Talkin' Tressel: Illinois Edition

Ohio State will open Big Ten play this weekend on the road against Illinois and likely will not have a key offensive contributor. Get the latest on the Buckeyes and who will make the travel squad as covers Jim Tressel's final press conference of the week.

Ohio State will likely begin its quest for a record-tying sixth straight Big Ten title without the services of a key offensive starter. At his final press conference before Saturday's contest at Illinois, Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said sophomore tight end Jacob Stoneburner will likely not make the trip after suffering an ankle injury in last week's victory against Eastern Michigan.

"The only guy as of this moment we have counted on playing and being in that (travel squad) is Jake Stoneburner," he said. "He just hasn't done enough. Now, this is Thursday. We've seen miraculous changes on Thursdays, but if we were leaving at this moment he wouldn't be in that group."

Tressel said the coaches have not seen Stoneburner do enough during the week of practice. The tight end has worked with trainers but did not take part in Wednesday's practice.

As the first OSU tight end to feature prominently in the passing attack in several years, Stoneburner – a converted wide receiver – sits third on the team with nine receptions for 110 yards and his first career touchdown.

He will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Reid Fragel. A different type of tight end more known for his size (6-8, 260) than his ability to affect the passing game, Fragel has three catches this season for 31 yards.

"Reid's been coming along," Tressel said. "He's going to be a good player."

After Fragel, senior Ricky Crawford – who just earned a scholarship this season – fills out the depth chart with Spencer Smith also in the equation. The coach added that after Fragel the spot could also be filled by a third wide receiver. Should OSU want to use two tight ends this weekend, Tressel said the Buckeyes have been working with using an extra offensive lineman.

"I think it's significant because we feel as if we're two deep at tight end," Tressel said. "But now all of a sudden you're one deep. Then Ricky Crawford and Spencer Smith are guys who spend more time on the scout team field than they spend on our field, so it won't be significant as long as Reid is fine.

"We've talked all along that the key to many seasons, especially when you get in the league, is your depth."

Tressel said he hopes Stoneburner's injury will not keep him out of the lineup for long.

"(Doctors) used to tell us way back when that an ankle took eight days," the coach said. "That's the bad thing when you play every seven. We'll see."

Wednesday evening, junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor said junior left tackle Mike Adams had suffered a separated right shoulder during the win against EMU. Tressel downplayed those comments.

"He got dinged a little bit," Tressel said. "When you get stunned, it's tough for you to recover on that play. He's fine."

When OSU kicks off against the Fighting Illini (noon, Big Ten Network), it will be doing so against a team Tressel said has been successful because of its ability to recruit several areas.

"I've always felt that Illinois has had good talent," the coach said. "They have a big state to pull from, so theyre' going to get a lot of good in-state players, and they've done a very good job of pocket recruiting. They've done a great job in the (Washington) D.C./Baltimore pocket, they've done a very good job in the Florida pocket and they've got 11 from Ohio. Those are good pockets to pick from."

Tressel said he has been impressed with redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has completed 31 of 57 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions.

"He's quite a catch for them," the coach said of Scheelhaase, a former four-star recruit. "It's not like he's been a surprise. He challenges you with the run and the pass. He's going to do nothing but get better. Great athlete."

The head coach said cutting the roster down to the travel squad has not been as tough in recent years because the number of freshman destined for redshirts is higher than in previous seasons.

"Right now, there's enough of those freshmen that at this moment we think we're going to redshirt because we're healthy enough ahead of them on the depth chart that it really wasn't an excruciating thing this week," he said. "It wasn't like it has been some moments, but you'd like to take everyone.

"That's the reality of playing on the road. We've been having 110 guys dress and 102,000 sit and cheer for us and now we're going to have maybe 4,000 cheering for us and 70 dressed."

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