Aug. 29, 2005

Transcript of Press Luncheon
Player Quotes
Depth Chart
Top 25 Polls

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Amid high expectations, Ohio State launches its 2005 football campaign Saturday by playing host to Miami University in sold out Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for shortly after noon on ABC. The game also can be heard on WBNS Radio, the flagship station for the statewide Ohio State radio network. Programming on the latter begins one hour before kickoff.

Coach Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes are coming off an 8-4 record in which they won five of their last six games, including convincing victories over Michigan (37-21) in the regular-season finale and Oklahoma State (33-7) in the Alamo Bowl to close out the year.

Ohio State returns 18 starters – nine on each side of the ball – and 44 lettermen from the 2004 team. The list of holdovers includes All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk, tabbed recently as the Big Ten’s preseason defensive player of the year, as well as speedster Ted Ginn Jr., who scored eight touchdowns last year as a true freshman and is already the school’s career leader in punt returns for touchdowns with four.

Not unexpectedly, the Buckeyes have figured prominently in the preseason polls, holding down the sixth spot in the Associated Press voting and the ninth position in the football coaches (USA Today) tabulations.

Miami counters with a veteran squad of its own, returning 17 starters – eight each on offense and defense and one on special teams – from an 8-5 team last year. The RedHawks closed out the season with a hard-fought 17-13 loss to Iowa State in the Independence Bowl.

Coach Shane Montgomery is in his first year as Miami’s head coach. He succeeds Terry Hoeppner, now the head coach at Indiana. Montgomery was the RedHawks quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator from 2001 through 2004.

Miami is the first of four-consecutive home games for the Buckeyes. Following the RedHawks, Texas and San Diego State come to town before Iowa visits for the Big Ten opener. Ohio State has won 37-consecutive non-conference games in Ohio Stadium, last losing a home tilt in 1990 against the University of Southern California.

At the present time, eight Ohio State players are listed on the various postseason awards watch lists: A.J. Hawk (Butkus, Lombardi, Lott, Bednarik, Walter Camp), Nick Mangold (Rimington, Lombardi), Santonio Holmes (Biletnikoff, Walter Camp), Bobby Carpenter (Butkus), Nate Salley (Thorpe), Ashton Youboty (Thorpe), Ryan Hamby (Mackey) and Ted Ginn Jr. (Walter Camp, Biletnikoff).

The Buckeyes have an all-time opening day record of 99-12-4 and have won their last 26 home openers. OSU’s last opening day loss at home was to Penn State in 1978. The Buckeyes last opening day loss on the road was to the University of Miami in the 1999 Kickoff Classic.

This will be just the fourth meeting between the two in-state schools. Ohio State has won all three of the previous contests, all of which were played in Columbus. The two teams first played in 1904 with the Buckeyes recording an 80-0 victory. The Buckeyes also recorded a shutout in the next meeting, but this time by a much narrower margin, escaping with a 3-0 win in 1911. The two teams did not play again until 2000, when Ohio State notched a 27-16 triumph.

Over the years, Ohio State has posted a 19-1 record against teams from the Mid-American Conference. Their lone loss was to Akron in 1895 by a 14-6 count.

The Buckeyes have been successful against teams from Ohio, posting an overall record of 172-48-17. Ohio State has not lost to an in-state team since falling 7-6 to Oberlin in 1921. Since that loss, the Buckeyes have won 26-consecutive starts against Ohio schools.

Ohio State returns 18 of its 22 starters from a year ago when the Buckeyes closed out the season by winning five of their last six games for an 8-4 record and the No. 20 spot in the final Associated Press voting.

The offense has nine holdover starters, including the wide receiver tandem of Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr., who combined for 80 receptions and nine touchdown catches in 2004.

Holmes is coming off his best year with a team-leading 55 catches and seven TD grabs. The electrifying Ginn had 25 receptions as a rookie, including two for scores. Ginn wound up the season with eight touchdowns, recording four on punt returns to set a Big Ten record, and two on rushing attempts.

In addition to Holmes and Ginn, the Buckeyes’ dangerous receiving corps also includes wideouts Anthony Gonzalez (22.2 yards per catch last year) and Roy Hall (17 receptions) and tight end Ryan Hamby (16 grabs).

Junior Justin Zwick will get the opening day call at quarterback against Miami. He completed 98 of 187 passes for 1,209 yards in an injury-shortened 2004. After missing the final five games of the regular season with an ankle injury, the 6-foot-4-inch Zwick returned to action against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl and led the Buckeyes to a 33-7 victory.

With junior Troy Smith, serving out the final leg of a two-game NCAA suspension, redshirt freshman Todd Boeckman will be the backup signal caller in the opener.

Up front, the Buckeyes return four-of-five starters and are led by All-America candidate Nick Mangold at center and Robbie Sims at left guard.

Offensive line coach Jim Bollman has done a little mixing and matching in the offseason, shifting Sims from left tackle to his present position and moving Doug Datish from right guard to Sims’ old spot. Additionally, T.J. Downing moves from left to right guard.

In the running department, Antonio Pittman is expected to make his first start at tailback. Pittman, who is coming off a terrific spring, appeared in 10 games last year and rushed for 381 yards on 73 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt. His top game was 144 yards against Indiana. Converted fullback Brandon Schnittker, Erik Haw and true freshman Maurice Wells are the backups.

Stan White is the No. 1 fullback. The versatile junior, who came to OSU as a linebacker, can also play tight end.

The defense also returns nine starters, including what might well be the best group of linebackers in college football. Starters A.J. Hawk (141), Bobby Carpenter (93) and Anthony Schlegel (84) ranked first, second and third on the team in tackles last year and combined for 24 tackles-for-loss. Speedy reserve Marcus Freeman also will see extensive action.

The defensive front is led by senior Mike Kudla at end and junior Quinn Pitcock on the inside. Veteran Marcus Green also returns at tackle.

Thorpe Award candidates Nate Salley at free safety and Ashton Youboty at cover corner head up a secondary that includes Tyler Everett at corner and Donte Whitner at strong safety. True freshmen Malcolm Jenkins at corner and Jamario O’Neal at safety are expected to play.

In the kicking department, Josh Huston will take over the place-kicking chores and redshirt freshman A.J. Trapasso will inherit the punting duties.

“I feel good about both of those guys,” said Tressel, whose teams have made a habit of relying heavily on the kicking game. “Both have had good fall camps.”

“We have had a good camp. The players have worked hard and have done everything we have asked of them. I think we are in good physical condition and, with the exception of Rory Nicol (foot injury) and Jim Cordle (foot injury), are relatively healthy. I know our players are anxious to get the season going, as am I.

“My hope this year is that we can be a little more balanced offensively. We have a goal every game of rushing for 200 yards and passing for 250. I hope we can pick up this year where we left off last year in our last two games. The key will be protection and I think we will be improved in that area this year. If we are, we can be more balanced.

“Defensively, I expect us to again be a unit that runs to the ball and makes plays. Everyone talks about our linebackers, and they are very good, but so is the secondary and defensive front. Everyone knows A.J. Hawk is one of the top linebackers in the country. I’m not sure everyone knows how good (cornerback) Ashton Youboty is.

“I expect a stiff test this week. Miami is a good, veteran football team that has been to big stadiums before and knows how to win. We are focused on this game.”

A league best 22 Ohio State football players were named to the Big Ten’s All-Academic team last fall, marking the third year in a row the Buckeyes have led the conference in that area. Additionally, a record 44 Ohio State football players qualified for last spring’s annual OSU Scholar-Athlete Dinner, which requires a grade-point average of 3.00 or better for the past academic year. As a team, the Buckeyes have an overall GPA of 2.82.

Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk was chosen as the Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year in early August by members of the media attending the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago. The 6-1, 240-pound Hawk won consensus All-America honors last year when he led the Buckeyes in total tackles with 141. Hawk, bidding to join Andy Katzenmoyer as the school’s only Butkus Award winners, enters the season with 273 career tackles and ranks 16th on the all-time Ohio State list.

Sophomore Ted Ginn is listed at flanker for the Buckeyes, but that only tells part of the story. Last year, as a true freshman, Ginn also lined up at tailback and quarterback in addition to returning punts. This year, expect him to also return kickoffs and play some defensive back in addition to his other duties.

“Teddy is a terrific weapon and we want to get the ball in his hands as often as possible,” Tressel said. “The majority of his play will come on offense, but he gets a great break on the ball so there will be times in the red zone where we will utilize him on defense, too. With Maurice Hall (the school’s all-time leader in kick return yardage) gone, we will use him on both punt and kick returns. He and Santonio (Holmes) give us two very dangerous weapons back there.”

Brandon Smith, a redshirt freshman from Euclid, Ohio, has moved from linebacker to tight end and has switched from No 54 to No. 87. Smith’s move was necessitated by the loss of Rory Nicol who is out with a foot injury. The 6-3, 240-pound Smith currently is listed behind starter Ryan Hamby. Additionally, a slimmer and trimmer Brandon Schnittker (250 down to 236) has moved from fullback to tailback, and redshirt freshman Shaun Lane from cornerback to tailback. Senior Robbie Sims, the Buckeyes starting left tackle the past two years, will move to left guard.

“Robbie was a good tackle, but he will be a much better guard,” predicts Tressel.

Kicker Josh Huston was one of 23 Ohio State student-athletes to receive an undergradutate degree Sunday. With a degree in real estate and urban development already completed, Huston will begin work on another undergrad degree in pyschology when fall classes begin in late September.

Ohio State enters the 2005 season with an all-time record of 765-298-53 in 115 seasons of competition. That includes a Big Ten record of 418-161-24 since 1913, an Ohio Stadium slate of 355-101-20 since 1922 and a bowl mark of 17-19.

COACH Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel is beginning his fifth season as head coach at Ohio State. His record with the Buckeyes is 40-11 and his career record is 175-68-2 (.718) in 19 previous seasons as a head coach.

Tressel took over the Buckeyes in 2001, directing them to a 7-5 record that year. In 2002, he led Ohio State to a 14-0 record and the school’s first consensus national championship since 1968 and was nearly everyone’s choice as National Coach of the Year following the season. In 2003, the Buckeyes won their first five games to extend their winning streak to 19 and finished with an 11-2 record. Last year’s squad, which had to replace 14 NFL drafted players, won five of its last six games en route to an 8-4 finish.

Tressel’s teams have appeared in four Bowl games and are 3-1 in those contests, including back-to-back BCS wins in the Fiesta Bowl. They also are 3-1 against Michigan in one of the most intense and storied rivalries in all of sport.

Eight of Tressel’s players have won first-team All-America honors and three have won major awards, including kicker Mike Nugent, last year’s recipient of the Lou Groza Award as the best place-kicker in college football.

Tressel is a master in close games. Since coming to Ohio State, he is 16-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less and 4-1 in overtime games.

He is at his best against the best with a 16-5 record against teams ranked in the Top 25 and a 6-1 mark against teams ranked in the Top 10.

The 52-year-old Tressel is a 1975 graduate of Baldwin Wallace College.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk, center Nick Mangold, safety Nate Salley and offensive guard Robbie Sims are the 2005 captains. The four seniors were elected by a vote of their teammates. Hawk and Mangold are both from Centerville, Ohio (as is Mike Nugent who was one of last year’s co-captains and Kirk Herbstreit, who captained the 1992 team). Salley is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Sims from Macedonia, Ohio.

Linebacker A.J.Hawk heads into his senior year with 273 career tackles, a total that ranks him 16th on the all-time Ohio State list. Should Hawk put up numbers comparable to the past two seasons, he will wind up fourth in OSU annals, behind only Marcus Marek (572), Tom Cousineau (569) and Chris Spielman (546).

In the receiving department, junior Santonio Holmes currently ranks 15th on the all-time OSU list with 87 total receptions. Buster Tillman (1993-96) is 14th with 88 and Bobby Olive (1987-90) holds down the No. 13 spot with 91.

Sophomore Ted Ginn Jr. set Ohio State single-season and career records for punt returns for touchdowns last year with four. He also set the school single-season and career records for average yards per punt return by averaging 25.6 yards on his 15 returns last year. The latter figure led the nation in 2004.

There are two true freshmen in the depth chart this week both on defense. Malcolm Jenkins (Piscataway, N.J.) is listed behind Tyler Everett at one cornerback and Jamario O’Neal (Cleveland, Ohio) behind Donte Whitner at strong safety. O’Neal also is the starting nickel back.

There are two new faces on the Ohio State coaching staff this year, both on the defensive side of the ball. Tim Beckman has taken over as the cornerbacks coach and Paul Haynes has assumed the role of safeties coach. Beckman comes to Ohio State from Bowling Green where he spent the past seven seasons. Haynes, who grew up in Columbus and played at DeSales High School, was at Michigan State the past two years.

With the departures of defensive coordinator MarkSnyder for Marshall and MelTucker for the Cleveland Browns, veteran OSU assistant Jim Heacock has been elevated to defensive coordinator and Luke Fickell to co-defensive coordinator. Additionally, wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell will now serve as assistant head coach. This will be the second-consecutive year that the Buckeyes have started the season with a new defensive coordinator, but Heacock is a former head coach who is in his tenth season at Ohio State and Fickell is in his fourth year on Tressel’s staff.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels will be in the press box for the Buckeyes during the game as will cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

Last season, Miami (Ohio) finished 8-5 overall and 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference. It won the 2003 MAC championship, has won two-consecutive MAC East Division titles and has made trips to the GMAC and Independence bowls. Shane Montgomery takes over as coach of the RedHawks for Terry Hoeppner, who left after last season to coach the Indiana Hoosiers.

A year ago, the Miami offense scored 31.3 points and amassed 399.7 total yards per game, while limiting opponents to 22.9 points and 338.8 yards of total offense each game. The RedHawks averaged 279.6 yards through the air compared to 120.1 yards on the ground. Luke Clemens was the leading rusher with 12 touchdowns and 69.2 yards per game. Josh Betts, who returns to lead Miami, threw for 23 touchdowns and 3,495 yards, hitting Ryne Robinson for four scoring strikes and 932 yards and Michael Larkin for eight touchdowns and 832 yards. Robinson returns this year as a junior. Matt Pusateri led the RedHawks with 97 total tackles, while John Busing had 93, Terna Nande had 86 and Derek Rehage had 79.

A MAC slate that also features games against Kent State, Northern Illinois, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Bowling Green and Ohio, gets underway next Saturday against Central Michigan. The RedHawks also meet Cincinnati and Temple in non-conference action.

Miami (Ohio) could not hold off Iowa State’s rushing attack and surrendered a fourth-quarter lead in a 17-13 loss Dec. 28, 2004 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Trailing 10-0 late in the first half, Luke Clemens caught a 28-yard TD pass from Josh Betts with 25 seconds before the half. Miami took a 13-10 lead in the third quarter when Mike Smith scored from 2 yards out, but gave up the lead in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard TD run with 13:02 to play. Miami had one last chance after stopping the Cyclones on fourth-and-one at the RedHawks’ 35-yard line, but a Betts pass was picked off, giving Miami its third loss in nine bowl games. Iowa State rushed for 295 yards and had two players run for more than 100 yards apiece

First-year Miami (Ohio) head coach Shane Montgomery was named the school’s 32nd head coach just moments before the team took to the field in the Independence Bowl last December.

The former offensive coordinator succeeded Terry Hoeppner, who had accepted the head coach position at Indiana University only two weeks earlier. A native of Newark, Ohio, who won two state championships at Newark Catholic, Montgomery went to Miami in 2001 from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he had served in several capacities from 1993-2000.

Montgomery began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at N.C. State from 1991 to 1993. As a player with the Wolfpack from 1985-89, he was a three-year letterwinner and All-ACC quarterback in 1989. He also was the offensive MVP of the 1988 Peach Bowl and the 1989 Copper Bowl.

The Buckeyes continue their four-game home stand by hosting the University of Texas in the first meeting between the two national powerhouses. Kickoff is set for 8:08 p.m. in sold out Ohio Stadium. ABC will televise the game nationally. ESPN’s GameDay will be in Columbus, so will the ABC studio crew and ESPN Radio’s version of GameDay.