BSB Notebook: Toledo

New Ohio State special teams coordinator Dick Tressel is happy with what he's seen so far, but he knows a big test awaits Saturday against Toledo. We cover that, the challenge posed to the secondary, the surprising (or maybe not so much) athleticism of Joe Bauserman and memories of a tragedy 10 years ago in our weekly notebook.

Kickoff coverage was a surprising sore spot last season for Ohio State, but the "recon" unit enjoyed a positive start to the 2011 campaign.

In the first game after Dick Tressel was assigned the title of special teams coordinator, the Buckeyes allowed 92 yards on five kickoff returns in the season opener against Akron last week. That is good for an average of 18.4 yards per attempt that that bests the 21.4 average of a season ago when Ohio State allowed a pair of returns for touchdowns.

Tressel and new head coach Luke Fickell both were impressed with the effort of the special teams against the Zips.

"They were just flying to the football," Tressel said. "It wasn't perfect, but it was a great place to start and teach from. If they can maintain that intensity, we could have a good year." 

He predictably downplayed the effect his move to coordinator had on the outcome but sounded eager to do whatever will work.

"Well I didn't make any plays out there, but I think every time there is an adjustment it draws more attention to it," he said. "I think that's probably the biggest thing that happened. The kids perk up and things like that. Hopefully that will continue to be a real positive. Hopefully we can maintain a level of coordination and organization that the kids will keep playing hard."  

Tressel was quick to point out the unit has a big challenge this week in the form of Toledo wide receiver Eric Page.

The 5-10, 180-pound sophomore caught five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown last week as the Rockets downed New Hampshire. He also contributed a 29-yard punt return and a 43-yard kickoff return. The Holland, Ohio, native finished third in the country last season when he averaged 31.1 yards per kickoff return.

"He's a Toledo kid and a playmaker," Tressel said. "My hope is our guys rise to those kind of challenges. I think our kids appreciate a good opponent and that gives us a chance to raise our level a little bit.

"He understands if he leans a little bit this way or that way, all of a sudden that guy gets blocked. Other than that and his elusiveness, he's tough. Everyone of his long returns you see two or three guys laying on the ground along the way." 

Bauserman The Athlete

Few who ventured to guess Ohio State's first touchdown of the 2011 season would have predicted a Joe Bauserman run, but his teammates and the coaching staff were not surprised the elusiveness the senior quarterback displayed last week against Akron.

They have long insisted Bauserman was among the team's best athletes, and that goes beyond his status as a minor league pitcher for three years.

"The thing I'll tell you about Joe is if you're going to play a pickup basketball game, he might be one of your first picks," Fickell said. "Obviously if you're going to play a pickup softball game you're going to pick him, too. That's just what he is. That's what he's shown. He's been that guy who can do it all. Now you've got to focus on being a quarterback. I think that's where his focus is." 

Bauserman looked comfortable throughout the afternoon as he directed the Ohio State offense on four scoring drives, but all anyone has wanted to talk about since then is the juke he put on an Akron defender in the open field after a handoff went awry.

"I didn't plan on coming out there and getting my moves or anything like that," Bauserman said. "It just happened. The guy was there and I decided to give him the move. You go out there and try to be yourself and be the quarterback that best fits you. To go out there and tell them I am an athlete or show them I am an athlete is what I was going for.

He admitted to intentionally adding a little bit of flare at the end.

"I made that last move and I was like, ‘I am going to dive,' and I didn't really need to dive, but it looked good," he said.

Bauserman downplayed talk of being the team's best basketball player.

"Everybody says that," he said. "I enjoy to play and we go out with some of the guys. I guess I am more of a team basketball player where some of the guys want to do their one-on-ones."

Fickell said he hopes Bauserman is able to channel his athleticism into one pursuit.

"You just want to continue to see that competitive nature come out as a quarterback as opposed to just when you saw him competing at other things," the coach said.

Young secondary under fire? 

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson liked what he saw from sophomore Dominic Clarke and redshirt freshman Bradley Roby against Akron but looks for a much bigger test from the Rockets' spread offense.

"The secondary and the defense has to make sure we do a really good job of tackling in space and communicating, just doing our job," Johnson said. "We're still fairly young. To see those guys step up and make plays (against Akron), that's what we expect. So when you see them do it, it's like, ‘Hey, good job. Now you've got to go do it again. Now you've got to go do it again. Oh wait a minute, now you've got to go do it one more time.

"You have to understand that when you get to this level people are going to come at you. The expectations are through the roof, and we play people week in and week out who are going to attack you. Malcolm Jenkins, we all know what he's doing now, but they came after him. Once you stop them and say, ‘You can't do that,' it always helps."

Stopping To Remember

Ohio State plans to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in multiple ways Saturday.

The Buckeyes will wear commemorative decals on their helmets, a moment of silence will be observed and the anniversary figures into the OSU Marching Band's halftime show.

Fickell was an assistant coach at Akron at the time of the attacks and was nearly affected personally. His brother, Mike, worked in downtown New York but was not at the World Trade Center when two planes piloted by terrorists slammed into them.

"He worked for Morgan Stanley and was kind of a dual guy," Fickell said of his brother. "He worked sometimes at the trade center and sometimes (at Times Square), so it is something I'll obviously always remember where I was and will be something to think about that day.

"Being young enough, I didn't really grasp what was going on at the time, but I can vividly remember where I was at the University of Akron, not realizing the magnitude of it."

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