A current player informed Bucknuts.com about a month ago that former OSU safety/tailback Ira Guilford would likely rejoin the team at some point. Guilford was suspended following the 2003 season for an alleged assault on the OSU campus, along with former tight end Louis Irizarry.
However, Tressel is not optimistic that Guilford will rejoin the team.
"I'm not sure there's a chance because of the amount of hours you need to move toward progressing toward your degree," he said. "So, I think it's doubtful, but you never know."
From all accounts, Guilford was a good kid that made one bad mistake. Tressel has not had much contact with him lately and is not sure if he will transfer to another school if things don't work out at OSU.
"Good kid. He's a good kid," Tressel said. "And over the course of eight, nine months, I've had sporadic contact. I don't want to mislead you like it's been weekly or anything like that, but it's been significant. Mel Tucker and Mark Snyder who recruited him have also had contact. But we're really not sure what is going to happen with Ira at this point."
2004 was Snyder's first season as defensive coordinator at OSU. Tressel reflected on the up and down season that the Buckeye defense endured.
"I thought we made a lot of steps toward becoming efficient, but I think we were going to make even more steps after having been able to step back and look at the season and look at what we could have done better staff-wise," Tressel said. "You always look at the film and worry about what our players could do better, but you do a lot of study in the offseason of what the staff can do better.
"That now will be a little bit of an adjustment. I would have liked to have those guys have been able to make that step, but now there's a change (with Tucker leaving for the Browns). But there's still a lot of growth in there. Every time you go a day in a different position, you learn, you grow. Mark is a sensitive guy that wants to make sure everyone feels good about what they're doing and he's doing, and anytime you're a first-time leader of something you're always wondering, ‘I wonder if the guys are happy,' and that sort of thing. On the other hand, you better make some decisions, because you don't have time to worry about other stuff.
"So, I think he enjoyed (his first year as defensive coordinator). I think he'll grow. And he was dealing with a young team, too. Everyone talked about losing Mark Dantonio, and that was a big thing for us. But it might have been just as big or bigger to lose Will Smith, Darrion Scott and Timmy Anderson and Rob Reynolds and Chris Gamble and on and on and on."
Tucker was technically the co-defensive coordinator, even though Snyder called the games. Tressel was asked if the new defensive assistant might also hold the title of co-coordinator.
"That will depend upon the pool of candidates that we think meet the first profile, which is the DB expertise and the recruiting area," he said. "We think we've got the guys settled into where they are most effective recruiting, so now you lose a guy that has Cleveland – which is huge for us – and Atlanta. We really think in the long run Atlanta is going to be a good place. Not that far, a lot of Midwestern transplants, a lot of connections. Usually when you're recruiting out of state, when there's a little family back this way, that's huge.
"So, the profile of the DB, the recruiting, then we'll see if the experience brings along with it, what would look like a good mix for a co-coordinator thing, or if we won't do a co-coordinator thing, or maybe one of the guys that is currently on the staff will make a move. And hopefully, in the next four or five days (the new coach will be hired) – that's my goal – although we're always itchy as coaches."
Tressel takes it as a compliment that his assistants are often up for other jobs.
"I think if you look at Ohio State and the long history of Ohio State, people have looked here to better their staffs," he said. "Whether it be take guys off the staff to be head coaches places, or go to the NFL, or maybe go become a coordinator somewhere. The good thing we have is that it's a special place for a lot of people. Being in Ohio is special for Mark Snyder. That's why it was so hard for Mel Tucker, because this was a special place for him. But it's part of reality that people are going to look at guys that have had a little sustained success, and defensively, we've been pretty solid for a while. In Mark Snyder's case this year, someone was starting a new staff (Les Miles at LSU) and it just played against us and liked the solidness of our approach defensively and made a wing at it.
"I always tell my guys, I say, ‘Hey, when someone calls you and has interest, don't worry about whether or not you want the job, go talk to them, get offered the job, then worry about whether you want it. Because there's no sense in worrying about if you want it if you haven't been offered it. I think it's good experience for our guys. And the thing that happens too, if some nice things come our guys' way, some flattering opportunities, and then they stay, I think that's a little affirmation that this is a pretty neat place. And that happened in Mel's case a number of times. The things in the NFL aren't quite as visable as those things in collegiate football. So, I think we've had some good affirmation over time."
A coaching position at Ohio State is one of the most attractive jobs in the country and Tressel's phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from prospective coaches.
"It really is," Tressel said. "When you travel around the country – I was just in Texas for clinics this weekend – high school coaches and stuff in Texas talk about growing up knowing all about the Buckeyes and O-State and that type of thing. So, obviously when there's a visible job opening… coaches every day check the transactions to see if they're OK and to see if there's something better out there. That's just the nature.
"So, I don't know if Mel has been in the transactions yet, but we've gotten a lot of calls and faxes already and we'll get more. It does help (being at a place like Ohio State)."
Just how many official applications has Tressel received already?
"Oh gosh, let's say dozens," he said.
He says it can be difficult keeping up with all the candidates.
"Oh, you get weary going through your voice mail, you get weary going through your pink messages," he said. "The fax machine blows a fuse. It's non stop when we have a vacancy."
Tressel does not keep a running "hot list" with names of assistant coaches that he might be interested in hiring at OSU when positions open up.
"I just kind of wait and see how things unfold," he said. "If you had a list, you'd have to update your list all the time at the end of each year. But I pay close attention to who we coach against and what teams are doing well. We go out and study teams quite a bit and watch people teach. I don't spend much time making a list because it's so unique each time you have an opening. It's like, ‘OK, what do we need right now?' And usually, just like I tell recruits, don't get all caught up in which school and try and think about all the things from all those schools. First off, think, ‘OK, what do I need?' Then the school will become fairly obvious to you, because some schools can meet certain needs.
"And that's kind of the way we do it when we're looking. We've got an opening, now let's see what we need. OK, we sat down (Monday) and talked about, ‘What do we need?' Really profiled it. Now, we'll go at it and I think you can look at less people when you do it that way."
Tressel was also asked about the upcoming NFL draft and the fact that OSU won't have as many draft picks as usual.
"I would have liked some of those guys in last year's draft that were only here for four years, to be here five (Shane Olivea, Alex Stepanovich)," Tressel joked (well, he laughed, but I don't really think he was joking).
Kicker Mike Nugent is pegged as a second round pick and could even sneak into the late first round.
"I know every NFL scout that I've talked to has Nuge right at the top of their board," Tressel said. "I think the question is: How long can you afford to wait to take him? Because how high a draft pick are you going to spend at that position, and I don't know because I've never been on an NFL staff and have never been a part of those discussions. Some of the scouts have said to me, ‘We've got to decide how long we can wait and will he still be there.' I wouldn't even – I know (Sebastian) Janikowski was a one, but who's been higher than a three since then? (Nate) Keading was third round."
Tressel also thinks defensive back Dustin Fox has a bright future in the league.
"The Browns called the other day and said, ‘Let's talk about Dustin Fox," Tressel said. "And I said, ‘Why don't you talk to Mel? You're stealing Mel, you ask him.' But no, I think the NFL people think (Fox) is versatile enough to do both (safety and corner).
"I would hope someday that we could get to the point where we have four guys that could be corners or safeties. Tackle well enough to be safeties and cover well enough to be corners. I would think the NFL would want that, with as much spreading the ball out and so forth as people be.
"So, I don't know what he will be. But I know this: He will test extremely well. And usually, with my experience with the NFL, they get down toward the end and they have differences in subjective decisions of what they see on film. So, what they use as a tiebreaker many times is, ‘Hey, this guy ran faster. This guy jumped higher. Boy, look at his agility.' When they start tiebreaking on Dustin Fox and looking at his numbers, I think he's going to win some tiebreakers.
"So, I'm optimistic about Nuge, Dustin, Simon (Fraser). And somebody just called here yesterday and said how impressed they have been in studying Simon. So, I think those three guys I've heard the most about. And then Lydell (Ross) and Branden (Joe) I've heard the next most about."
Tressel is not sure if Fox will play safety or corner at the next level.
"You know how people ask questions," he said. "The NFL guys ask, ‘Coach, what do you think he is most suited for?' And my answer is, ‘I've never coached in your league. You're asking me about something that I don't have any experience.' But I think what Dustin brings is great character, great speed, great explosion, lots of game time. You know, you've got a lot more film on him in high-end competition where you can't hear and you can't yell out, ‘Cover three,' and everyone's got it, and playing against some pretty good people. I think when people sit down and start saying, ‘Well, this guy versus that guy,' Dustin has so much upside.
"And I think the fact that they are discussing, ‘Which will he be?' is an upside. Because that means they think he can do both. They wouldn't even discuss safety if they didn't think he could tackle. So obviously they think he can tackle. And they wouldn't even discuss corner if they didn't think he could cover. So, they must think he can do those things, so I think it will be exciting."