Tressel Discusses Northwestern, Running Game

This article has been updated to include OSU head coach Jim Tressel's comments from his weekly luncheon. There, he discussed the Showtime scrimmage, Northwestern, the running game, Branden Joe's status and much more. Plus, we have the coach's comments from the Big Ten teleconference. Click this free link for all the details.

Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel is usually flanked by three or four players at his weekly press luncheon. But Tressel was flying solo today as he met with the media in preparation for Saturday's Big Ten opener at Northwestern (9 p.m., ESPN2).

"Our guys are champing at the bit to get started in the Big Ten," Tressel said. "We had an open week where everybody was able to sit and watch everyone else play. I can see them getting edgy and I could see them getting excited.

"We are excited to be going to Chicago and playing Northwestern and playing in the Big Ten. The atmosphere there two years ago was great. We know it will be a packed house. We think it will be a chance for us to grow in a tough situation."

Here were more of Tressel's comments from Tuesday's luncheon:

* On the Showtime scrimmage Friday -- "We had a scrimmage Friday where a lot of our young guys got an opportunity to play. We ran 64 plays. It was some good experience for them. I know some of them were sore coming back on Sunday.

"Most of the guys who played in the scrimmage are not necessarily guys in the two-deep. Troy Smith got in for 10 plays. They were all passes under pressure. Kirk Barton and T.J. Downing played 10 plays. Branden Joe got four or five plays. The guys in the two-deep didn't get that much time.

"I thought Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons we're really (impressive). Marcel Frost and Rory Nicol got a lot of work. They are both in the two-deep, but they haven't gotten a lot of time on Saturdays. I thought a guy like Chad Hoobler showed up pretty good.

"It was for them to go out and have fun. They have to be on the scout team. We call it Showtime because it's their time to be on center stage."

* Impressions on Northwestern -- "When I watch Northwestern and look at their offense, I see a veteran quarterback who can make things happen. This is his third year as a starter and he's a solid guy. Their running back, (Noah) Herron, is solid. He's a tough guy to bring down. Their system, in itself, is not something we see a lot of. It's always a challenge to face something different than you're used to seeing."

* On playing a night game -- "We are fortunate in our conference that we do not play a lot of games outside of Saturday very often. For us, this is about as unusual as you get. Our guys played throughout high school at night. We will be away from home. We are trying to get cleared for a walkthrough during the day. They will have some study time during the day and I'm sure they will watch ballgames and relax.

"I know it will be an exciting atmosphere. It's on national television. It's all the things our guys like. We're looking forward to heading to Chicago.

"It's listed as an 8:12 (Central time) start, so you better be ready to play at 8:12. It's our first Big Ten game as well."

* On Bam Childress, listed as the starter at flanker, with Santonio Holmes replacing Roy Hall at split end -- "We did that for game three. Bam Childress has earned the opportunity to be a starter. He is a veteran who had done some good things. Bam Childress is a play maker. It is exciting for him. It means so much for him to contribute and do well for his teammates."

* On OSU's defenses holding down spread offenses -- "The thing our defense has done is do a good job with against these style offenses is they have done a good job of making it hard to run. The way our defense is built, if we can't stop the run it's going to be a hard day.

"That's what has me concerned about this game. Herron is an outstanding running back. You add the quarterback (Brett Basanez) to that and you know we will be challenged. Our defense has made teams one-dimensional, but we know that will be hard to do because Herron is so good and they have three veteran linemen. But that's been one of the secrets to our defense being so successful."

* On the importance of the Big Ten -- "The value of it or the importance of the Big Ten is crucial for our guys. We need to be successful and get better and gain experience. Everything is magnified in the Big Ten. Every single ballgame in the Big Ten is critical. These guys came to Ohio State because they wanted to play in the Big Ten. Our set-up this year was good. We played three tough games, then we had the open week and started school and now we can focus on the Big Ten."

* On the struggling running game -- "Consistency is what we strive for. That starts with the personnel. We need consistency in who plays. Branden Joe needs to play. Antonio Pittman has been out, but he is one of the guys who we think will be important. Lydell (Ross) has been in there.

"Consistency in his place is running hard, but he can't put the ball on the ground. We need consistency in the quarterback getting us into the right play. I think we've done good in that regard, but we need to be 100 percent.

"We need consistency up front. We have played seven or eight guys a good amount. We need to continue to do that."

* On Joe's availability -- "Branden played in the scrimmage, in fact, Friday. We wanted him to be hit live a little bit. I expect Branden to be fully available. Exactly how much he will play, I don't know how the game will play out. But we expect Branden Joe and Antonio Pittman to have a lot more presence than they have so far."

* On Ross -- "We're 15-0 when he gets more than 15 carries. I joked that we should just give it to him for the first 15 plays of the game and we'd be done with it. We expect him to do an excellent job. There is no tailback controversy. Lydell has to have a great senior year in the Big Ten for us to win the Big Ten. But we need more than one tailback to do a great job."

Also Notable

* Tressel said defensive end Mike Kudla (recurring neck sprain) should be back on the field this week after missing the N.C. State game. Jay Richardson is listed as the starter at that spot.

* The coach said there is no update on cornerback Dustin Fox (broken arm) and his return date. He is still due back late in the month, the coach said.

* Tressel said if the decision was made today quarterback Todd Boeckman and tailback Erik Haw would redshirt, although he noted how things can change with injuries.

* Former OSU player and assistant coach Tim Spencer, now with the Chicago Bears, will be an honorary captain for Saturday's game at Evanston. Former OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel, also with the Bears, is expected to join the team during the day at some point as well.


Here is our report on Tressel's appearance on the Big Ten teleconference:

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel checked in for his weekly meetings with the media today, starting off with the Big Ten teleconference.

"I know our guys are anxious to get into Big Ten play," Tressel started. "When you have one of those open dates and players sit around watching all the games and so forth, they kind of get edgy to get back out out there. We thought we had a good open week. Our school began last week being on the quarter system, so it was a good transition for us. They're ready to get going and get ready for Northwestern and get ready to go up there and play a night ball game, which will be exciting and a great atmosphere."

During the teleconference, Tressel was asked about comments by Northwestern player Luis Castillo, who referred to Ohio State's offense as "mediocre," and whether or not that will fire up the team.

"I would imagine that would be on an individual basis," Tressel said. "What we need to do is play well. Our guys, I don't know if they need to be fired up. I think they love playing the game and can't wait to start the Big Ten schedule. What we've got to do is we've got to do a better job on offense and maybe not work so much on being fired up by being good and perhaps we'll get better than mediocre."

Tressel was asked about the progress of linebacker Mike D'Andrea and how he has fared since his arrival at Ohio State.

"It's been exciting to see the fact that he's had his opportunity in there to be the middle linebacker," Tressel said. He's also played a little bit of rush end in our nickel package. He plays a little bit different positions, so he's really a versatile kid and an outstanding football player. He along with A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel give us I think four outstanding linebackers. We're very fortunate to have him and I know Mike is excited to be back at it.

"He was really growing into the position last year and unfortunately had an injury in the back half of the Big Ten schedule, which really hurt us down the stretch. He got that taken care of, and he was kind of champing at the bit during the spring because they didn't allow any contact and he's a contact player. He's enjoyed every moment this fall."

The play of Mike Nugent has been the talk of the town so far this season, and the subject of Mike Nugent has come up at each of the past few teleconferences. Today, Tressel was asked about Mike's psychological make up and if kicking is as much mental as physical.

"It really is," Tressel said. "Anytime that you have a skill that you only get called on a few times and you have to be perfect if you're going to be thought of as successful, I think a lot of it is mental.

"Michael was an excellent youth soccer player and became an excellent high school football player. He was the quarterback of a very, very good football team on the largest level of high school football here in Ohio, and then came here and won the kicking job as a true freshman and had some ups and downs and handled it very, very well. Really, since his sophomore season, his record speaks for itself. He's got to be thought of as one of the best of the country."

Mike Nugent has been the antithesis of what has been seemingly so common across college football this year with so many kickers missing key extra points and short field goals. Tressel commented on this trend as well.

"I would say this," Tressel said. "The teams that we've seen and that we are getting ready to face this weekend -- Northwestern just blocked a couple field goals, extra points and so forth. Teams put pressure on you. The extra point is not a play off. It's not a play where people say 'Okay, they scored a touchdown, it's really 7-0. It's not; it's 6-0, and I think people realize every point is critical, and I think people are doing a great job putting pressure on them."

Last week, the championships and competition cabinet endorsed the playing of a 12th regular season game for college football. Tressel was asked about this and if he felt it was hypocritical given previous stances that it might hurt the student-athletes.

"I think it's a reality," Tressel said. "One thing we know at our level is that if we want to fund total athletic departments to the best of our ability and help the institutions have comprehensive programs, you've got to find ways to add enough money to do that. Adding a twelfth football game is certainly a way at this level, so I just think it's a reality. I guess I'm not opposed or for as much as I understand the reality of the finances. It just happens to be what we need to do to do a good job with our whole program.

"I don't know if I'd say hypocrisy. You have to make decisions, and we're helping a lot of student athletes. We have I think just over 900 student athletes at Ohio State, and we're helping all of those by going to that. There may be some discussion along the way in terms of increased scholarships I'm sure us coaches will talk about, or increased travel sizes, or I know there's been discussion of five years of eligibility. I think it's an ongoing discussion, but I wouldn't say that it's hypocrisy. I think it's reality, and we're trying to help everybody." 

Tressel was also asked to comment on Ohio State's offense and where it stands now as opposed to the "three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" days.

"I think college football in general has changed," he said. "There's so much more opportunity for the kids to learn the game and be able to do more concepts, study themselves on video and study their opponents. I think you have to be able to attack across a broad front. I think all of us would love to be tremendously balanced -- run and pass -- whereas maybe 25 years ago, no one really cared about being balanced, and if they could run it, they would just run it. I think we all want to be balanced, and that's our goal. We're not there yet certainly, but our goal is to be a balanced football team and take what the defense gives us. I think defensive football has evolved tremendously in the last ten years."

Tressel added that Woody Hayes might not necessarily want to go for balance, even in a no-back set.

"He would probably want that one back -- the quarterback -- to run it a little bit," Tressel said.


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