain about as he got his first real look at the results of the first phase of "The Chase."

"The only thing I don't feel great about is when you look and you don't see my leaders from last year," Meyer said. "I grew to love those guys, and [graduated seniors like [John] Simon, [Etienne] Sabino, [Zach] Boren, [Garrett] Goebel and some others that turned out to be as good of human beings as I've ever been around, that's the only void you feel.

"Other than that, I feel great."