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Aug. 28, 2000

John Cooper
On practice this week
“We had more contact this spring than we’ve had in past years. All of our players stayed in Columbus this summer and worked out and we’ve had quite a bit of contact in fall camp, so we’re anxious to play somebody. Our plans this week are to go hard. We’ll be in full pads today, full pads tomorrow and we’ll lighten up a bit on Wednesday. We’ll try to get in the stadium on Thursday, take a walk through, go in the locker rooms and come down the ramp and decide how we’re going to be organized.”

On Fresno State
“We’re playing a pretty good football team this week. Fresno State was 8-4 last year and went to a bowl game. They have seven starters coming back on offense and nine starters coming back on defense. They’re a well-coached football team. Pat Hill, who used to be with the Cleveland Browns, did an outstanding job a year ago. They lost their place kicker and their punter, but they’ve been very good in all aspects of their kicking game since Pat’s been the head coach. Early in the year, mistakes can really hurt you in the kicking game. We’re really concerned about all phases of special teams play and we’ll certainly work very hard on that this week.

“They do have a new quarterback, a young man who redshirted last year. He’s a big kid, 6’3, 225 pounds. They have a couple of wide receivers coming back. One of them caught 72 passes last year and the other one caught 56. They also have a couple of outstanding running backs. Paris Gaines, at 6’1”, 230 pounds, gained 744 yards last year and Derrick Ward rushed for 875 yards. They’re going to put the football up quite a bit. They have a very sound running game. I think like any other team they’ll mix things up a bit. They’ll probably rely more on the passing game than they will on the running game.

“I’ve spent most of my time as usual looking at their defense. They’re very active on defense and very physical up front-they’re not going to sit still. They have three All-WAC linebackers coming back and a couple of outstanding safeties. They move around a lot give you a lot of looks and different angles and play what we call “pressure” defense. Nine players are committed to stopping the running game and they rely a lot on their corners – pretty much the same scheme defensively that we play here at Ohio State.”

On playing the first game in the renovated stadium
“I think we will play in the nicest stadium in college football and I hope it’s the most intimidating. It’s a beautiful stadium. There’s no question that it will be very loud, and we’re hoping for an exciting football game. The field is very intimate because the fans are a lot closer and right on top of the action. I’m anxious to be out on the sidelines and I hope the noise from the crowd will echo and come right back down on to the field. The scoreboard is awesome-the biggest in sports. I hope we play well enough to light it up.”

On the players themselves and their preparation for the first game.
“Our players have always done a tremendous job. They’re dedicated to working hard and their leadership is good. I can’t ask more out of a football team than what they’ve given me.

“I’m very anxious to find out how these young players are going to perform in their first ball game. These guys are excited, they’ve worked hard and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve played well in practice and they look like they’re going to have good careers ahead of them, but when they get out there and play in a game situation, we’ll have a better idea. I think they’ll play well. I think we have some young, talented football players that will play well Saturday afternoon.”

On expectations for the Buckeye defense
“I expect those guys to play well. We said in the fall that we have some good defensive linemen up front-Ryan Pickett, Mike Collins, Joe Brown, Tim Anderson. Those guys have performed well in our drills and during fall camp. We expect the defense to be one of the strengths of our football team.”

On injured offensive linemen
“We hope to get LeCharles Bentley back. We don’t think Paxton has a chance to play this week but I hope we have a healthy LeCharles Bentley. Adrien Clarke has also missed a few days, so I hope we get all those guys back.”

Junior cornerback Nate Clements
Comparing last year and this year
“When last season was done, we had to move on. We didn’t worry about playing a game, wet worried about working hard in summer camp.” “This year reminds me of my freshman year when all we thought about was being the National Champs. And I think we have the same type of thinking going into this season.”

On Fresno State
“Fresno State likes to spread out and use their different positions to confuse the opponent. They run the same plays and they just try to confuse the defense”

Senior offensive lineman Mike Gurr
On the present status of the offensive line
“I’m very comfortable with our offensive line coming into this weekend. We’ve been working on team unity. We’ve been a bunch of buddies since the spring, and I feel like we have a lot of confidence as a team.”

Sophomore linebacker Matt Wilhelm
On Saturday’s game
“I feel a little nervousness. I think the time I did play last year was huge for me. The little experience I got from going into other stadiums and playing in the Horseshoe has been big for me.”

On the strengths of Fresno State:
“Skill-wise, they are a great team. Their wide receivers and the one running back they have returning are very tough and quick. Up front they have a few guys coming back who move around a lot and that is what we are preparing for the most.”

His expectations of Ohio State this year
“It is hard to say at this point in time but everyone is optimistic and we can only get better. The coaches have stressed hard work in the offseason, which we’ve done. They’ve made it harder on us and we’ve pushed ourselves even harder. The Big Ten is the most competitive conference in the country and it can be up or down any year, but I look for a lot of excitement this year out of the Buckeyes and a great season.”

A comparison of this year’s team to last year’s team
“We’re not really sure how good we are compared to last year’s team. Attitude wise it has been a 360-degree turn. We’re in the right direction. Everyone has their heads up, everyone knows their role.”

On this year’s change of attitude and factors absent from last year’s team
“For me coming in as a freshman, right away I could see egos and attitudes of certain players. They felt because we are Ohio State, we stepped on the field and automatically the other team would be intimidated and that we were then going to win. You don’t see that around here now. We’re looking forward to the start of the season, but we know we have to work hard for our accomplishments once the season starts. “There is a lot more unity [this year].”

On the team’s excitement to play in the newly-renovated stadium
“We can’t wait to get out there on the field and have 95,000 people screaming in our favor. That’s one thing that is going to push us very hard this year.”

On his position at middle linebacker
“I feel putting me on the outside was good because I got the chance to learn that position, but the middle is where I’ve always wanted to be because I can get out on both sides and make plays.”

Freshman offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich
On the expectations of the freshman class
“I can’t speak on behalf of everybody, but for me, I think as a whole we’ve done pretty well. It’s been good to see that Ohio State gives you the option of playing early when some schools wouldn’t. Playing for a wonderful program like this and knowing you’re young and you’re going to play is quite an experience. Some schools just don’t give you an opportunity right away and Ohio State lets you come in, show what you have, and I think that allows us to take the opportunity to the next level.”