Aug. 31, 2004
SNAPP: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. Just wanted to go over the format for today and the rest of this week so everybody has an understanding of the interviews for this week both with the players and the coaches. To start with today, we’re going to try to shorten up Coach Tressel’s role a little bit. He’ll go until about 12:45, after which we’ll have the players available until 1:15 for some one-on-ones. We’ll try to carry that through the course of the year.
Also, we have some new security procedures in place for the stadium this year. As part of that process, we’ve hired some extra people to help out at the gates. I have a release up here that speaks to that, but the important thing is we’re trying to encourage people to get there at least an hour and a half to two hours before the game, especially this first game, so everything goes smoothly and they can get to their seats.
Coach, want to take over?
TRESSEL: Thanks, Steve.
One thing you’ll notice, as we take the field this year, there was some plays and defenses that didn’t work as well as we wanted so you probably won’t see them. That’s why we made a little change here. We kept trying to get you to ask the guys questions in the past and that didn’t seem to work, so we decided to do the one-on-ones afterward and hopefully one of the things we believe, as a staff does, it’s a great experience for them to spend time with the media and have a chance to understand their leadership roles and so forth and their responsibilities. So hopefully we’ll get good time with them and be able to use a lot of their footage as well.
We’re excited to start another year. I know all of you are. And we have a group of seniors that, I think, are really excited about being excellent leaders. They’ve been here for a number of years and they’ve been under tremendous leadership from the senior classes before them, and I know they feel tremendous responsibility to carry on that heritage of excellent senior leadership, and I’m sure they’ll do a great job. Today we have the four elected captains that you’ll have a chance to visit with after my part of it is over. We’re also excited for a lot of young guys, some guys that have had excellent roles in the past couple years, some on scout teams, some as part-time players, some as maybe special team players, and now they’re going to get their opportunity to go center stage and see if they can do a great job as a main event at their particular position area and have their role enhanced. I know they’re excited. You can just tell.
Some of those young guys, as it creeps closer to game time, that they’re wired up and excited about showing their teammates, I think most of all, that they’re going to be able to handle those roles and then their families and friends and fans and media and all of the above. So it’s exciting to watch them get ready for the game. We’ve had a good preseason. We thought we had a very good spring. As I listened to the players talk, they felt like their summer was as good or better than any summer that they’ve ever had here. They felt like they did more things together from a skill standpoint, and you can talk to them a little bit more about that because the coaches weren’t a part of it. But the reports from them were that our summer was good. I thought our preseason camp was good. Would have liked to have a little bit more warm weather. That makes you a little bit nervous going into noon kickoff on Saturday that could be, you know, in the 80s, and we haven’t had that many hot, sunny days to work out, hot, humid days. We’ve had a couple, but that was about the only thing I would change about preseason. I thought our coaches worked hard and prepared good plans. I thought we covered a lot of things.
Preseason is a time where you try to take a snapshot of the whole season and think about all of the various problems you’re going to have on all sides of the ball and at least get a little flavor of how you need to attack various things. And then the last couple days of your preseason, you start working hard on your first opponent. Our case is probably similar to Cincinnati’s in that when we were working against one another, we were kind of working against our first opponent. Cincinnati knows very well what we’re going to do. We don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but I know what Coach Dantonio and the guys on his coaching staff believe in, so we know that they’re going to have been working hard on toughness and on knowing what to do and on being very detailed and handling whatever comes their way and doing a great job adjusting and all those things you saw from Mark and his defensive staff, you’ll see from their entire team. So it’s been fun to start working on that.
And you get into that first game week and you can really see in your coaches’ faces and in your players’ faces that we need to play a game. We’ve been rehearsing for so long all the way back to the spring and banging each other and what if this, and okay, we might face this later on down the road against Wisconsin or this against Michigan or NC State or Cincinnati or Marshall. You’ve talked about all the various things that you may see, and now it’s time to focus in on one opponent. And it will be an exciting challenge for us because Cincinnati brings more experience to the table than we do, from a playing standpoint. They have a lot of guys returning. I think 20-some seniors, 18 or 19 starters. Probably more guys that had significant roles when we played the game Ohio State versus Cincinnati two years ago than we may have who played significant roles in that game. And we know that they’ll be well schooled. Some of the match-ups are going to be interesting to watch. Now, Donnie Treadwell, their offensive coordinator was our offensive coordinator at Youngstown State when we won our first National Championship and Mark Snyder was on our defensive staff so they’ve worked together.
Jim Bollman and Mark Dantonio, Mark on defense and Jim on offense, worked together for years at Michigan State, and then of course here. Doc Tressel on offense going against Mike Tressel the linebacker coach. Jim Heacock worked against Mark Stanten and Jeff Uhlenhake’s guys from last year. I know from our staff standpoint there’s some excitement about the match-ups. Every one of us has strong feelings for the guys we know over on that staff. John Peterson and Pat Narduzzi was on the staff last year, now one’s on offense here and the other’s on defense there. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to compete hard against the people we respect and we know how good they are and we know how good we better be. And our players, we know, understand the same thing. They have great respect for the guys on our staff last year that are running the show and they know that Coach Dantonio had a lot to do, none of us would have National Championship rings if it weren’t for Mark Dantonio and we understand that and we respect that and our players do the same.
So I think we’ve worked hard on ourselves. We’ve worked hard on special teams. We lost B. J. Sander. Kyle Turano and Josh Houston still to this moment are battling it out. I asked Luke Fickel today, he said, Coach, today in practice, I think we need to have three full-speed rushes against Josh and three against Kyle and then let’s decide. That’s how tight it is. Both those guys have been working hard and are going to do a good job replacing B. J. Sander. Will they put the numbers up and so forth? I can’t promise you that, but they’ve been working hard and they’re getting better all the time. All of the special team units have worked hard. Mike Nugent, in my mind, is the finest kicker in college football. He’s a guy you can count on. He’s a guy that’s been there, done that. His teammates enjoy his work. His fans enjoy his work. When he takes the field, everyone hears that “Nuge, “We’re fortunate to have Mike Nugent handling the kicking and Kyle Andrews the special kicking. So we’ve got some holes to fill, changes to be made, excited about some of the return games. Santonio Holmes has shown some things, Ashton Youboty, we’ll find out Saturday if that’s true. On the defensive side, we lost some great guys up front, Simon Fraser has done a great job of leading those guys up there. Mike Kudla missed some playing time this preseason, but he’s probably as experienced as anyone coming back and he’ll be fine for the ball game this weekend. Marcus Green has got some experience coming back, Quinn Pitcock’s got experience coming back, Joel Penton, David Patterson, you know, all those guys we think are doing a nice job of getting ready. Jay Richardson is a guy we hope emerges, he’s one of those young guys whose eyes are real big, although I think his eyes are real big a lot of the time. I think that defensive front is getting ready to go. Linebacker-wise we feel good, we’re healthy, Mike D’Andrea and Anthony Schlegel have had a good camp. Marcus Freeman, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Curt Lukens, we feel like we’ve got some guys there that are going to do a good job in all the different packages that you need to do. They’ve had good preseasons. I think they’re ready to go and ready to get after it and ready to be an outstanding group. Back in the secondary, Dustin Fox leads that group. He’s probably the guy that’s had more minutes in the back end than anyone we’ve ever had and he stepped in when he was a freshman and he’s been doing it ever since. He’s got E.J. Underwood and Ashton Youboty working at the other corner. He’s got Harlen Jacobs working his side, Nate Sally kind of leading the middle with Tyler Everett and Donte Whitner and Brandon Mitchell, so those guys, I think, are in concert and they’ve been working hard. So they’re not exactly sure what they’re going to get on Saturday, so they’re going to have to be flexible, they’re going to have to be ready to handle whatever comes their way and ready to adjust and so forth. But defensively, I think our staff has done an excellent job of picking up and enhancing where we’ve been and filling the gaps that we’ve had guys who have gone on to the next level and I think they’re excited to show you how they’re progressing.
On the offensive side, up front, obviously we lost a bunch of guys with Ben Hartsock at tight end and four guys that had NFL opportunities, and I feel good about the way that the young guys have come in there, Ryan Hamby continues to get better and better from a tight end standpoint. Rory Nicol, right now would be listed as our second tight end. Marcel Frost has been fighting some injuries and can’t tell you for sure whether or not he’ll make the bell from a tight end standpoint, but Rory Nicol has been really, for a freshman, doing an exceptional job and we feel good about that position.
The other guys up front, of course Nick Mangold and Roy Sims lead the way from an experience standpoint. Mike Kne is a senior who has done a nice job at the right guard position. We’ve had a couple guys battling out there at the right tackle. Tim Shaffer, I think, has had a great preseason. I think he’s probably made as much progress from spring through preseason, you know, as any guy I can see on our football team. He’s done a heck of a job there. Kirk Barton is a good one there at right tackle. T. J. Downing works on that right side as well, so we have a little bit of depth from that standpoint. Doug Datish has done a nice job at the left guard position. The guy that I think has been a little bit surprising that will be in that eight, nine, 10 guys that we hope we’re developing is John Conroy. I think John Conroy has done a nice job at guard, John McLaughlin, R. J. Coleman is coming along, Steve Winner is showing up. We like those young freshman, but they’re young freshman and it takes a little longer. I wouldn’t look for those guys to jump in the situation this weekend. I can’t say that I won’t look for them in the entire year but I don’t know if they’d be in the top seven, eight, nine for this weekend but I feel good about the way those guys up front have been playing.
Out wide, Santonio Holmes is the leader out there. Roy Hall has had excellent progression, I believe, during this preseason. Bam Childress is a guy, Johnny Hollins, we did lose Devon Jordan with a broken ankle, that was disappointing for us because we thought that he was coming along. Devon Lyons and Albert Dukes are guys you may see in there. Don’t know exactly if they will be this weekend or not, but they may. So Tony Gonzalez had a little injury bug with a broken finger and missed a practice or two but he’s coming along, so I think that group out wide is doing a good job and will keep getting better. Replacing Michael Jenkins takes a group effort and Drew Carter, so it’s something we’re working hard.
I think under center, both Justin and Troy have had excellent preseasons. I think they’ve shown excellent improvement from their performances in the spring. I think their understanding level is much greater, which you hope happens from spring to August when you’ve had a time for it to sink in and settle in and now you’ve done it a little more. I think they’ve both done an excellent job. As we mentioned a few days ago, Justin Zwick is our starting quarterback, Troy Smith is going to play. That’s just the way it’s going to be. And how much, what percent, what series, I don’t know. I have no idea. But I’ll promise you this, they’re both going to play unless someone stubs their toe between now and Saturday and they’re both going to have opportunities. And Todd Boeckman has had a good preseason. Can’t sit here saying for sure he’s going to be put into the game, but you never know at that position what happens.
At the fullback position, Stan White and Brandon Schnittker, I think, have had excellent preseasons. They’ve gotten after it well, they’re doing a lot of different things, they’re good receivers, they’re good blockers, they’re good kids.
Branden Joe, of course, has missed a good bit of the preseason. I would call him probably doubtful, if I was making any proclamation, you know. Again, that’s not a promise. If he goes out there, don’t say that I misled you, but at this moment I would call him doubtful. Healing happens sometimes as games approach. But those fullbacks have done an excellent job. Dionte Johnson is going to be a good fullback.
And at tailback, Lydell Ross has piggy-backed an excellent spring with an excellent preseason. Someone just asked on the Big Ten conference call to talk a little bit about Lydell Ross and the run game and so forth, and I really have great expectations for both, for both Lydell Ross having a great year and our run game for making great improvement. And he’s worked hard at it, at all phases, not just carrying the football, but as a blocker, as a route runner, as a receiver, the whole thing, and I think Lydell is going to have an outstanding year and I was excited that he’s having the opportunity to be elected as one of the captains.
Also back there, I think Antonio Pitman and Erik Haw have shown flashes that they have excellent ability. Mo Hall is a veteran, he can do it all. He knows what to do. He, like Lydell, there’s not a blitz he hasn’t seen, not a route he hasn’t run. So I think that group — Roshawn Parker is a senior walk-on that became a scholarship guy who may have some opportunities, and Mike DeMaria, a scholarship guy, probably will miss this game, he’s been a special team guy for us, he banged his knee up a little bit and I expect him back, don’t know if it will be Marshall but we’re hoping for the third one.
Is there anyone we left out, fellows? They’ve all worked hard, knock on wood, we stayed fairly healthy which gave you reps. You can’t get better if you’re not in there practicing, and with the exception of Mike Kudla who missed a week or so, Branden Joe who’s missing time, and Marcel Frost, we haven’t had a whole bunch of guys miss practice time, and I think that will help us, especially for a young group. I think it’s a lot easier to be an old guy like these guys are as leaders when the guys are trying to lead and they’re practicing, it’s hard to lead them when they’re standing on the sidelines wearing gold jerseys all afternoon or whatever they do over there. So we feel good about the way preseason went. Now it has to result in good play on Saturdays, beginning with the most important Saturday of the year, this Saturday. And we’re excited about the game. And with that, I’ll open it up for questions.
REPORTER: What do you remember most about the 2002 game at Cincinnati?
TRESSEL: What do I remember most? You know, I kind of spend time with the quarterbacks and I remember two ugly interceptions. But you know, when you coach things and so forth, we’re not always the most optimistic guys. That’s kind of what I remember is two interceptions that the good news is you didn’t see any of those types of things after that game from Craig. He had a couple that he wished he could pull back and that’s really a shining thing in my mind.
REPORTER: Do you remember the two passes that they threw in the end zone at the finish?
TRESSEL: Well, you know, I was a long ways away and you see balls go up and you see bodies flying and you see, what you do is you try to keep an eye on officials because if their hands kind of go like this, you’re in good shape, and if they go like this, you’re looking down at your play sheet saying, we’ve got this much time, we’ve got to go get a touchdown. Yeah, I remember them, but I couldn’t draw them up for you. I could probably draw up those interceptions.
REPORTER: Coach Dantonio mentioned yesterday since he has such a big senior class, a lot of those guys were in that team and he was hoping they would draw some confidence from that. How dangerous can that be, do you suspect that that will help them that they played so close to you guys a couple years ago?
TRESSEL: Well, you know, confidence is crucial in anything you do, and those guys know they have excellent ability and, you know, they’ve played us before. They’ve played lots of good teams before. I think whenever you have a senior class as talented as that and who has been through ups and downs and they’ve had some suffering and they’ve had some great moments and they’ve learned lessons from that, I think that in itself is confidence. And when you say how dangerous is it, you mean dangerous to us? I don’t know if I’d use the word dangerous, but we know they’re good. So is that dangerous? I don’t know, that’s real.
REPORTER: Jim, when you look at Dantonio and you know him so well from coaching with him for so long, what do you expect to see him trying to do offensively and defensively?
TRESSEL: One thing I know about Mark is that he always appreciated the autonomy that he had and that, you know, he liked the fact that — I know when Nick Saban hired him, he hired a guy that could coach and he let him coach and when Bobby Williams hired him, and so forth, and when we hired him, we let him coach and whatnot. So I would expect that you’ll see the trademark of the team be Mark Dantonio which will be toughness and flying around and very meticulous in what they do, but you’ll also see a footprint of Don Treadwell on offense and Pat Narduzzi on defense because I think he’s one of those guys that respects other people and he hired two good coordinators.
REPORTER: Which is what, when you say trademark, what do you think trademark is?
TRESSEL: What do I think Pat Narduzzi’s is?
REPORTER: What will you see when you look at the team on Saturday?
TRESSEL: I think they went through what we just went through which is saying, okay, here’s what our guys are, here’s what we know and believe in X and O-wise, but let’s figure out what our guys do best. So I would imagine you’re going to find that there will be a little mixture of Mark Dantonio’s defensive scheme and Pat Narduzzi’s defensive scheme that will be tailored to the strengths of their personnel. So exactly what Xs and Os, I can’t spit out various blitz names or fronts and covers, it wouldn’t mean anything to you. But I think you’ll see a little bit of of, you know, both schemes with the focus on what their players can do best. Donnie Treadwell, the thing about Donnie, I’ll tell you, he’s very meticulous. One of the most detailed guys. He was six years on my staff, and he’s going to have every situation covered. If you stop a play this way, then he knows what you’re kind of leaving open, and he’s going to come to that next. Now, exactly — will it be exactly what Ball State did last year, because he was the offensive coordinator there or will it be what they did when he was at Michigan State with Mark and those guys, I think that will be determined. They’ve got a great quarterback who’s done everything. He throws it well. He’s got his receivers back. He’s got four of the five linemen back. He’s got the good backs back.
The one kid who played here who’s an outstanding player, you know, so he’s going to feature what those guys can do. But one thing about Donnie, he’s going to be focused on what you’re doing and trying to take advantage of it.
REPORTER: You spent a lot of time talking about the offensive and defensive lines as individuals, but as units with so many new players on both sides, how ready do you feel they are now after watching them during preseason coming together as teams?
TRESSEL: The hard part about preseason is you run so many plays. And if every play the defensive front stopped, you say, oh my gosh, they’re going to be unbelievable and then you say, oh, boy, the offensive guys aren’t going to be very good. The thing about spring practice, the thing about preseason is the way you do things and the way you script things and so forth, you’re going to have a little success on all fronts and you’re going to struggle on all fronts. Now you find out when it’s game time and you only can run this one play on this down and you don’t get to place the ball on the 12-yard line and see if you can stop them and all that stuff, but I feel good about it. They’re not going to be without their mistakes, they’re not going to be without their struggles. Everyone wants to folklore the great 2002 team, pull out those two interceptions I brought up, you know, and you’ll say, oh, my gosh, that was the national champions who won 14 games. We’re going to have problems, but I feel good about the progress.
REPORTER: What will enter into your decision to insert Troy in the football game? Will it be a situation where you’re waiting for Justin to struggle, will you have a table of things set aside that you’d like to see Troy run and at an appropriate time in the game put him in to run those things?
TRESSEL: In a perfect world, I’d like for Justin not to struggle and put Troy in anyway, because we have plans of Troy playing. And the same thing with Kirk Barton at tackle. I’m not going to wait around for Tim Shaffer to struggle, I think he’s going to do well, but Kirk Barton is going to play a little bit. But we certainly won’t go in with the thoughts of let’s see how Justin does and maybe we’ll put Troy in, it won’t be that if that’s what you’re asking.
REPORTER: Are you going to look for — is Troy going to be, — I don’t know, are there certain situations you want in him because of his athletic ability, can that determine when you might put him in? Hey, this is when we want to get him in or is that not part of the process?
TRESSEL: I don’t foresee doing it within series. If I send him in one play in the middle of a series, don’t write that the coach lied again, you know, I don’t foresee that. That wouldn’t be the way we would plan it, but, we’ll see.
REPORTER: When you let those guys know what the pecking order sort of was, they probably already knew, but what was Troy’s reaction?
TRESSEL: I’m sure one of my shortcomings is I don’t usually ask for reactions, I just observe them, and not on the moment, but over the test of time, and I’ve seen, you know, no difference in the way that Troy Smith’s attacking things nor have I seen any difference in the way that, you know, Justin Zwick has all of a sudden, I didn’t see him go out and, you know, order a tee-shirt saying, you know, I’m the starting quarterback or something. I mean, he’s going to work. He didn’t even write it down. You all wrote it down. But he didn’t even write it down. He knows that he’s got to work. And I think Troy’s the same way.
REPORTER: Ted Ginn, Jr., is that a battle in punt return? Is there such a thing as battle in punt return, and number two, how much should we expect to see him Saturday?
TRESSEL: You know, you’ll see him, I think, a little bit on offense. What’s he doing on defense? I’m not over at the defense too much. FOX: He’s been running with the twos somewhat.
TRESSEL: He’s been running with the twos, so with the two nickel, he’s been working a lot. He’s been working maybe 20 percent of the time over on offense. But, you know, I’d like to think you’ll see him. It won’t be if Santonio’s struggling, necessarily, it will be, we’re going to put him in.
REPORTER: Because Cincinnati has so much back offensively, is it safe to say that you have a better idea of what you expect from them and how their players may perform than your own offense right now?
TRESSEL: How they’ll perform? I would say that I’m making the assumption that they’ll perform well, and we don’t sit around as coaches and say, I wonder how so-and-so is going to play. We assume they’re going to play well. We sit around saying, where are the Xs going to go and where are they going to do this and how are they going to block that. So I assume as veteran as they are, they’re going to play very well. Whatever it is their coaches have designed for them, I’ll bet you it has a lot to do with what they do well and it will be a great challenge for a group that hasn’t played together on a game day Saturday, you know, like us. But that’s the way it is.
REPORTER: You mentioned E.J. Underwood before as maybe good or better than any cornerbacks you’ve had here. Do you feel that way after seeing him in preseason?
TRESSEL: I think he does have a lot of talents. He’s a guy with good size and speed. He’s a good tackler. I don’t know that you could go on record with as little playing time as he’s had on Saturdays. I think he has a lot of the abilities, but that’s what the newcomers face as they go out there on Saturday is can their abilities translate into performance on game days now?
Even if they have, in the practice field, on the practice scrimmagees, can they do it on Saturday? And I’m anxious to see that. But I think E.J.’s got a lot of ability, absolutely.
REPORTER: How worrisome is the punter situation considering what the punters have done for you the last three years? What emphasis do you put on that?
TRESSEL: I wouldn’t call it worrisome. I think they’ve come along. They won’t be without their moments just like any of the rest of us. The problem, I think you have in the punt, is when a punter’s with his moments, it’s a big problem. A guard, we can line up on second and 12 if a guard misses something. But I don’t know if I’d call it worrisome. I think they’ve worked as hard as they could and prepared as hard as they could and our guys protecting it are doing a heck of a job and our scout teams have put a lot of pressure on us and we’re going to keep doing that this week. I think they’ll be ready to go.
REPORTER: What did Mike D’Andrea do to separate himself from Schlegel or is there still competition there?
TRESSEL: I don’t know that I could answer that question with the inference that there’s some big separation. Mike D’Andrea, you know, is an excellent football player. What has he done? He’s studied the game, he knows where he’s heading. He goes there fast. He goes there with a lot of power and smack when he hits somebody and he’s done a good job. That is not to say that Anthony doesn’t do a lot of good things, and you’re going to see Anthony Schlegel as well. So I don’t want to give any view to anyone that there’s some big gap there. We’re happy with both of them.
REPORTER: Bobby Carpenter said last week that you guys have been working a lot with all four linebackers, could you just kind of speak to that and how much you might actually see that in the game?
TRESSEL: I might defer that one to those two guys. I don’t know. That’s something you can do. You know, we have — how many different things do you have? You have where you can go — our base look is to have four D linemen, four linebackers and four DBs, we also have four D linemen, two linebackers and five DBs or three down linemen and six DBs, is that your dime?
FOX: Dime package.
TRESSEL: Yeah, dime package. And we have a situation where you have three down linemen, four linebackers and four DBs, I hope that adds up to 11. And how much will we see each of those? I think a lot of what we do is personnel-based and situationally-based. So I think a lot of it will have to do with how do they deploy. But when you get one on ones in there with Dustin and Simon, maybe I’d be lying if I told you that I knew a whole bunch about it.
REPORTER: Can you compare and contrast Dantonio and Snyder, what we might see?
TRESSEL: If I could, I’m sure I wouldn’t tell you. But, you know, I’m sure Simon and Dustin will tell you, I probably couldn’t tell. You know, scheme-wise, front-wise, attack-wise, we’re doing a lot of the same things. There are some guys that aren’t playing for Ohio State right now that we feature some things. There are some guys that play for Ohio State that we’re featuring some different things. We might be doing some different things with Simon Fraser right now than we did before. But I don’t know that you could come to the game and noticeably say, gosh, there’s been a big change in what we’re doing on defense. I mean, I don’t think.
REPORTER: Jim, what’s your biggest concern —
TRESSEL: Last question?
REPORTER: What’s your biggest concern about this team, about your team?
TRESSEL: Biggest concern — hmm, biggest concern. You know, they’ve done just about everything we’ve asked them to do. You know, I guess the biggest thing that ever bothers me is when we don’t do things wisely off the field. And so does that equate to me saying I’m concerned about our guys off the field? No. But what I guess bothers me the most is when we don’t do what we need to do off the field.
What’s my biggest concern on the field? That we just keep working to get better and better and better, but again, I’m not concerned about that. That’s the way these guys are. But I don’t sit here with, you know, anything saying, oh, my gosh, we don’t have this or we aren’t able to stop that or we can’t do this. You know, I don’t — I don’t know the answer to any of those and I’m anxious to play a game.