Offensive Notebook: Zwick Takes Inventory

Our Dave Biddle made the rounds after practice on Wednesday and got notes on Justin Zwick, Ryan Hamby, Andree Tyree and Maurice Hall. Click here for more.

It has been a good start to the season for Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick. Nothing spectacular, but he's been solid and has three wins under his belt to show for it.

Yes, the offense has struggled at times, but Zwick looks like a keeper. And he only figures to get better.

This week's game at Northwestern could be viewed as a statement game for OSU's offense, but Zwick doesn't look at it that way.

"It just feels like we're going to play a game in the Big Ten and that's as big as it gets for right now," Zwick said. "I don't think we're really looking at it as a statement game, we just know it's going to be a Big Ten game and we know it's going to be a tough, hard-fought game and we're just trying to go out and work hard this week and get prepared for the game.

"We're just going to try and have fun with it. It's a night game and we'll have some fans there. We're just working hard this week getting ready and we're going to go up there and have some fun with it."

Ohio State's offense is once again drawing criticism for being too predictable. Zwick was asked how important it is for an offense to not be predictable.

"I won't really say it's important," he said. "It's important to have balance on offense. You've got to be able to run the ball, you've got to be able to pass the ball. I think that in itself will keep the defense on their toes and you really won't have to worry about it. In certain situations, they know what you're going to do and it's really no secret. But first and second downs, it's nice to have them guessing what you're going to do."

Zwick hears the criticism of the offense, but it rolls off his back. He knows the Buckeyes are never going to have the most creative offense, but it doesn't bother him. He just wants wins.

"That's been going on ever since I've been down here," Zwick said of the criticism. "So, I think it just comes natural to us. We hear that stuff all the time, but we don't really worry about it. It's been going on for while, but we've been successful and we just need to do what we can to win and that's what we'll be happy with."

Zwick was asked point-blank whether he considers the OSU offense as "mediocre," as some have tabbed it.

"I think we're 3-0," he said. "I'm happy with that. I wish we could do a little better here and there, but you can't get upset over broken eggs."

The OSU running game could get a boost this week with the addition of freshman tailback Antonio Pittman and senior fullback Branden Joe.

"They are both getting back to being healthy," Zwick said. "They are getting some more reps. They are getting into the thick of things. Those guys are ready to play. It's always good to get more bodies and have depth at a position."

Zwick said he enjoyed the week off.

"I know my body enjoyed the week off," he said. "It was nice to not be hit for a little bit. We did practice last week. We kept it rolling. We worked hard. There should not be too much of a drop-off."

Bam Childress is listed as a first-team receiver this week for the Bucks. Zwick isn't surprised that Childress has stepped up so far this season.

"I've always thought Bam was a great athlete and could make big plays and he's had his opportunities this year and he's ran with it," Zwick said. "We're excited about what he's done and what he's going to continue to do."

A lot of fans are also waiting for freshman Ted Ginn to make his mark offensively.

"He's another young guy that's working hard for us," Zwick said. "He's got great speed, he's very athletic and hopefully he can get out there and make some big plays for us."

Although he's on the other side of the ball, Zwick has also taken notice of sophomore safety Donte Whitner, who has been playing extremely well so far this year.

"Donte has come in here, he's a young guy and he's probably one of the hardest workers I have ever seen," Zwick said. "He works at what he does. He's with Coach (Mel) Tucker studying what he needs to know and he's just a guy that goes after what he wants and he's doing a great job for us."

Northwestern has not defeated the Buckeyes since 1971, but Zwick is not taking the Wildcats lightly.

"We know it's going to be a tough game," he said. "They played us tough a couple years ago up there. They're a tough team. Any team in the Big Ten Conference is going to play you tough and we know that, but you can't really dwell on that too much. We just have to go out there, play our game and have fun with it.

Hamby's Take

Junior tight end Ryan Hamby was a couple of errant passes away from having a big game against N.C. State two weeks ago.

"That's something you look at, but you don't think about," Hamby said. "You know, Justin, that's the first game I thought he really got hit a little bit. On one play, I did kind of a go route down the middle, I was wide open, it was just an overthrow. And then the one I was coming over the middle, he kind of underthrew me. But we've just got to keep working on it and now it's Big Ten season and we've just got to put that behind us."

Ohio State continues to struggle in the running game and Hamby takes that to heart.

"We just need to step it up and play better up front," he said. "When you watch film, there really was no holes for Lydell (Ross) to find. North Carolina State was run blitzing an awful lot and we were messing a little bit on that, but we got to know what we're going to do and we got to know what to do. We'll be all right this week. Two weeks ago was a test for us that maybe we're not as good as we thought we were coming out of the Cincinnati and Marshall games."

Hamby says the offensive line isn't playing up to its potential. Not even close.

"I think as an offensive lineman – I consider myself part of the offensive line – North Carolina State, I don't think we played good enough to win the Big Ten," he said. "I think this week we're coming out and we have to play a lot harder, know our assignments better and really get after it. I think that's our key as an offensive line because I don't think we blocked and protected nearly as well as we wanted to."

There are several keys to having a good running game. But it all starts with controlling the line of scrimmage.

"You've just got to get movement," Hamby said. "You've got to create holes and get movement for Lydell and whoever's back there to find holes and get yardage. I think Saturday we're going to come out and we've got to blow these guys off the ball. We don't want to hear any excuses. Enough of, ‘I messed up. I didn't see him coming.' You just have to get out there and play.

"Right now it's more mental than physical. Against North Carolina State, they were blitzing so much and I think we were thinking too much and not playing football."

The Northwestern game is step No. 1 as the Buckeyes try and accomplish something they haven't done in 20 years: an outright Big Ten championship.

"We're just focused on it," Hamby said. "It's Big Ten season and our whole goal is to be outright Big Ten champs. I think Saturday, we just have to come ready to play. I'm just speaking for the offensive line because North Carolina State, none of us were really happy with how we performed."

Hall Discusses His Role

Senior tailback Maurice Hall has taken on a reduced role this year, but he's still one of the leaders of the team.

"This is really the beginning of our season," Hall said. "The Big Ten is where it begins." Hall thinks the bye week came at a good time for the Buckeyes.

"I feel we feel rested," he said. "I think we had the chance for some guys to get better that had little nagging injuries and it's definitely going to help us going into this game."

Like everyone else, Hall wants to see improvement in OSU's running game.

"I think we're going to be better this week in the running game," he said. "We're definitely going to be better this week. We've been working hard for the last week and this week also, so we can't do anything but get better."

OSU coach Jim Tressel hinted earlier this week that Hall's role would be limited as the Buckeyes try and work Antonio Pittman and Branden Joe in the game.

"They haven't really said anything as far as my role, but I'm ready to do anything that I can do," Hall said. "I want to play running back, do kickoff return, I want to do it all. I'm ready."

It's no secret that last season was one of the worst in the history of OSU football in terms of running the football. Hall says this year's running game will not mirror last year's, no matter how much the offense struggled against N.C. State.

"I don't think we're horrible – like we were last year – I don't think it's that bad," Hall said. "We really haven't focused on the negativity as the running backs. We're just going to try and work to get better each game. We definitely don't want to revisit last year where we couldn't rush the ball well. So, we just have to make sure we're a lot better than we were last year."

Hall knows Northwestern could be an ambush game. The Wildcats are not as bad as their 1-3 record indicates. They only lost 30-21 to a very good Arizona State team in Evanston.

"Yeah, Northwestern, they play great at home," Hall said. "Especially two years ago when we played them, they had a great game against us and we were fortunate to get out of there with a win. So, we know it's going to be the same way this year and we can't turn the ball over and penalties and we'll be all right."

Tyree Back In The Fold

Junior guard Andree Tyree is back with the team after dealing with a nose ailment over the summer. Tyree did not make the trip to N.C. State, but thinks he will be a part of the traveling squad this week.

"I'm getting back now and I'm starting to work with the traveling squad now," Tyree said. "Well, it doesn't officially come out until tomorrow, but I think I will be on it. I'm pretty sure, but I don't want to jinx myself."

Tyree talked about his odd illness that popped up over the summer.

"I got sick during the summer and that's when I had to have surgery," he said. "I had some sort of a disease basically and a deviated septum which was causing it to bleed real bad and I was throwing up a lot because the blood was draining down."

But Tyree is new and improved. He had trouble breathing for two years and his doctors thought it was some form of asthma. However, now they know what the problem was and Tyree feels like a new man.

"It's actually been a lot better," he said. "It's helped me out with my running and conditioning. I'm able to breathe a lot better and things like that. I feel like now I'm in the best shape since I've been in here. I feel great."

Tyree made some serious headway during the spring at left guard. He gave Doug Datish good competition for the starting job and Tyree really played well in the spring game. Now, he just wants to fight for playing time in a reserve role.

"Yeah, I'm still at left guard," he said. "I can also play right guard, center, wherever they need me. It's just good to be back with the team and hopefully I can get in there and chip in somehow and help us win some football games."

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