Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with the media today at his weekly luncheon. The key topics were the quarterback situation, Lydell Ross’ ongoing suspension and Saturday’s game at Penn State (noon, ABC).
Tressel said that Troy Smith would be the likely starter at quarterback for Saturday’s game after filling in admirably for the injured Justin Zwick in last Saturday’s win over Indiana.
“Today, for sure, Troy and Todd (Boeckman) would get all of the reps,” Tressel said. “Whether Justin later in the week will get reps remains to be seen. I haven’t seen him throw full speed.”
Zwick figures to miss practice today, Tressel said.
“Justin obviously won’t have half of the game plan for the week,” Tressel said. “Tuesday and Wednesday are when we put the game plan in and Thursday is when we fine tune things. No question, (starting Smith) will be the best thing for us.”
Tressel was asked what Smith, named the team’s offensive player of the week, did to impress him against Indiana.
“Troy had his first full game as the quarterback,” Tressel said. “Obviously, he learned the lesson well that you have to do a good job of taking care of the football and make plays when they are available to have a chance to win. Hopefully, he will continue to do that.
“In order to have no turnovers, you have to make good decisions. His decision making was solid. I thought he played with good velocity with the way he ran the ball. We talk about tempo and velocity and he did a good job with all of those areas.”
Tressel had downplayed Smith’s success in a mop-up role against an Iowa defense comprised mostly of reserves. He said, however, that the experience in the win over Indiana was valuable.
“(Iowa) wasn’t against a top level Big Ten team,” he said. “It was good. Was this game (Indiana) more realistic? Absolutely. With decisions he had to make at the line of scrimmage, this was a great experience for him. He got that experience and passed the test. Now you go on to the next test.”
Regarding Smith’s running ability, Tressel noted he had not found a game where OSU lost when the quarterback threw no interceptions and rushed for 50 or more yards.
“Does that add an element?” he asked. “I’m sure if I’m a defense over there, part of the game plan will be to take that into consideration.”
Tressel said he has not reinstated co-captain and tailback Lydell Ross to the point where he expects him to play this week. However, he said he would allow Ross – named in a criminal complaint for passing fake tokens at a Columbus strip club – to rejoin the scout team this week.
“The only update I have is we are still kind of sitting still,” Tressel said. “There have been no (criminal) charges filed. How long would you sit still? For this moment, we will. Obviously, we have to be fair. We probably would not sit around for a month and see what is coming out.
“Lydell is back practicing with the team. He will be on the scout team as we await what else is going on. I know he is anxious to get back with his teammates. I am only going by what I think needs to be done.”
Tressel said he was awaiting an “accumulation of data” as he assesses Ross’ status.
The coach said Ross would technically still be considered a team captain.
“I didn’t elect him, per se,” he said. “I had one vote. I wouldn’t make any vote on that until I talked with a group (of players) that elected him.”
With Ross out, freshman Antonio Pittman stepped into the opening and rushed for 144 yards.
“Antonio Pittman has shown us all along, as far back as the spring, that he would work to earn an opportunity,” Tressel said. “Obviously, like any good running back, he wants the ball on every snap.”
With OSU thin at running back, the coaching staff has debated using freshman Erik Haw, who has not played to date.
“Going into the game, certainly, we told Erik Haw he would need to be on call,” Tressel said. “We had hoped that Branden Joe would be the third guy behind Mo (Hall) and Antonio. But his ankle is still not such that he is 100 percent ready to go. Antonio and Mo handled the day.
“But we tell all of our players that if something happens, they have to be ready to help the team.”
* Tressel sized up Penn State, which is 2-5 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play.
“With Penn State’s defense, all you have to do is look at the numbers and look at the people,” he said. “They have done an outstanding job. They have some physical people up front. Their two corners are veterans and one of their safeties has three picks. They are younger at linebacker. They are going to be as stiff a test, from a defensive standpoint, as we have faced to date.
“In terms of special teams, they have been outstanding there, too. They have blocked one punt and come close to blocking five more. This will probably be the most ferocious rush we have faced.
“Offensively is where they’ve struggled the most. They have had turnover problems, consistency problems and injury problems with (Zack) Mills and (Michael) Robinson each out a while. They had some receivers out a while and their offensive linemen have moved around a bit. This past game (against Iowa) was the first time Mills and Robinson have been healthy.”
* In terms of injuries, Tressel said he expects safety Donte Whitner (leg) and perhaps fullback Stan White Jr. (shoulder) back on the field this week. Defensive end Jay Richardson (leg) may be a while longer.
“Donte was probably banged on the second series,” Tressel said. “Tyler (Everett) plays all the time. Usually he gets 30 or 40 plays. This week, he got 70 (in place of Whitner). Probably the guy who played in the game (at nickel) because Donte was out was Brandon Mitchell. He was in a lot more than normal.”
* OSU will retire uniform No. 47 in honor of Chic Harley at halftime of Saturday’s game. A.J. Hawk will continue to wear through the end of his career.
* Below are comments from Tressel at the weekly Big Ten teleconference:
Ohio State head coach met with the media today to discuss the latest team
issues, starting off at noon with the Big Ten Teleconference.
Tressel opened with a statement about Indiana and Penn State.
"We were fortunate to be back home last weekend in a Big Ten game and
had a solid win over Indiana, which I think is a team that as you watch them
over the course of the past couple years has improved each and every year,"
Tressel said. "So we felt good about getting a victory there. Obviously we
have Penn State coming in, who is really a strong, tough, physical football team
that has come up short a couple times, but we understand fully the challenge we
have. We need to keep growing and see if we can match up with the Nittany
Tressel was asked about the status of Justin Zwick and whether he or Troy Smith would start this week.
"Right now, Justin hasn't practiced full speed," Tressel said.
"Monday's our off-day. Sunday, he did just a little bit of light throwing.
I don't anticipate a full-speed practice today, which in my mind would mean,
obviously, the person that's going to get the game plan preparation and would be
the right person - if all goes well in practice and what not - to start the ball
game would be Troy."
Tressel was also asked if Antonio Pittman would start, coming off his fine
performance against Indiana.
"Well, I can't sit here and promise that he'll play the first play of
the game," Tressel said. "He's going to play a lot, and he's going to
be one of one or two or three people that get to carry the ball significantly.
Again, as long as he does what he needs to do this week and prepares and earns
that right, but he's certainly shown us that he's heading in the direction of
being the guy that we can depend on."
As of now, Lydell Ross still appears to be in limbo due to his legal status
surrounding the passing of fake currency at an adult entertainment complex.
Tressel was asked where the team was with their investigation.
"Right now, we're not aware of any charges of any kind, and we're just
kind of awaiting if there's anything forthcoming," he said.
Tressel was also asked if they would wait until all information was gathered
and the situation was clear before allowing Ross to play.
"I think we'll wait, but we'll wait moment by moment, and as of today
we're still waiting," Tressel said. "But I think there's a point in
time you have to be fair to all concerned."
Last night, word came down that SBC was added as a sponsor for the yearly
Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. The game will now be called the SBC Michigan-Ohio
State Classic. Tressel was asked his thoughts on the development.
"I know one thing that we feel as being part of the athletic team here
at Ohio State - anything that we can do to help our department run as
comprehensive an athletic department as we can possibly run," Tressel said.
"As you know, we sponsor 36 sports and we took on a major renovation of our
stadium five or six years ago that obviously was very costly. The price of doing
business, if you will, is substantial, so anything that we can be a part of that
helps on the overall costs or overall department, obviously we're on board
Tressel was also asked what he thought about potential fan reaction, with
some labeling the move as a sell-out.
"I would say this - if typically you turned on a game and there were no
advertising going on at all, and all of a sudden this was brand new, I suppose
you'd understand that feeling," Tressel said. "But I think we're all
realistic to the point that advertisement and commercialization has become a
part of our culture. This seems like a way that both athletic departments can
get some help."
On an unrelated topic, Tressel was also asked by a reporter working on a
recruiting article about why he thinks it is so hard to predict how recruits
will pan out.
"We try to do as much research as we possibly can, get to know the high
school coach and get to know the people in the school, the guidance counselors,
and anyone that we can possibly talk to, to find out what makes the person tick
and just how strong their passion is to get a degree from a great institution
and play the top level of football," Tressel said. "Many times, we
have young people in youth camps. Obviously, we watch them a lot on their high
school video. It's just a matter of trying to get as much data as you can, and
then the one unknown is how will that young person handle the adjustment being
away from, being on a different team than that they had been prospering on thus
far. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong."
Tressel was then asked if he looked at recruiting Web sites and if he used
any of the information contained with in them.
"I don't know so much about the recruiting Web sites, but I do know
there are some recruiting services that provide information and videos and that
type of thing that we certainly use as we try to accumulate as much data as we
possibly can," he said. "What's most important is when we go to the
school and talk to the coach and watch the film of them. But yeah, we use any
possible means we can to find out about a young person and just try to make good
decisions on who would be the right fit at Ohio State."
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno also met with the media. Among the topics
discussed was the Penn State offensive playcalling and how decisions are made.
Assistants Galen Hall and Jay Paterno call the plays for the PSU offense, which
has been under fire for its lack of production.
"What goes on is the whole staff -- the offensive staff -- sits around
and figures out what they want to do at different situations, and they make a
decision as which plays (will be called)," Paterno said. "Most of the
play calling has really been decided during the week. Once in a while, I'll go
over and say 'Hey, don't forget this or don't forget that,' but I have not
gotten involved in the play calling as much as maybe I did ten years ago because
I've got so much confidence in Galen and Jay.
"I think that it's something that most of the decisions are made during
the week. They're not made game day because most of the people we play have not
changed much in their basic defensive philosophy or when they're going to do
certain things. It hasn't been necessary to make a lot of adjustments; we just
haven't executed a lot of the stuff."
Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson has also received some criticism
recently. He came in off the bench for an ineffective Zack Mills against Iowa
and was equally ineffective for the Nittany Lions.
Paterno defended Robinson and presented a case as to why he has not lived up
to his billing.
"I think that bumps and bruises, getting hurt, missing a couple weeks of
practice, things of that nature -- and we've asked him to an awful lot, and I
think maybe we've got to step back and decide... let's get him really good at a
couple of things," Paterno said. "But he's an awfully good athlete.
He's one of the best all-around football players I've ever been around. He can
do it all. He can run and catch. He's tough, he can throw the ball, and all the
things you would need when you start evaluating a football player.
"For a while there, we weren't sure they were even going to let him play
this year. He lost three solid weeks of practice. He lost some time last year,
and then we came back and he's working at quarterback and he's working at
wideout. He just hasn't had a chance to get in a kind of a groove that you would
like to have a kid of his ability to get into. If we can ever get him in a
groove, I think he'll show people how good he is."
Paterno was also asked about his young linebackers, who have been performing
well, and how they stack up to the linebackers that gave Penn State such a great
"It's a little bit early to tell just how good they are going to
be," Paterno said. "They have the potential. They all run. They're
tough, they're smart kids, they all like to play. Now, whether they go to the
next level -- they're still very young, they make mistakes, and they're out of
position at times, but the three kids -- (Tim) Shaw, (Dan) Connor, and Paul
Posluszny; I haven't been able to pronounce his name yet -- those three kids,
they're not the biggest kids in the world -- 230 range -- but they all run real
well and they're very, very smart and practice hard, so I think their future is
great. But I think right now, I'd be reluctant to put them in a class with some
of the guys like Jack Ham and those guys."
The subject of the firing of Florida head coach Ron Zook came up, and Paterno
was asked if he thought that the current culture in sports contributed to a
situation where Zook may have had unfair expectations.
"I don't think there's any question that e-mail and the Internet and all
that, and you guys -- the media -- yourselves, you've got to respond to the fact
that there's a whole vast area of competition out there vying to get the
attention of anyone that wants to read or listen or whatever," he said. I
think talk shows have had a lot do with it. I think they (all) influence fans to
a degree that it becomes a situation that is not reasonable."
Paterno said that the environment created by these external factors can cut
down on reasonable time needed for a coach to construct a program.
"Sure it does," he said. "Nobody's got any patience, unless
the expectations at certain schools are different. Kirk Ferentz went into Iowa
and had a couple of bad years, but they were a little more patient because they
didn't expect that much, and then when he finally got it going, it was fine. But
when you get into a situation where there's been success, people are going
around waving Gator flags and bragging, and they got a shouting match with
Florida State and Miami in the state of Florida, those kinds of things will all
add to the lack of tolerance."