Tucker, Tressel Meet With Media

Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker and running backs coach Dick Tressel met with the media today after today's practice to discuss the latest issues at DB and RB. Dave Biddle has a full report.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Mel Tucker and running backs coach Dick Tressel met with the media after Thursday's practice.

Tucker, who has a lot more say in the defensive game planning this year, thinks the Buckeyes' defense is ready for the challenge that Cincinnati will present.

"I think the attitude is good right now," he said. "The kids are ready to play - ready to hit someone in a different colored jersey. It's been a long time since we've been out there in Ohio Stadium for a real game and I think they're excited about the opportunity to go in there and play and show what they can do. No doubt they're excited about it."

With a new staff at Cincinnati, it is hard to predict what the Bearcats' offense will try to do on Saturday.

"Yeah, the one thing we do know is that we don't know what they're going to do for sure," Tucker said. "We have to go out there and play good, hard-nosed fundamental defense and I'm sure they are going to do the same and then after we get a feel for what they're trying to do, we'll adjust from there."

Containing senior quarterback Gino Guidugli will be a big key for the Buckeyes.

"He's a great player and I know he's going to try and come out and throw the ball some, but I also know they want to run it as well," Tucker said. "So, I would expect a balanced attack from them, but we have to be ready for whatever."

Tucker says nothing has changed as far as OSU's depth chart is concerned. Tyler Everett will start at one of the safety spots and a lot of young guys will play.

"Yeah, Tyler is in there and obviously Donte (Whitner) is a guy that will be rotating in there," Tucker said. "(Ashton) Youboty has been getting a lot of reps and he's a guy that will be rotating in there as well. He's a nickel guy and Donte is a nickel guy as well. We cross-train a couple players and I think we've gained a little more depth that way. So, I would expect rolling six or seven guys in there."

Coming into camp, Ted Ginn Jr. was expected to see the majority of his playing time this season on defense and as a return man. However, Jim Tressel hinted earlier in the week that Ginn might play more offense than defense. With the season-ending injury to Devin Jordan, there is simply more depth in the secondary than at receiver.

"It's hard to say," Tucker said of Ginn's playing time defensively. "I know he's available to us. He knows some positions and has a good feel for our scheme defensively. I know that he's been out there on offense getting some work - exactly what he's been doing I'm not quite sure. Everybody who dresses out there needs to be ready to go in the game. I'm sure if we call on Ted he'll be ready to go get the job done."

Tucker wants to make sure that Ginn's confidence stays at a high level.

"I think any player, young or old, you want to put them in a position where they can make plays and obviously they're going to be more comfortable and will play fast if they know what they're doing," he said. "So, anytime you put a young player in a game, you want to try and put him in a position where he can be successful early and gain some confidence from that. So I would anticipate any young player going into a game, hopefully we'd be able to put them in a position where they know what to do and be successful and not be confused."

Tucker likes having all of this depth in his defensive backfield. You simply cannot have too much depth.

"As far as the secondary is concerned, I feel that I would like to be able to rotate eight or nine guys in there at some point," he said. "I know when we played Michigan State and Purdue last year we rotated a lot of guys in there and you need to be able to do that. You need to have depth and you need to cross-train guys. It's just like the linebacker position. The more depth you have, the better you will be. It's a long season."

* Doc Tressel informed the media that nothing has changed for fullback Branden Joe. He will miss the opener with an ankle sprain.

"Yeah, Branden is not ready to go," Tressel said. "He's getting close, but he did not take any reps today. He feels that he doesn't want to stagger through three games this fall. When he starts, he's going to be ready to go full speed and bring everything he has to offer to the club."

Unlike last season, the Buckeyes have quality depth at tailback. True freshman Antonio Pittman is challenging Maurice Hall for the No. 2 job. Tressel says either of them could be inserted into the game at any point.

"Yeah, absolutely, I think there's no question about that," he said. "It has a lot to do with what we need to do at that given point in time because they probably bring some different characteristics. Although, I wouldn't say there is any one thing that neither of those guys can do. I'm very comfortable with either one of them. There's no question in anyone's mind that Mo Hall is a veteran. Mo Hall is going to be the one that is the calmest, the quickest, ready to use all of his ability as quickly as possible. I mean, you score a winning touchdown against Michigan and Illinois and things like that, that can't be discounted.

"But there's no question that Antonio Pittman's skills that you saw last spring in the spring game can't be discounted either. I think we would be remiss if we didn't try and use those talents. That's really the coaching staff's job: use the talents of the Buckeyes and try and have as good of a product and competitive team as we can."

But don't count out true freshman Erik Haw just yet. He did not get a chance to participate in spring drills and a lot of people assumed he would redshirt after seeing Pittman tear it up. However, Haw's had a strong camp and will see the field this year.

"We have not put a redshirt on Erik Haw," Tressel said. "Erik Haw is a quality running back. We've been very fortunate this fall health-wise. We've held Mo Hall out of a couple practices just because we didn't want to overuse knees that have been surgically repaired, but otherwise we've been healthy, we've been there. So, Erik maybe hasn't had as many reps as a couple of the other guys, but he's a very capable young man and by no means do we feel like we are going to save anything. We're planning right now that whatever is best for the Buckeyes, let's get it on the field."

Tressel knows that a strong running game will take some of the pressure off OSU's young quarterbacks.

"Absolutely," he said. "That's one of our goals. One of the things that the team needs is for the older players - the seniors - to step up and have their best years and our running backs, we've got five seniors. So, it would stand that those guys would be the ones that we hope step up. I don't think they have to do anything out of what they're capable of. They do have to make the uncommon play. They can't just go along and just sort of do their part, they have to make some uncommon plays so the young guys don't have to. Because in every game, there's going to be guys that make special plays and hopefully the running backs field some of those challenges."

Starting tailback Lydell Ross seems poised to have a big year. Ross struggled last year, but Tressel has noticed a different Ross this year. He's not letting the minor injuries bother him and is just a more mature player all around.

"He's healthy and that makes everybody happier," Tressel said. "He's almost 21. He's been a young player and maybe some of the things that a 21 or 22-year-old guy with a harder shell that's had more trials and tribulations, you know, it might have rolled off their back a little easier than it did Lydell the last couple of years where maybe he let a hamstring bother him, or he wasn't as quick to rebound from a play, or something like that. But, I think right now, you've got a mature football player who's always been talented and I think that maturity and the consistency that he's been able to have over the spring and fall camps has got him feeling better about himself and certainly the coaching staff and everybody that's seen the activity more confident in him."

With Joe out for the opener, Brandon Schnittker and Stan White will share fullback duties.

"I would say they're pretty interchangeable," Tressel said. "I think fullback is a position that's developed to be a point of attack position. You talk about the fullback in Ohio State's offense, that guy is going to be at the point of attack almost all the time. If he's not, we're trying to trick you.

"If you need to share that role, you need to share it. I think we're comfortable with those two guys sharing that. Stan would probably be more of a line of scrimmage guy and maybe Brandon a fullback guy, but you'll see both of them doing everything. You know, picking up some of that stuff that (Ben) Hartsock did. He was that motion guy, H-guy and they're both capable of doing everything that we've done."

In an interesting twist, Mike Tressel - Dick's son - is the Bearcats' linebackers/special teams coach. That means Connie Tressel will have her husband and brother-in-law on one sideline, and her son on the other. That makes for a confused situation, but the Tressels have everything figured out.

"Connie is pulling for the Buckeyes," Doc Tressel said. "She didn't have an option on that one."

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