In the midst of the allegations against Ohio State that surfaced today from ex-OSU running back Maurice Clarett, Jim Tressel started off the day's press conferences with the Big Ten teleconference.
"We've got another road test," Tressel began. "The last road test we had was very, very difficult there at Michigan State, and it was a battle all the way to the final whistle. Our kids did what we needed to do to get a road win, which is our first road win in the Big Ten. Now we go and play a very, very tough Purdue team that has had some tough losses here recently. You can see some of their first-year starters, especially over on the defensive side, have become a very, very good defensive unit after they graduated all those guys a year ago. We know it's going to be a great challenge, and we're looking forward to traveling over to West Lafayette."
Tressel was asked about the allegations that surfaced in an ESPN article, but he did not comment on anything specifically.
"I haven't seen it, but we've been pretty busy getting ready for Purdue and a challenge to go over there," Tressel said when asked about the article. "That takes all of our attention, that's for sure.
When asked about the allegations in particular, Tressel kept the focus on Purdue.
"I can say this -- I haven't seen anything of the article or any allegations or whatever," Tressel said. "As I said, today, in fairness to our group of young people, our focus is 100 percent on Purdue."
Not surprisingly, a popular topic of conversation today was Ted Ginn. Tressel commented on the impact Ginn has made so far.
"Ted is a true freshman who spent the entire preseason on the defensive side," Tressel said. "That was kind of what he wanted to play as he enrolled here at Ohio State. We moved him over solely on offense, really beginning game week. He's made a huge impact on those special teams as a punt returner; he's even a back up kickoff returner. Over on the offensive side, as he's learned our system and got more repetitions as a receiver, we think he has become a very viable receiver."
Tressel was also asked when and why the decision was made to move Ginn over to offense and if he can remember seeing a freshman that has helped in so many areas.
"There's a number of freshmen this year that are making an impact in the Big Ten, that's for sure," Tressel said. "We decided to move Teddy over pretty much full-time as we entered game week. He played in the preseason probably 80 percent of the time in defense and did some drill work on offense. That's what he was recruited as, and that's what his thoughts were coming in. We always let our freshmen attack the things they would like.
"As time progressed and we saw some of the things he was capable of doing, we thought moving him to offense would be the best bet, and we were really pleased with our corner play, with Ashton Youboty and E.J. Underwood and Dustin Fox and Harlen Jacobs, being a senior. We thought that we had four pretty solid corners there, and we had enough safeties and enough secondary people that we thought we could survive. Now, we didn't know how many injuries we'd have, Dustin missing all those games and Nate Salley missing games, and Donte Whitner out for the season, and Tyler Everett missing some games. We think it was the right decision and he has made an impact."
Another player who has been hurt is Antonio Pittman. Pittman did not make the trip to Michigan State, and when asked about whether or not he could play this week, Tressel did not seem sure.
"We sure hope so," Tressel said. "He ran better on Sunday. Now, we didn't have a practice on Monday -- that's our off day. The NCAA mandates one day a week for academics only, and that's our day. I hope flying around there real fast today."
This week's game against Purdue is very important to both team's bowl position. Purdue stands at 5-4, one win short of being bowl-eligible, while Ohio State became bowl eligible with their win over Michigan State.
"We really haven't had those discussions," Tressel said. "The thing we've been trying to do, especially with the youth of our team -- and I'm sure Purdue, with the number of first-year starters they have -- we're focused on trying to get better each day and whatever happens at the end of eleven games. We're certainly going to be excited about an opportunity for a bowl, but we don't have much discussion past 'What are we going to do to get better?' then what does Purdue present as we head over there for a tough road game."
Ohio State does appear to be a better team than it was at the beginning of the Big Ten season. Tressel was asked what the team has done to improve.
"I think some of the experiences our guys have had -- they've had some tough moments, they've had some good moments," he said. "They, I think, gained a little bit of confidence that they understand more fully what it's going to take to compete in a very, very good league. (In the) preseason three games, we won a good road game and then all of a sudden in the Big Ten season, we turned around and lost a couple of road games. This past weekend, I think one of the lessons we learned was some of the things you have to do to win on the road. I would like to think that they'll learn that they have to do those even better as we go against a very good Purdue team."
On the other side of things, Purdue has been going downhill a bit. After starting 5-0 and moving into the front of the Big Ten pack, the Boilermakers have lost four straight close games. Purdue head coach Joe Tiller discussed the team's mental state.
"I think that they're actually pretty good in terms of their state of mind," Tiller said, "but I also think we need to not make any assumptions and do our job or fulfill our role in terms of offering them support and offering them encouragement, just making sure we stay the course, believing full well that when you're losing by two or three points, you're close enough certainly at the end of the game to winning. We're just that much closer to winning one of these things."
After having to endure such close losses, Tiller was asked if it was hard to not ask "What if?"
"Oh, I think it is, but I almost think we've moved beyond that," he said. "We've probably dealt with that for the Wisconsin game and the Michigan game. I think we've moved beyond that. We're kind of in a mode of thinking what we have to do to improve ourselves and don't get involved in what-if stuff. We think that we could have won those games, any one of those four games, and in some cases we think that we should have won a game or two, or whatever. The reality of it is we didn't, and that's, as I said, the reality of the situation, and so we need to set our jaw and go out there and go to work at winning one of those things."
The rest of Tiller's portion of the conference consisted of discussion about Purdue's most well-known contributors on offense, quarterback Kyle Orton and wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield. Tiller was asked if he thought Orton would be a coach after his career is over.
"I really don't, but on the other side of the coin, that wouldn't surprise me," Tiller said. "I think the guy has a very good mind and an analytical mind. I think he would be a good head coach, but I suspect that his interests will lead him in other directions. One never knows."
Orton has actually discussed a possible career in politics.
"I think he's going to pursue it to some degree," Tiller said. "He's talking about the possibilities of going to law school. I think he's pretty well grounded and understands that there are some things in a person's life that tends to change as you move through life. So I don't think he's thinking, 'Hey, this is absolutely the direction I'm going in," but I think he's leaving his options open."
Stubblefield came to Purdue all the way from Yakima, Washington. Tiller was asked how Purdue was able to get Stubblefield to come all the way out to Indiana.
"It was the charming personality and immeasurable good looks of the head coach," Tiller joked.
"On a serious note, we had a coach on our staff at the time by the name of Greg Olson," he continued. "He grew up in the tri-city area... as everyone on our staff does and still does to this date, all of our coaches have primary areas to recruit and secondary areas to recruit. The secondary areas, you do it through telephone and through contacts, etc. We over the course of time recruited a couple of kids out of the state of Washington. Because of that, Taylor was interested in Purdue obviously because of our affinity for throwing the football, so he got interested in us.
"We began the recruiting process. I think that probably the fact that Washington couldn't give him a decision right at the very time... they wanted him to wait before he committed. I think he said, "Hey, Purdue is a good option for me and they throw the football."
Stubblefield has had some injury problems this year but appears to be improving.
"As a senior, he's playing with a lot of confidence," Tiller said. "I think that his productivity has has dropped off in the last three weeks although he had a big day Saturday. I do think Saturday at Iowa with his fifteen catches, that's the first time he's been healthy since the Penn State game. He separated his shoulder in the Penn State game and did not practice at all the next week until Thursday... I think he struggled with that for three weeks. I just noticed last week that I thought he was working really hard to get open. His concentration level was really, really good. He laid out to make some catches, so he wasn't concerned about laying out and maybe landing on that shoulder and re-injuring it again, so I really think last week was the first time he's been healthy in a month."
When asked to give an idea where Stubblefield stood in the line of Purdue receivers, Tiller wasn't able to pick a definite spot.
"I think every guy we've had here has been a little bit different," Tiller said. "They've brought a little different talent to the field. Taylor is a very good route-runner in a sense that he really understands coverages. He came on to our campus with the soft hands, and of course, he plays that way today. He has very good hands; he can catch any type of a ball. Although I can't really compare him to somebody we've had in the past, I think those are his strengths -- his abilities to read the secondary, make an adjustment, and then of course his ability to adjust to the ball, hang on to the ball."