Aug. 30, 2004

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Windows A/V Press Luncheon
Transcript of Press Luncheon
Player Quotes
Depth Chart
Top 25 Polls

Ohio State opens the 2004 football season Saturday by hosting the University of Cincinnati in sold out Ohio Stadium (cap. 101,568). The game, which will kickoff at 12:10 p.m. EDT, will be televised throughout Ohio and the Midwest by ESPN Plus and broadcast around the state by WBNS Radio, the flagship station for the Ohio State radio network.

Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes are coming off an 11-2 record and a second-consecutive BCS victory, downing Kansas State 35-28 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last January. After finishing fourth in the polls at the conclusion of the 2003 campaign, the Buckeyes debuted at the No. 9 spot in the 2004 Associated Press and ESPN/USA TODAY preseason polls released earlier this month.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, is coming off a 5-7 season that prompted a change in leadership and led to the December hiring of Buckeye defensive coordinator Mark  Dantonio as the Bearcats’ new head coach. Dantonio had been on the OSU staff for three years and had fashioned one of the most formidable defenses in the country in both 2002, when the Buckeyes won the national championship, and 2003.

“Mark is a good friend and a fine coach,” Tressel said. “I don’t remember ever coaching against a former assistant who was a head coach. I suppose it is a lot like coaching against your brother, and I have done that.

“As a coach, you focus on the game and your team and don’t think about the other,” Tressel said. “The exciting thing about Saturday is this is a new team and we are getting ready for a new season. I am sure Mark feels the same way.”

In addition to two old friends matching wits, bragging rights for a couple of families also will be on the line Saturday. Cincinnati linebacker coach Mike Tressel is the son of Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel and the nephew of Jim Tressel. The younger Tressel was a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes last year.

Additionally, Ohio State junior linebacker Bobby Carpenter has a younger brother, Jonathan Carpenter, who is a freshman running back at Cincinnati.

The Buckeyes return four starters on offense and five on defense. They must replace 14 players who were taken in the April NFL draft. That group includes quarterback Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to a 25-2 record the past two years, three offensive lineman, a tight end, a record-setting split end, three defensive linemen, two All-Americans and the Ray Guy Award winner.

“We have lost some good players,” head coach Jim Tressel, said. “But based on what I saw in the spring and have seen in fall camp, we can be a good football team. We just need to continue to work and get better. I like what I have seen so far. We have worked hard and have a good attitude.

We have accomplished all we can in camp. Now, we need to go out and do it against someone else on Saturday.”

The OSU defense, now under the tutelage of Mark Snyder should again be formidable. Senior end Simon Fraser is the lone holdover up front, but Mike Kudla at end and Marcus Green and Quinn Pitcock are all capable veterans at the two tackle spots. The linebacker corps which includes A.J. Hawk, Mike D’Andrea, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel and Marcus Freeman is one of the deepest and most talented in Ohio State history. In the secondary, corner Dustin Fox and safety Nate Salley return as does highly-regarded cover corner E.J. Underwood.

The offense returns leading rusher Lydell Ross (826 yards and 10 touchdowns) and speedy receiver Santonio Holmes (32 receptions and 7 touchdowns). Also back are center Nick Mangold, a preseason Rimington Award candidate, and left tackle Robbie Sims. Those two will anchor a young, but undeniably athletic offensive line. After a very spirited battle with Troy Smith, third-year sophomore Justin Zwick will take over at quarterback. Both will play and whoever is under center will have a multitude of talented receivers to throw to, including the exciting Holmes and Bam Childress at flanker, Roy Hall at split end and Ryan Hamby and Rory Nicol at tight end. Nicol is a true freshman, who has impressed the coaches with his all-around ability and quick grasp of the OSU offense. There are a number of other skill players who could have an immediate impact, including running backs Antonio Pittman and Erik Haw, wide receivers Devon Lyons and Albert Dukes, and versatile receiver/defensive back/return specialists Tedd Ginn. All five of the latter are true freshmen.

In the kicking department, All-American Mike Nugent returns for his senior year. Nugent, who already holds 12 school records, should be a leading contender for the Lou Groza award as the top kicker in college football.

Kyle Turano, a former walk-on who has been converted to scholarship, is slated to replace graduated B.J. Sander, the Ray Guy winner last year, as the punter. Turano has big shoes to fill, following the likes of Sander last year and All-American Andy Groom in 2002. It is worth noting that Groom was a walk-on.

The Buckeyes feature two of the top return specialists in the Big Ten in Holmes and Ginn — one of the top-rated high school prospects in the nation last year.

Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Buckeyes, Jim Tressel has compiled a glittering 32-7 record in his short stay in Columbus. Included in that figure is a 19-5 mark in Big Ten play and a 13-2 record in non-conference action. His teams have been especially successful at home, winning 20 of 22 starts, including the last 16-consecutive outings. After a 7-5 record in 2001, Tressel led the Buckeyes to a perfect 13-0 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a consensus national championship in 2002. He was the Football Writers choice as national coach of the year in 2002. In 2003, the Buckeyes posted an 11-2 record and played in a BCS game for the second-consecutive year. Now in his 19th season as a head coach, the 51-year-old Tressel has compiled a lifetime record of 167-64-2. During his stay with the Buckeyes, he has posted a 14-4 record against teams in the Top 25 and a 5-1 slate against teams in the Top 10. Masterful in close games, he is 15-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Each of his last two teams have finished the season ranked in the Top 5 (1st in 2002 and 4th last year). Prior to coming to Ohio State, Tressel spent 15 years as the head coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State, where he won four national championships and appeared in the playoffs 10 times.

Ohio State and Cincinnati are meeting for just the 14th time. The Buckeyes have won 11 of the 13 games to date and are 6-0 in Columbus. Cincinnati won consecutive games in 1896 (8-6) and 1897 (24-0) for its only wins in the series. Ohio State has since won eight-consecutive games from the Bearcats, including a 34-20 victory in 1999 in Columbus and a 23-19 win in 2002 in Cincinnati. The two teams are scheduled to play again in 2006 in Columbus.

In the last meeting between the two teams, Ohio State emerged with a hard-fought 23-19 win in Cincinnati in a game that went down to the last play. With the Bearcats driving and threatening to pull off the upset and knock Ohio State from the unbeaten ranks, safety Will Allen intercepted a deflected pass (by linebacker Matt Wilhelm) in the back of the end zone with 26 seconds left in the game and OSU ran out the clock. The game was played in Paul Brown Stadium in front of the largest crowd (66,319) ever to watch a sporting event in Cincinnati. It was OSU’s first appearance in Cincinnati since the 1911 season. Quarterback Gino Guidugli played brilliantly for the Bearcats, completing 26 of 52 passes for 324 yards. Ohio State tailback Lydell Ross made his first career start and responded by rushing for 130 yards on 23 carries. Both players return this year for their respective squads.

The Buckeyes have an 18-3-1 record against teams currently in Conference USA – 11-2 vs. Cincinnati, 4-1-1 vs. Texas Christian, 2-1 vs. Louisville and 1-0 vs. Houston.

Several Ohio State players are candidates for major awards in 2004. They include, center Nick Mangold (Rimington Award and Outland Trophy), All-America kicker Mike Nugent (Lou Groza Award), tailback Lydell Ross (Doak Walker Award), linebacker Bobby Carpenter (Butkus Award), linebacker A.J. Hawk (Butkus and Lombardi and Walter Camp Awards), defensive end Simon Fraser (Ted Hendricks Award), cornerback Dustin Fox (Thorpe Award) and flanker Santonio Holmes (Biletnikoff Award).

The Buckeyes have an all-time opening day record of 98-12-4 and have won their last 25 home openers dating back to 1978. Ohio State’s last opening day loss to a non-conference foe was a 19-0 setback at the hands of No. 5 Penn State in 1978.

The Buckeyes first fielded a football team in 1890, compiling a 1-3 record in their first season. From that modest beginning, Ohio State has gone on to post an all-time record of 757-294-53 in 114 years and has experienced just 11 losing seasons.

Ohio State has an all-time record of 350-101-25 in Ohio Stadium (opened in 1922). The Buckeyes are 16-0 at home the past two years and 20-2 in three years under head coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State’s last loss at home was against Illinois in the final game of the 2001 campaign.

Seniors Mike Nugent, Lydell Ross, Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox have been selected by their teammates as the 2004 captains. Nugent is the first kicker to be chosen since Tom Skladany in 1976. Fox is the fourth member of his family to captain the Buckeyes, joining uncles Mark Stier (1968), Ken Kuhn (1975) and Tim Fox (1975).

Fifth-year seniors Kyle Turano (punter, Worthington Kilbourne), Roshawn Parker (tailback, Columbus Eastmoor), Mike DeMaria (tailback, Oregon Cardinal Stritch) and John McLaughlin (offensive tackle, Fairview Park, Ohio, Cleveland St. Ignatius) have been awarded scholarships for the 2004 academic year.

Justin Zwick will get the starting nod at quarterback Saturday against Cincinnati. But Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel said Troy Smith will also see action. “Both Justin and Troy will play,” Tressel said. “I don’t have a pre-determined series when Troy will go in. That will be dictated by what is going on in the game. Zwick and Smith are third-year sophomores. Both saw brief action last year behind starter Craig Krenzel and backup Scott McMulleN. The 6-4, 225-pound Zwick completed four-of-eight passes for 24 yards. The 6-1, 215-pound Smith did not attempt a pass, but did have three rushes for 14 yards.

There are two new faces on the Ohio State staff this year. Darrell Hazell has taken over as coach of the wide receivers and John Peterson is the new tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Hazell, a graduate of Muskingum College, comes to Ohio State from Rutgers. Peterson, a former OSU offensive lineman (1987-90), has spent the past five seasons at Miami of Ohio. Additionally, Dick Tressel has replaced Tim Spencer as running backs coach. Tressel has spent the past three seasons as associate director of football operations for the Buckeyes.

After three years as coach of the Ohio State linebackers, Mark Snyder will take over the Buckeyes’ defense. Snyder was promoted to defensive coordinator on the heels of Mark  Dantonio’s departure for Cincinnati. “Mark will do a great job for us,” Jim Tressel said. “He knows the game and is a great teacher and communicator.”

“We won’t make a lot of changes,” Snyder said. “We want to play aggressively and smart, be good tacklers and force turnovers.” Snyder’s old linebacker position will now be coached by Luke Fickell who had been special teams coordinator. Mel Tucker, the Buckeyes’ secondary coach, will now serve as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Jim Heacock has been promoted to assistant head coach.

Redshirt freshman Devin Jordan (Massillon, Ohio) suffered a leg injury in fall camp and is expected to miss most of the season.

All-America place-kicker Mike Nugent has 254 career points as he heads into his senior year, leaving him 94 points shy of the school points record (354) that currently belongs to fullback Pete Johnson (1973-76). Nugent scored 48 points as a freshman, 120 as a sophomore in 2002, and 86 last year. He currently is seventh among OSU career scoring leaders.

Former Ohio State coach John Cooper will be in the television booth this week as the analyst for ESPN Plus. “Coop” spent 13 years as the Buckeyes’ head coach, compiling an overall record of 111-43-4 from 1988 to 2000.

In addition to Mark  Dantonio and Mike Tressel, several other members of the new Cincinnati staff have Ohio State ties. Mark Staten, who spent the past two years as a graduate assistant on the OSU staff, is the Bearcats’ recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach; Jeff Uhlenhake, an All-America center for the Buckeyes and a graduate assistant last year, coaches the Bearcats’ offensive line; and Tim Hinton, a graduate assistant in 1985 and ’86 for the Buckeyes, now tutors the UC running backs.

There are four true freshman listed in the Ohio State two-deep: tight end Rory Nicol (Beaver, Pa.), defensive end Vernon Gholston (Detroit, Mich.), linebacker Marcus Freeman (Huber Heights, Ohio) and punt return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. (Glenville, Ohio). All four are expected to play Saturday in the season opener against Cincinnati. Additionally, running backs Tony Pittman and Erik Haw, wide receiver Devon Lyons and linebacker Chad Hoobler have been impressive in fall camp and could see action. “We won’t hesitate to use freshmen if they are ready and we feel they can help the team,” head coach Jim Tressel said.

Six current players have fathers who played for Ohio State: Offensive Guard Doug Datish (Mike Datish, offensive lineman), Fullback Dionte Johnson (Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, linebacker), Cornerback Shaun Lane (Garcia Lane, cornerback), Linebacker Ryan Lukens (Bill Lukens, offensive guard), Flanker Kyle Ruhl (Bruce Ruhl, defensive back), Fullback Stan White Jr. (Stan White, linebacker).

The Buckeyes host Marshall at 3:30 p.m. EDT in the first meeting between the two schools. ABC will televise the game to a regional audience. The 2004 Ohio State Hall of Fame Class will be introduced at halftime. The 2004 class includes former football standouts Steve Myers and Vlade Janakievksi, and former OSU Coach Earle Bruce.

Cincinnati finished 5-7 overall and 2-6 in Conference USA a season ago. After starting the season with three-consecutive wins against East Carolina, West Virginia and Temple, the Bearcats dropped seven of their final nine games, beating only Army and Rhode Island, to prompt the coaching change that took former Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark  Dantonio to the Queen City.

Gino Guidugli, who has started every game as the Bearcat quarterback since the second game of the 2001 season, has led his team to eight fourth-quarter comeback victories and has rewritten most of Cincinnati’s season and career passing records, including passing yards (8,820), passing TDs (52) and total offensive yards (8,938). Richard Hall was the leading rusher in 2003 amassing 777 yards with 10 touchdowns. Four starters, all fifth-year seniors, return up front from a squad that averaged 165 rushing and 228.4 passing yards a season ago.

Thirteen seniors, including nine with starting experience, return from a defense last year that ranked 27th in the final total defensive national statistics giving Dantonio something to work with. A year ago, Cincinnati surrendered 26.6 points per game and limited opponents to 144.4 yards on the ground and 188.6 through the air. Six starters, all seniors, return to the front seven. Trent Cole led the team in tackles-for-loss last season while Andre Frazier is moving up the school records list in sacks.

MEET COACH Mark Dantonio
Mark  Dantonio (South Carolina, 1979) is in his first season as the head football coach at Cincinnati after spending the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State. It is his first head coaching position at any level. He has 24 years of college coaching experience that also included stops as an assistant at Michigan State (1995-2000), Kansas (1991-94), Youngstown State (1986-90) and Akron (1985). As the general of the Ohio State defense, his unit finished second against the run in 2003, allowing 62.3 yards per game. The Buckeyes also were No. 10 in total defense and No. 16 in scoring defense. In the 2002 national championship campaign, the Buckeye defenders were second nationally in scoring defense (13.1) and third in rushing defense (77.7). He had six defensive Buckeyes named All-Big Ten and 13 were drafted by the pros.