Ohio State quarterbacks/receivers coach Joe Daniels is pleased to see that the Buckeyes are beginning to open up the passing game. If defenses are going to put eight men in the box, like the last couple of years, Ohio State is going to look deep.
"We'll take our shots down field," Daniels said. "But it's not necessarily, ‘Because they're man, let's go over the top.' That's an option, but we've got to look at a lot of crossing routes, or run away from people - not only horizontally, but vertically as well.
"But that's part of what we have to do. I think we have to go over the top more. We want to look for more big plays out of the passing game."
Quarterback Craig Krenzel is looking more comfortable throwing the deep ball. He struggled in that area at times last year, but has made significant improvements and looked more natural against Washington.
"I think it will get better and better," Daniels said. "It's like anything else. You can practice it, which we do. We practice throwing deep as much as anybody else. It's doing it in the game and then having success.
"And I don't know if you guys can relate to this, but as the year progressed last year, (Krenzel) throwing the ball deep, he just became so much more consistent. To the point where the ball was going where he wanted it to go."
Daniels reminded everyone that Krenzel is just beginning his second season as a full-time starter.
"The guys that play on Sundays, they've done it for eight years, so they can do it," Daniels said. "Well, that takes time and he's no different. But he actually did get better last year and I look for him to improve and improve the more we do it now. That doesn't mean we go over the top 15 times a game, but we've got to take our shots and we've got to hit them. That's the key: we've got to hit them."
What is the biggest difference in CK's game, compared to last year?
"Confidence," Daniels replied. "I mean, he's never lacked for confidence. He's always been that way. But confidence in the sense that he knows what he can do and feels very good about it. He understands what he can do. He doesn't try and do things he can't do. And he's a guy that will always take care of the ball, so you almost don't have to worry about that. He better see what he's throwing to, or he won't throw it. And that's a great quality. Now, sometimes, there will be times you're like, ‘Oh, go ahead,' but he doesn't and that's OK. I'll never criticize him for that because he's a guy that's going to take care of the ball.
"But I think overall, he feels very good about himself as far as understanding what we're doing. He feels more in control and that's part of what we're trying to let him do. Let him be in more control and we have no qualms about giving him a pass check. Give him the formation and say, ‘Go ahead, You call it.'"
Krenzel continues to be a dangerous threat as a runner and as any defensive coordinator will tell you, a mobile QB can be a nightmare.
"I think it opens up some things for him more," Daniels said. "People might say they are going to spy someone on him, but to do that is very difficult because it destroys your underneath coverage. So, if they decide to do something like that, then he is going to have a nice time throwing in between the coverage.
"So, I think it's a very frustrating thing for a defense and that's why it's so affective for him. You hold somebody to 3rd-and-whatever and then the quarterback drops back and has a great knack of stepping up. It's amazing how many times Craig will get the first. ‘What do we need?' And he gets it. I think it's a tremendous weapon."
Some people like to describe Krenzel as a "smart" runner - implying that he is a plodder that finds a way to get the job done. Daniels does not agree with that assessment.
"He runs a 4.7 and I think that's pretty good for his size," he said. "He's just a very good north and south runner. And he also has a very good feel for the pocket. He does a good job of feeling the rush and stepping up. He's more athletic than he gets credit for."
The only negative side about Krenzel running so much is that it raises the risk of injuries.
"I'm always concerned about that," Daniels said "But that's just one of the things you have to deal with. If you want your quarterback to present the problems to a defense of stepping up and running, then you have to accept that. It's all part of it."
Daniels has a deep and talented receiving corps to work with. He was asked who is technically the third receiver right now (not including Chris Gamble) and mentioned speedsters Bam Childress and Santonio Holmes.
"It's Bam/Santonio," he said. "They played pretty much equal and that's the way I'd like to keep it as the season goes and let it develop. I think both of them bring some qualities.
"The other thing is, both of them, I've got to get them a little more at the Z and spell Drew (Carter). I've got Roy (Hall) who can spell Michael (Jenkins). So, that's the rotation that I'm looking for and then it's a matter of which of those two get more and more and more involved in the three-receiver sets."
One reporter asked, "How big is Hall in your plans?"
"About 230 pounds," Daniels quipped. "Everyday, he is getting better. He's a big, strong, intelligent young man and he works hard. He reminds me of Michael Jenkins in that his work habits, he tries to go out there and get better each day."
Daniels thinks that the steady Jenkins is one of the top wideouts in the country. Possibly the best.
"I've said it before, his ability to concentrate in practice as well as games - he goes out in practice and really, really works to get better," he said. "He gets mad at himself when he doesn't. But, I think all of us are going to be awed by what he is going to do this year. He had a great camp. He is significantly better than he was last year and I think he was pretty darn good last year. I really think he could be the best in the country."
Daniels is confused that some receivers are getting more national publicity than Jenkins.
"I don't know how you guys evaluate things, but the kid last week (Reggie Williams) that everybody yelled and screamed and talked about… I'm sorry," he said.
Daniels was asked if he's expecting to see Gamble play more on offense as the year progresses. He played a very limited role in the opener.
"I hope, I hope," he said. "I'm praying for that cooler weather."
Daniels also touched on the situation with the young quarterbacks. Even he is not sure who is running ahead for the third-string job - Troy Smith, or Justin Zwick.
"I would imagine it depends on the situation," he said. "The conversation would probably be, ‘What do you think, Joe? Who do you think?' And I would say, ‘I don't know, coach. What do you think?' That's how the conversation would go."
Daniels is hoping to get the young QBs as much playing time as possible this year to prep them for next season.
"I would like to - all of us would like to - get them as much playing time as possible," he said. "Just get snaps and be out there and have that experience. So, as many as we can get for both of them would be better. And then, go into the spring and say, ‘OK, here we go.' If they both have some reps and some snaps, it would be fantastic. I can't tell you a number. I don't have a number in mind. But as many as possible."
Daniels said that Smith and Zwick were a bit giddy when they found out they would likely play against Washington.
"What happened was late in last week, Tress told them, ‘Hey, this is what we're going to do.' Well, then all of a sudden, they were like, ‘I don't care if it's one snap, I'm going to get in? You mean it?' And I think they now understand that that's possible and that will happen. That's the opener against Washington and they're told that they are going to go in. So, I think that all of a sudden - not that they weren't before - but they're paying a little bit more attention in meetings and they're a little bit more intense at practice. And they were doing a great job prior to this."
Special teams coach/defensive line assistant Luke Fickell also fielded some questions from the media after Thursday's practice.
Fickell thinks San Diego State has a more balanced attack on offense this year.
"Last year, they definitely threw it around a lot," he said. "The first half of the game we saw (against Eastern Washington), they definitely threw it around a lot. The second half, we were impressed with the freshman running back (Lynell) Hamilton. He's a good back and they'll probably try and feature him.
"He's 6-1, 215-pounds and he's a very strong, hard runner," Fickell added of Hamilton. "I think he's a true freshman (he is), but you don't see a guy run that well usually as a true freshman."
Fickell said the Aztecs were tested in last week's 19-9 win.
"On film, it didn't look like a I-AA team that they were playing," he said. "On the film, it looked like (Eastern Washington) had pretty good players."
With SDSU starting quarterback Adam Hall out with a sprained ankle, sophomore Matt Dlugolecki will step in. Fickell knows the young signal caller will have some butterflies early in the game.
"I hope he has a little bit of nerves," Fickell said. "He'd be immortal if he didn't. But once that first hit is out of the way, it's just football. The game that you've been playing since you were 8 or 10 years old."
As for Ohio State's impressive defensive line, Fickell hopes to keep rotating guys through and keeping everyone fresh.
"Up front, we played 10 guys last week and hopefully we can play 10 again this week and get a lot of guys a lot of reps," he said.