The Buckeyes open spring drills Thursday with 15 days of practice leading up to the April 24 spring game at Ohio Stadium (1 p.m.).
The coach tackled a number of topics during the nearly two-hour session. That included:
* The hirings of Darrell Hazell as the new wide receivers coach and Tressel's brother, Dick Tressel, as the new running backs coach.
* The hiring of former Mansfield (Ohio) Senior High School head coach Stan Jefferson as the new associate director of football operations. Jefferson, currently the principal at Mansfield Senior, will remain in that job until the end of the school year before moving to OSU.
* The competition at quarterback between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith.
* The team's injury situation and other stories of note.
"It is exciting to get moving with spring practice," Tressel said.
Regarding the hiring of his brother, Tressel said, "The biggest discussion we had is with the veteran running backs we have coming back -- Lydell Ross, Branden Joe, Maurice Hall and Brandon Schnitzel -- we wanted to bring somebody in who would swiftly have their trust and their confidence. Three of those four have one year of eligibility remaining. (Offensive coordinator Jim) Bollman recommended we bring on Dr. Richard Tressel as the running backs coach."
Dick Tressel, a head coach at Division III Hamline (Minn.) University for 23 years before coming to OSU with his brother in 2001, said he was excited to have a new challenge.
"As the position coach for the running backs, I want to try and help them to be the best they can be," Dick Tressel said. "It is exciting for me to be back in a competitive situation and to also have the ability to work with kids."
Jim Tressel also discussed Jefferson's hiring to the administrative post vacated by his brother. According to Tressel, Jefferson played for Woody Hayes‘ 1971 OSU football squad.
"He will be our academic liaison and spearhead our community outreach program," Jim Tressel said. "Stan is a Buckeye. He loves Ohio State."
Jefferson said he, too, was excited to begin a new chapter in his life.
"We need to do a better job of connecting with our student-athletes," Jefferson said. "I am looking forward to building relationships with our student-athletes and helping them to pursue their goals and get their bachelor's degrees."
Tressel said hiring Jefferson had been a plan of his for several years.
"I told Stan three years ago the vision I had," Tressel said. "You want good people who care about kids."
Tressel then discussed what he expects to see this spring.
"In talking with Jim Bollman and the guys on our offensive side and with Mark Snyder, Mel Tucker and the group over on defense, they want to begin with fundamentals and begin with seeking what's the best package for the players we have who will be asked to step up," Tressel said. "Our guys are anxious to get out on the field and do that. They're excited to begin that process and take it forward."
Tressel said he wants to make special teams a focus this year. Hazell's expertise in the return game is expected to help bolster those units.
"We don't hide behind the fact that's an area where we have not been adequate," Tressel said. "It's not that we've been poor … but we want to put a lot of emphasis into those situations."
Tressel also hopes the defense maintains its high standards despite losing seven starters and coordinator Mark Dantonio.
"The defense has done a great job for us, whether you look at recent history with the last two years or the last 20 years," Tressel said. "We graduated some great players. We need some guys to step up and get after it and get ready to go."
Tressel said he expects a battle at cornerback. Senior-to-be Dustin Fox figures to man one spot. Junior-to-be E.J. Underwood is penciled in as the starter at the other with sophomore-to-be Ashton Youboty and senior-to-be Harlen Jacobs listed as the backups.
"Ashton Youboty has shown he is a dependable young man," Tressel said. "He has played already in a lot of big games for us. E.J. Underwood may be as talented a young man as anybody we've had at the corner position. He has fought through some injury situations. We look forward to him having a great spring."
Also big on defense is the line, where three open spots are up for grabs.
"We are looking for Quinn Pitcock to come through," Tressel said. "Marcus Green has also stepped up. Mike Kudla has played a great deal. Jay Richardson is a guy I see making improvement every day. Joel Penton is a guy you can count on.
"If we're to have another great Ohio State defense, we need experience, and that experience begins on Thursday."
The discussion turned toward the quarterback position, where sophomores Zwick and Smith will go head to head. Freshman Todd Boeckman will also be in the mix.
"We lose Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen who won a lot of games for us," Tressel said. "It will be a tough challenge. People always ask who would play if we had a game today. If we had a game today, Justin Zwick would probably start. But Troy Smith would probably play.
"But there isn't a game today. Both Justin and Troy will get tons of reps, as will Todd Boeckman. There are three guys who are very capable."
Tressel reverted back to the three things he looks for out of a quarterback.
"Those three things are eliminate turnovers, make great decisions and make big plays -- you have to make big plays," Tressel said. "Whoever does that the best will be our quarterback. We have a chance now to evaluate that. I know they are all passionate about being the Ohio State quarterback. There is nothing more exciting than being the Ohio State quarterback."
Tressel was asked why Zwick may have a slight edge.
"Justin may have a little edge conceptually in our passing game," Tressel said. "Troy may have a little bit of edge when it comes to stepping up and making something happen when things aren't as they were drawn up to be.
"We need a guy who will do both of those things. The word I have used with quarterbacks is who will emerge? A quarterback not only has to show you flashes that he can get it done, but he has to get it done over time. You know you have a chance if you have a guy who can get it done over time.
"I'm sure I have had situations where I have played two guys when it wasn't clear that one had emerged. They have both played. I don't know that I prefer that. But it will be fun. We are as anxious as all of you to see who steps up."
Tressel then discussed his team's injury situation.
"At the beginning, (linebacker) A.J. Hawk may be limited," Tressel said. "When we go to pads, we might have to take his shoulder pads away from him. He had knee surgery and the doctor said he should go slow, but A.J. doesn't know how to go slow."
Tressel said Hawk suffered an injury late in the season, but waited until after the Fiesta Bowl to have his operation.
"He could have had surgery at the beginning of November," Tressel said. "But A.J. knew that if he had surgery then he would have been out for a while. He had it done a couple of days after the bowl game. When it comes to surgery, the doctors want to err on the side of caution. If there was a game today, I have a feeling A.J. would probably play. But we want to make sure he makes progress properly."
Tressel discussed other players who could miss practice time.
"(Defensive tackle) Marcus Green will probably not have contact," he said. "(Defensive tackle) David Patterson, who we think will be a pretty good player for us, will not have contact. (Linebacker) Mike D'Andrea will be limited due to (shoulder) surgery. (Tailback) Maurice Hall had two (knee) surgeries as well and he'll be limited.
"(Offensive guard) Adam Olds had hip surgery. He will be limited and I would guess will miss some time as well."
* Although the spring game usually starts at 1:30 p.m., it will begin a half-hour earlier. The Big Ten will begin its instant replay experiment for this game.
* Tressel revealed that senior-to-be Josh Huston is pursuing an injury redshirt year and could be declared just a junior in 2004.
* In regards to open practices, most practices will be closed to the media and general public, alike. The kick scrimmage April 15 (3:15 p.m.), the jersey scrimmage April 17 (2 p.m.) and the spring game will all be open to the public. Tickets for the spring game ($5) are available at the OSU web site. The media will have two other opportunities to also watch 30-minute slivers of practice.
* The coach also announced that the team had one of its 6 a.m. workouts -- usually confined to winter quarter -- this morning as a precursor to spring drills.
* Branden Joe revealed he may spend half his time at tailback and half at fullback this spring.
* We have put together our own roster heading into the spring. It can be accessed by clicking here.
* We have plenty of coverage planned. Stay tuned right here.