Ohio State coach Jim Tressel joined nine other Big Ten coaches in meeting the media today at Chicago's Hyatt Regency. (Penn State's Joe Paterno missed today's session due to a family emergency.)
"When we get to this date in the calendar, we know the fun part is right around the corner in terms of getting to work with our kids," Tressel said. "We report on Sunday. We are excited about the fact we have a lot of experience back, maybe more than we had a year ago.
"Our guys have had a variety of experiences that will serve them well this year. Based on our winter and our spring practice and their continued excellence in the classroom, all of those things are signs that we have a chance to be a pretty good football team.
"I believe the Big Ten will be tremendously strong this year. To me, that is encouraging because if you happen to be the one that is the champion, you may have a chance to be as there is in the country. It's challenging from the standpoint that every Saturday you better be ready."
Here were some of Tressel's responses to questions:
* On the number of touches and the types of capacity he'd like to see for Ted Ginn Jr. -- "I'd like to see him in the end zone with the ball. That would be the capacity. He has been our primary punt returner, he and Santonio Holmes back there. I think he will have an opportunity on kickoff returns. We graduated Mo Hall who set our career record for kick return yardage.
"Offensively, his evolution, as far as number of touches, increased as the year went on. Defensively, he may even get a touch or two in terms of a pass break-up or an interception now and again. But we have got to be careful. I think sometimes you get excited because he can do so many things. It's a long, tough season of physical practices. But we're as excited as anybody as getting the ball in his hands."
* On Santonio Holmes getting single coverage with Ginn more involved on offense -- "We think Santonio Holmes is a great player. Early in the year last year, he was about the only guy making plays for us. To the credit of the people we played against, they saw that and they gave him a little bit more attention. Then as some of our younger guys like Teddy Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez got more involved, it eased the burden off of Santonio. If we can get to the point where we can recognize when he is being singled, we need to go to Santonio Holmes because from a receiver standpoint, he's top notch."
* On the quarterback situation -- "As we begin the season, there will be an open battle. Justin Zwick, if we had a game tomorrow, he would start. But Todd Boeckman has been a guy that we have talked about. We've mentioned him quite often over the course of the year. We feel he is evolving and emerging. We feel he will be a good player. Then we have a young guy coming in, Robbie Schoenhoft, who we feel will be a good player.
"Then, as we enter week two, Troy Smith gets back into the mix. We'll just have to see how the preseason goes from that standpoint. Obviously, our focus is on preparing for Sept. 3. Justin and Todd will probably get the bulk of the reps in the preseason and Troy and Robbie will probably get a few of the reps. Then we'll just see how it goes."
* On potential stars on defense -- "People are talking about our linebacker corps as a whole. We have A.J. Hawk coming back. Bobby Carpenter is a guy that we think is an exceptional player. We have Anthony Schlegel, Mike D'Andrea and Marcus Freeman. All of those guys are returning. I think the people who have to continue to step up are maybe the guys we aren't much about and that's those guys up front.
"Quinn Pitcock is probably our leader. Mike Kudla is another veteran guy coming back. Then you have Jay Richardson, David Patterson and Joel Penton. I think that group needs … It would be fun for me to hear guys say, `This front is like that front they had a few years ago with Will Smith, Darrion Scott, Kenny Peterson.'
"I'd love to see that defensive front come along."
* On players who have been out due to injuries -- "Most every team in the Big Ten had some guys who had postseason surgeries. In this day and age from a medical standpoint, we're pretty conservative about letting guys having contact in spring practice.
"We expect Mike D'Andrea to be fully recovered and ready to go. Tyler Everett did get back in time for the spring game, so he was ready at the end of the spring. Mike Kudla, we believe, will be back 100 percent. Some of those guys, it was just we'd rather be safe than sorry. There is no one we expect to be other than 100 percent and ready to start next week other than Devin Jordan.
"Devin is still from an ankle injury standpoint not quite back. We will not have him as one of our 105 that can come to camp. But he'll report right after the first game."
* On the running game coming back to form -- "If we want to become a championship caliber team, we're going to have to run the football better than we have really over the last two years. Some of those emerging young guys like Antonio Pittman, Erik Haw and Maurice Wells and also Brandon Schnittker, one of our fullbacks, he may spend time as the tailback in a one-back set. How they do will have a huge impact on how much more production we can get in the running game. That running game will have a big impact on how we will be offensively.
"I think we will be explosive. But now we need to be explosive and steady from a run standpoint."