Buckeyes Look Ahead To San Diego State

OSU coach Jim Tressel and three of his seniors covered wide range of topics at Tuesday's luncheon, including the running game, the status of the freshman quarterbacks and what the Buckeyes might see out of San Diego State Saturday.

Although the announcement that Maurice Clarett will not practice for the time being took top billing, OSU coach Jim Tressel and three of his seniors -- Alex Stepanovich, Robert Reynolds and Will Allen -- did spend an hour with the media on Tuesday afternoon.

The topics ranged from OSU's performance in the season opening win to what the Buckeyes can expect when San Diego State comes to town Saturday (12:10 p.m., ESPN-Plus Local).

"Our kids came out and played hard Saturday night," Tressel said. "I'm sure they are excited that camp is over. I'm sure they were excited when they saw the atmosphere that was created there in Ohio Stadium. They could feel that electricity and enthusiasm.

"They are very aware that when you are the defending national championship team that people will play you better than they are."

The coach then praised his seniors for delivering winning performances against the Huskies.

"We always feel we have a chance to be a good team if our seniors have a career best year," he said. "Fifteen of our defensive players played enough plays to qualify for a winning performance. Six of those 15 were seniors.

"On the offensive side, seven guys graded a winning performance, all seven of which were seniors. They, too, set the tone for how we wanted to play."

Tressel noted that all four of OSU's senior offensive linemen graded out to a winning performance.

But neither of the lead tailbacks, Maurice Hall or Lydell Ross, graded out to a winning performance. It would be unfair, however, Tressel said, to blame OSU's lackluster rushing performance solely on the tailbacks.

"I thought both Mo and Lydell played solid," Tressel said. "Their cuts were good. Washington never veered away from having extra people in the box. That's why out wide we were pretty effective throwing the ball one on one to our wide guys.

"It always seemed at the 4-yard mark there was an extra helmet that we couldn't account for. Sometimes if you take a different angle you can get by them. But they did their job well and some of those plays were only 2- or 3-yard gains.

"Their grades were just under winning marks. If they were graded just on running the ball, they probably would have a winning grade."

The players were asked if it would be hard to gear up and play San Diego State, which comes off a 19-9 win over Division I-AA Eastern Washington. The Aztecs were 4-9 a year ago.

"Coach Tressel and (defensive coordinator Mark) Dantonio have been saying that we have to have greater focus," Allen said. "We know we can play and we're going to play hard. We have to be more disciplined and focus on the little things."

Reynolds added, "This is another step on our ultimate goal. Everybody needs to be focused. Any time you play at Ohio Stadium it is special. It doesn't matter who we're playing."

Stepanovich said the Buckeyes want to be able to put teams away when they have a chance.

"We're not worried about people opening their (Sunday) paper and seeing our score," he said. "Our offense put the ball on the ground on our half of the field and gave them a chance to come back.

"We also had opportunities to score and put the game away. We did put some young guys in and we have to teach them to take care of the ball better. As we progress, we would like to put those teams away."

Also Quoted

* Tressel was asked about quarterback Craig Krenzel missing the San Diego State game two years ago to attend his sister's wedding -- "He can't go this year ... unless he has another sister."

* The coach shared that there is no leader in the battle between redshirt freshmen Troy Smith and Justin Zwick for the third quarterback spot. He said those two looked good in a "showtime scrimmage" held Monday for players who did not play in the game.

"I will let you know that I am planning to do something a little bit different," he said. "It reminds me when they brought 12 of us in to play quarterback at Baldwin-Wallace.

"We spent the entire preseason camp as freshmen playing defensive back. We are going to alternate Troy and Justin in on the scout team. We think that will make the scout team better by having people help them line up properly.

"Plus, it will help those guys stay mentally involved and learning."

* Tressel said Smith was inserted to run a quarterback draw in the second quarter.

"We made an effort to get Troy Smith in the game and get hit," Tressel said. "That's not because I'm mad at him. It was more like, 'Go in because we appreciate you.'

"It was not a trick play. It was basically the same play Craig ran against Miami (Fla.)"

Smith netted 2 yards on the carry out of the shotgun formation, then came out of the game.

* Tressel said the situation at fullback was worsened when starter Brandon Schnittker left the UW game 10 plays in due to a mild concussion. He should be fine for this week, however. The coach also hopes to have Branden Joe (torn pectoral muscle) back for the Big Ten season.

"Really, our tight ends have been our fullbacks," he said. "I imagine that will continue."

* Allen raised some eyebrows with his scouting report on SDSU.

"Their running backs are really explosive, probably better than Washington's," he said. "We know we need to be ready to tackle. Their offensive line is probably more physical than Washington's. Their wide receivers are fast. We have to be on our toes.

"I honestly think they will be better than Washington. They should be more hungry. They are coming in off a win. They have a lot of spunk about them."

Tressel added, "As I watch them on them film, I see that they are building a program."

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