A Tressel Invention: The Special Teams Scrimmage

OSU fans are invited to attend today's special teams scrimmage at Ohio Stadium (3 p.m.). One of the key battles will be at punter, where early enrolling freshman A.J. Trapasso will be under the gun. Click here for more.

In addition to his five national championships, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has made one more enduring contribution to the culture of college football -- the special teams scrimmage.

"This is my invention," Tressel beamed three years ago in his first spring as the OSU coach, shortly before unveiling the kick scrimmage for the first time with the Buckeyes. (He will unveil it again today at roughly 3 p.m. inside the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.)

Tressel invented the kick scrimmage during his tenure at Youngstown State. The premise is pretty simple: Once during the spring and once during the fall, Tressel has devoted half of one practice session to a scrimmage where every play has to be a special teams play. The team is split down the middle by the coaches.

The scrimmage begins with a kickoff. Every down from scrimmage is a fourth down. Teams can line up to punt, fake a punt or kick a field goal. Obviously, things get interesting when kicks are blocked for touchdowns or punts or kicks are brought back far enough for the team taking possession to attempt a field goal.

At various points in the scrimmage, Tressel will unilaterally move the ball to the 1-yard line to force teams to punt out of their end zone. Plus, at various times, he will order a series of field goals at each end. The field goal kickers, by the end of the day, could attempt 10 or more field goals.

The kicker (ha ha) of the whole thing is the losing team has to walk three-quarters of a mile from the stadium back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, while the winning team rides back in air conditioned comfort aboard one of the team buses.

Sometimes even the winners walk back. Last fall, starting kicker Mike Nugent helped his team win the scrimmage. But he was so disgusted over missing several makeable kicks -- he missed more in one hour of the kick scrimmage than he did the entire previous season -- he walked back as well.

Of course, Nugent and fellow kicker Josh Huston will be at center stage trying to outdo each other. At the same time, Huston will probably also battle early enrolling true freshman A.J. Trapasso for the punting job.

Long snappers Kyle Andrews and Drew Norman will be under the gun, as will kick and punt returners Santonio Holmes, Ashton Youboty, Roy Hall, Bam Childress or anybody else. Tressel said he wants to see how all of these guys perform under a pressure situation.

"It will be interesting," Tressel said. "We are going to put the punters and holders and guys who are brand, brand new in some tough positions. Today, we had them back there trying to punt from their own 1-yard line and they had to get rid of it in about a second-and-a-half or you're going to eat it. Those are the kinds of things Andy (Groom) had to do when he was growing up and B.J. (Sander) had to do. We could go back and look at some scrimmage film of those guys when they were rookies, but they improved. That's what these guys have to do, too."

For a guy like Huston, the special teams scrimmage could be a chance for him to finally win a job.

"I've seen a real passion to try and help this team, whatever it is," Tressel said. "Right now, he wants to battle for the starting punting job. He thinks he should be the starting kickoff guy. `Put me in the game and I'll make every field goal,' he says. That's his attitude and that's the kind of attitude we need."

In recent years, OSU has benefited from fine punting by Groom, an All-American, and Sander, the Ray Guy Award winner. But the job is completely up in the air this spring as Huston, Trapasso and J.D. Bergman, a walk-on from the wrestling team, all try and make their case.

"Last year, when I watched the kick scrimmage -- especially in the preseason -- I was like, `I hope no one falls on B.J.' because I know he can do this," Tressel said. "But we also have to practice all of the other stuff. This time, and it may sound cruel, I'm not sure who I don't want fallen on. So, let's go get ‘em all. I don't want anybody getting hurt, but we have to be tested.

"We felt midway through 2001, we didn't care who the punter was, Andy or B.J., because they were both good. Well, we don't know that about this group yet. They need to be tested and it will be interesting."

And, if you happen to be in or around Lane Avenue around 4:30 or 5 p.m. today, don't be surprised if 40 or so Ohio State football players are walking down the street in full gear.

"No matter what happens, at the end of it someone is going to walk home, someone is going to ride the bus and we'll have another one in the preseason," Tressel said.

This scrimmage -- as well as Saturday's 2 p.m. jersey scrimmage -- are open to the public. Fans are directed to enter at the southeast gate and use the South Stands to view the game.


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