In looking through the computer files cluttering my hard drive, I found some unused quotes from the time spent interviewing coaches. Offensive Coordinator/OL Coach Jim Bollman talks about the offensive line, QB Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Joe Daniels discusses the quarterbacks, and Tight Ends Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Bill Conley talks recruiting and tight ends. Enjoy!
Would you talk about your offensive line recruits this year?
"[They're] a great bunch of guys. They are four outstanding individuals, happy to get them into the fold. They all have great potential, and it is going to be a big bunch of guys here at the end. You see how big Steve (Rehring) is. They all move well. We got to know Steve through years of camp, and the two guys from Pennsylvania jumped in. That will be a lot of fun."
Several Ohio players have not been offered the past two years. Some of those have been Big Ten caliber players. What is OSU looking for in offensive linemen?
Last year Barton was the only offered, this year several others went out of state. Why?
"When you have to fit into the whole mix of the team. Last year, when we had 13 scholarships we weren't going to recruit many offensive linemen. That was not going to be the very best thing for the football team. This year, we were fortunate that we could go get some guys."
Is there a target number of offensive linemen you want on the roster?
"Theoretically, if you really had a situation where you could recruit three or four guys a year so you had somewhere between 15 and 20. It shouldn't be as high as 20; that's too many. You figure on an 85-man roster, you would like to at least be three deep plus a couple. You don't ever want to be totally wiped out, losing five at one time. You want to keep building the depth to keep it growing as you go."
"Those are some discussions that come up, but right now I don't see anybody…no foreseeable, nothing that I would say right now…"
What about Joel Penton? His coach in high school seemed to think he could be all world on the offensive line if given the chance.
"Well, I mean I think there's a bunch of guys around here who are going to do the best things for the football team. As things start to take shape, those discussions always come up, but not one where we have done anything of that nature yet."
The last few years, the offensive line appears to have been paper thin with the attempts to redshirt players, etc. Is the line finally building some depth?
"Well, right. I don't think that was a big problem this year. This was a year we were fortunate with numbers that there were some guys there that were able to step in if the need arose. We didn't really have them this year as much as we could have. But yeah, I would like to think we are headed in that direction of having more and more guys who are ready to contribute there."
Is the aim of the staff to reach a point where you might have several fifth-year seniors starting on the offensive line?
"I think that all is on an individual basis year to year…You'd like to get to the point where you have some of those guys around. They are usually pretty good by that time, and so we will just have to see how things transpire."
Any concerns this year for the staff – a young line protecting a young quarterback?
"No…that is something we have to accomplish, that we have to work towards. Protection is always going to be a big key. It is something we have to work at. Am I concerned? It is too early to be concerned."
Any young offensive linemen of this incoming group that jump out at you that might contribute or challenge for a starting spot with hard work in the summer?
"I wouldn't want to put that on any of their heads. But, certainly we all have opportunities. It's nice to have Steve around here this early. As I said, it happened two years ago where guys were jumping in there and helping out, so far be it from me to say it won't happen."
Jon Skinner had an injury and maybe was not as highly recruited because of it. Is he fully recovered?
"I think he is more than fully recovered. He came back and played actually after he had that injury last year, so I am sure at times it slowed him down as a junior. But, I think he is more than recovered – no doubt about that."
What do you see as your task in recruiting?
"What it boils down to is present your case, present your school, present your program, try to answer as many questions as they have. If there is no interest on their part, obviously it is not going to work, so that is about all you can do in recruiting."
What about the guys you brought in from Pennsylvania? Are you looking at this as a possible breakthrough year?
"I hope, yeah, I hope so. We have already identified some juniors over there next year, in fact even know about some sophomores. I am hoping that it sort of carries on. I don't know next year if we will get four or one or none or five – I have no way of knowing that, but we're hoping it starts something."
Fans want instant success. How long does it take to build the kind of relationships necessary to land recruits from Pennsylvania?
"Well, as far as within Western Pennsylvania, the one advantage I have is I am from Western Pennsylvania, and I have recruited in Western Pennsylvania at almost every school I have been. So, that part of it – the coaches – there are an awful lot of them I know and have known for a long time. In the same sense, there are also a lot that I don't know because when I went into the NFL, when I was out of coaching, there's turnover at all levels including the high school. So there's a lot of them I had to get to know. I think that is all part of it. The important thing is the number of good players we are in on in Pennsylvania this year."
"I hope a lot. This spring is going to be important for them. The difference between those is that Roy Hall had a chance during bowl practice to really get a lot of reps. Michael Jenkins spent probably the first four or five practices injured. He had that foot that was a problem for him. That benefited Roy tremendously, and I thought Roy had a great bowl practice here as well as out in Phoenix, so he needs to have a good spring there is no question.
The offense last year clearly did not reach first and foremost the goals of the staff. What is the staff looking to do with tinkering, etc?
"I think you are wrong if you go into it saying ‘this is what we want to do' without really being conscious of your personnel and what they are capable of. You can only do what they can do. That is what has to be determined in the spring. Now, it's not going to take 15 days, but it will take a big chunk of the spring. Once we get through that and we start to get a little bit of an idea of who is filling in those holes, then we can go into fall camp and say, ‘Ok. This is what this group can do.' So it is to be determined."
You look at anything from this group – do you have anything you are saying ‘they can do this?' Or, is it all to be determined?
"You know what it is all to be determined. The only reason I say that is you have to be fair to them. What we have seen of some of the young kids, it's pretty hard to make an evaluation off of that, and it's probably not fair either.
What is one positive about each quarterback and one item they must work to improve?
"On the plus side, they are all the same kind of quarterback. It's not like we have to change our offense, and that's critical because sometimes you have that option quarterback to try to tie in with a kid who is more of a thrower. I think all three of these kids throw the ball very well. They are all tough; there is a little bit of Krenzel in them as far as tucking the ball and going at the right opportunity. Probably very comprable in terms of speed. Troy might be a little bit faster. He is quicker than the other two, but they are all going to be guys who can throw the football well, so that part of it I like simply because it is going to be the same offense. You are going to coach the same thing for all three of them."
What about Justin's mobility? Clearly there are two camps and you know that as a staff. Some think that Smith will play because he is more mobile.
"I think if somebody really wants to investigate that, they ought to go back and watch some high school tape of him. He has some ability to run, but he is a quarterback that is going to throw first if that is what is called. That's something people will see as this whole thing develops. I think some people have a conception about Troy, ‘He wants to run too quickly." Well, Troy has a nice feel for that sort of thing. So, they both have some things – I don't necessarily want to change them, but I want them to understand when to use those opportunities. I think, as I said, the offense is going to be what it is as far as whatever we finally determine, ‘here is where we think we can do.' It is not going to be, ‘Here's Troy's offense,' and ‘Here's Justin's offense,' and here's…no, no. The three of them are going to run our offense, whatever that is going to be."
Are you focusing on giving more attention to fewer guys now in recruiting?
"I think the place you always start off is how many great players are in your home state. So I think when you look at that ratio of instate/out-of-state, it is directly in correlation with how many great players are in Ohio. We always want to be good in Ohio first. This year was a strong year – a very strong year -- so we knew had a lot of players instate to go after strong. Of course now your numbers limit you. You look at the out-of-state guys, and we could have recruited six or seven times that number. (A) You don't have time to do that and (B) you would fill up and would not have scholarships anyway."
Did the state of Ohio meet the needs of the football team this year?
"I thought it did this year real well at all positions. You saw good linemen, good running backs, good defensive linemen. Overall around the state, it hit about every position. Not quite every position, but pretty close."
What about Marcus Freeman, is getting a guy like that a must?
"You talk about a guy like Marcus Freeman, Teddy Ginn – guys that everyone in America would love to have on their football team. That's huge to get those guys."
You have some young tight ends – can you talk about them?
"Well, I think first of all we are excited because we have a pretty good corps coming back. We have Ryan Hamby, who now has two years varsity experience and had a very good season this year. We have a guy like Louis Irizarry, whose best football is in front of him. He is a guy that a year ago was one of the top tight ends in America, and it is very easy to see why. He has great ball skills and can run like a deer. Jason Caldwell is that workhorse guy who can fit in as a blocker and as a receiver. He is coming back again next year. Then you get a guy like Rory Nicol, who is from Pennsylvania who everybody was recruiting. You have a Ben Hartsock clone there except maybe even a little taller, a little more rangy. He is outstanding. Chad Hoobler is one of those versatile guys who can do anything."
So is Hoobler on offense or defense?
"I think he is kind of like Stan White a year or two ago. He is one of those guys who can play two or three spots, and you just have to get him into your program and figure out where he can fit into the needs of the team the quickest. He is a team guy. He will do whatever he needs to do to get on the field and help the Buckeyes."
You have a young offense, what are some things you will be working on in the spring?
"Really it is a learning process. A lot of film work. A lot of technique work. As you start to implement your offensive system you have to continually teach them what you are trying to accomplish in terms of techniques and the philosophy and all that of your offense. It's really just a learning situation."
When looking at working with a number of young players all contesting for time on the field, is it more enjoyable to a coach or does it matter?
"Once you get out on the field and start practice, it does not matter if you are with a rookie or with a guy who has been around for four years. That's the fun of coaching because you still do the same drills, the same techniques. The joy of coaching is watching that young man come into your program and get better and better each year. For example, a guy like Ben Hartsock who was a guy that came in and was very talented early as we saw, developed as a great blocker, and then became also a very good receiver. This year, (Hartsock) was an overall tight end that is going to be drafted now in the NFL. That's what it is all about."
He earned some money this year…
"No doubt about it."
What about Irizarry, what (besides his off the field issues) kept him off the field in 2003? Was it blocking or the other players at the position were so strong?
"I think it was the strength of the position because nobody is going to beat Ben Hartsock out because he is such an experienced guy. He can run, block, do all those things and so he is going to be your number one tight end. Then you also had Ryan Hamby who had some experience, then Louis, who was talented, but a rookie. He was getting better and better…but he is a guy who is going to have a tremendous future here at Ohio State. There is no doubt about it. He will be a great one."
How do you balance recriuiting, family, and all of these things and still be a coach to develop this young offense?
"It is very time consuming and tiring. At the same time, it's very rewarding. The one thing you say is that you never get bored."