Oct. 25, 2005
TRESSEL: Back on the road again in the Big Ten. It was good for us to get a win as we went over to Indiana and one of the things we say is that we’d better do a good job on your special teams out on the road and for the most part we had a decent special teams. Our punt team, which is a critical unit did an excellent job and had a good net and also down two inside the 10 and if we can have people start against our defense 92 yards away or 93 yards away, it’s going to be a tough task for them. Obviously we had the two long returns with Teddy’s punt return touchdown and his kickoff return should have been a touchdown and we made a mistake and — but gave us great field position and turned out to be a 60-yard return. We had some things that weren’t perfect in the special teams but I think, you know, for the most part, we did a good job there. We had the one kickoff we let out, across mid field — in fact, I think it was the one that set up their field goal but, nevertheless, we’ve got to make sure that we take another step in the special teams and Teddy Ginn, as you know, was the Big Ten special teams player of the week and he was also our special team player of the week and it’s good to see him get in the end zone and he’s one of those guys where it might look a couple times like it’s just an average return and then the third or fourth time it might go to the house, and we’re real proud of the way that he brings that to us.
Our defensive player of the week, no surprise, it was A.J. Hawk. A.J. continues to lead well, play well, play hard, just does a great job there and — and just a pleasure to watch him practice, let alone play, and he had, you know, umpteen tackles, you know that better than I, but was awarded by the staff as the defensive player of the week.
Our offensive player of the week was Troy Smith. Troy gave a winning performance which I think is very difficult for a quarterback to do with as many decisions as he has to make, as many times the ball is in his hand, with all that’s going around about him as he’s making those decisions and we really thought he did an excellent job and really the one turnover that we did have from the past game standpoint really he probably made a good decision to put the ball in good place, we just needed to be — from a receiver standpoint, in a little bit better position and we wouldn’t have had a turnover there. But Troy threw for over 200 and a couple touchdowns and also ran for 60-some and — but what was most important was his decision-making, and he did an excellent job there and got the ball to the right people, got us in and out of the right things, handled the communication, and so forth. It’s more difficult on the road than it is right here so we feel good about that and, of course, he needs to take the next step from a consistency standpoint, because that’s what really is exposed as you get into late October and November is how consistent are you, how much have you improved and how consistent are you, so it was a good thing as Troy was awarded the offensive player of the week.
The offensive lineman of the week was Nick Mangold, rated 93 percent, continues to play well, continues to lead extremely well up front, make good decisions for us. You know, I said it many times, I think he’s one of the finest centers, if not the finest center in the country and as with we go this weekend, you’re going to see two of the best centers. They’re talking about us and Iowa with great the linebacker cores and I think you’re talking about two of the great centers in the country as you talk about this ball game and we think Nick’s a great one and he was our Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week.
The attack force player of the week was Mike Kudla. Mike did a great job of applying pressure. I think the difference between our performance against Indiana and the teams that we’ve watched play Indiana leading up is that we gave them just a split second less amount of time to throw the football and I thought our secondary did a good job of rerouting the receivers being where they’re supposed to be and Mike Kudla had a lot to do with it. Lots of pressure. He had the offensive tackle concerned about the speed rush. Thing about Mike Kudla is he has power along with that speed and he did an excellent job and really has done an excellent job all year and has made a big impact on our defense.
The scout players of the week was kind of an interesting blend. It was really in three different ways. David Lisko was our scout special teams player. David’s a guy from central Ohio and is a guy that, you know, probably you would look at him and say that’s probably not a Big Ten football player but he was dying to go to Ohio State and all he does is work like crazy, whether it’s as a wide receiver on our scout team or as a member of our special teams, just a hard working guy and really made a — a big impact on our scout special teams this week. And Austin Spitler was the defensive scout team player and he’s a guy that’s red shirting and so he had to do a good job on the special teams. That’s kind of his role. That’s where he and we have decided he ought to be right now from a developmental standpoint and he’s done a great job and is working hard at becoming a better linebacker and he’s going to be a good one.
And the third one, the scout offensive player was Albert Dukes. Albert’s the guy who spent that year a year ago as a scout team player with the hopes of stepping in and playing a little bit more this year. It hasn’t unfolded that way, but we needed great performance from our scout receiver corps to emulate what Indiana does, and while Albert would have rather been over practicing with our offense, he unselfishly went over and did a great job and really gave our defense a great look. So as you look at the three scout players all coming from different directions and when you have people willing to do that for your team, you’re going to have a chance to be well prepared as you go.
As you look at the upcoming ball game with Minnesota, we’re talking about another top 25 football team. The best rushing team in America. Great design in what they do, great understanding of what they do. Their center, we’ve talked about. Their guard is their other captain. Their tight end is a difference maker, I think, just really makes a difference in all that they do. Laurence Maroney, say no more, the best runningback in the country. You know, it’s a tremendous challenge for our defensive football team. What their offense has been able to do in most cases is to control the temporary positive of the entire game by holding on to the football and by scoring points and by wearing down opposing teams and just an outstanding offensive team. Their special teams have been very, very solid. They’ve got young kickers and punters and you can see them develop and the place kickers have got great numbers and their return men are very, very good. The kickoff return guys are top in the Big Ten. Ranked second or third in the country. Their kickoff return unit as a group is first or second in the Big Ten, top 15 in the country. They’ve brought back kickoffs against everybody. Their punt return has had a little bit of change whereas their kickoff return, you know you’re going to get 7 and 22 back there. And they’re going to pick your poison. Which one are you going to kick to because they’re both going to bring it back to you.
Punt return they’ve changed a little bit. I think they settled on their kid back there now and does a solid job and historically, Minnesota’s been a great punt block team and they haven’t gone after as many punt this year to date as they have in the past. If you recall in 2002, they blocked one of our punts. They do an excellent job coming after it and you can tell they spent a lot of time on special teams, their kids believe in it, they put all their speed people in the game and that’s why they have good special teams.
Then you go over to their defensive side and I think their defense has made a little bit of an evolution. They changed some linebackers around and made some changes in the middle of their secondary, and so forth and, you know, they bring — someone asked on the Big Ten call or quarterback club, I forget which — what kind of defense does Minnesota play, the kind that loaded up the box and dares you to throw or the kind that doubles your receivers and dares you to run? The answer is both, according to what you do. And they have a certain design and it’s a little bit of a chess game as to which way they’re going to come out and do it. They don’t have a huge blitz team but when they blitz, they’re very effective doing it. They have two big guys in the middle are very good, two seniors, 300-pound guys, Montgomery can really make something happen and — and so, you know, they’re a group that plays every day against a tough offense in practice, so they’re tough to start with. Their corners are guys that love to compete and you know that they’ll enjoy going nose-to-nose with Gonzo and Teddy and Ton and those guys. I think what we’re in store for is a highly competitive tough football game in the Big Ten which is what it should be with two teams fighting like crazy to contend for the Big Ten championship.
REPORTER: Do you have a yard total that you’d like to see Maroney? Do you have a goal you set each week?
TRESSEL: Not that I’m aware of. I’ve never heard, you know, Coach Heacock say we have to hold this guy to this, you know, it’s — we really kind of handle things play by play, you know. On first down we consider it successful if he gets less than four and if he gets four more, we don’t consider that play successful and then on down the road with — but I don’t know that we’ve ever — you know, you want to eliminate big plays. You know, Maroney’s the guy who had 90-some yarder against Wisconsin, he’s just incredible. What I like about what they do is they bring multiple backs at you, wear you down, then all of a sudden you see them hit the home runs. That’s what they do so well and their pass game is tailored toward what they know you have to do to stop their run. It’s not some fancy design or anything. They know if you’re going to have a chance to stop their run, it’s going to be this many guys up here and here’s where your vulnerable. That’s what they do.
REPORTER: Coach you lead the Big Ten in sacks and the team already has 7 more than last year. Do you think that’s a function of blitzing more or having a better pass rush or draw or facing more passing, what do you think?
TRESSEL: You know, I don’t have any numbers to — to back up anything I might answer to that. I would say this: I think we’re getting excellent play from our rush people. You know, Bobby Carpenter’s played a lot more on the edge. Mike Kudla, I think is really doing a heck of a job. When we blitz, you know, I think we have affected people but I don’t know that we’ve blitzed more — we’ve always been a team that’s going to pressure. That’s what we believe in and I can’t tell you statistically if we’ve done it more or less and that type of thing. Minnesota would know. You know, they’ve had two weeks to — they probably know us tendency-wise better than we know us and then it comes down to well what was the situation, what was going on in the game, who were we playing against. I don’t know that we’ve — we’ve blitzed anymore. I just think we’re doing a good job putting pressure on the quarterback.
REPORTER: Two typical subplots, Coach Mason always talks about how much he loves this game, wants to beat Ohio State, then I think nine or ten Columbus players on the Minnesota roster right now.
TRESSEL: I think there’s more than that. In fact, Greg Gillimar, assistant recruiting coordinator, shared with me that we have 89 Ohioans on Big Ten rosters not including ours which is an extraordinary number and there’s like six teams within the double digits, which Minnesota’s one of them with, I don’t know, 15, 16, you know, 17, I don’t know. And so, you know, obviously that’s a — you know, a huge thing, but one thing you know at Ohio State, every week it’s a huge thing for people circling it on the calendar. The quote last week was the day the coach got the job, he circled that game. That’s the way it is. And I don’t know that you can allow yourself to get away from anything other than, you know, who’s got the A gap and who’s got the C gap and who’s filling the alley and, you know, we can’t allow yourselves to — to concern ourselves with too many of those things.
REPORTER: Ohio high school football with Minnesota, how many D1 recruits — I know you have Laurinaitis from the Twin Cities, but when I look at their high school football on a Friday night up there, you just don’t see — how many prospects would you say come out of that state?
TRESSEL: You know, I don’t even know what the population of that state is to start with. Four or five million, I’m guessing, three or four million, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know the answer to that. We — we spot recruited, just like we do everything kind of outside of Ohio, but I would say this: I guess the thing I could speak to that I would know something about is Ohio high school football is very good. And that’s why you see 89 players on Big Ten rosters, 160-some signed BCS last year out of our state. It’s just crazy numbers because we have good high school football. Culturally it’s important, the coaching is excellent, they love the game here, but now contrasting it against something else, I don’t know.
REPORTER: Did your coaching film show anything on the Ted Ginn return on the penalty, what that was all about?
TRESSEL: Poor decision.
REPORTER: Was it otherwise a legal hit?
TRESSEL: No, I don’t know that — it was a — I don’t know what they called it, I keep hearing all these different phrases, but it shouldn’t have been done and when you do something you shouldn’t do, you should be penalized. You know, it — it was just a poor decision and we were penalized. Hopefully the lesson learned is that usually when you do something individually that’s not right, it affects your group, and it did.
REPORTER: Jim, did they tell you guys in a memo or this year that they were gonna call penalties on guys who were defenseless on a football field? Do you remember that coming up at all?
TRESSEL: You know, I read the memos, I’m not sure I pore over them.
REPORTER: I mean, that seemed a little bit —
TRESSEL: Yeah, I know this: Player safety is huge, and that’s in big letters. And so if they said they’re going to emphasize it, fine, but what’s important to me is this: We did something we shouldn’t have done, and when you do that, you should be penalized.
REPORTER: They had a really difficult loss in the last game. Could you kind of go through what the process is from a coaching standpoint of how you get your players past that and looking ahead again.
TRESSEL: You know, I think whenever you have a tough loss, there’s a certain period of time — I don’t know if it’s a day or so, that doesn’t matter what you do, it stings and it’s not going to stop stinging and what you should be — you quickly start looking at what you could be to have maybe not allowed that to happen and so what you do as a coaching staff is you start with yourselves and you say, okay, what could we have done so that we would have had a different outcome then you go into an instructional mode with your team as to, you know, hey, here’s what we could have done, so that that wouldn’t have happened and you just build on it from there. If you — you know, if you labor on it and talk about it constantly, I’m not sure you’re going to progress, and, you know, guys get over things, you know, fairly quickly because they want to get better.
REPORTER: Looking at Pittman’s problems inside the 20, has anyone addressed that with him? You think there’s something he’s just not good when he has close —
TRESSEL: Oh, no, I wouldn’t say that. I think Antonio Pittman is good and is getting better and I don’t know that I’d say he’s got recognizable problems, you know, inside the 20. I think he’s a good back. And I guess I take that a little bit more — we need to find a way — we, the guys designing it, we, the guys blocking, and then, of course, he’s got to do his part, but Antonio I think’s coming along. I really do.
REPORTER: There are certain guys who seem to have a knack for finding the end zone. Is that their vision, do you think or —
TRESSEL: You know, I’m not sure how you define the knack. I’m sure vision is part of it. I’m sure pad level is part of it. It’s — I’m sure circumstances are part of it. Troy Smith’s gotten a lot of opportunities in the end zone and it has found his way into the end zone. That doesn’t mean he’s got the knack, so every time he gets down there, he’s going to get in the end zone, you still have to do things to get in. I’m sure Antonio thinks about it because Troy does. Troy will say give it to Antonio, we’re on the one and a half inch line or whatever, but I’m sure he’ll have his — his days.
REPORTER: How well coached are their wide receivers?
TRESSEL: Their wide receivers might be the second finest wide receivers in the country behind ours because their wide receiver coach is my nephew, and Luke Tressel does a great job and the thing I like about — on a serious note, the thing I like about their receivers is that they know that their role is number one as a blocker and number two, when that box gets loaded up an the best thing to do is throw it, they make plays. And, you know, when you know your role and you do it well, then I guess that equates to being well coached and they certainly look like they are.
REPORTER: Did you talk to your nephew this week?
TRESSEL: You know, I haven’t talked to him all season, so this week wouldn’t change —
REPORTER: So if the phone rang and —
TRESSEL: Oh, if I was in my office, sure.
REPORTER: You were talking about what the keys are in October, November, consistency, improvement. Your teams when they lose it tends to be earlier in the year, later in the year, they seem to get better. Every coach in the country is trying to have their team improve. What do you attribute that to, your teams tend to —
TRESSEL: I don’t know, we lost in the 11th game or 10th game of the year last year, so — you know, we try to have a — a constant building process on e, you know, here’s what we did well, here’s how we got doing it well. Here’s what we’re not doing well, maybe we need to practice it more, maybe we need to do something more structurally. We’ve got good kids, they work hard in the weight room in season, they work hard in the film room, they commit themselves to being as good as they can, you know, every day, and, you know, we’re — I guess we’re fortunate. That would probably be the biggest reason why we’ve had some late season success is we’re fortunate to have good kids who want to be good and if you want to be good and keep working on it, you have some talent and our guys do. Perhaps that’s why we get better, but we’ll find out. It’s game 8, we’ll find out if we’re getting better.
REPORTER: Jim, not too many teams would line up against your defense and say try and stop us. Do you anticipate that they will not try to outthink themselves and stay with their bread and butter?
TRESSEL: All good teams, and Minnesota’s a very good team, do what they do best. They don’t turn on the film and say, oh, gosh, you know, look at these statistics, we’d better not do that. In fact, I’m sure the way they’ve become so good is they’ve taken great pride in the fact that so and so’s leading the nation or so and so’s leading the Big Ten. They haven’t played us yet. That’s the way you get good and when you get like that, you have a chance to become a special group and they’ve — they’ve got a special offensive rushing and tackling.
REPORTER: — game when they go over 400 yards rushing and lose. They attribute that — they say it’s a fluke, let’s not let that get in our heads.
TRESSEL: They had 411 yards, you know, and three plays at the end of a football game, none of which were offense or defense, you know, changed the outcome of the game. That’s real. Special units, you know — that punt that should get 40 yards and gets minus 8, that’s a 48 yard swing, no one averages 48 yards a play. That play is huge. And — now, they’ll evaluate that, they’ll fix that, they’ll get better at that. That won’t have much to do with their offense. You know, their offense won’t keep doing and so forth, but good teams understand that we’re all a part of if and just because we have this stat or that stat doesn’t mean anything because all the states have to get added together and then we see how we are.
REPORTER: What about Penn State, why were they successful in stopping Maroney?
TRESSEL: Well, Penn State’s good, number one. Number two, they made some plays. Number three, I think Penn State’s offense controlled the tempo of the game and all of a sudden it was 17-0, you know, at Penn State, and, you know, sometimes there’s a momentum issue in ball games and — I would say this: If we sit there and watch the Penn State game and say oh, well we just have to do what they did, then we’re in trouble, because Minnesota’s a different team in the dome, they average 350-some yards a game in the dome the last couple years. So they’re — playing at home, there’s an energy. We’ve talked about that here, there’s an energy that you get and we need to do what we do and then we need to have the combination of things that Penn State had which offensively, special teams and defense, you know, contributed to them to have a good win.
REPORTER: What about playing in the dome, is it maybe not the toughest but the most unique scenario or the — you know, circumstances, just the noise is different, the feel’s different, the roof, just the whole element.
TRESSEL: Yeah, I think it is unique. Obviously in our league, it’s the only indoor. There isn’t the air movement. I think, you know, you’d better be in good shape, you know, when you play in there. I don’t know about the noise and all that, because in the Big Ten, you just assume you’re in trouble noise wise when you’re away from home, but it’s unique, but still when you get down and you look at the field and you’re watching the video that we study, you don’t really know if you’re in the dome or not in the dome, it’s all on the field and they’re getting after it, but, you know, it’s unique, no question.
REPORTER: Would you rather go into Minnesota late October, early November, would you rather be in a dome, though, you understand what I’m saying as an opponent, with the weather not being a factor.
TRESSEL: Well, Mason told me their October, early October weather really isn’t a whole lot different than ours. They told us they were building a new stadium and are you getting a dome. He said interestingly enough, you won’t find October and November that different between Ohio and Minnesota. He said now, January and February, yes. You’d probably like a dome. So for how many years did Big Ten football play outside at Minnesota, you know, and — I don’t remember any historical snow bowls like we had. I’d just as soon play wherever they tell us to play.
REPORTER: How do you prepare this week for playing in a dome?
TRESSEL: Fortunately we have an indoor, which our guys are used to sweating in. They know the feeling of getting drained from the lack of wind and air movement and so forth, so we’ll get to work in there, especially on a day like today. I’m not sure we would want to go outside and not sure what we would get done, but that’s good preparation for us.
REPORTER: How about Malcolm Jenkins, what’s he done well to step in and become a star for you guys?
TRESSEL: Malcolm Jenkins is an interesting young man. He comes from a football program that takes it very seriously three time state champions. When you’re talking with him during recruiting, he’s talking about how do I get better. He’s just a real student of the game, it’s very important to him. This summer, he was working with the young DBs back in New Jersey because he wants his team to, you know, continue their excellence and he’s just one of those guys that he studies it hard, he’s very talented, as you know, and it’s very important to him.
REPORTER: Your defense has had to contend with a lot of mobile quarterbacks, high powered quarterbacks this year. Do you think in some ways they’re looking forward to play an offense that is going to line up and run the ball against them.
TRESSEL: I know our guys love challenges. There’s no doubt about it Mike Kudla’s here. In fact, in about five minutes, we’ll let you talk with Mike and Nick Mangold’s here, too, but our defense loves challenges. They love to hear about this runningback or that team or whatever and so I’m sure they’re looking forward to it, because they know everyone’s interested in how they do. And our guys like competition.
REPORTER: Maroney has had two games this year where he’s had the ball 40 — what does a back have to do to be able to carry that load throughout a season. Can every back do that or do you have to be a special back —
TRESSEL: Gosh, you have to be a special back. I don’t know how many historically in college football have done it, I’m sure there’s several, but not hundreds. James Laurinaitis is from up there in the Twin Cities, and mentioned to us, he said, that guy trains. He said, that guy gets ready. And you think of the Walter Paytons and you think of the success stories of great backs, they — they prepare their bodies because I don’t know that anyone takes more of a beating than a runningback, and so you have to respect what he does and — and as I listen, he trains extraordinarily well. In fact, I think a year or so ago, that wide receiver coach of the Gophers used to be their assistant strength coach and I’m sure he had a lot to do with that, Rusty. He wants to be the best, he’s a good one.
REPORTER: Coach, the way you defended Indiana’s big receiver last week — kind of a similar, at all, lanky receiver.
TRESSEL: I don’t know that we did anything different because he was tall. We played various coverages and we did not have any Braylan Edwards double them when this action goes this way type of stuff. And I don’t know that you can afford when you play Minnesota, with the way they run the ball, to start doubling one guy, because you’re going to be in trouble. Now, there may be some situations, you know, that you do some things that might look like what we did with Indiana, but we won’t have anything out of the ordinary — I don’t know how many times in the last five seasons we’ve moved away from the basic ten nets of whatever coverage we’re in and worked on someone. I know Braylan and — I can’t think of any offhand, but I’m not sure you can afford to do that this week.
REPORTER: Pitcock, he didn’t seem to play much if at all. What’s up with him.
TRESSEL: I think he had 15 snaps. He was a little sore. You know, coming off the Michigan State game and — and we just wanted to make sure that as you get through the banging in this league, it was a different style game, Indiana, it was more of a pass rush and so forth. So we just thought it would be best to limit him a little bit and make sure he’s healthy.
REPORTER: Has Maurice Wells got some time against Indiana and how did he do?
TRESSEL: You know, Maurice Wells really has been consistently our second ranked ball carrier from the tailback position for quite some time. We thought he had a very good week at practice. That was great, in my mind. I think Steve told me, what, 10 carries for 50 — five carries for 50, which was, you know, darn good, and I really think that can help our football team if we can have a second productive tail back along with the productive quarterback running, I think that can give us some impact and that was great to see and hope it continues.
REPORTER: How difficult is that in terms of Minnesota, because they have Gary Russell from Columbus, talked about Maroney, he’s made some big plays, just talk a little bit about him and how he complements that —
TRESSEL: I think our defense feels as if that’s as key a component to what they do, especially early in the game. You know, they make sure he gets plenty of carries so that in that second half when it’s really crunch time, you know, Maroney’s still fresh and so is he, I think that’s huge for them. Gary’s done a great job.
REPORTER: Did you guys recruit Cupito? What stands out about him?
TRESSEL: I don’t know exactly what recruiting them means because I can’t remember, you know, I don’t remember bringing him on an official visit or anything like that, but absolutely. He had a great high school career. He’s a great player, got a lot of savvy. Again, what I like about the guys on their team is they understand here’s what my team needs, and Cupito I think really buys that.
REPORTER: — guy like Brandon Mitchell who had playing time in his career and had too deal with decreased time —
TRESSEL: Yeah, shows you the kind of kid Brandon Mitchell is. He kept on top of things. Sometimes you have to do more mental reps because you don’t get the physical ones, then, bang when your time comes you show maybe I should be getting in more. I know he was excited, obviously, with the play he had. He had 40 plus plays, I don’t know, 35.
REPORTER: Are you planning on seeing Cupito — he missed the previous game.
TRESSEL: I would assume. Missing the previous game plus having a week off, I don’t know exactly what his injury was, but I would assume.
All right, Marla’s got her last one because I can’t keep Kuds and Nick waiting. Marla never wastes her question.
REPORTER: I want to know what’s the status of Barton and Tyler Everett, are they out?
TRESSEL: What’s the status of Barton and Tyler Everett? Both questionable. Tyler Everett’s coming along faster than we thought. I would have told you last week that he’d be out this week, but I — we’ll see how they do in drills today but I think Tyler Everett is further along and we’re hoping that he can play.
REPORTER: In that vein, though, you talked about Malcolm Jenkins — what did he do well last week?
TRESSEL: What did Malcolm Jenkins do well? How is that in the same vein of how Tyler Everett’s doing — she’s always trying to trick you. This is a class here trying to learn skills.
TRESSEL: Oh, Malcolm Jenkins, you know, needed to play all the corner, but, again, in nickel, that’s what he does anyway, and so really there wasn’t a big change for Malcolm and Malcolm just continues to learn and continues to play better and studies the game and he’s a physical player. Now, he’s going to have to take the next step because he hasn’t been in a physical game like this one’s going to be. We have Nick Mangold on this side and Mike Kudla on this side. Thank you.