Tressel Quotebook - QB, RB Updates, MSU Talk

OSU head coach Jim Tressel met with the media after today's practice. He gave the latest on Justin Zwick's health and the overall quarterback situation; Lydell Ross and the RB situation and a possible reason why Antonio Pittman saw his time slip recently; and much more. Here's the wrap-up from Dave Biddle.

Jim Tressel met with reporters following Wednesday's practice.

Look for more running back-by-committee this week from the Buckeyes.

"I would say that Mo (Hall) and Branden Joe, who I think got a lot of work last week, will continue," Tressel said. "Lydell (Ross) certainly has done a good job this week in practice, and Tony (Pittman) and Brandon Schnittker will play a little bit in the backfield."

Tressel was asked if he had an issue with Pittman being late to a meeting or function recently.

"Punctuality is important, let me answer it that way," he said.

Just when it looked like Pittman was going to be OSU's starting tailback the rest of the season, something opened the door for Hall and he has taken advantage.

"I think the thing that has opened the door for Mo is that he's very dependable," Tressel said. "I wouldn't want to point to just one person or another, but Mo is always there for you giving you all he has and you know he's going to be there. That typically ends up with earning some opportunities."

Early in the season, Tressel hinted that Hall wasn't playing very much at tailback because he was still hampered by injuries. But Hall has said all year that he's 100 percent healthy.

"Well, when you go through two knee surgeries, that's an effect," Tressel said. "You lose a whole winter of work and so forth and I thought that there was a little cumulative effect on him during preseason. Coming off surgeries and taking all that pounding, I didn't think he had quite that wiggle.

"I thought he practiced these last two weeks a little looser than he had. I thought he played exceptional Saturday against Penn State and I think he's had an excellent week of practice. So, I think sometimes when you gain yards and break records and those kind of things, you know, you're knees feel good."

Michigan State is coming off a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Michigan. But Tressel isn't expecting a letdown from the Spartans. He thinks they will come out fired up and ready to play.

"I'm sure as they looked at their schedule, they circled eight days on their calendar - from the Saturday they played Michigan, to the Saturday they play Ohio State - as being very important days that were really going to define their team," he said. "I'm sure in the first half of those eight days they're not very pleased, but they have a chance in the back half of those eight days to make up for it. So, I'm sure as they worked out last winter and all summer, they had a little special zero on this time of the year. So, I expect them - with the way they've played, the way they've improved, the way they handled the adversity early in the year - I expect them to play better than they've ever played."

Senior Damon Dowdell is expected to start at quarterback for MSU in place of injured sophomore Drew Stanton. But Tressel doesn't consider Dowdell a backup.

"Well, the thing about Dowdell is that he won the starting job, which means he must have done a good job all spring and all of preseason," he said. "As their team had a few woes early in the year, sometimes the quarterback is affected by that and Stanton came in and did well and obviously we're preparing for Stanton as well. He's a heck of a player.

"I was impressed with the way Dowdell stepped into a big game like he did the other night (against Michigan). They didn't lose a beat; they didn't change what they did. He took advantage of an opportunity."

With MSU owning a good, high-scoring offense, it will be important for the Buckeyes' offense to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Spartans.

"They've been so explosive," Tressel said. "Not just in possessing the football and just rushing - because they're at the top of the league in rushing - but in scoring points. They've gotten opportunities and they've made big plays. We need to play by far the best offensive game we've played."

Ohio State receiver Bam Childress didn't appear on the two deep, or "others not on the two deep" roster this week, but Tressel said that was an oversight.

"Well, I think that was a Steve Snapp-ism," he said. "I hate to throw him under the bus, but he told me that yesterday. He said, 'I think I fouled up.' Yeah, Bam's fine. In fact, he had a couple of excellent plays today."

Middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel is really coming into his own on the field. He's developing into the player that everyone thought the Buckeyes were getting. But Tressel says Schlegel has always been a leader in the locker room.

"Well, Anthony is always active," he said. "Whether it's verbally in the locker room arguing about politics, or whatever it is. He's a bubbly, excitable, fun-to-be-around guy. On the practiced field, he's non stop - practicing chatter - and in the game. No one is harder on themselves than Anthony. He wants to back up any of that chatter he enjoys. He's just a fun guy to be around."

Poor tackling has been an issue all season for the Buckeyes' defense and Tressel wants to see improvement.

"Tackling is all footwork," he said. "It's all about coming into balance and taking proper angles. And, you know, we didn't go out there and scrimmage and smash each other around (during Wednesday's practice), but just making sure that we do the things with your knees bent, and make sure we're coming at the proper leverage and the proper angles, and make sure we have good guys going against them that can fly and make those cuts that good people can every Saturday.

"Like anything else, typically you get what you emphasize. But there are so many things to emphasize that maybe you didn't emphasize one thing this week and you have to go back and emphasize it. That's just the way life is. We just talk about (tackling) a lot and work on body position."

Michigan State has plenty of athletes to burn the Buckeyes if the tackling doesn't improve.

"Well, you better not miss any tackles because they have great acceleration," Tressel said. "If No. 21 (tailback DeAndra Cobb) gets going and if you don't have proper pursuit angles and you don't make the hit when you can, he's going to make a bunch of yards. He took it out of the gate for about 72 early in the Michigan game, then he hit another home run for about 64, so you better get him down."

One player that has really stepped up his play for OSU is sophomore cornerback Ashton Youboty. In addition to being a good player, he's a quality guy off the field.

"He's kind of a worldly young man," Tressel said. "His dad is all over the world with his job. He's lived in a lot of different places. Nothing seems to ruffle his feathers. He's got family all over the world. He's just a guy with a lot of experiences that has a lot of confidence in himself. He can handle himself in a lot of different scenarios. He's just - as I've said a million times - he's very dependable and I'd like to say the most important ability someone has is dependability because it goes a long way."

One of Tressel's goals is for his team to play its best football during the month of November.

"When I worked for Earle (Bruce) way back, he would always say, 'September is for pretenders and November is for contenders.' I've talked for 19 years now as a head coach about the fact that you really measure yourself how you play in November. That's really your measuring stick with yourself. How am I doing? Am I playing the best I can possibly play in November? And when you look at the great teams at Ohio State, look at their November and that's when they've done some extraordinary things. So, November is talked about quite often."

Don't look for any changes at the quarterback position this week. Troy Smith has earned another start and Justin Zwick is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

"Justin didn't do everything today," Tressel said. "For sure he'll make the trip. This is awfully early to know for sure if he'll be able to step in and help. But, we've got a number of guys - that I won't get into discussing - that, you know, it's that time of the year (for injuries). We'll just have to see how they practice."

If Smith gets injured against MSU, Tressel might choose to put a banged-up Zwick in the game, rather than burning Todd Boeckman's redshirt.

"We've been working for Todd to be redshirted, so I think that would determine the situation," Tressel said.

Tressel thinks Smith is growing into the starter's role quite well. There is a lot of pressure being the QB at Ohio State, but it doesn't seem to be too big for Smith to handle.

"Yeah, he's looked very comfortable," Tressel said. "But, not unlike any young guy who's getting his first dose of everything - you know, everything's new. This is new playing against Michigan State's looks, and maybe new some of the things that we're doing. So, he takes correction and he really studies it hard. He knows what he needs to do for this team and like we talked about Anthony Schlegel, no one is tougher on himself than Anthony on defense, and Troy is tough on himself on the offensive side."

Tressel was asked how many plays he feels comfortable adding to the playbook with an inexperienced quarterback at the controls.

"Oh, I don't know how much you conceptually add," he said. "Not tons, but it's that time of the year when you build things off of other things. If you go and watched everyone's film, if you watched it chronologically, you'd see why they went from this step, to that step, to this step. And we'll obviously do that."

One of the encouraging aspects of Smith's play is his ability to run the ball. That includes called QB runs, as well as improvisation on called pass plays.

"I think that can impact your running game," Tressel said. "Just look at Michigan State. Last year, (Jeff) Smoker was a thrower and he threw for a lot of yards and didn't run for any significant yards really. Now all of a sudden Dowdell and Stanton, that's huge. That was huge for us with Craig (Krenzel) and I think Troy does a good job with that as well."


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