The Spring Preview is a benefit for the Alzheimer's Association of Central Ohio. It was begun 12 years ago by Tressel's predecessor, John Cooper, and his wife, Helen, whose mother, Minnie Thompson, battled Alzheimer's in the latter stages of her life.
"I almost feel more comfortable calling it Coach Cooper's Spring Preview," Tressel noted as he introduced Cooper and his wife.
A crowd of over 1,500 attended the event. OSU's national championship team from 1954 was celebrated on its 50th anniversary, while the 1979 Big Ten championship team was saluted on its 25th anniversary. Captain Dick Brubaker represented the 1954 team, while Cal Murray represented the 1979 team.
Brubaker shared a story as he rode a bus from the airport in Los Angeles to the hotel before the Rose Bowl.
"I'm sitting in the back of the bus and Woody was sitting next to me," Brubaker said. "At a street corner, there were some gorgeous palm trees and among the greenery and flowers were two beautiful blonde young women. I said, `Coach, would you look at that.'
"He took his big meaty hand and banged it down on my thigh and said, `Dick, doggone it, those girls will still be there in two weeks when we're going to be Rose Bowl champions.' "
Murray also shared a Hayes story, this one coming from his fateful final season in 1978.
"That whole year he talked about how somebody would know about his right hook," Murray said. "That's what ended taking him out of here. But Coach Hayes always talked to us about staying together as a family. There was no black and no white. We were a team and you helped your brother."
Tressel then shared his view on how the 12 previous months have gone for his football program.
"It is exciting to be here in the springtime," he said. "There is something about spring practice that gets a coach's blood flowing.
"I thought our guys last year did a tremendous job of winning some tough games here at home," Tressel said. "They won some games at the beginning of the year and positioned themselves with a chance to go on and have a good football team. The times we did struggle and we did come up short, I thought the players and coaches did a tremendous job of reacting to that.
"We lost that game at Wisconsin and it snapped the long winning streak. But the players and staff did a good job of rising up and reacting. They handled adversity and they handled reality. The players came back and positioned themselves to have a chance to be anything they had a hope to be. It was the 100th Ohio State-Michigan game and a chance to be the outright Big Ten champions and an opportunity to move into the national championship game, but we came up short. We didn't get that job done."
But Tressel credited his team for coming back to defeat favored Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 11-2.
"They really attacked the bowl preparation season," he said. "They practiced extremely hard in Columbus. Then, they took a week off for the holidays. When we reconvened in Tempe, Ariz., the practice tempo was extraordinary. It was a feather in our cap that we had so many veterans and so many seniors who could have been distracted with what was next for them. But there was no question as you watched them prepare for the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State that they were preparing hard. I am proud of that 2003 team, even though we did not meet all of our goals."
Tressel then invited several of his assistants and rising seniors to address the group regarding spring practice and the 2004 team.
Secondary coach Mel Tucker discussed his personnel at corner.
"Dustin Fox has been a great player for us the past couple of years," Tucker said. "Harlen Jacobs is a senior who we think will contribute for us. We have a number of guys who could step up like E.J. Underwood, Ashton Youboty and Ted Ginn Jr., a young man who will be coming in."
Tucker said the defensive backs have to get back to assisting with stopping the run.
"We have to do a better job against some of the running teams," he said. "When we play teams like Wisconsin and Michigan, our safeties will need to come up and light some people up and our corners will need to be more involved."
Wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell discussed the battle at quarterback, featuring sophomores Justin Zwick and Troy Smith.
"The quarterbacks during the course of the day you'll see them looking out of the corner of their eye to see who the guy is today," Hazell said. "It's exciting."
New running backs coach Dick Tressel talked about how his Saturdays will differ from his role as a member of the support staff the last three years or as a head coach at Division III Hamline University in Minnesota prior to that.
"Saturday afternoons will be a little different," Dick Tressel said. "We used to have about twice as many people that are here today at our games (at Hamline). It will be a little different having the 105,000 in red. The things I have done here off the field since I've been here are truly important, but football is fundamental to our kids. It is exciting to be a part of that with them."
Seven of the rising seniors then got a chance to speak, including kicker Mike Nugent, long snapper Kyle Andrews, punter Kyle Turano, cornerback Dustin Fox, tight end Jason Caldwell, offensive guard Mike Kne and tailback Lydell Ross.
Andrews talked about the importance of good snaps.
"The biggest thing is putting the ball consistently in the window," said Andrews, who has been nearly flawless as the long snapper. "Coach Fickell and Coach Conley talk about that all the time. With Mike having a new holder (Turano), it is important for me to put the ball where they can handle it."
Turano added, "I pretty much have two All-Americans here (in Andrews and Nugent). My job is easy. I just have to hold it."
Nugent shared that Santonio Holmes, Bam Childress, Ashton Youboty and Roy Hall have all been involved in the return game this spring. They want to add Ginn to that mix in the fall as well.
Fox talked about facing OSU's fine receivers in practice.
"We do our one-on-one drills against guys who some think could be All-Americans or All-Big Ten," he said. "Then when we go out in the games, the guys we play aren't as good as the guys we play in practice. That helps us with our confidence."
Caldwell struck a blow for the tight ends, saying, "Every now and again, if nobody is open, they will throw us the ball."
Tressel had the last laugh, though, saying, "Ben Hartsock got open 38 times last year and caught 38 passes. We'll put Jason in there this year and see how many times he gets open."
Tressel was asked about nonconference scheduling. He noted how OSU travels to N.C. State to complete a two-year agreement this year, then has a home-and-home with Texas in 2005-06 and a return game at Washington in 2007. Future home-and-home series are set with Syracuse, USC and Miami (Fla.) as well, he said.
"Like Coach Cooper said, you would like to play as many games at home as you can so your fans can hear the band and feel that stadium and support our other 35 sports," Tressel said. "But scheduling is done at the administrative level."