Oct. 26, 2004
TRESSEL: Our guys had a lot of opportunities this past week to move in the direction we’d like to go, not just with good, aggressive, enthusiastic practices, but we also had some bonuses during the course of the week. We had a young man stop by our practice on Thursday who happened to be back from a two-week leave in Iraq, that one of the things he wanted to do being back home was to watch his beloved Buckeyes practice. And he was good enough to spend some time with our guys after practice and answer a lot of questions that many people would have about a person who’s right there in the thick of it, and I thought that was an awesome opportunity for our guys to grow in their perspective.
And we had our captain breakfast on Saturday morning where our team had a chance to meet with about 48 of former captains and share some time with them and some opportunities to learn a little bit more as they continue to grow. We had an opportunity to hear from Doug Donelly who was the silver anniversary captain of the 1980 football team. He shared with our entire team, as did an extraordinary guy named Jim Marshall. And it was, in my opinion, one of the great weeks, not just because we practiced hard and prepared hard and were excited about what we were doing, but we were given some good fortune, coaches and players alike, that I think many, many people grew from. And as we went out on the field on Saturday, it was great to be back home, an opportunity to go out and be better than we’ve been. I thought our guys played with a lot of velocity and excitement and they just felt as if they were going to go after it, and they did.
As we said a week ago, Indiana was an improving football team and I think they are better than they’ve been in the last few years. I don’t think they’re as good as Penn State, so obviously as we move forward to get ready for the Nittany Lions, the challenge has become greater. We had some guys with outstanding performances in the Indiana game. Mike Nugent was our special units player of the week. He’s been so dependable and not just in his field goals and the obvious, but in his kickoffs and his leadership. Mike was our special units player of the week. Our defensive player of the week was Mike Kudla. We felt as if he had the finest performance he’s had since he’s been here and we thought he grew into the playmaker that we really envision him being, and if he’ll continue playing at that pace and making the plays that he made and the production that he had, that will certainly be a boost for our football team.
Our offensive player of the week was Troy Smith. He did the most important thing that any quarterback can do and that’s lead an attack that didn’t turn the football over, and he also chipped in with a couple touchdown passes and 160 some yards passing, and as important, 68 yards rushing. And for the historians out there, I haven’t found a game where the Ohio State quarterback had zero interceptions and rushed for more than 50 that we’ve ever lost. There might be and, Marv, (Marv Homan, SID emeritus) you might know better than I, but my experience has been and my research has been, if the quarterback doesn’t turn it over and he adds to your rush game, you’re going to have a chance to win the football game.
On the offensive front, Ryan Hamby was the offensive lineman of the week, played very steady at the tight end position, had a reception and continued to progress at that tight end spot.
Our attack force player of the week was Bobby Carpenter, very productive, very focused, played with a lot of speed and velocity and made plays and was awarded our attack force player of the week. We did, indeed, have a Jack Tatum hit of the week. Nate Salley. They lifted the ball up in the middle there and it was on the spot, but so was Nate Salley and he knocked it loose, and that’s an outstanding receiver that I thought he jarred. And I’m not sure we saw as much from that receiver from a production standpoint after Nate gave him his Jack Tatum hit of the week.
Our scout guys did an excellent job as I think they have done all year in doing what they could do to prepare us, doing what they can do to get better themselves as football players. Nick Patterson was our special units player of the week on the scout team and did a very, very good job. Shaun Lane was our defensive scout team player of the week and he’s a steady guy, always where he needs to be, whatever the team needs him to do, Shaun does that. And then on the offensive side, Kyle Mitchum, who we think is going to be an outstanding lineman, and he gave the guys over on the defense a test and, therefore, was awarded the scout offensive player.
As we turn our sights to Penn State, what we need to make sure that we do is get better than we were on Saturday. Our guys came in Sunday and had a good workout. Yesterday was their off day. They continue to be in the midst of moving forward through their other parts of their life and their academics and so forth, and also be focused on what we need to do to improve as a football team. Obviously today’s practice has got to set the tone. Penn State’s defense, all you have to do is look at the numbers and look at the people, they’ve done an outstanding job. They’ve got physical people up front. Their secondary, their corners are vets, they’re younger at linebacker, they had two senior linebackers a year ago and their two inside guys are younger guys, but we think playing very well. Their outside backer, number 94, Wake, he’s an outstanding player, so they’re going to be as stiff a test from their defensive standpoint as we’ve had to date. Their special teams, I think too have been outstanding, they’ve only blocked one punt. They’ve been very close to blocking about five. Our punt team will find out as they begin studying them that it’s probably the most ferocious rush that we’ve faced so far. Their return game is solid with their punt return, Lowry averages about 11 yards a return and he’s up there near the top of the Big Ten. He’s very dangerous and explosive. Their kickoff coverage unit leads the Big Ten.
And one side note that I’m sure you’re all aware of that we’re going to challenge our kickoff return people with that Mo Hall who’s here today is within 20 yards — what’s that? He needs five yards from a kickoff return standpoint to be the leading kickoff returner in the history of Ohio State. And during his career, it’s not like he’s played on a team that had a defense that was scored on tons and was kicked to that often, and Mo Hall and his unit are going to have the stiffest challenge that they’ve had. Their punter is very good. He’s a 40-yard-average guy. Their coverage is very good. They struggled a little bit last week from a field goal standpoint, but I think their special teams, in Penn State fashion, if you go back over the however many years Coach Paterno’s been there, their special teams have always been one of the lead horses in why they’ve won so many football games, and I think that’s indicative this year that they have got the type of special teams that can contribute to victories.
Offensively is where they’ve struggled some. The numbers show it. It starts with the turnovers. They’ve had some turnover problems. They’ve had a little bit of consistency problem because they had injuries and Mills was out for a while and Robinson was out for a while and some receivers were out and I think some offensive linemen have moved around. This past game was the first time that both Robinson and Mills were healthy. They were coming off a bye week playing Iowa, Iowa was a very good defensive team. I’m sure we’ll see on Saturday the best Penn State offense that has been seen this year. So with all of those things in mind, we’ve got to make sure that we see the best Ohio State football team that we’ve seen from an offensive/defensive and special units standpoint and I think our guys are looking forward to that. We’ve got a great day this afternoon to go out and get better. We have some things to build on. Hopefully we learn some lessons both on the field and off the field because of our good fortune with some people we had a chance to be around. And I think all of us are anxious to go out and get better starting today.
After we’re done with your questions, we have Tyler Everett with us today who did an excellent job, played about 70 snaps last weekend and also special team snaps and is emerging as a guy Coach Tucker is counting on for leadership there as he’s in his junior year. We have Troy Smith who had his first full game, and obviously learned the lesson well that if you do a good job taking care of the football and make the plays that are available, you have a chance to win and I know he wants to continue to do that, along with working on the things he didn’t do perfectly. And then Mo Hall, who I thought stepped up obviously as one of the top kick returners we’ve ever had, but also as a tailback, leading that group that got shaken a little bit and carrying the ball, blocking, making sure that guys were prepared to do what they had to do and so these three guys will have a chance to visit with you this afternoon as we’re done with the questions and then also, as Steve mentioned, we’ll have some of the older guys after the practice in the atrium. With that, questions?
REPORTER: What is the quarterback situation this week? At this point in the week, I know it’s early, but do you suspect Troy is the guy?
TRESSEL: Well, today for sure Troy and Todd will get all the reps and the majority will go to Troy. Whether Justin will be able to get in later in the week and get any reps remains to be seen. I know he was throwing a tennis ball, Troy, there for a while but I don’t know if he’s throwing a football. I haven’t seen him throwing a football full speed, although we weren’t around yesterday, we weren’t around the players. But as we approach Tuesday, Troy will have 75 to 80% of the reps and Todd would have the rest.
REPORTER: If Justin is recovered and throwing 100% by the end of the week, will you start Justin or Troy?
TRESSEL: Oh, yeah, because Justin won’t have had really half of your game plan week, which is Tuesday, we really break it in half and do the fine tuning on Thursday. I think there’s no question, that’s the best thing for us.
REPORTER: Coach, a lot of these guys are talking about coming into the season you were saying they’ve lost 14 players to the NFL and they talked about the youth of this team and how that might be a problem, but it seems like the younger guys are the ones that really stepped up with Gonzalez and Pittman, and Rehring was getting in there and throwing some blocks; can you talk about those guys and how they’ll play this week?
TRESSEL: I think all our guys are anxious to do whatever they can do to make Ohio State better. You take guys like Rehring who was chomping at the bit, he got his opportunity on Saturday. Our goal was to get him somewhere in the 20 to 25 play range, as we’ll wait and see if he earns more than that. So he’s just excited to help. Tony Gonzales, we think, has had three weeks of practice such that all of a sudden, his awareness of what he needed to do and how he could help became apparent and I think his confidence is boosted by the day. I thought that catch he made along the side line on that third and seven or eight, the ball was put where it had to be put and he had to go up and get it. We need plays like that. So we’re excited about Tony. And then obviously Antonio Pittman, I think, has shown us all along as far back as the spring that he’s going to contribute and he’s been working to earn opportunities and has earned some and obviously like any good running back, I hope he wants the ball every snap, and I think he does. So does Mo.
REPORTER: Can you update Lydell’s situation?
TRESSEL: The only update I have is that we’re kind of sitting still, if you will, because there have been no charges, and someone asked that question on the Big Ten media call and they said, how long will you sit still? And I guess my response is, for this moment we will, but obviously we have to be fair. We’re not going to sit around for a month waiting to see what may be coming out there in the process. So as of this moment, Lydell will be back practicing with the team today. It will be on the scout team as we wait for what else is going on, but he’s most anxious to get back with his teammates and I think it’s appropriate to have him do that.
REPORTER: Do you have concerns in that regard with Lydell regarding possible NCAA violations? Are you waiting on possible clearance there in that regard?
TRESSEL: I haven’t heard that discussed, but quite honestly I haven’t had hardly any discussions about it because, again, there are not charges, per se. As I listened, there was a complaint registered and I have not seen anything, so I’m only going based upon what I feel needs to be done at the point in time as it relates directly with us.
REPORTER: If there’s a resolution in the matter of whether there will or won’t be charges, would you be comfortable at that point making a decision on ending his suspension or would you be more comfortable waiting until any charges that might be forthcoming will be completely resolved?
TRESSEL: I think that depends upon the time sequence, how quickly things happen, I’m not sure it’s fair for us just to sit and wonder. So, again, for the moment, we’re sitting still. The only progress we’re making is that while his suspension may be still in place competition-wise, it’s not still in place of not being with his teammates, which that was the hardest part for him, it wasn’t not playing, it was not being with his teammates.
REPORTER: How about his captaincy, what will you do about that?
TRESSEL: I haven’t really discussed it.
REPORTER: You’ll allow him to dress Saturday, but he might not play, because he’ll still be under competition suspension?
TRESSEL: Might, I don’t know. It will be a day-by-day accumulation of data. I don’t want to project one thing and then have different information and have to say differently.
REPORTER: Jim, is he technically still a captain of the team?
TRESSEL: Well, you know, I guess technically you would say so. I didn’t elect him, per se, and so I don’t know — you know, I had one vote, but I would say that I wouldn’t make any movement on that until I met with at least a representative group that did and we have not had that discussion.
REPORTER: Can you talk about the depth of that runningback spot now with Lydell out, what your plans may or may not be regarding Erik Haw?
TRESSEL: Well, going into the game, we certainly told Erik Haw that he needed to be on call. We had hoped, perhaps, that Branden Joe could be the third guy behind Mo and Antonio. His ankle is still not such that he’s full speed ahead, but Antonio and Mo handled the day and that’s the decision we made not to put Erik in, but every one of our guys that’s red shirting has to understand that if something happens, they have to be ready to help the team. I think Erik was. We can’t prove that because we didn’t put him in, but I think he was ready to help.
REPORTER: Did Tyler play because Donte Whitner was out? There was some conversation that he missed parts of the game.
TRESSEL: Donte got banged, what, second series, Ty, or third series?
EVERETT: Yeah, second.
TRESSEL: That isn’t just why Tyler plays. He’s been averaging 30 to 40 plays a game and this time he played 70. Probably the guy that played in the game because Donte was out, because Donte got more playing time a lot more than normal, he hadn’t been playing as much as he did Saturday.
REPORTER: What’s Donte’s situation this week? Is he hurt?
TRESSEL: I think he’s probable. I think that’s the right word. I don’t know that he’ll be full speed ahead today. I think the medical people want to make him prove it. He says he is, but I think they’ll make him prove that, and if he’s full speed ahead tomorrow, then I would say he’s probably probable to help us. To what degree, is it 60 snaps, is it 30? We’ll have to play that as we go.
REPORTER: Did he hurt his head? What did he hurt?
TRESSEL: Did he hurt his head?
REPORTER: I mean, what was his injury?
TRESSEL: I don’t know exactly, he sprained something. I think it was an ankle, leg, knee, something. No, I don’t think it was his head.
REPORTER: I’m just trying to find out what the actual injury was or some part of the body.
TRESSEL: Well, I — what’s that called, HIPAA? I’m out of the HIPAA business. I leave that up to the doctors.
REPORTER: What did Troy do besides no turnovers? What stood out about the way Troy operated Saturday?
TRESSEL: I can’t leave out the no turnovers because that’s the most important thing. But in order to have no turnovers, I think you have to do a good job making decisions, and usually we talk about that first. If you make great decisions, you’re going to have a chance to make big plays, you’re going to have a chance to make no turnovers. So I think the decision-making that he did was solid and I thought he played with good velocity, both the way he threw the ball and the way he ran the team, the way he ran the ball, the way he communicated. We talk about tempo and velocity across the board in everything we ask from our players and I thought he did a good job in all those areas.
REPORTER: Your concern that you had stated before with him was decision-making at some times. I wonder if when you saw him in his most extensive game action if he might have exceeded your expectations with his decision-making or surprised you in that regard.
TRESSEL: I think our concern on anyone that has the ball in their hand is making sure we have good decision-making as high a percent of the time as we can. I think his decision-making, I don’t know if there was 70 plays. I’d say he made the proper decisions the majority of the time, the high majority. I don’t have his film grade in there. Part of his film grade has to do with technique and Coach Daniels is a pretty good stickler with technique, but I don’t think his decision-making exceeded, because it’s very important to him to make proper decisions, and he rehearsed it hard and trained hard to do it and it was going to be something that he was going to do well. So, no, I wouldn’t say he exceeded.
REPORTER: You said last week that the last series or that late series in the Iowa game was not a realistic test. Was the Indiana game a realistic test?
TRESSEL: I don’t remember saying it wasn’t realistic. I said it wasn’t against the top level Big Ten, it was against their second group.
REPORTER: Against a vanilla defense.
TRESSEL: Yeah. Was it realistic? Absolutely. There was more decisions that had to be made at the line of scrimmage, it was great experience, experience that we passed the test. Now we have to go on to the next test and the next test will be more difficult, and that’s why we’re going to go out and Troy will go out as hard as anybody we have and prepare for the next test.
REPORTER: Does he give you more of an element that maybe you didn’t have earlier this year that you had the last couple years, like Craig did the last couple of games, like the way the running game is struggling, does he provide that element of call-the-run like you had before?
TRESSEL: I think he does add that element. I’m sure if I’m a defense over there, part of my game plan is going to be every time I draw up a scheme will I have to take that into consideration, I think there’s no question.
REPORTER: What’s your philosophy on players losing their jobs because of injury? Assuming Justin does recover fully, does he get the job back or will you evaluate that at that time?
TRESSEL: Well, we evaluate things ongoing. I’m sure if Justin was a three-year, two-year starter like Craig was, for instance, and Craig missed a couple games and so forth, that a guy would never — I shouldn’t say never, seldom, quote, lose a job because of that. But obviously we’re not in that situation and, therefore, we will have ongoing evaluation. But let’s pretend that a year ago Craig would have come back and not played well, would he have lost his job? I mean, nothing’s forever.
REPORTER: Coach, what do you see in this Penn State defense that has caused them to keep teams with potent offenses like Purdue or Minnesota at low scoring and what do you think your offense needs to do to be able to put up points on this team?
TRESSEL: They’re very physical up front, their guys, 90, 41, 92, they’re good up front. They’ve probably got seven or eight that they rotate in the front four. Linebacker-wise they’re young but, they’re not making errors. Their outside linebacker, Wake, is one of those playmakers. And in the secondary, the two corners — when you have two corners, Zemaitis has been there for a while and number one, I can’t remember his name, Anwar Phillips, has been there quite some time. When you have two solid corners, they don’t give up big plays and they’re very physical up front and you earn every inch you get against Penn State.
REPORTER: Bam and Branden Joe are both missing from the depth charts, Bam with the ankle and Branden’s situation?
TRESSEL: Well, Bam right now was backing up at the W position, Tony Gonzalez, so I don’t know how the depth chart is written exactly, but he’s the number two “W,” and Branden Joe really isn’t healthy enough to be in the top two fullbacks or healthy enough to be in the top two tailbacks. He shows up in our depth chart in a number of special teams which is critical for us, and we’re just hoping that we can get the corner turned with his injury.
REPORTER: Do you expect Jay Richardson or Stan White back this week?
TRESSEL: You know, I would say that Stan has a little better chance than Jay, although, again, after not seeing them for a day, we’ll see how Tuesday — people heal at different rates. They hit a little plateau and all of a sudden they break it or they stay at something, but I would expect Stan maybe before Jay.
REPORTER: How do you balance — you know, you had the three-game losing streak and come out and have a decisive win against Indiana, obviously that was exciting for your guys. How do you balance the excitement of that and positive steps you made with reality to stay focused? How do you approach that with the team that all of our problems aren’t necessarily solved?
TRESSEL: You know, that’s a very real, human thing that you deal with, and hopefully we evaluate the same way after losses and then after good wins. None of the guys were perfect in what they did nor were the coaches perfect in what they designed. You go back and you say, hey, where can we get better? You also reach back and say, what did we do that helped us? What were the things, not just the Xs and Os things, probably just the opposite of that, probably more how did I feel? Troy’s got to be saying to himself, okay, what was it that I felt and did when I did a good job and then those few plays where I didn’t do as good as I could, why? And so it’s just constant analysis, constant work. If we’re fighting with, we’ve arrived, no, we haven’t, we’ve arrived, no, we haven’t, then we’re fighting the wrong fight. We’ve got to get better each step.
REPORTER: How has Ted Ginn’s performance lived up to your expectations?
TRESSEL: As he came in, we weren’t sure whether he’d play defense or offense. We weren’t sure what the best fit for him was going to be, so he spent a good bit of preseason doing probably 80% defense. We felt real good about how our corners were coming along, and we felt that E.J. and Ashton and Dustin and Harlen were going to give us adequate corner play there and he was looking very, very good in the receiver-type things and thought he could bring something to the table offensively and return-wise, maybe more quickly than defensively, and I think for a guy that missed preseason, his growth has been excellent and I look for him to continue to make big plays. I think his upside is gigantic.
REPORTER: Has Joe Paterno remarked to you maybe at the Big Ten meetings or since then about how much longer he might like to coach or anything like that?
TRESSEL: No, and I’ve never been in the presence of any of our Big Ten coaches when they’ve asked him. I don’t think you ask people those things. I know one thing, we faced Penn State last year and Joe Paterno had as much life and pizazz and focus an preparation as any coach I’ve ever faced and I’m sure he’ll have the same at this moment. That’s a decision he’ll handle within and is probably not going to remark to anyone other than maybe Sue when that ever occurs.
REPORTER: How do you feel about the Ohio State/Michigan game, if there’s any rights to the game being sold to SBC? Do you have an opinion on that? I’m curious whether you ever feel concerned that the business of college athletics kind of dominates the college —
TRESSEL: That question was felt in the Big Ten media call, how we felt about that recent announcement and I was aware that the announcement was coming for a short time and I remarked on that call that it’s not as if we turn on the television and there are no advertisements for college athletics and we go into the stadiums and there are no advertisements. I think that’s a part of our culture. And as I look at the most recent announcement with SBC, it’s no secret to me that with Ohio State sponsoring 36 sports, and we have the good fortune of having the most comprehensive athletic program anywhere, we have the good fortune of having the best stadium in America because we reached out and did that, and we also have the ability to help in causes like yesterday we had the kickoff for the building and renovation of the library, the athletic department has helped there and Habitat for Humanity. We have a way to help, and obviously when you help, you have to have resources to help. So I think it’s a very real part of the way our culture is and the neat thing about our culture is we can help others and make it better for our student athletes, not just football players, but make it possible to have 36 sports right here.
REPORTER: Well, what do you say to people who think there’s got to be a place where you draw the line on something like this? They hold this game and you don’t sell it with an advertisement on it, it’s almost like smacking an advertisement on your wedding.
TRESSEL: Obviously you’d respect that feeling from that person. And I’m sure I wasn’t in on any of the discussions that went along with it but I’m sure many of those types of things were discussed back and forth and you have to make decisions from that standpoint and I don’t know exactly what I would say to that person that has that as sacred as their wedding and so forth. But everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And every time you make a decision, you realize that you’ve just opened it up to a lot of opinions.
REPORTER: Do you have an opinion?
TRESSEL: Yeah, I’m in the athletic department team. Anything we can do to make things better for Ohio State athletics and be able to help beyond. We had one of the people that visited with our team this weekend talk to them about the fact that you don’t really realize what it’s all about until you realize you’re a part of something that’s much bigger than yourself and this isn’t about making Ohio State and Michigan football better, it’s about making their athletic departments better comprehensively. And it also gives us the opportunity, I can’t speak for Michigan, but it also gives us the opportunity to help people outside of the athletic department. Now, some will debate whether it’s the right way or the wrong way but I happen to be on board with trying to make things bigger than just how it affects us, and that’s why I would fall on that side. The only thing, I think it’s called the SBC Michigan/Ohio State game.
TRESSEL: Classic. I would make it the Ohio State/Michigan Classic.
REPORTER: It will be.
TRESSEL: Oh, it does? Then I guess I’m all right with it.
REPORTER: Coach, they’re going to retire another number this weekend. Do you have any historical perspective on Chic Harley and what he’s ever meant to the stadium? Have you ever used that in any of your conversations?
TRESSEL: I don’t have a whole bunch of firsthand, I’m up in years. That was 1919 or something or other. We do have a little something that some people brought and put above our locker room doors about the legend of Chic Harley and he’s the one that made the legend possible. We have a great, great grandson, is it? We have our own Chic Harley, Rob Harley — I’m sorry, great, great nephew. So I’ve heard the name Chic thrown around our practice field constantly and he takes great pride in the fact that his family member is going to be recognized and was one of the greats in the history and one of the people that made bigger and better things happen. So that will be an exciting day. I think it’s number 47, right? So A.J. Hawk will be allowed to wear that number through his career and then 47 will be retired. Thanks so much.