Big Ten teleconference highlights

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Michigan State head coach John L. Smith both addressed a variety of topics during today's Big Ten teleconference. We have some highlights posted now.

Highlights from Coach Tressel's conversation:

Question on Craig Krenzel's injury status:

"Craig felt pretty good on Sunday, and we don't work out on Monday, but he was in on his own and did a little cardio and felt pretty good. I imagine his reps today will be limited, but he should be ready full speed ahead on Wednesday."

Question on the challenge of a back-up QB going into the situation that Scott McMullen did:

"Well, Scott McMullen did a great job. He's been preparing hard for five years here at Ohio State and paying close attention, doing whatever the team needs him to do. He did start and play two complete games against a very good Bowling Green team and against Northwestern, so it wasn't like he hadn't been in there before. He stepped in and was very confident and did a very nice job for us."

Q on Chris Gamble and him playing more recently:

"We lost Drew Carter, our starting flanker, who was a senior and was having a really exceptional year, which gave us the luxury of not playing Chris as much on offense, especially in those early season warm-weather games. This past weekend at State college, it was a warm day... but he played just under 100 plays; he played 68 on defense and 17 on offense and 10 or 12 on special teams, so he was in the 90s, and he told me after the game that he felt like he can do that. Obviously Chris Gamble can give you a boost wherever he is, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, so it was really Drew Carter's injury that made it more important for Chris to play some."

Q on how the team has been able to focus through off-the-field adversity this year:

"We have great kids. They really work hard and try to do the right things. Even when you work hard and try to do the right things, sometimes it just doesn't bounce your way, but I think our guys have remained focus on the task at hand. They have lofty goals. People have high expectations for them. They don't think they want to disappoint anyone, most especially each other. I think that has allowed them to keep plodding along and keep trying to do the best we can."

Question on the challenges of repeating as champions:

"Just kind of getting there is not easy, but repeating's even harder. I think anyone that you would talk to would tell you that when you're the one standing on the mountain that it's even harder to stay there, but that's the fun of athletics. I think everyone loves that challenge. Everyone wants to see if they can be the unusual and be able to do that. With it comes a lot of challenges, but again, I think young people in general enjoy challenges."

Question on Jeff Smoker and the challenges of slowing him down:

"Jeff Smoker, I think, is one of the great stories of college football (with) what he's been able to do and (has) really been the catalyst for Michigan State to have a great football team. As you say, he distributes the ball; he knows exactly what's going on in their scheme; he knows where everyone's going to be; he knows what pass protection they're in; he throws it away when he needs to throw it away; he's a veteran; he's played many a game of college quarterback, and he's a darn good one. We faced Cody Pickett from Washington and Phillip Rivers and... Josh Harris and very good quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but when you watch Smoker, he's something special."

Question on Maurice Clarett and his status and how it has affected the team:

"Maurice is still a student here at Ohio State. Yes, he's still on athletic scholarship. As to how it's affected our guys, I think any time you lose a family member from being able to contribute and be around you -- you know, he's focusing totally on the academics at this point in time -- any time you lose one of your people, there's an effect there. I think our guys have been very compassionate and very supportive of the whole situation, but they also realize they have work to do of their own, and I think they've done a nice job of going about it."

Do you have any sense of how it's going to play out?

"Gosh, I really don't. When you're a college football coach, you're so honed in on what the heck you're doing, getting ready for the next game, and those types of things. We really don't think that far out. I know he won't be there against Michigan State, and right now, we're getting ready for Michigan State."

Highlights of Michigan State head coach John L. Smith's conversation:

Q on whether or not he tried to recruit Robert Reynolds:

"When I was in Louisville, we made every effort to try to get him, being a Kentucky guy. We definitely tried to recruit him. I tried to teach him how to rope one night. He couldn't pick it up."

Q on removing the names on the jerseys and why that was done:

"It goes back to our philosophy and what we believe in, what we come in with, the expectations that we give our kids and the philosophy we try to live by as being team first, individuals second. You want to be an individual? Go somewhere else."

Q on the Big Ten race and whether or not a team with more than one loss can win:

"It's a dogfight at the top! Really, in my heart, I feel like it could happen without a doubt. Is it going to happen? I doubt that. I really feel like the league champ is going to have one loss. I don't know why I feel that way, I just think that's going to end up winding it's way out to that degree. But could it happen? Certainly could happen."

Did you send a thank-you note to the schedule maker for sending you these two teams back-to-back, and what are your impressions of Ohio State?

"Yeah, you go from one to the other, and then it doesn't get any easier too... You can't cry about it, because that's what you have to play in this league. You go from Michigan to Ohio State to Wisconsin to Penn State... Going from Michigan to Ohio State, again, I think you look at personnel -- gosh, I think these two teams from what we've seen so far and been able to study, without a doubt have the best talent in the league. They're just big, physical kids and are very athletic. I wish I could have a discussion with that schedule maker, but there's not much I can do about it."

Q on Jeff Smoker and how he's progressed:

"Jeff, again, you know, I think we touched on this early, and he was given a lot of things that he had to do to earn his way back on the football team and be given an opportunity to compete, and he's made some strides off the field. He's going to continue to work at that. It's a day-to-day deal with him. He's just got to take it one day at a time and continue and change his life in that regard, so I think he's made that effort and has done that. On the field, he's got some definite attributes. He's mobile enough at times to get out of some trouble should he get there, very intelligent, he's picking up the offense, and each week, he's getting better and better. His arm is strong enough, and he's very accurate, so you put all those things together, he gives us the one thing we really need in what we do and that's an opportunity to win. We need that quarterback that can throw it around, so for us, he's vital."

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