Tressel Talks Nugent, Conference Play

The Buckeyes have a bye week coming up, but there was still plenty for OSU head coach Jim Tressel to talk about in today's Big Ten teleconference. Click on this free link to read his latest thoughts on Mike Nugent, instant replay, the NC State game, and Big Ten play.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel opened today's Big Ten teleconference with some words about Saturday's game at North Carolina State.

"We certainly had a tough ball game down in Raleigh, North Carolina," Tressel said. "There were some good things and some things we really have to work on. Mike Nugent's performance was outstanding, and that's why he was selected as the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. He's done a great job for us coming through when we needed him and did a great job on his kickoffs as well. We keep saying he may be the best kicker in the country, and he's a good one.

"Defensively, we did a good job putting pressure on them for the majority of the game. I thought their last two drives, we probably didn't execute quite as much, quite as well as we did at the beginning through the first three-and-a-half quarters. Offensively, we did some good things from a field position standpoint, from a no-turnover-type standpoint, but we have a ways to go in all phases. It was a good win for the conference; anytime we go out and play one of the BCS conferences and come away with a win, it's a good thing. We'll try to build on it in this open week."

Tressel was asked about Justin Zwick and where things stand after three non-conference games.

"I think Justin Zwick, who has had the majority of the reps, has made some progress," Tressel said. "He's made some big plays, he's made some mistakes, and I thought this weekend down in Raleigh, he did a good job of keeping his mistakes to a minimum. He's a first-year starter; he's only had three starts in his career -- two at home, and one tough one on the road. I'd like to think he'll keep getting better and better, and we feel good about him."

Zwick is about to enter yet another first-time challenge as conference play starts. Tressel discussed whether or not Zwick's performance will be magnified once Big Ten play begins.

"It is a whole new level," Tressel said. "When you get into conference play, every down is a battle. Every experience you will learn from. Every mistake you make as a quarterback certainly will be magnified. Every big play that you make would likewise make a tremendous difference for us.

"I feel good about the amount of progress that he's made. I think we're as prepared as we can be as we head into the Big Ten."

Mike Nugent

Buckeye kicker Mike Nugent's performance against NC State has been consistently praised across the nation. Tressel was asked about Nugent's high school recruitment and if it was a priority to bring him in.

"Interestingly enough, I had only been here about two days, and I asked the staff that were remaining how they felt about the kicking situation because the kicker from 2000 was graduating," Tressel said. "They said, 'Well, we have one guy (who is) untested.' I said, 'Well, don't you think we need to get out and get another kicker?' One thing led to another, and we went out and recruited Mike Nugent, and he became a starter on day one.

"He had a tough freshman year, like many freshmen do, was good by the end of the year, and then his sophomore, junior and senior years, I think, have been spectacular. If he keeps up the pace that he's going, he could go down as one of the finest kickers in the history of our school. So it's a huge priority."

Nugent had his share of struggles as a true freshman, but he made a huge leap from being an inconsistent freshman to one of the nation's best kickers as a sophomore. Tressel said that Nugent was able to overcome the big leap from high school to college.

"You go from living at home to kicking off a tee to having rushers rush at the speed that high school guys rush you to living in the dorm, kicking off the ground, to those people flying at you pretty fast," Tressel said. "So there's adjustments to be made, and he had an okay year as a freshman. He got better as he went, it's obvious, but he's a learner. He's a studier, and he's a competitor. He was a high school quarterback, so he's been in the fray. He's just made himself a better kicker. Like most positions, experience does that."

The Buckeyes have been mentioned by several outlets as being the team that enters Big Ten play as the conference favorite. Tressel was asked if he has been at all surprised with what he has seen from Big Ten teams so far.

"I think we've seen enough that we can tell that it's going to be a good league, without question," he said. "Of course, we knew that. I think we've also seen that a lot of us are breaking in new quarterbacks, and you have your ups and downs and are probably not as consistent of teams right now, but again, we had to expect that.  If we thought that all of us were going to step in with new quarterbacks and everything was going to be the same as our senior the year before, I think we'd be kidding ourselves.

"I think the transition that's gone on our league this year shows some signs that we're going to be outstanding again. The Big Ten is going to be a tough battle; every play, you're in the game. I haven't seen film on anybody yet, but just from the surface, that's what it appears to me."

Purdue QB Kyle Orton

One of the few teams that isn't breaking in a new quarterback is Purdue, who has the luxury of returning senior starter and preseason Big Ten offensive player of the year Kyle Orton manning the controls. Tressel was asked if he felt Orton's presence gives Purdue an advantage.

"I think if you look at the pre-Big Ten schedule, you would say that Purdue probably had the most consistent performance," Tressel said. "They had outstanding performances in all their games. Some of  it has to do with the fact that Kyle Orton is so good. I don't know if you would call that an advantage that we didn't know about because we knew how good Kyle Orton was and they had a lot of folks back on offense.

"I would hope by midseason that all of our new quarterbacks are much older and that we're all more consistent football teams. I'm guessing that's what will happen."

Tressel was also asked if he felt that the Big Ten race would be a wild one due to all the young quarterbacks.

"That can happen because the less-experienced guys can sometimes be wonderful and sometimes do some things that don't help the cause and can create situations that will make it a little wild and crazy," he said. "I've always felt that the Big Ten -- it didn't matter who you're playing, where you're playing, whatever -- any Big Ten team can beat the other. To me, that's the fun of it -- the fact that it is a little wild and crazy."

The topic of replay has come up quite a bit, and Tressel was asked once again what he felt about the experiment, which he admitted might have helped OSU against NC State.

"Going into it, I was in line with the other coaches, feeling as if it's a good experiment to see if there's a way to make the game better," Tressel said. "We're always trying to do that within our own programs, and we like to be leaders in the sport, so I was in line with that, not with any particular passion that I think replay is the answer to making it a much better game, because the replay we have in place is not a comprehensive replay. It only replays certain types of penalties, so I'm not sold that it's the answer.

"From what I've seen thus far, we haven't really been a part of any replay situations that have changed the flow of the game at all. In our first two games, there was only one stoppage, and the play that was called on the field was upheld. In this game we played away from home last weekend, if there were replay, we probably would have had another interception. But those things happen, and I'm sure we probably held once or twice that we shouldn't have and it wasn't called. I'm for the experiment, but I'm not sold that it's going to be the answer forever."

Finally, a question was posed about what Tressel thought about the possibility of individual coaches' poll ballots being made public now that there is such a focus on the results. Tressel gave an interesting answer.

"I don't know," he said. "I've never given it any thought. I'm not sure that coaches, as I think about it, would necessarily want that being done because so many times, your opponents are on your top 25. You'd hate to create bulletin board material where maybe they're not as highly-ranked as they think they should be, and those kinds of things. We've got enough things that we do naturally to get ourselves in trouble; I don't know that we need to add one more."


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