Oct. 19, 2004
TRESSEL: Many times people ask you when you’re doing whatever job you do, what do you view your job as and what do you like to think that you are. And we always talk about the fact that we’re teachers and that that’s what we do. Our classroom happens to be the field. The thing I love about it is it teaches us great lessons that are very exposed, especially in a situation like ours, very tough, especially in a game like ours and what we’ve got to do now as teachers, as we look at our situation, is to make sure that we come up with ways that we can get our lessons well taught and get our lessons well learned.
I think the good news from that standpoint is that we don’t have to look very far in either direction for a lot of great lessons. As we look back to Iowa and not just about our performance at Iowa, although we look back at that very hard, if we look back at our last opponent Iowa, and look at their road to where they are and where they’ve been and where they’re going and how they’re doing things, it’s an interesting lesson that I think our guys could relate to. Iowa started out 2-0. They beat Kent and Iowa State and things seemed to be going like everyone would like them, and then all of a sudden, they lost a ball game down at Arizona State 44-7, scored on their last possession, much like we scored on our last possession this last weekend, and then came back and started conference play and lost a decisive game in their first conference game and all of a sudden things weren’t quite as well as they would hope they would be or maybe they thought that they were. And then as they moved forward, they obviously did a great job of analyzing why they hadn’t done as well as they, perhaps, thought they might do, and figured out ways to do those things that they needed to get done.
In their Michigan loss, they had a lot of very, very costly turnovers and special teams problems. In their Arizona State loss, interestingly enough, there weren’t a whole bunch of errors made in the special teams and turnover, but it was amazing the number of plays that Arizona State made and that Iowa just simply did not. And they went to work on it and played very well against Michigan State, took their open week and continued to hone up on what they needed to do better and I thought came out and played very well and did the things that you need to do to win games in the Big Ten. They came out and they made plays. They came out and they had excellent balance against our defense. They came out and made plays with their special teams and they came out and didn’t allow themselves to get shaken at all whatsoever from a defensive standpoint and just continued playing what they play and allowed the game to come to them. Hopefully, those would be lessons that we would be able to teach and learn and grow as we just watched our last opponent do that, and obviously their task at hand is to be able to continue to do that as they move forward in their schedule. Then as you look a week ahead from last weekend to Indiana, which is today now, you look at a team that two or three years ago was really suffering, not doing very many of the things that teams that win any games do, but they went to work on those things that you have to do to have a chance to win games. And now as you look at Indiana, they’re at the top of the charts in the most important one which is the turnover margin. As I look at Ohio State, regardless of any offensive or defensive woes, if we weren’t at the bottom of the chart in the turnover margin, we would not be sitting winless in the Big Ten conference or 3-3 overall.
If you look at Indiana’s special teams, they do a tremendous job with kickoff return. I think they may lead the league in that. They do a good job in punt return, they do a good job in their special teams overall. They do it with great pride, they do it with great plan, they attack what you do, and they believe that that’s going to make a difference in their opportunities to win games. And so they have obviously taught lessons well, progressed through learning them, and continue to move forward from a positive vain. Those are the challenges we have here at Ohio State, as we sit not where we want to sit at 0-3, as we sit production-wise, across the board, really the only place we may lead the league in is field goal percentage and we don’t like where we’re sitting offensively, we don’t like where we’re sitting defensively, we don’t like where we’re sitting most especially from a turnover margin standpoint, and now it’s a matter of how do you get those lessons taught and learned and there are so many parts of the equation that people bring them up one at a time, as soon as someone’s brought one up, someone else goes to the next one. Obviously one of them is leadership and leadership, we think, starts with the staff and then goes to the older guys. An interesting thing in why Steve is making a little change with this afternoon’s media situation is that in the middle of last week, some of our older guys who do want to lead this team came to me and said, you know, Coach, you’ve always made it more of a premium for the seniors to have the responsibility of visiting with the media and letting the people who want to know, know what we’re thinking and what we’re doing and so forth, we’d like to get more involved. So what we’re doing this afternoon, in response to that, and in my mind, in response to what ought to be done is our captains and a couple other seniors are going to handle the media responsibilities, the opportunity to share with the people that are interested, the people that have jobs to do that, that here’s where we are, here’s where we want to take our team, and we think that that will be a positive thing because I think we do have guys that want to lead. So as you ask that question, are we getting the proper leadership, well, we’ll find out, but I think there’s an interest in making sure that we have that.
I think the other thing that usually comes to bear when you go back and look at why is this team not what that team was or so forth and so on and leaving the Xs and Os out of it, because very seldom are they really the issue, even though they’re fun to talk about, typically teams that are very good, and we talked about this, is a team that has a few things, one they play with great toughness, mentally and physically, and when the flows happen, it doesn’t affect them. They play with great velocity. They play mistake-free, whether it’s offensively or defensively, in large part because they care about everyone that’s in the room. And I heard from one of Coach Bruce’s players last week, a guy who was here when he was playing, and it was interesting, he said, Coach, I was on a team where we lost three games in a row in the stadium and you could feel the tension, it was unbelievable. He said, it wasn’t until Coach Bruce and his staff made it known to all of us that, hey, we’re in this together and we’re going to solve this thing together, he said, that was the most fun year I’ve ever had at Ohio State and some of the other years were even better. So that ability of a team to care from one another from top to bottom, side to side and all be pulling the oars in the same direction, I think is one of the components that makes up an excellent team. And the other thing we talked a little bit about as a team, and I think is true, again, I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good teams is that a real good team, when you turn the film on, it doesn’t matter when you turn it on, you won’t know what their record is, you won’t know what the score of the game is, because they play the same way all the time. They play with the same look all the time and you can’t turn a film on and say, okay, I can see a couple bad things just happened by the way that they’re playing the good teams play the same way all the time.
So there’s a lot of neat lessons we can learn from recent history, past history, ancient history, whatever it happens to be from today’s realities I even had a player call me today and share a story with me. He said Muhammad Ali, when he got beat by Ken Norton, he said I’m going to go beat Joe Frazier and then Joe Frazier broke his jaw and he didn’t beat him but he said at that point in time, you know, I deserve to suffer but I’m going to start doing the things you need to do to become the champion again. Those are the kinds of things that are fun to face as challenges and realities because the champions do those types of things and so as a teacher, we have an opportunity to work on our lesson plans and on our designs and on our ability like Coach Bruce did in 1982 to make that team and staff understand that the only way that we’ll get this done will be all of us together, and those are some of the fun things about doing the job that I do. And with that, I would open it up for questions.
REPORTER: Jim, have you talked to a lot of former players? You mentioned former players there a couple times.
TRESSEL: I haven’t talked to a whole bunch. I happened to answer the phone once or twice. We’re usually in the film room or whatever and it just so happens that I have had a chance to talk to former players on a few bases. The thing that’s beautiful about former players is they know that they’ve been there too and that, you know, the ones that are true to themselves know that they’ve been in those moments where they needed to raise up and get things done better and that that’s really not a time to talk about it. And former players who care so much about their school, many times, take that opportunity to say, hey, we’ve been there before and we need to head it in the right direction. But I haven’t talked to a whole bunch.
REPORTER: What kind of suggestions have they given you?
TRESSEL: You know what, the two I just mentioned, I think, were more story suggestions. The suggestion, I guess, from the one who said that Muhammad Ali had his jaw broke but decided to do, hey, your jaw’s broke, but you better decide to work on becoming a champion again and the other one was, obviously, hey, we’ve been there before and here’s how you, above all things, you better understand that it’s all of you, and beyond that, I haven’t had any play suggestions or go to this formation or whatever. I would guess a lot of the former players know that that’s not what it’s all about.
REPORTER: What’s Justin’s health situation and do you know yet who will start at quarterback on Saturday?
TRESSEL: Right now, Justin is on a day-to-day situation. He won’t throw today, and then we’ll evaluate it as we go, so I suppose the answer to the question as to who would start at quarterback if we were playing today would be Troy, and Todd would be the back-up and then we’ll evaluate it each day.
REPORTER: Can you characterize what Justin’s injury is? We know it’s shoulder, but what specifically about his shoulder?
TRESSEL: Can I or will I? I mean, no, I won’t, but I’m not sure medically I could anyway.
REPORTER: Will the coaching staff then end up burning Todd’s red shirt year?
TRESSEL: Todd will burn it up if he plays, it won’t be the coaching staff necessarily. The people we’ve always said to people about red shirting from day one is you’re red shirted on a daily basis. What the team needs is what you need to do and I suppose if it was game 10, you might think harder than game 7, but Todd Boeckman knows that he — I’m sure it’s a lot easier to burn a red shirt than play scout team quarterback every day.
REPORTER: How has he looked the last few weeks compared to Justin and Troy, though.
TRESSEL: Todd Boeckman?
TRESSEL: Todd Boeckman does a great job. It’s a different situation. The play is on a card and you know what the defense is going to be and you don’t have to think through it and so forth and the defense tells you, hey, here’s the weakness, see if you can exploit our weakness, but still our defensive coaches have said for quite some time that they feel that Todd Boeckman’s going to be a good one and I feel the same way.
REPORTER: When you looked at the film, what did you see from Troy when you had a chance to look at it after the — after the game you had some comments but after you looked at the film what did you see from him?
TRESSEL: I thought Troy did some good things. I’ve always been a person that wants to deal with reality. That was Iowa’s second defense, playing a vanilla defense, but you still have to execute and I thought he did some good things there. I thought there were some things that he did that we can’t have on an everyday basis, but I thought it was a good experience for him.
REPORTER: If he ends up having to play and Justin’s not ready, are there things that you can do differently with Troy in at quarterback or the is the offensive package the same package with Justin?
TRESSEL: I think we all know as we watch our players there are some things guys do better than others and vice-versa, and I would like to think we would feature the things that he does best. Would I like to discuss them? No. But I would like to think that we would do that.
REPORTER: Is Justin still your number one quarterback but he’s injured right now? Is that the way you look at it?
REPORTER: Yeah. Depth chart-wise, et cetera?
TRESSEL: Yeah, yeah.
REPORTER: What have you seen about him the last two games that you’ve liked and not liked?
TRESSEL: Well, the biggest thing, again, coaches look at things so differently, the biggest thing is turnovers. We can’t have any turnovers if we want to have a chance to beat good teams. So that’s obviously the thing that I’ve liked least. The thing that I’ve liked most is the fact that I do think he has a handle on what defenses do and what we’re trying to do and unfortunately, sometimes, those turnovers occur when you’re trying to make something happen when the best decision might have been, let’s kick a field goal or let’s punt, but I think he’s got a handle on what people try to do against offenses an what offenses try to do against defenses.
REPORTER: Is there a certain amount of practice you want Justin to have this week, a minimum amount, before you would say he could start?
TRESSEL: Yeah, I think you have to be sharp and you have to be in a rhythm. We make playing decisions when there’s medical things, in two steps. One is, is he medically cleared, and can they answer the question, hey, this person won’t — will this endanger them and get hurt worse; and then, B, if they’re cleared, no, he’ll be fine, he’ll be sore, whatever, then can he do what we need done in that particular condition. And I think you have to answer that question, I think you have to see some practice, especially with less experienced guys. You might say with Will Smith, you know what, if they said he can go, he’s going, because I’ve seen, for three years, what he can do. But inevitably, Will Smith wouldn’t play as well if he didn’t practice, as good as he is, but definitely we’d have to see some practice.
REPORTER: To satisfy that standard in your mind, would that be practicing Wednesday/Thursday or just Thursday’s enough or when would you need to see him back out on the field by?
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know. I’m trying to think back when Craig was banged up and going into — I can’t remember which game. We had to figure out whether we should go or not go. Sometimes you have to make those decisions as they arrive. I wouldn’t want to tie myself to a policy or whatever and then two days later feel like the best thing would be the other.
REPORTER: Jim, in the struggles with the running game, is there something that you see maybe from a scheme standpoint that you guys are going to try to adjust a little bit or anything you can put your finger on that is easily fixable or something that’s just going to have to evolve?
TRESSEL: I think the thing that we talked a little bit about from a universal standpoint with the team is when you watch a good team play, whether it’s in their offense, their defense or special teams, they see them playing with a lot of velocity. And I don’t know that I’m seeing that in the run game standpoint. Now, is that which plays we’re running or lacking velocity or just in general, I don’t know that I can answer that, but I don’t see — I don’t see the velocity which in my mind creates the pressure on the defense which then allows you to do well there.
REPORTER: When you look at the film and evaluate, are you seeing progress or have you kind of hit a wall for whatever reason? I’m just wondering what you’re seeing.
TRESSEL: Well, I think the mark of an inconsistent group, an inconsistent game is that unfortunately you see progress, and then you see lack of progress. We take the ball down the field at the end of the half, and while that wasn’t a wonderful looking first half on either side of the ball, we have a chance to go and be 10-7 at the end of the half with getting the ball to start the third quarter. And so you saw a little spark, moved it down the field, three or four first downs or whatever it was and then all of a sudden we made a mistake, and then you don’t see — we come out the second half, and you don’t see that same kind of consistency. So we’ve talked a lot about the fact that you have to sustain excellence. We mentioned it once, we’ve mentioned it a million times that the hallmark of excellence, the thing you can pick out excellence with is consistency. People do whatever their job is, they don’t write one good article and one horrible one, they write all solid ones. It’s the same thing with offense or the same thing with defense or special teams and we’ve not been afraid to talk about our lack of consistency. That’s real.
REPORTER: Coach, that pick at the end of the half against Iowa, what did you see on that play that went wrong and maybe from what Justin told you, what did he tell you that just went wrong at that particular play?
TRESSEL: Well, what went wrong, really, if I had to put it in two things, because now I see it after, is probably shouldn’t have called it, okay? But the fact that we did what went wrong was the execution of it. Probably should have been dropped down to the guy in front, might not have got a first, where the guy was that was available to throw to was about two yards shy of the sticks, although his defender was back in the end zone, so we had a chance, or throw it through the goal post. So it might not have been the best thing to have on, but it certainly wasn’t executed like we would like. And what did Justin feel? Like all kids, I thought I could get it in there, you know, which is sometimes the mark of someone who wants to make something happen for his team and discretion is the greater part of valor sometimes and we didn’t have much discretion there.
REPORTER: Did you feel that was a lot of the case with Justin, a lot of the interceptions he throws just generally, he’s trying to make something happen and come up short?
TRESSEL: I think if you would go back and look, that that would certainly be one of the things you would be talking about, absolutely. And if you look at Brett Favre’s interceptions, you’d probably find the same thing.
REPORTER: It kind of becomes that the most popular player on the team sometimes is the back-up quarterback. Has it been your experience over the years that that’s kind of sometimes what fans, media, players, when things aren’t going well, you just automatically look at the back-up as the answer?
TRESSEL: I think it depends upon the case. I don’t remember a whole bunch of discussion about take Craig Krenzel out of the game and put Scott in the game. Maybe there was, maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but there might have been when Steve was struggling a little bit, but I might have had that discussion, so I don’t know if that’s — let’s face it, when X percent of the population watches a football game, what are they watching? I haven’t gotten any calls or things about the left guard or the right wing on the punt team because some people don’t even know we have a right wing on the punt team. So I think that’s human nature.
REPORTER: I don’t mean to be facetious, but have you gotten any calls about right tackle after Saturday?
TRESSEL: No, I don’t get as many e-mails as you do.
REPORTER: The last two weeks, though, has your offensive line been a victim also of a couple of pretty good players going off on you on the defensive side, as much as anything?
TRESSEL: Well, that’s the Big Ten. We’re going to face — I thought the two inside guys at Northwestern were very good, said so before the game. Thought all four of the guys at Wisconsin were very good, especially 90. I just got a ballot for something and they said pick a guy that you think might end up being an All-American so we can keep watching him and I wrote down number 90, I don’t know his name, Erasmus or something, he can play. We talked about going into Iowa that those guys are veterans, they’re solid, they’re good. But you’re not a victim of that, that’s the Big Ten. We’ve got to be that good or better.
REPORTER: What you said earlier about access to players this afternoon, there will be no underclass men, is that correct.
REPORTER: Including if Troy were to start, he would not be made available to us this week?
TRESSEL: I don’t know about this week, we’re talking about today.
REPORTER: Today’s our only day to talk to them, isn’t it.
TRESSEL: Is that right? Well then I guess the answer’s yes.
REPORTER: Have you finally drawn a line in the sand, you’ve had some seniors step up and say they want to increase their leadership roles, have there been any responses other than that from players after this game in particular leading up to now that they’re getting it or they’re drawing a line here or they want to —
TRESSEL: You know, over the years, there have been times when I’ve tried to guess what they’re thinking, whether are they ready for the game or are they getting it, and I’ve probably gone more toward, I’m going to watch and see if we get it because your performance tells you whether you get it or not. And, honey, I’m going to be a better husband, I’m sure Ellen says, yeah, well, let’s see. And I think that’s the way you have to look at it rather than guessing. And I did enjoy the fact that those guys said, hey, look, we’re the captains, let us step out in front. I think that’s a good thing. Now, does that mean everything’s solved, but that’s a good thing.
REPORTER: The fact that we are not getting Troy, is that a reflection at all of the fact of his criticism a couple weeks ago because he wasn’t playing?
TRESSEL: No, the fact that we’re having the captains and some seniors handle things today is a reflection that that’s what they would like to do and you know what? I think that’s a great idea, so I concur. It really doesn’t have much to do with, can’t have Troy or can’t have whomever.
REPORTER: Did the seniors, those players want to come today here or —
TRESSEL: You know, we have so many guys that have class that we would be bringing the same guys back, and I thought since we were going to have those guys step up and take on the role that they would like to take and we talk a lot about leadership. We talk a lot to our guys about our seniors need to have a career best year, our seniors need to do the leadership and you know what? They’re right. When they come to me and say, let me be out in front because I know that’s what is expected, I have to respect that.
REPORTER: Jim, have you noticed, though, a couple players, a couple weeks ago were talking about this, that suddenly this is their team. And the last couple years they’ve been used to leaning on a guy like Will Smith, Tim Anderson and Craig Krenzel to make a play or Michael Jenkins to make a play, suddenly it’s their turn now. Have you seen any evolution along that line?
TRESSEL: That they understood that?
TRESSEL: I would think. You know, again, I can’t point to any examples, but I would say that it’s very real. If it’s not real, then they haven’t been as immersed in it as all of us have.
REPORTER: The second half Saturday at Iowa, for example, it just seemed like a lot of guys were kind of — they looked even stunned from our vantage point and that’s way up there, but what did you sense in that second half there about your team?
TRESSEL: I think it’s a little bit like we talked about, a team that’s really an outstanding team, I think you could turn the film on and you wouldn’t know what’s going on, which is, I guess, an admission that you turn the film on after it became 17-0, and it didn’t look the same. So, yeah, that’s my job. That’s our job to somehow get us to understand that it has to be the same way all the time. Like it’s the last play in the world.
REPORTER: You’ve got Ashton listed as a starter, E.J. now as a back-up, is that the case this week? Will Ashton start? Is it because of E.J.’s coverage?
TRESSEL: Let me defer. Is that what the defensive staff gave you? I guess yes. I would say this, this week’s practice will impact anything that’s written there, but Steve always comes in and says, hey, anything you’d like to put in and obviously they want Fox, you know, to show up in the two deep, but this week’s practice is obviously important.
REPORTER: If you don’t get the leadership, if you don’t get the toughness you’re looking for, is there a plan B? Is that something you absolutely have to have to be successful or can you change scheme and sort of work around that?
TRESSEL: I think those are opposite issues, schemes and play issues. To me they’re not related you watch film, every shape size, scheme, style, defense, whatever works if you do it. Everyone is engineered, designed to, but none of it works, no matter — you might be running, Coach Bruce was telling me about Utah’s offense and he had a chance to be out at the game, man, unbelievable, you can run that offense and not be unbelievable too. I think it’s more about the mental side, the toughness, it’s not just a physical thing. I don’t want you to sit here and say, Coach said they’re not tough. It’s not that issue. I think toughness is a broad thing. Velocity is a broad thing. Whichever play you’re running, whichever defense you’re running, you better do it with high velocity if you want pressure. If you’re covering the kick, it better be with velocity and that comes from, when do you play fastest, when do you play with the most velocity? When you know exactly what you’re doing. Someone brought up a play coming in late. You don’t play as fast if the defensive call is in late or the offensive call, you don’t play as fast. You don’t play with the velocity you need to play against those good guys that someone else brought up, you are going to be a victim if you don’t play fast against those guys. So I don’t think what is near as important as how.
REPORTER: A couple players after the game alluded to the fact that they thought — you had said after the game that you weren’t concerned about the effort at all, that you thought the effort was there. A couple players said they didn’t think the focus was necessarily as good, there were a couple guys on the team that weren’t maybe — without saying that they weren’t playing hard, they at least weren’t focused on the task at hand. After seeing film, do you still think that effort is not a problem?
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t ever like to use a generic label of a group of people and I just — after a ball game, we talk about the effort word or whatever, and we tie it to every coach, player, and whatever on that football team, I’m not sure that that’s sound judgment because I had one vantage point and someone else may have had another. So I would hesitate to make a universal decree of what the effort level was, and you know I’m not going to say, John’s effort was good and Bill’s effort was bad. I don’t think that’s what you do.
REPORTER: I don’t think the players were making a general statement either. They said there were some individuals who were not putting out as much effort or as much focus on the game.
TRESSEL: From their vantage point, that may be.
REPORTER: After a game like that, you get back, just the emotion of the team, when you have a game that goes as badly as that, I’m just wondering how you feel like they’ve dealt with it the last couple of days.
TRESSEL: Emotions are such a wide range. You could probably throw out 25, I guess they’d be adjectives to describe an emotion, I’m not an English guy, but most of them might be true that someone feels that way. That’s the — to me, that’s the fun and the challenge of working with the group is that you’ve got a hundred and some guys, coaches included, they’re human and emotional and all that, that have a variety of emotions. Can you get your emotions and mind focused on what needs to be done despite having very real human emotions, that’s — that’s fun when you’re 9-0 and everyone’s talking about the BCS, that challenge of keeping that, and that’s fun when you’re 3-3 and we can’t even spell BCS. That, to me, is the challenge.
REPORTER: You talk about being consistent to be successful, is this the most inconsistent it’s been since you’ve been here, as a whole?
TRESSEL: Well, gosh, I don’t do a whole bunch of comparing yesterday because yesterday’s gone and I guess I’m comparing it to — when I say we were not consistent, I’m comparing it to what we need to be. There were moments, I’m sure, where we weren’t consistent in a variety of things when we won games. And so we compare every individual role and every individual unit based upon what we need to do and I guess the answer is it’s certainly not consistent enough and I don’t know how it compares to something before.
REPORTER: You said Troy did some good things, some things that you can’t have on an everyday basis. If you have to go to Troy as quarterback, do you have confidence in him?
TRESSEL: You’re the second one that has used the phrase, “If you have to go with Troy.” I don’t look at it as having to go with Troy. I feel that Troy is prepared. I think he would be excited. I know that he’ll prepare very hard as we begin practice today and I guess I don’t walk into the fray feeling like I have to do anything. I get excited about who’s walking into the fray. And if it’s Troy, I’ll be as excited as anyone else.
REPORTER: Does he give you the option, though, to get to some packages maybe of getting out on the edge or something, getting away from what appears to be sometimes a lot of pressure in the pocket and things like that? Does he offer you some options right now that you all can really use based on what you’ve said?
TRESSEL: That remains to be seen. That would be the design of what your coaches are working on that trying to find ways to maximize the talents of someone, but again, we’re not going to sit here and say, okay, now, if Todd’s in the game, we’ll do these things, if Troy’s in the game, we’ll do these things. There’s 10 other guys at all times that have to be in concert with those things. But again, I don’t feel as if you have to use Troy. Shoot, let’s go.
REPORTER: But do you see why we ask that question, because he didn’t play just two or three weeks ago, that’s why we’re wondering why you have confidence in him now, or if you had so much confidence in Justin that overruled everything else.
TRESSEL: Not unlike Tony Gonzalez didn’t play until last week and played a lot last week. That’s what practice is all about, coaching is all about, decision-making is all about and unfortunately, you can’t walk out there with six different guys at each position each Saturday and figure out which one would have been better.
REPORTER: In one stretch, 12 first downs, you ran on 11 of them and netted something like 10 yards, second and long just seems to be your familiar position. What can you do to alleviate that, vary things up, as it appeared from the outside, looking at the same thing over and over?
TRESSEL: There’s really only two things that you can do, one is, when you run, get four yards or better, or, two, when you pass, make sure that you complete them because when you don’t complete them, that’s second and 10, so that’s the solution. And the good teams do a good job on first down and I don’t know that you would label us right now as a good team from that standpoint.
REPORTER: Coach, you talk about doing well on the first down. Watching some of the plays up front, getting four yards on a rushing, for instance, the offensive line seems to be consistently breaking down up front. What is being done to address that?
TRESSEL: Well, practice. Meetings. I don’t know what else. Video. The greatest tool is video. We coaches sometimes like to be up there at the chalkboard and this ought to happen and that ought to happen, but our greatest teaching tool is video when we’re not on the field and obviously our greatest teaching tool when we’re on the field is practice and the most extraordinary teaching tool is when you get to do it on a game day.
REPORTER: What’s the last couple weeks been like for you, personally, it’s been a while since you’ve had to go through something like this?
TRESSEL: I’ve been doing this, now it’s my 19th year of doing this, and have certainly been in this ballpark before. It’s no easier or no more difficult than the years that all of your goals are still ahead of you. We were talking the other day that in my first 18 years as a head coach, there were five times, that at this juncture, we did not have a chance to reach our goals and there were 13 times that we did. And the neat thing about it is, I can’t put my finger on which was more difficult, 6-0 — see, last year we were 5-0, I don’t know if that was any more or less difficult than 3-2, since you’re talking about the last three weeks. It’s teaching. It’s reality. Ours isn’t a debate that we can argue for eternity whether we were right or wrong. We find out Saturday.
REPORTER: Do you do anything different, Coach, I mean, do you give a different speech, do you yell more, yell less? Is it all the same from a personal coaching philosophy in how you go through game week? Are you the same at 6-0 as you will be at 3-3?
TRESSEL: I think from a teaching standpoint I hope you are. I think the worst thing sometimes you can do at 6-0 is don’t grade quite as meticulously, don’t be quite as objective. We start becoming a little subjective, well, shoot, we won, that’s fine. I think that’s one of the signs of a real good teacher or coach that regardless of what’s going on, the evaluation is consistent, the expectation, the accountability is the same. Now, whether you yell more or less or have more — I thought we had two of the best honorary captains, not to belittle any other honorary captain that’s been here, who had really difficult’s world right in front of him, Craig Krenzel and Ben Hartsock the last two weeks who gave very real life messages who were only 10 months from sitting in those seats, and so you try to bring in as many teaching things. We’ve had many people share. We don’t pretend that we’re the only ones that know anything about how you get good. And you just keep working, the same thing. I don’t remember coming in here at 9-0 and saying, here’s what I told them, and that’s how we got to 9-0. We talk about what you need to do to win and try to teach the lessons as they go.
REPORTER: I don’t want to put all the emphasis on the quarterbacks, but there are many positions where in lieu of what’s happened the last few weeks, guys are in jeopardy of losing their jobs or there’s close competition and you might be thinking about trying this guy or that guy.
TRESSEL: I do think we have some guys that have lacked some consistency that need to get better and maybe need to have someone have some opportunities that haven’t had the opportunity. Exactly where we are there, I don’t know, do we announce the starting lineup on — at some point before the game or for the flip card or whatever, there’s pretty good competition at some positions.
REPORTER: Coach, you mentioned turnovers in your opening statement, something like six interceptions, 15 fumbles, nine lost, something like that, what do you do differently to try to drive the point home or do differently with these guys to make them maybe not turn the ball over so much that’s been maybe a trademark of this team the last few years?
TRESSEL: You know, I don’t know what you do differently, because I don’t know that our coaches have talked any less about it or worked any less drills that you need to. I’ve always believed that the depth of the belief and the importance of that issue and that happens to be turnovers, but whatever your depth of belief is as to how important that is, will determine how well you do it. If you don’t really believe that it’s not that important, you might not do it. And sometimes a guy doesn’t exercise because, yeah, he knows he’s supposed to exercise and he’ll have a better chance of being healthy, then he gets a heart attack and now you don’t even recognize him. He won’t eat anything but an apple, because all of a sudden, the depth of his belief that that’s important became very real to him. Now, do you wish you didn’t have to have a heart attack? Absolutely. Do you wish you didn’t have to have fumbles or interceptions? Absolutely. But just telling and just training and just being aware of doesn’t do it compared to being convinced of and that’s what, in times that we’ve been good at that, we have had a deep sense that, you know, we were convinced this has to be done and we’re not there yet.
REPORTER: Jim, what’s impressed you most about Indiana when you’ve watched them so far?
TRESSEL: They’re tough, they fly around, they believe in special teams, they don’t turn it over. They’re hard-nosed, they’re going to commit themselves to the run, their quarterback is a senior. Not only does he throw it, but he’s a good option guy. Their receiver is now the leading receiver in the history of the school. Their running back is a veteran. Their linemen are all back. Defensively, I think nine of those guys are back or something like that and doing things better than they’ve ever done them. And I see an improvement, simply based upon the things that I know you need to do to win, they’re doing those things better and to me that’s impressive.
REPORTER: LoVecchio had a good game against Northwestern, did they throw it or —
TRESSEL: Interestingly, I think they threw it a lot more that day up until they had at that point. Exactly — I have not watched Indiana’s offense against Northwestern’s defense, so I really don’t know what the situation was there, but that was an uncharacteristic number of throws, I think. I might have my facts wrong, but I think so, and he did it well.
REPORTER: Coach, defensively, the past couple years always seemed like at half time you made good adjustments to shut down what the other team was doing that you had trouble with the first half. It doesn’t seem to be true this year. Would you say it’s more scheme or execution on the field by the players?
TRESSEL: Well, you know that we’re always going to say, just as I shared with you, one much Coach Bruce’s old players, until you know that it’s all of you, you don’t have a chance. So you know I’m not going to say, well, this was better than this, because that’s not true. Coach used to also say nothing’s as good as it seems and nothing’s as bad, and I’m not sure our adjustments were as good as they seemed or maybe these are as bad or that type of thing. I think somewhere in the middle lies the truth. And one thing I have always felt about defense, although I never was a defensive position coach, I’ve always felt that defense is so much emotion and I guess what disappointments me the most is that we have offensively given opportunities for our defense to lose a little bit of emotion, like leaving the ball on the 25 last week, or like leaving the ball on, what, the 13 or something when we dropped the punt? I don’t know where it was. And you can’t do that against good teams. You can’t help the other guys and hurt your own guys at the same time. And both of those happened, by the way, in the second half. Had nothing to do with an adjustment, so — now, have we made perfect adjustments? I’m not sitting here saying that, but I guess if you’re looking for the story line, I’m not sure that’s it. If you wanted to find that one thing that has made the difference, I’m not sure that’s it. One more question, we’ve got to roll.
REPORTER: On the lack of the running game, was it because of the fact they were on the field too long.
TRESSEL: I think you’re always affected by what the other guys do. When the defense gets a big turnover, that raises the offense up and vice-versa. The offense is just crunching them and making things happen and that empowers the defense, they aren’t even out there. Or if the offense is creating good field position, I’ve shared with you before, one of the greatest bonuses that 2003 defense, which I thought was pretty good, had, was that 57 times the opponents had to start behind their own 20. That’s huge. That’s huge. Now, and it was none of their doing. They didn’t have anything to do with that. And so you feed off each other. And we’re not feeding each other enough, I would say. See you this afternoon. Thank you.