Buckeyes Begin Preparations For Illinois

Jim Tressel opened his weekly Ohio State press luncheon with the usual updates on the health of the team before explaining why upcoming opponent Illinois can pose a threat to the Buckeyes' hopes of getting Big Ten play off to a positive start.

Looking back at his team's 73-20 defeat of Eastern Michigan, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday he felt like the team had a positive, focused week of practice.

Although the focus may have waned a bit once the second-ranked Buckeyes had a large lead, he was happy so many young players were able to get significant experience in a game.

As far as individual performances, Tressel said one unidentified player graded a winning performance on defense while four or five did so on offense.

The defense, Tressel pointed out, had an odd game in that it forced 10 three-and-outs (twice as many as the weekly goal) but allowed three long drives that resulted in touchdowns.

"They had about three big plays, which that doesn't normally happen," Tressel said. "I think two of them were just outstanding catches. One they hit up the seam. They did a nice job with a misdirection pass. They fooled us. We didn't reroute a receiver, kind of snuck into the seam on us and it was, you know, one for their side."

The inconsistency likely can be traced to a couple of injuries in the secondary, but there is good news on that front.

Senior starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa missed much of the EMU game because of back spasms, a development that magnified the absence of top backup Travis Howard.

With a trip to Illinois on the horizon, Tressel said both should be ready to go this week, as is the case with reserve linebacker Dorian Bell, while reserve safety Nate Oliver remains questionable with a hamstring issue.

"Those are more aggravating and chronic than most injuries," Tressel said of Oliver

On offense, Tressel said tight end Jake Stoneburner (high-ankle sprain) has declared he will be able to answer the bell against the Fighting Illin, but the head coach seemed a bit more cautious. His backup is sophomore Reid Fragel.

"I'm expecting that we'll know a lot more Wednesday or Thursday," Tressel said regarding Stoneburner. "He claims he'll be fine. Sometimes when you roll those ankles, you can either get back quickly or not, and so we'll just have to see how he works. And knowing our trainers, it will be a progressive thing though. They'll have him doing certain drill things today and tomorrow, if he can do it all, they'll give him the green light."

Tressel expects the Fighting Illini, who did not play last weekend, to be healthy and ready for the Buckeyes.

"They have two new coordinators, so they're going to be a little different than they've been in the past, not totally different, but I'm sure we have not seen some of the favorite things that those new coordinators like to do," Tresesl said. "We've gone back and looked at film from whence they came and those kinds of things, but you don't really know how they're going to do that."

Illinois defensive coordinator Paul Petrino most recently held the same position at Arkansas for two years before moving to Champaign, and defensive coordinator Vic Koening was at Kansas State last year after four years at Clemson.

Although the 2-1 Fighting Illini entered the season expected by many to finish near the bottom of the league standings, Tressel used a little history to explain why his players should consider them dangerous.

"In their lifetimes, we've played Illinois 19 times," he said, referring to the fact his players fall into the 18-22 age demographic. "And the record is 10-9. So in our guys' lifetime, they've known full well that the Ohio State-Illinois game is a big deal and there have been battles and they know we're heading on the road. They know we have to get to work this afternoon to prepare."

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