Sept. 28, 2004
TRESSEL: Well, our guys are chomping at the bit to get started in the Big Ten. When you have those open weeks and you have to sit and watch everyone play around the country, you see them getting a little edgy, getting a little excited. We thought he had a good open week. Our guys had a good, hard work on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday we happened to have a scrimmage and a lot of the young guys got an opportunity to play. In fact, we had about 64 plays and it was really good experience. Those guys are a little bit sore coming back in on Saturday. Sunday they were off and Sunday night we came back and were our normal during school routine which is practicing late Sunday afternoon and then giving them the entire day off Monday, which was yesterday, so now we’re back at it today and excited about beginning the Big Ten.
When you sit and watch the rest of the league play and you see things unfold and you get excited about that, we have to make sure that we understand the lessons that we learned on the road this past weekend, the things that you have to do well. The last time we traveled to Northwestern, we did not do a great job on the things that are necessary to be successful on the road. We were fortunate that we still won, but we didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball. We didn’t do a good job of our special units. They had a long punt return, long kickoff return, so we’ve got to make sure we understand the things that allowed us to be successful this past away game and then, of course, hopefully we’ll take a step forward in all areas and get better on all three sides of the ball and get ready for the challenge that the Big Ten lies ahead.
When you watch Northwestern, as I look at their offense, I see a veteran quarterback who can certainly make things happen. It’s his third year as a starter and he’s a solid guy. I think their runningback is outstanding, Herron, he’s a tough guy to bring down, and Philmore, of course, the receiver from right here in central Ohio, and their system in itself is not something that our defense sees every day from us. We tried to emulate it late last week and Sunday in the evening practice, that’s always a challenge to face a little bit of something that’s a different concept than you are. Over on their defensive side, I think Castillo may be in the elite of the defensive linemen in our league. They’ve been banged up a little bit so we’ve seen a lot of different guys play. They play with great effort. Of course Backes is a veteran there. You start talking about the special teams, Backes had a 97-yard kickoff return and brought another one out to over the 40. One of their other kids, number 12, brought one out over the 40. They do an excellent job in their special teams. Arizona State game, they were behind and special teams brought them back to a three-point game and it was a battle there down to the final, Arizona State kicked a field goal late in the game and spread it to a 9-point win. So their special teams have always done an excellent job. Early on their special teams hurt them. Their Texas Christian game they missed five field goals. They’ve improved from that standpoint and they’ve always done an excellent job with everything they’ve done from a special team standpoint.
So what we’ve got to do is build on what we worked on in the open date, work to get better. Hopefully know that we’re not as good as we need to be, and I thought the way that our guys attacked the open week, that we do know that, and we do know we’ve got to get better and better and better every snap we take and we’re just excited to get going in the Big Ten and go on the road and play at night. It’s an exciting atmosphere. It will be a packed house, national television, all the things that our guys like, so we’re looking forward to heading to Chicago.
REPORTER: For those reasons, is it easier to forebear yourself at a night game, may it be too late? I realize they’re a conference school, they’re tied to certain packages, but how do you keep your team — what’s the tempo of the day, how do you peak at 9:00 in the evening?
TRESSEL: We’re fortunate in our conference that we don’t play games outside of Saturday very often and this is about as unusual as you get for us is playing Saturday evening, but I think our guys like it. They played throughout their high school careers at night. I think they like when the lights come on. Being away from home all day on Saturday, you do have to break it up and we’re attempting to get cleared for a walk-through over at the stadium during the midday and our guys will have a chance to have a little more study time from game plan/film standpoint and so forth. I’m sure they’ll watch ball games and relax, but whenever you play the game, this one’s listed at 8:12 central time, you better be ready at 8:12 because this Big Ten game is critical. It’s our first one. And our guys, I think, have always enjoyed night games, at least the three or four that we’ve had since I’ve been here, I’ve seen them enjoy them.
REPORTER: Jim, you’ve got Bam Childress listed as the starter at one spot and Santonio at split end, what’s your thinking there?
TRESSEL: We did that either in game two or three. I can’t remember which one. Bam Childress, we think, has earned the opportunity to be a starter when we’re in there with just two receivers. He’s always been a starter this year when we’ve been in there with three receivers, but we think he’s earned that right to be in there. He’s a veteran. He’s done good things. He’s paid his dues and he’s worked hard. Bam Childress is a play-maker. I’m excited for him. This means so much to him, to do a good job and contribute for his teammates, that it’s exciting to see him have a starting opportunity.
REPORTER: What’s your overall feeling of this team, 3-0, coming off the win that some people didn’t know maybe if you could pull out with NC State, just your overall feeling of this team?
TRESSEL: I’ve liked this group the way they’ve worked at it. They haven’t been afraid to address the issues, all the way back to the winter, the spring, the summer, the things that are important, whether on the field or off the field. They want to be good at everything they do. They’ve trained hard. They study hard in the classroom. They study hard their opponents and they study hard their own technique. They want to be a good football team. They know they’re young. They know they’re not there and they work hard each and every day. We’re going to have a lot of adversities to battle along the way. I think our young people know that. If they don’t know it, they’re going to find it out, but I like them. How good are we going to be? I have no idea, but I’ve never known how good a team’s going to be until you go out and prove it.
REPORTER: You mentioned Northwestern’s offense that’s somewhat unusual compared to what you do. It strikes me that nobody’s had much success with this kind of attack against your teams here in the last three years or so, San Diego State, some teams have come close, North Carolina State, but what is it about your defensive scheme that makes this spread or variation of the spread, makes it difficult for those teams to defeat?
TRESSEL: Well, the thing that I think our defense has done a good job with against these style offenses is that they’ve done a good job of making it hard to run and that’s just the way that our defense is built, if we can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a tough day. We’ve done a pretty good job with that. That’s the thing that concerns me from a standpoint of, I think, Herron is an outstanding runningback and I think you add the quarterback to that, that’s a real challenge, but I think our defense in the past has made some of these teams one-dimensional and that’s the goal. It’s going to be hard to do because Herron is so good. They’ve got three of those veteran linemen that have been doing this for quite some time, but I think that’s been the secret to our defense just in general, whether it be a style like this spread or someone like Kansas State who had the leading ground gainer in the country, they made it hard for them to run and they made them a little one-dimensional, so that’s the goal of our defense and we’ll see if they can do that again.
REPORTER: In terms of when a team like this completes its passes, though, is speed, the lateral speed of your defense what — I assume these teams are trying to create seams and get guys one on one and break the first tackle, it doesn’t seem like they have much success doing that against you, I wonder if the lateral speed of particularly your linebackers is a key in that.
TRESSEL: We have good lateral speed and the thing that we’ve done thus far is we’ve done a good job tackling in the open field, but again, you have to do it again. What we’ve done in the past versus these type of offenses or in this season has been excellent. I think our defense, with the amount of guys they’ve replaced, I think have done a good job. But we’ve got to do it again Saturday night, and a team that’s able to be balanced, whether it’s against our defense or anyone else’s creates problems. And we’ve got to — we as an offense have to work to get balanced and our defense has got to try to keep people from being balanced against them.
REPORTER: Players talked about, after the NC State game, finishing the first part of the season, finishing undefeated, what changes now as you go to the second part of your season?
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know if you call it the value of it or the importance of the Big Ten is crucial for our guys, not that any one of those first games weren’t important. They were. We needed to be successful, we needed to get better, we needed to gain experience. But it’s magnified when you’re in the Big Ten, every single ball game in the Big Ten is critical and these guys came to Ohio State because they wanted to play in the Big Ten. So it did have, I think, a good setup to the season, having three tough games, start school, have an open week, really get focused in on the Big Ten. And our guys, I sense, are very anxious to get going in the Big Ten.
REPORTER: Did you watch any Big Ten games on Saturday, this past Saturday, and if so, your impressions so far.
TRESSEL: I got home from recruiting in time to see about the last quarter of the Northwestern/Minnesota game and that one was decided by then. Obviously I’ve seen the whole game now, but I really haven’t seen any Big Ten other than that one.
REPORTER: Coach, when you looked, you self-scouted during the bye week, particularly the offense, are there things you can improve on and if so, what are they? Will you put more runningbacks into the mix this week?
TRESSEL: I think consistency is always what we strive for. You start with personnel, we need consistency in who’s in there playing. Branden Joe needs to be in there playing. Antonio Pittman was out. I think he’s one of the guys that’s going to be important. Lydell’s been there. Now, consistency in his case, I think he’s been running hard, running strong, can’t have the ball on the ground. He knows that. We’ve got to develop a consistency that when the play is over he hands it to the official and we go to the next play. Then you can go all the way along the whole thing, consistency in the quarterback getting us the right play, I think he’s done, need to be 100%, consistency up front. We’ve played seven or eight guys a significant amount and we need to continue to do that. We need them to be more consistent in what they do. So that’s what you seek, to get better, and those are the things we list, consistency in the way you attack practice and, in an open date, you have a chance to go back and look at every little thing, what can we do better in our walk-throughs, what can we do better in our inside periods, what can we do better in our team periods, what can we design better, all those things. And defensively, we do the same litany of things, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We haven’t, hopefully, given anyone the impression that we don’t have a lot of work to do.
REPORTER: Do Pittman or Branden Joe figure more prominently in your game plan this week than they have so far? Branden is listed third at fullback, is he fully cleared? Do you anticipate him playing a lot this week?
TRESSEL: Branden played in our scrimmage, in fact, on Friday, so he’d been hit live a few times. Yeah, I expect Branden to be fully available. Exactly how much he will play? I don’t know exactly how the game’s going to go, but I would expect Branden Joe and Antonio Pittman to have a lot more presence than they’ve had thus far this year.
REPORTER: You mentioned in the scrimmage a lot of younger guys got a chance to play and stuff like that. Did anybody stick out in particular and will that affect their time this Saturday?
TRESSEL: Most of the guys that were playing in that scrimmage were guys that weren’t necessarily in the two deep, and a guy like Troy Smith got 10 plays, and we threw the ball, 10 plays, live, full rush, the whole deal. Kirk Barton and T.J. Downing got about 10 plays. Branden Joe got about four or five. So the guys that are in the two deep didn’t get a whole bunch of time and they all did fairly well. The young guys, I thought Albert Dukes and Devin Lyons really shone. I thought Marcel Frost and Rory Nicol got a lot of good work. They’re in the two deep, but yet haven’t had a whole lot of playing time on Saturday. Some of those young linemen, some of those young D linemen, a guy like Chad Hoobler showed up pretty good. But I don’t know that anything changed as to how we’re going to attack practice today based on that. It’s just good for them to get learning experience full speed ahead, have some fun, as much as anything, go out and have some fun. You need to be on the scout team and those kinds of things and Friday was kind of their day to, we call it show time, it was their time to be center stage.
REPORTER: Jim, you work with a lot of young quarterbacks when you were here before as an assistant, also YSU and here, you’ve broken in quarterbacks before that were new guys, how is the learning curve moving along for Justin, is he where you might have expected? How is he in comparison to others that are first-year quarterbacks?
TRESSEL: I think Justin’s really come along and really I think he has an excellent grasp of what we would like to do. He’s now gained some experiences where people have been flying around and he’s had a little bit of pressure, but we expected him, because he’s a bright kid and he’s a smart football player, he had a lot of responsibility as a high school quarterback. He made a lot of decisions for their team, so you expected him to have a good feeling for managing the game and running the show and I think he’s done that. I’ve been very pleased.
REPORTER: You had a situation a couple of years ago when Lydell was a freshmen, he had a pretty big game for you at Indiana and kind of lit a fire under Jonathan Wells at the time. Do you envision Antonio Pittman possibly filling that role for Lydell now that Lydell might have filled for Jonathan four years ago.
TRESSEL: I don’t perceive that Lydell needs a fire lit, although I think competition is real and its doesn’t hurt you certainly. I think Antonio Pittman is going to be a good back. I don’t remember exactly what Lydell rushed for that year, maybe six or 700 yards or thereabouts. A role like that would certainly be welcomed and it will be interesting, but Jonathan Wells, just in the last few days, called and said, hey, let me have Lydell’s phone number. He said, you know, he used to be my rung mate and I’m going to give him a little boost, which I thought was a neat thing. So all of our guys know we need everyone.
REPORTER: I just wondered, Lydell’s had 49 carries the last two games. Would you envision continuing in that vain with him or because maybe Tony’s recovered from his thigh bruise that some of that 25 per game or so might go to Tony?
TRESSEL: Someone brought me a statistic that we’re 15-0 and he gets more than 15 carries or something, so I told the staff, shoot, let’s just give it to him the first 15 plays of the game and be done with it, if it’s that simple. But we expect Lydell to do an excellent job at who’s going to carry it more and all those kinds of things, there’s no tailback controversy if that’s what — Lydell’s got to have a great senior year in the Big Ten for us to win the Big Ten and we’ve got to have more than one tailback that does a great job and we have a lot of expectation for Antonio Pittman and Branden Joe and Mo Hall in a role and hopefully we’ll have enough in the troops to do well in the Big Ten.
REPORTER: You’ve talked about Lydell Ross, Tony Pittman, and Branden Joe at tailback. Is that kind of what you would like, to get to that, Lydell, Tony and maybe even Branden?
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know if you can ever keep tailbacks happy because the good ones I’ve been around want at every play and they never have it enough and I like that. I’d like to think that we can get production out of all those guys you mentioned, and if we’ll do that, it’s going to help our passing game because we will be running the ball better but I can’t guess how that’s going to unfold.
REPORTER: You made a statement after the NC State game about telling your quarterbacks, we were discussing Nugent’s reliability and you made a statement that you sometimes relate to your quarterbacks that when you’re down in a certain area of the field, you already have three and you told them, I think, don’t mess up our three.
TRESSEL: Is that a quote?
TRESSEL: Okay. All right.
REPORTER: Surprised me too. I wonder how much of your offensive philosophy is governed by Mike’s reliability and by the success of your defense in keeping other teams from scoring points?
TRESSEL: It really has nothing to do with Mike Nugent. My philosophies in working with quarterbacks is anytime you cross the 25, understand that in your thinking goes, we’ve got some points already. Now, with Mike Nugent, maybe you’re even telling more of the truth. But the thing we don’t need is to come away with none. Now, would I rather have touchdowns? Absolutely. Does that change looking for ways to get in the end zone, no. But I just think that’s a general — everything we do, we try to say, what’s the best thing for the team? The best thing for the team is we’ve got ourselves in a position to get three, don’t come away with zero. There’s an emotional effect, I think, on your whole team if that happens. So really, I love Mike Nugent and so glad he’s on our team and all that, but that’s not a newfound school of thought. Anyone over there interested or is it just my neck is sore?
REPORTER: Some interesting ties with the Chicago area this weekend. I see Tim Spencer is going to come over is serve as an honorary captain of the team.
TRESSEL: How did that get out? The walls have ears. Spence called a press conference?
REPORTER: It’s in the notes.
TRESSEL: Oh, it is? I didn’t write those notes, but thanks.
REPORTER: No problem. Also, Craig Krenzel, probably number two on the Bears’ depth chart, just a few words about those guys and if you’ve had a chance to talk or visit with them.
TRESSEL: I visited with Craig last week on the phone prior to Grossman’s injury and he really felt like he was gaining a grasp of the system and was really enjoying learning it. He loves a challenge and he said, I prepare like I’m going to be in the game even though I’m probably not going to be. And now, I’m sure he’s even preparing for the game as if he’s going to be in it and he might be in it. So he’s excited and he’s excited we were coming to town and so forth but he’s focused in on what he has to do so he didn’t know if he could stop over and say hello or whatever. As far as Spence, I think Spence is excited about his alma mater coming to town and having a chance to be there with us. I know he’ll have a chance to be at pregame meal. I haven’t heard for sure whether or not he’s going to have a chance to be at the game because I don’t know what their meeting schedule is, because they’re getting ready for the Eagles. So that’s exciting for us and there’s a lot of great Chicago area alumni that, I’m sure, are going to find their way to getting tickets, although it’s a sellout, I understand. I’m sure many of the Buckeyes are going to find their way there. It’s exciting going to Chicago, playing in the Big Ten, playing Northwestern. That atmosphere two years ago, I thought was great. And it gave us a chance to grow in a tough scenario, which is what you want to do each week.
REPORTER: How delicate is confidence with your offense in general and Lydell in particular? I ask that because last Wednesday you mentioned Lydell needs a boost of confidence and things like that. Do you sense that after a game like that, that that can waiver, and obviously you don’t want that.
TRESSEL: I think whether you’re an offense or a tailback or a coach or a journalist or whatever you are, you’ve got to go out and earn your confidence, you’ve got to go out and do good things and do it well and feel good that you did the best you could possibly do. Where I think Lydell needs a little boost of confidence is that he knows he can do better than leaving the ball on the ground, but you have to go out and prove to yourself sometimes. And when you have an open date, you have to wait another week and whether that’s the case with the offense and the tailback or the quarterback or the coach who didn’t have a good a game as he wanted or whatever, you’ve got to go out and earn the right to feel good about yourself. That’s why I think our guys are anxious about getting back into it.
REPORTER: What’s your thoughts on the proposed rule changes that five years eligibility and basically eliminating the red shirt season players and also eliminating the year players have to sit out?
TRESSEL: Well, take them one at a time. In a lot of ways, I haven’t given it tons of thought, but in a lot of ways, the five-year playing makes sense, especially in light of the fact of the discussion that looks like it’s moved forward about 12 games. I think that would really help you having more guys available in a longer season. In terms of not sitting out, proposal for transfer, I think that would be terrible, because I’ve experienced that in one double A football, my first seven years in one double A, if a guy transferred to you, he had to sit out, he had to earn his spurs a little bit. He had to sit back and reflect on why he needed to make the change. He had to work hard to be a part of the team and earn everything with his teammates. The next eight years I spent were the years that you were allowed to immediately transfer and it was always someone else’s fault. We’d get call after call, the coaches didn’t play me, did this, did that, and I saw the Holland scape of division one double A football change from building good programs to quick fixes, and I thought it was terrible. So I would — the things that we try to teach in football, persistence, fighting through it, handling adversity, looking at it straight in the face, all those things, in my mind, fly away when you start saying, well, you know what, I thought it would be nicer here. Well shall everyone when they were a freshman thought it would be nicer. Everyone who went away to college has to battle, you know, to feel good about it. So that one in my mind would be a terrible mistake. We talk about student athlete welfare, one of the things we try to do is help kids grow up. Persistence is so important in all of our lives and to not have that be a part of their football life, I think, would really hurt the game. So I guess I have done a little thinking about that one. Sorry about that.
REPORTER: Coach, what’s Mike Kudla’s availability this week? How have you felt about the defensive line generally?
TRESSEL: Well, I’ve felt good because we’ve been able to roll a lot of defensive linemen, guys have gotten some opportunities. Mike’s missed some time, so some other guys have gotten some more playing time, plus guys like D’Andrea, Carpenter got down there and created some speed and so forth that I think changed the flow of things at times, but Mike Kudla, as of this moment, will be with us and we feel good about that. I think Marcus Green and Quinn Pitcock and those guys in the middle, Joel Penton has gotten playing time and Simon, I think, has been extraordinary and a good leader, Jay Richardson has been coming along, so I’m sure I’m for getting someone, but I feel good about how our defensive front has gone after it.
REPORTER: What do you remember about when you were recruiting Jeff Backes and he ended up choosing Northwestern, what do you remember about him being a kid and your impressions of him? THE COURT: The thing that is very vivid in my mind about Jeff Backes is he’s a first-class kid. We came in and I don’t know if he had committed already or was just getting ready to committing to Northwestern and I went in to see him. I think I was at their banquet or something in January when we first got here and told him we’d sure like to have him consider Ohio State and so forth. When he decided to go to Northwestern, before any of you even knew it, he drove over to my office and sat right in front of me across the desk and said, you know, I just wanted you to know. He said, I hope this doesn’t reflect on your coming in, and I don’t want this to negatively reflect on Ohio State. It’s what I think is best for me and so forth. Ever since then, you know, I’ve had nothing but great respect for him and then you watch him play and return kickoffs and play receiver and they needed him on defense, he’s just a first class quality kid.
REPORTER: Jim, Mike Nugent said last week he doesn’t think a kicker should be a candidate for the Heisman trophy, but if he continues on the pace he’s on, if he continues to make a difference on your win/loss column, do you think he should be a candidate?
TRESSEL: I’ve gotten letters in the last few weeks, if I need to do him Justice for the Heisman trophy, I need to put in some fakes so he can throw some touchdowns, score some touchdowns, so I just put those on the other stack of letters. But, you know, Mike Nugent is a great kicker and Steve Snapp is the expert on Heisman trophy campaigns and he failed with McNutt` a couple years ago, but again, we don’t — to be honest with you, I don’t think much about that, Mike Nugent’s a great kicker for Ohio State and I’m excited he’s here.
REPORTER: Coach, what’s the latest trainers are telling you about Dustin Fox and when do you anticipate him being back by?
TRESSEL: Dustin really looks good. He’s running around and even catching some balls now. The thing he can’t do yet is fall and put pressure on it. He can’t really jam a big full back coming out to block him or something. Our goal is Iowa, which is in three weeks, I guess, because we gained a week with the open date, you know, of his recovery. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t come true. That’s what I’m hearing.
REPORTER: How significant do you think it’s going to be if he’s not in the Wisconsin game?
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t expect him to be in the Wisconsin game and I haven’t given much thought to that, but at first we were told it would be Penn State or Michigan State, so I haven’t given it much thought.
REPORTER: Jim, Saturday Penn State ended up having to use its 3rd quarterback after Mills was hurt and Robinson got hurt and they couldn’t really do much. Northwestern went back up, do you ever look at that and think maybe you should give Smith a little more quality time in games or does it change your thinking at all along those lines?
TRESSEL: Well, we always hope in the first couple games we can get two quarterbacks time. You know, as I look back at the NC State game, I don’t know that there was a place. We didn’t have a game last week. We did give him a little scrimmage time, it was 10 pretty quality top end speed reps, but that’s a reality. Injuries and Troy is with it mentally and he gets a lot of practice snaps. He probably — there is some school of thought that people have with their quarterbacks, is they give their number one guy all the snaps and all the looks and all the things and I’ve never really believed that you do that so I know that Troy gets a lot of practice snaps, and Todd Boeckman gets a lot of snaps against a good defense every day. So I think we’re doing the best we can to be as good as we can at quarterback and if the injuries occur.
REPORTER: Are you at a point where since Todd Boeckman didn’t play in the nonconference that you you’re thinking of maybe red shirting him.
TRESSEL: If we decided today, Todd would be red shirted, but we’re now getting into the — it’s no coincidence that the quarterbacks got banged around this past weekend, it’s Big Ten and so, but, yeah, if it was today, we would be red shirting him.
REPORTER: How about Erik Haw?
TRESSEL: Today we’d probably be red shirting Erik. I hope he doesn’t read that he’s being red shirted because that’s not true, today he’s red shirted.
REPORTER: Jim, Michigan’s going to go with an all true freshman back field. How difficult will that be from a coaching standpoint?
TRESSEL: Well, you know, you’d probably limit a little bit of what you do, although we’ve gone with freshmen before, Lydell played a lot as a true freshman, Maurice Clarett played a lot as a true freshman. We’ve used true freshman before. Usually it’s a guy who can really grasp the system and so forth. Sometimes it’s because of injury, I don’t know if Michigan’s is because of injury or whatever, but like anything else, you’ve got to do what your guys can do and I’m sure they’ll do that. Thanks so much. We’ll see you at practice.