COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State passed the midpoint of its 2010 spring drills with another full pads practice Tuesday on the only outdoor practice field available behind the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Three of the four available practice fields are in various stages of a $5.2 million renovation that will be completed in stages (June and early August).
It was a “two-fer” Tuesday interview day for the media. Head coach Jim Tressel opened the Big Ten spring football coaches teleconference with a 10-minute session at noon and then a trio of receivers and position coach Darrell Hazell were on the receiving end of post-practice interview questions from the assembled media. (The Wednesday, April 14 spring practice notes will include quotes and notes and comments from and about the receivers.)
And among the assembled media at practice today: the Big Ten Network’s own Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith.
Meanwhile, Originating from Chicago The Big Ten conference call had each of the 11 head coaches on for 10 minutes. Coach Tressel led off the call, was on it for nearly 12 minutes and responded to five questions with the bulk of his time – 8:55 – devoted to comments about junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Here are a few of the Tuesday thoughts from the Coach:
On Spring So Far: “We’ve been pleased with a number of things but we still have a ways to go. There are certain holes to fill and depth to be created. We lost a good group of kids who were good leaders and who led us to a Big Ten championship. We also lost Thaddeus Gibson to the NFL.”
The Team’s Personality: “I think the personality of our team is still in the midst of being formed, and I don’t know if you know this total answer until you are thrown out into the competition. Thus far the seven practices have been pretty solid, though, with no horrible injuries.”
Cameron Heyward’s Role: “Cameron is a great player…a great kid. He is going to be a great leader for this team. Obviously we will count on him a lot on the field. He has a good knack of bringing other people along. It’s just the type of person he is. He is a real inclusive guy. He knows we lost a great deal of personnel on the defensive front to graduation plus losing Thaddeus Gibson early. He is at the front of the room and the line encouraging the guys. His performance will be crucial for us and his leadership will be just as important.”
On to Terrelle As mentioned, Tressel spent a significant amount of time addressing the play of quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He opened with some comments about a mid-spring evaluation that the coaches recently conducted, and shared with the media things that Pryor has improved on as well as the things he needs to continue to work on for this team to get better.
Tressel on Terrelle: “As I think back to what Coach Siciliano, Jim Bollman and Darrell Hazell have talked about in Terrell’s case, he has really done a good job of working on his feet. He has done a good job keeping his feet patient. And as he’s grown to experience more and more about how people try to defend us, he’s done a good job keeping his feet in synch.
“With that thought process, I think he has also done a good job of having a lot better recognition and understanding for the progression of receivers all the way down to the check-downs. I think when you are young as a quarterback you try to memorize who is the primary read and those kinds of things, and the older you get, as you watch the defense, you know who is one, two and three. … He’s done a good job of growing in that area.”
A Calmer Commander Tressel felt that Pryor began becoming more comfortable at his position during the practices leading up to the Rose Bowl game. And just to refresh, here’s what kind of next game Pryor had after those practices: a career-high 266 yards passing with two touchdowns, 72 yards rushing and MVP honors after directing Ohio State’s offense to a Rose Bowl record 41:37 time of possession.
“I think in general his calmness and his command has improved over the course of these first seven practices” Tressel said. “I think he really began heading in this direction during the month long bowl practices.”
Room for Improvement Moving forward to the rest of this spring and to the time in between spring ball and the start of fall camp in August, Tressel stressed a couple of areas where Pryor has room for improvement.
“We’ve got to get better at our timing,” Tressel said. “That takes more time spent with his receivers and getting in the same rhythm as the receivers. [He’ll need to grow] more and more to understand what we are doing, and enhancing our tempo will be a critical thing.
“And I think the other thing that Terrelle will continue to work on, and it’s going to be important for this team, is for him to continue to emerge as a leader. I think the better you do your craft and the more you have confidence in your craft, you’ll have a better chance to be a leader.”
Terrelle’s Knee Tressel, when asked about the status of Pryor’s knee, said it is “fine” and that he is doing everything other players are doing this spring. He went on to say the only issue is Pryor wants to do too much.
“He trains exceptionally hard,” Tressel said. “Honestly, I think the thing you have to worry about with Terrelle is over-training. He likes to work so much. You see him coming in here at six in the morning…making appointments with the strength coach to work on this or that, and yet we have a practice later in the day. In his excitement to become as good as he can … we have to pull his reigns in.”
Two-Year Progress Report Tressel was asked for a progress report on Pryor after his first two seasons as a collegiate quarterback, and specifically if Pryor is where Tressel would like him to be at progress-wise.
“I don’t know that I expected him to, after two years, have been the starting quarterback on two Big Ten championship teams and in two BCS games,” Tressel said. “I don’t know that I thought this was going to be a walk in the park for him to do that.”
Even so, Tressel is not surprised at what his young signal caller has accomplished.
“Am I surprised that he has been a part of that? No,” Tressel said. “I don’t know that I thought this was going to be an automatic, though. In terms of his development, you never know what the experience level of a guy is going to be. You never know how he is going to be health-wise. You don’t know if he’s even going to get into the lineup to get those repetitions one needs to get better. But he’s been fortunate to get opportunities to play and he has remained fairly healthy. To have the number of games [he has] under his belt at this point of his career is pretty good.
“He is a junior now and the expectations here [within the WHAC walls] are rising.”
Big Question on Expansion Tressel’s opinion on the topic of Big Ten expansion was also requested. Tressel said he has not been in on any expansion discussions, but he offered the status quo does not last forever and the Big Ten is in an “enviable” position.
“I would expect there to be significant discussion for expansion,” Tressel said. “I think the Big Ten sits in an enviable position, honestly. We have a little bit of a central location. There are people a little to our west and to our south and to our east who may have an interest being part of this group. This is, in my mind, the finest group of academic institutions in this country. Obviously anyone would want to be a part of this as an institution.
“I think the fact we have the Big Ten Network, which has proven to be so successful, is also something someone would want to be a part of.”
And finally, Tressel said he does not have any personal feeling on what he would like to see happen with the issue of expansion.
“Typically when things are brought forward and there is a rational made and it makes sense, I’m on board, whether it’s a rule change the NCAA has made … or in the case of expansion,” Tressel said.
“I’m sure whatever rational is come up with we’ll be on board and we’ll get excited to be a part of it.”