OSU coach Jim Tressel and the team’s four elected captains met with the media Tuesday to preview Saturday’s season opener against Cincinnati (12:10 p.m., ESPN-Plus).
“We are excited to start another year,” said Tressel, beginning his fourth season as the OSU head coach. “We have a group of seniors who are really excited about being excellent leaders. They have been here a number of years and they feel a tremendous responsibility to carry on the heritage of excellent senior leadership.
“You can really see in the the coaches’ faces and in the players’ faces that we need to play a game. We have been rehearsing for so long now.”
Here were some of the notables from Tressel’s 45-minute session with the media:
* The coach discussed the challenge of facing a veteran Cincinnati team.
“This is an excellent challenge for us,” he said. “Cincinnati brings more experience than we do. They have 20-some seniors and 18 or 19 starters back. We know they will be well schooled. Some of the match-ups will be interesting to watch.”
* Tressel talked about the familiarity between the two coaching staffs with former OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio now at UC as the head coach.
“Donnie Treadwell, their offensive coordinator, was with us when we were at Youngstown State,” he said. “He and Mark Snyder, our defensive coordinator, worked together there. Of course, Jim Bollman and Mark Dantonio worked together here. Doc Tressel will coach our running backs and they will against his son, Mike Tressel’s linebackers.
“Jim Heacock’s defensive linemen went against Mark Staten and Jeff Uhlenhake’s guys in practice last year. John Peterson and Pat Narduzzi were on the same staff last year at Miami (Ohio).
“We are excited about the match-ups and we have strong feelings about those guys on the other side. We know how good they are and we know how good we better be. Our players have great respect for those guys as well.
“None of us would have national championship rings if it were not for Mark Dantonio. We understand that.”
* Tressel said that the punting job is too close to call right now.
“Kyle Turano and Josh Huston are still battling it out,” he said. “I asked Luke Fickell about it and he said we needed to have three full speed rushes against Josh and three against Kyle and then decide. They will do a good job of replacing B.J. Sander.”
* The initial two-deep roster lists three true freshmen – Rory Nicol behind Ryan Hamby at tight end, Marcus Freeman behind Bobby Carpenter at strong-side linebacker and Vernon Gholston behind Mike Kudla at defensive end.
“Rory Nicol is our second tight end,” Tressel said. “Marcel Frost has been fighting some injuries. I can’t tell you whether he is going to make (the game). Rory Nicol, as a freshman, is doing an excellent job for us.”
* In terms of injuries, Tressel said Kudla (neck sprain) is expected to play. Fullback Branden Joe remains sidelined with an ankle sprain. Brandon Schnittker will likely start in his place.
* It seems that sophomore Tim Schafer will get the first call at right tackle, although redshirt freshman Kirk Barton will also play.
“Tim Schafer had a good preseason,” Tressel said. “He made as much progress from spring through the preseason as anybody. We also think Kirk Barton is going to be a good one at right tackle.”
* Tressel reiterated that sophomore Justin Zwick will start at quarterback, although sophomore Troy Smith will also play.
“Both Justin and Troy had excellent preseasons,” he said. “They have shown signs of improvement from their performance in the spring. They understand the level they need to play at much better and they have had time for things to sink in for them to settle in.
“Justin Zwick will be the starting quarterback, but Troy Smith is going to play. That’s just the way it’s going to be. How much? What percentage? I don’t know. Todd Boeckman has has a good preseason as well. I can’t sit here for sure and say he’s going to be put in the game, though.”
Tressel was asked if there were any special situations where he might use Smith.
“I don’t foresee doing it within a series,” he said. “That wouldn’t be the way I would plan it, but we’ll see.”
The coach was also asked about how Smith has taken his status as being the backup.
“One of my shortcomings is I usually don’t ask for reaction,” he said. “I watch for reaction over the test of time. I see no difference in the way Troy Smith has been attacking things. I also haven’t seen any difference in Justin Zwick all of a sudden. He hasn’t ordered a T-shirt that says, `I’m the starting quarterback.’
“He’s been going to work. He knows he’s got work to do. Troy is the same way.”
* Tressel was asked how he plans to deploy freshman Ted Ginn Jr.
“You’ll see him a little bit, I think, on offense,” he said. “He has been working with our two nickel on defense. He’s probably been working about 20 percent of the time over on offense. I like to think that you’ll see him.”
* Mike Gleason and former OSU coach John Cooper will call the game for ESPN-Plus. It will be carried across the state, in particular on WBNS-TV (Ch. 10) in Columbus and WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati.
* We will have more details on the OSU depth chart and also on game day procedures as the day and week wear on. However, an OSU spokesman said police are asking fans to arrive at the stadium 1-1/2 to two hours early Saturday due to some new security procedures.
* We will also have more articles on this match-up later today and as the week unfolds.
Earlier Tuesday, Tressel participated in the Big Ten teleconference. Here were his comments during that teleconference:
"We're looking forward to getting this season underway. Our kids have
worked hard and our staff has worked hard. Haven't had as much hot weather as we
probably need, but we're looking forward to a great matchup with Cincinnati. As
many of you know, Mark Dantonio was our defensive coordinator the past three
years and is the new head coach at Cincinnati. He'll do a great job; he's got
three of our guys that were graduate assistants on our staff a year ago that are
on his staff. They have 19 starters back, I think 23 seniors, so it's going to
be a great challenge for our young team."
Question on how tough it is to repeat as national champions:
"It's extremely hard. It's extremely hard to win one to begin with. I
think it does get even more difficult to win the next one. I think there's a
certain bulls-eye on you that is real. I think sometimes there's a natural human
instinct to be not as razor sharp as you were, and perhaps when you did win the
title, you may have graduated a lot of those guys. So I think if you put in all
of the very real factors, it's very, very difficult, but it's fun to try."
What would it take today for that to happen?
"I would think you would have to be very fortunate from an injury
standpoint and hopefully not have graduated everybody. I think you would have to
have done a great job with your young people and your coaches to make sure their
focus was on the task at hand each and every day. Obviously, you need the ball
to bounce right. Any of us who have ever won national championships know it
would be wrong if we didn't say that in those championship runs, there were some
fortunate bounces, and we'd probably need them again."
Question on Instant Replay:
"It's going to be an interesting experiment. One thing about the Big
Ten, we've always tried to be leaders in the field and do whatever we can do to
make the student-athlete experience better, the game better, and better for the
fans and the viewers and so forth. It's going to be interesting. We as coaches
don't have much to do with it. If all of a sudden a play gets reviewed and
turned around, it's really nothing that we had to do with it. It may impact the
game, it may not, but I'm anxious to see how it affects us."
Follow-up on how the changes have been discussed with the players:
"We have officials in that meet with our team, just like most schools in
the country that do it. One of the issues that the officials addressed - they
always talk about the new pending rules and so forth - they discussed the replay
and the fact that it would be in Big Ten venues. In our case, we would have it
in all of our games except in our away game against NC State. They covered it
with the players - here's the thing that can be reviewed, and here's what won't
be reviewed. We've discussed it and we want our players very aware of what's
Question on the balance of the Big Ten and if it makes it more
difficult for the Big Ten to get into a BCS title game and how much it matters
to Coach Tressel if a team from the Big Ten isn't playing in the BCS title game:
"The last two years, I know we've had two teams in BCS bowls, which is I
think quite an accomplishment. I think anytime you can have two of your teams
ranked in the top eight, you're very, very fortunate. We have those caliber of
teams. I think what having such a tough league top to bottom in our case is good
for is if you're going to be a good team and get through all of those great
opponents, you're going to be pretty good at the end of the day and have a
chance to be a champion if you get in that title game or have a chance to be a
BCS bowl champion if you're fortunate enough to be in one, so I think the
toughness of our conference helps us in some ways, but obviously it makes it
much more difficult. As far as the Big Ten guy and how do I feel if there's not
a Big Ten person in the title game, if it's not us and we're a Big Ten team, I
don't like it."
Follow-up on if a playoff makes more sense than the current system:
"I think if you did not factor in the student athlete welfare and the
injury and that type of thing, if we were playing it like a video game, that
would be the best bet. I think though that it's very real. A lot of our student
athletes, I think if we asked them to play more bowl-type games, I'm not sure
it's the best thing for our guys. I don't know if I felt that way four or five
years ago, but now having experience with the demands at the players here at the
top, top level, I think the system we have is probably the best."
Question on Lydell Ross and his prospects for this season:
"We're excited about the prospects for Lydell Ross. He's going into his
senior year, he's trained extremely hard. He had an outstanding spring. He's
have a very, very good preseason. He was elected by his teammates as captain,
which is an extraordinary opportunity for him, so w would like to think that
he'll spearhead a much-improved running attack. We thought we got better in the
latter half of the year running it, not great. We got a little bit better in the
bowl game, but still not where we want to get. But we think we made some
progress in the spring and fall and we hope we're a good run team and a lot of
it will be on the shoulders of Lydell Ross."
Question on starting quarterback and what Coach Tressel expects:
"I hope that our quarterbacks understand that some of the main reasons
that Craig (Krenzel) won so many games as a quarterback is because, as you said,
he was smart. He didn't make mistakes, and I think you can't ignore the fact
that he came up with big plays when big plays were needed. As we go into the
game, we have two young guys that have been here studying Craig for the last two
years. Justin Zwick will be our starter; Troy Smith will get playing time. They
both have been paying close attention, and I think they've both been improving
throughout the spring and the fall, and then now let's go play a game and see
how much better they'll get."
Question on what to expect from Cincinnati:
"Cincinnati brings a lot of experience. They have a veteran team. A lot
of those guys we faced two years ago. In fact, there'll probably be more guys on
Cincinnati side that were prominent players in the 2002 game that were on our
side. We know they'll be extremely well schooled, because Mark Dantonio and his
staff, we know them very well. Donnie Treadwell, the offensive coordinator, was
my offensive coordinator at Youngstown State when we won our first national
championship, so I know that those guys are going to be extremely well schooled.
They'll be tough, they'll be prepared, they'll handle whatever you throw at
them, and they'll do it with experience, so I think it's going to be a
tremendous test for us, a great challenge as we open the season with a team
that's very, very good."
Question on how he got to know Dantonio and what qualities about him
will make a good head coach:
"I got to know Mark Dantonio here at Ohio State back in 1984. He was a
graduate assistant. I was a first-year or second-year assistant here under Earle
Bruce. You could tell by the way that Mark worked that he cared about people,
number one. He was a very compassionate person, very bright. You could tell that
when he was in the beginning stages of his coaching career. When I had a chance
to become a head coach, he was one of the first guys I hired for that
all-important secondary position. I think when you go and put a staff together,
you better have a great secondary coach and a great line coach. Those are very
difficult and very critical positions to coach, and so I hired Mark there. He
spent five great years and became our defensive coordinator and so I got to know
him very intimately, and I knew the sky was the limit for him. Ten years later
after he left Youngstown State when I had a chance to come back here again, he
was a guy I got on the phone with and said, 'Hey could you come and coordinate
our defense and coach our secondary with Mel Tucker?' He did a wonderful job for
us and I know he'll do a great job for the Bearcats as the head coach."