Tressel Meets With Media In Chicago

OSU head coach Jim Tressel appeared at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon proceedings in Chicago today. The Buckeyes were the media's No. 2 pick in the conference race (behind Michigan), while linebacker A.J. Hawk was tapped as the preseason defensive player of the year. Click here for all of the headlines from Chicago.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with the media this afternoon during the first day of the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon proceedings here in Chicago.

The Big Ten announced the results of its preseason media poll. Defending champion Michigan took the top spot, followed by Ohio State and Purdue. In a surprise, Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton was named the preseason offensive player of the year (instead of Michigan's Braylon Edwards). OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk was the top pick on the defensive side of the ball.

"A.J. Hawk is a preseason selection for some notoriety," Tressel said. "Sometimes I get weary about when players have that kind of notoriety. But A.J.'s work ethic is tremendous. Hopefully, some of our other players will take notice and do things like A.J. Hawk has done them and they will get some notoriety as well."

Tressel was asked whether he sees Hawk being as effective this year, despite working behind a young defensive line.

"I hope so," Tressel said. "It will be interesting. We've got to figure out exactly who we are defensively. Some of the things that may have featured Will Smith or Darrion Scott or Tim Anderson, we might have some guys do different things.

"A.J. Hawk's position is such that we need him to make a lot of plays for us. I don't care what defense or scheme we're running. The weak side linebacker position is the one that needs to make plays."

OSU's total of 11 returning starters is the fewest of any team in the Big Ten.

"It doesn't seem like we have 11 starters back," Tressel said. "We have an exciting group that has a lot of talent. I think they have a passion to be a very good team. But I think what happens in the early going will have a lot to do with determining what kind of team we're going to have."

Athletically, Tressel said he likes the new wave of Buckeyes.

"If you measured us and weighed us and looked at our 40's and lifts, I'm sure they would all be about where we've been," he said. "But unfortunately, height and weight and speed are not as important as experience and doing the things you need to do in the game of football.

"From an athletic standpoint, I feel as good about this group as I have the last couple of years. But we have a long way to go in a lot of areas that will have a huge impact on our team."

Tressel was asked about how OSU can improve its struggling running game on offense.

"This spring when we practiced we ran the ball better than we had the previous spring," he said. "I like to think we'll run the football better than we have and we will need to.

"As you look at it you ask if the design was the best design. I'm not sure it always was. You ask were we doing the things on the line of scrimmage and creating the lanes we need to run the ball successfully. I'm not sure we did that.

"Then, did we run it as well as we need to run it? I'm not sure we did that, either. If you add all of those things together, we did not run the ball as well as we should have. If we can improve each of those things, we should be able to run it better."

Tressel was then asked about the quarterback position, beginning with sophomore Justin Zwick.

"Justin Zwick is a guy who is similar in athletic capability like Craig," Tressel said. "He is a big, strong guy. He is similar to Craig in his ability to move and escape. Troy Smith is also similar in some ways. Troy is very athletic. He does not have the same size as Craig or Justin. We also have a young guy, Todd Boeckman, who is a big and strong guy. He is a tall guy like Craig.

"What we need is some game experience."

The coach also discussed the shake-up on his defensive staff with Mark Snyder replacing Mark Dantonio as the coordinator.

"When you lose a guy like Mark Dantonio, that's tough," he said. "He had been with us throughout and virtually run that defense. I think we have a great luxury with Mark Snyder in that he spent four years up there with Glen Mason in Minnesota. He knows our league very well. He spent the last three years here, so he has spent the last seven years in our league. It's not like he's coming in and doesn't know how our conference is going to be.

"He also knows our personnel well. We're not going to change drastically what we're going to do, although we lost a lot of players. I feel good about our transition."

After going through distractions (i.e., Maurice Clarett) in previous off-seasons, Tressel was asked about going through a "quiet" summer.

"It wasn't that quiet because the world has changed in terms of recruiting," he said. "It seemed like every time we turned around there was someone calling and asking if they could come to campus and look around. The recruiting is so accelerated. They want to get a feel and make that decision and focus on their senior year.

"I don't know with 4,000 campers and all the recruiting whether it was that quiet. But if you're inferring quiet from a distraction standpoint, obviously, that's good. We never want things to go awry. Obviously, things are never perfect. But I feel good about the way things have gone this summer. The work ethic has been good and the behavior and so forth."

Also Notable

* With the exception of Dennis Kennedy, Tressel said all of the incoming freshmen should be in camp next week.

* OSU plans to announce its preseason practice schedule on Friday. But the team will convene Tuesday and have photo day Wednesday evening at Ohio Stadium. Stay tuned for the exact times and format.

* A big topic at today's session was instant replay. The Big Ten will have instant replay at all of its conference games as well as all nonconference games played at Big Ten sites as long as the opponent approves. (In OSU's case, Cincinnati and Marshall have approved the use of instant replay for those games.)

A replay official in the press box will decide which plays will be reviewed. He will contact the referee to stop play and then review video using a special TiVo-type device in the press box.

* Illinois coach Ron Turner told the media that, after a 1-11 season, he gave his defensive coaches free reign to raid the offense for the best athletes.

Leading receiver Kelvin Hayden has moved to corner.

"We decided we had to stop people if we were going to win," Turner said.

* Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez believes his team could contend.

"The one constant our best teams have had is a great offensive line and a great running back," he said. "We think we have those things with this group."

* Purdue's Joe Tiller sung the praises of Orton.

"Kyle Orton is a special player," he said. "He is as strong-armed a guy as we have had in the time we've been here."

* Penn State's Joe Paterno passed up a chance to make an opening statement, saying, "When you're 3-9, you have nothing to say."

Believe it or not, Penn State was a dismal 1-7 in Big Ten play a year ago.

* Michigan's Lloyd Carr arrived late when his plane flight from Detroit this morning was cancelled. Carr and the Wolverines received a special waiver from the NCAA to begin preseason camp today -- the same day as first opponent Miami (Ohio), which got permission to move another game a week before the Michigan game.

* Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said expansion in the conference is a dead issue. He did foresee the permanent addition of the 12th regular season game in the years ahead.

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