Ohio State will face its toughest challenge of the young season this Saturday, but head coach Jim Tressel is not looking to change a whole lot about his team.
Through two weeks, the Buckeyes have rotated fairly liberally with the exception of the defensive secondary. Expect much of the same this weekend at all positions except one: Quarterback.
Junior Todd Boeckman figures to get even more snaps this weekend than he has in the previous two games, relegating sophomore Robby Schoenhoft to even more of a backup role.
“That would be a good thing, if we could do that,” Tressel said of rotating Schoenhoft into the game. “The plans, as we go into it, are to do that. Robby needs to be in Husky Stadium where he can’t hear himself think.”
In previous weeks, Tressel has been much more positive when discussing playing time for Schoenhoft. While Boeckman threw two interceptions against the Zips, Tressel said he saw improvement in the way the 6-5, 243-pound signal-caller bounced back from his mistakes.
“I thought one of the things that Todd did was he handled it a little bit when it didn’t go as well as he liked, and it didn’t end up being a setback for him,” Tressel said. “I thought he hung in there and was able to say, ‘Okay, here’s what occurred, here’s what I’ve learned from it, now I’ve got to do what needs to be done.’ There are going to be points in time in this next game that you’re going to have to put something that didn’t go the way you wanted it aside and concentrate on what he wants to happen, so that was a good opportunity for that exercise.”
For the No. 10 Buckeyes, the game against Washington will not only be the first road game of the season, but it will also be arguably their most difficult foe so far this season. One player Tressel said will be in action for the first time this season is sophomore wide receiver Ray Small.
Small was held out for the first two games after suffering an ankle injury during fall camp, but Tressel said he was “90 to 95 percent” in pre-game warm-ups on Saturday against Akron.
“We went into warm-ups in last week’s game (saying), ‘Let’s get him a good workout in warm-ups and just see what he looks like,’ ” Tressel said. “(Wide receivers coach) Darrell (Hazell) just felt that with another day or two’s rest he’d be at 100 (percent).”
The 6-0, 182-pound Small practiced with the Buckeyes on Monday and Tressel said he was as close to 100 percent as he had seen in a while. He will join OSU’s wide receiver rotation and is currently listed third at one of the wide receiver spots, behind sophomore Brian Hartline and freshman Dane Sanzenbacher. When the Buckeyes have utilized three wide receivers during the season, Hartline and Sanzenbacher have joined Brian Robiskie on the field.
Following the Akron game, the perception of the Buckeyes was that the team’s defense carried the team for the majority of the 20-2 victory over the Zips. While several players downplayed that thought in the immediate aftermath of the game, the post-game grading by the coaching staff supported that notion.
Tressel said “12 or 13” defensive players graded out with winning performances, while “three or four” offensive players did.
Of course, it helps that the Buckeyes turned the ball over five times against Akron.
“I don’t know that had we played a game with no turnovers it would be any harder to get the understanding of what it takes (to be successful),” Tressel said. “The fact that we did have a bunch of turnovers and didn’t do as well as we want, that’s a little reinforcement that, hey, guess what, you’re not going to do as well as you want, if these types of things happen.”