Buckeyes prepare for bowl at Wile E. Coyote#039;s #039;home#039;

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

PHOENIX -- Pinnacle High School looks more like Wile E. Coyote's home than the base for Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl preparations.

Surrounded by miles and miles of saguaro cactus, tumbleweed, scrub brush and barren desert, it could easily be mistaken for a remote and secretive air base. The only visitors seen here, however, wear scarlet and gray.

The Buckeyes are going through their paces in preparation for a Jan. 3 showdown against No. 1 Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Temperatures for Friday's first workout and Saturday's closed practice were in the 60s under bright sun with gusting winds.

Email newsletter signup

''We all had to get a little bit of Christmas out of us,'' head coach Jim Tressel said. ''It was just good to get out.''

A mountain range sits a few miles away from the twin practice fields -- one for offense, the other for defense -- at the high school facility.

The 95 players in Ohio State's traveling party can lift weights in a cutting-edge conditioning area. There's an expansive gym for indoor workouts and the Buckeyes regularly get together in a large meeting room in the coral-and-tan stucco and block buildings in the northwest corner of Phoenix, about 15 minutes from the team's $500-a-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess headquarters.

Four policemen have been assigned full-time to the team party, providing protection to and from practices and bowl functions along with overseeing security at the team hotel and elsewhere.

Upon arrival on Thursday afternoon, the Buckeyes enjoyed dinner at the hotel and then sat through presentations by bowl officials and local police with dos and don'ts to avoid trouble during leisure time. The players have numerous bowl activities, but also have vans available.

By Saturday afternoon, the entire team had arrived for practice. Offensive tackle Shane Olivea's plane was held up by inclement weather in New York, as was free safety Le Andre Boone's flight from Washington, D.C.


BUCKEYES ON PARADE: Quarterback Craig Krenzel said he was still energized by the team parade as it drove through Columbus to go to the airport on Thursday.

''It was great to see all the fans supporting us,'' Krenzel said. ''It's the day after Christmas and people probably have a lot of stuff to do. The weather was extremely cold and to see all the people out there braving the elements was really encouraging.''


WHAT A NUT: A Phoenix TV reporter asked Tressel to explain what a buckeye was.

''A buckeye is a nut, from a buckeye tree,'' Tressel said. ''It's a real hard nut and real tough nut and that's what we hope to be.''


STAT OF THE DAY: Over the last 20 years, Miami has had more players taken in the first round of the NFL draft (32) than any other university. Over the same period, Ohio State has had 22 first-rounders. The Hurricanes have had 63 players taken in the first three rounds; Ohio State has had 44.


COACH CORNROWS: Tressel told the Buckeyes earlier this season he would have his hair braided in cornrows if they finished the season undefeated.

Linebacker Cie Grant said the players would not let Tressel off the hook if the Buckeyes beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national championship.

''We're out here for business but it would be nice to win to keep him to his word,'' Grant said. ''He'll have to do it.''

Tressel said other than an upset win, there was only one thing preventing him from changing his coiffure.

''I'll do it as soon as my hair is long enough,'' Tressel said. ''I've got to start growing it out.''


KEEPERS: Miami has scored on its first series in eight of 12 games this year, including seven of the last eight. … As many Ohio State players made first-team Associated Press All-America (3) as were picked first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media. … Ohio State's scout team has seldom-used running back Roshawn Parker, freshman linebacker Mike D'Andrea and redshirt quarterbacks Justin Zwick and Troy Smith playing the roles of, respectively, tailback Willis McGahee, fullback Quadtrine Hill and quarterback Ken Dorsey in practice. … Miami's staff includes head coach Larry Coker (formerly an Ohio State assistant under John Cooper), offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski (an ex-tight end at Miami who played high school ball in Toledo) and defensive backs coach Mark Stoops (a Youngstown native who was an assistant at Macedonia Nordonia from 1992-96). … Tressel on the Buckeyes: ''Right now we're as healthy as we could expect to be.''