Tressel Previews Miami At First Luncheon

One of the weekly rituals of OSU game week is for Jim Tressel to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoons, and each session kicks off with Tressel answering questions during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. In today's edition, and Tressel discussed OSU's first opponent, the quarterback situation, and more. Tressel also revealed a short time ago at his local press conference that Mike D'Andrea has been granted a medical redshirt year by the NCAA. (Story updated at 2:30 p.m.)

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with the media Tuesday at his first weekly press luncheon. The coach previewed Saturday's season opener with Miami (Ohio) (12:10 p.m., ABC regional coverage).

"It's game time for us and we're excited," Tressel said. "I can remember five or six days ago I heard some of the older guys saying, `Let's go.' They have gone against each other enough. We are just so anxious to play.

"Everyone in this room knows the great tradition at Miami (Ohio). Our guys who have grown up here in Ohio know about it. Miami (Ohio) is an excellent football team and it will be a tremendous challenge for us."

Miami was 8-5 last year and is playing under first-year coach Shane Montgomery, who served as the offensive coordinator for coach Terry Hoeppner the last four years.

"I like their team speed," Tressel said. "They have excellent speed in the secondary and with the linebacker corps and the receiving corps. We are very aware of how much speed they have on the field. They have a quarterback (Josh Betts) who threw for 3,000 yards last year.

"If you look up and down the line, this why they have been an extraordinary football team."

Tressel said the Buckeyes came through preseason camp in good shape.

"We had a good camp," he said. "We trained hard and the weather got hot and it was nasty. Then, we had a break in the weather. We've been able to stay relatively healthy."

With quarterback Troy Smith serving the second of a two-game suspension for receiving illegal extra benefits from an OSU booster, junior Justin Zwick will start at quarterback. But Zwick missed nearly a week of camp time due to an ankle sprain.

"He is doing well," Tressel said. "He missed probably five or six days of time. He's ready to go. He's running around and anxious to lead this football team."

When asked if Zwick was 100 percent, Tressel smiled and said, "Let's say 97. He's pretty good."

Tressel said even with Zwick in the game, the Buckeyes may experiment with the option.

"The option is a part of who we are," he said. "We'll run the option."

The coach confirmed that redshirt freshman Todd Boeckman is also expected to get reps at quarterback.

"That's our plan, but it's just Tuesday," Tressel said. "We like to play more guys early in the year and would like to get some experience for more than just one guy."

Regarding the tailback position, Tressel said he expects sophomore Antonio Pittman to start. But he figures to have a lot of help.

"I would say that Antonio Pittman and Brandon Schnittker would get the first run at it," he said. "Maurice Wells will get some opportunities. Both Shaun Lane and Erik Haw have shown us they've got some ability as well. I would say that three or more of them would play."

The depth chart lists a bracket situation at left tackle with junior Doug Datish and sophomore Steve Rehring.

"I guess it will either be Doug Datish or Steve Rehring," senior guard Rob Sims said. "They are both capable enough to play."

Tressel added, "They will both play. Who will play the first play, I don't know."

The coach also took note of a couple players who were surprisingly listed in the two-deep with junior John Kerr backing up A.J. Hawk at outside linebacker and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith, a former linebacker, now backing up Ryan Hamby at tight end.

"John Kerr has been showing us for a couple of years as a scout team player that he is a football player," Tressel said. "He earned his way into the two-deep. He is very competitive and he loves to hit people.

"With Brandon Smith, we had some injuries there at tight end. He was playing at a linebacker area where we felt we had enough depth. So we moved him over to tight end and we think he's been outstanding there."

Tressel said not to forget about another possibility at tight end.

"Our surprise tight end is Bobby Carpenter," Tressel said. "We'll sneak him over there. He's a good tight end. He's quick, he's physical. He knows how to block. He's smart. Somebody said he could come over and learn the playbook in about 30 minutes."

Also Notable

* Tressel said OSU hopes to announce instate games for 2006-08 that should complete the school's scheduling. When asked if Youngstown State may be in those plans, he smiled and said, "They might be."

Once the contracts have been signed and returned, the schools involved will make joint announcements, Tressel said.

* Tressel revealed that linebacker Mike D'Andrea received notice today that the NCAA had granted his petition for a medical redshirt for last year, when he only played in four games.

That means D'Andrea, who missed much of preseason camp with a knee injury, can return at any point and play this year as a junior and would then have the option of coming back next year as well.

"He hasn't had much work still," Tressel said. "He is not 100 percent. But he heard today that the NCAA had granted his appeal on his redshirt. He has an opportunity to still have a good year and a half of great football ahead of him. We hope he is ready to go by the end of September."

* Regarding true freshmen who should debut against Miami, Tressel said Wells, defensive backs Jamario O'Neal and Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Lawrence Wilson all figure to play. Those who could see action as well include defensive back Andre Amos, defensive linemen Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington, wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline and perhaps offensive tackle Alex Boone.

* Tressel on the likelihood that Ted Ginn Jr. would play on defense: "I think that would be slim."

* Tressel said several Buckeyes had been touched by the hurricane and tropical storms that swept across the Gulf Coast, including defensive tackle Nader Abdallah.

"Nader said he has talked with everyone and everyone seems to be doing fine," Tressel said. "He has one brother he has not been in contact with, but I know he said the telephone service has been down.

"(Strength coach) Bernardo Ammerson has family in Hattiesburg, Miss., and that area was hit hard. They have a big tree by their home and he said that it fell the other direction. That was a good thing."

Game Day Operations

OSU associate athletic director Richelle Simonson addressed the media on a number of topics including game day and ticket operations.

"The special point that we want to make about football game day is it's not only about the football game, but also about having a safe, secure fan friendly environment," Simonson said.

She said that OSU will continue with all security measures it has had in place since the 9-11 attacks.

"Our advice for them is to travel lightly," she said.

Items banned from Ohio Stadium include concealed weapons, no TVs, radios without headsets, backpacks, banners, signs and food or beverages. Chair back seats are also prohibited unless needed for a health reason. Those with health issues should use the "exception gates" – gates 9, 14 and 25.

In terms of ticket policy, Simonson said those with discounted tickets need university ID cards to gain access to the stadium.

"All discounted seats for students, faculty and staff will require an OSU ID," she said. "Those tickets are marked if they have to have the ID."

Roughly 15 percent of the stadium capacity – listed at over 105,000 – will be faculty and staff members, while students will make up 22 percent of the capacity. Simonson said some 62 percent of faculty and staff ticketholders have upgraded their tickets so they can legally be resold and buyers can use them without needing an OSU ID.

Those upgrades must be done by Friday of game. They can be done game by game or with season tickets. Students have the option of upgrades beginning with the Iowa game, the first game on the student season ticket.

Simonson said the alcohol crackdowns in and around university parking lots of recent years will continue.

"There will be no changes from last year," she said. "We will have uniformed officers out and about interacting with people. They will all have badges. We are trying to make sure we have a fan friendly environment. It is illegal to have alcoholic beverages in the parking lots on campus. They are simply enforcing the law."

At the same time, Simonson said the university is stressing sportsmanship for all who attend OSU games.

"That is something we want to take to a new level and we are relying on fans, our part-time staff and our full-time staff," she said. "We want to have the best game environment in the country."

For more information on OSU's game day policies as well as late ticket availability, check out this web site:

Tressel Teleconference

Below is the story filed earlier today on Coach Tressel's appearance on the weekly Big Ten teleconference:

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel checked in via telephone a short time ago for this season's first Big Ten coaches teleconference. Tressel began with some thoughts on the opening game against Miami.

"It's great to get going," Tressel said. "We've had a great training camp. It's nice and hot here in Ohio, and I think our guys have gotten ready for the rolling season ahead.

"As all of us know who follow the game of football, Miami has done an outstanding job as they travel into many stadiums and play very, very well. They've won a lot of big games, and they have an excellent squad coming back. They rolled off I think five or six of their last seven or eight games (victories). I like their team speed, and I think it will be a great opportunity for us on Saturday."

Quarterback has been a major issue for Ohio State throughout the offseason, and in the opener, Justin Zwick will be drawing the start as Troy Smith will be serving a suspension for accepting money from a booster. Tressel was asked if the offense will change as a result of Zwick getting the start. 

"I think the evolution of our offense over the course of last year, as we were breaking in new players and trying to figure out who we were and we can do best, I think it wasn't solely due to what the quarterback position was or was not capable of doing," Tressel said. "I think the same thing continued this spring and preseason. Our evolution, I think, has been a whole one, so I don't know if there's anything we would do differently with Justin or Troy or Todd Boeckman, because we all need to fit into the puzzle. It'll be a very, very similar attack."

Tressel was asked what Smith has done in the meantime to be ready to go for the Sept. 10 game against Texas. 

"He was in preseason, like everyone else," Tressel said. "He probably got to participate maybe 75 percent of the time and had plenty of reps. This week, of course, he's been on the scout team, getting our team prepared for Miami (Ohio) and doing all that he can to help the team. He's really not far behind; he hasn't missed a whole bunch and he's done what all the other quarterbacks have done."

Tressel was asked about senior linebacker A.J. Hawk, who is one of just two players whose name is on six postseason award watch lists.

"A.J. Hawk is a special player," Tressel said. "He trains extremely hard; he's one of those guys you talk about all year round training. He's got to get a lift in on Friday before a game. He's just one of those guys who works so hard. He does a great job diagnosing plays. He's very physical. For as big as he is, he runs well. I think there's no doubt about it -- he's one of the great players in the country."

The Buckeyes will be part of a Big Ten conference that some feel is the strongest conference in America this year. Tressel commented on whether or not the strength of the conference hurts a team's national championship chances.

"I guess there's two ways to look at it -- the Big Ten is so balanced, and anyone can beat anyone, and we're aware of that," he said. "That's the downside. But on the other hand, the way I've always looked at it is this -- if you happen to be fortunate enough to win every Big Ten game and be ranked high enough to be in the national championship game, you are going to be ready. We felt that in 2002, the fact that we were able to survive eight Big Ten games and come up on the winning side and play against tough teams and good teams that there wasn't anyone in the country we couldn't play. Obviously, that turned out to be true."

Throughout the offseason, there was plenty of talk about off-the-field incidents and allegations of NCAA violations pointed towards the OSU program. Tressel talked about how the program has come through the barrage of allegations and negative press. 

"I think it starts with the belief in what you do and what you believe in and who your people are," he said. "I have great belief in all of the people here at Ohio State, whether it be our athletic administration or our coaching staff or the kids that play in our athletic program. I know full well what our intentions are and what we're trying to accomplish. I think it starts with that, and you have to feel good about who you are and what you're trying to do and weather whatever comes your way. Sometimes people think otherwise, but I think you have to weather it."

To end the conference, Tressel was asked to talk about how the past year has been for him personally.

"I haven't had an easy year of coaching," Tressel said. "This will be my 31st year of college coaching, 20th as a head coach, and for a wide variety of reasons, every year is a challenge, whether it's a great record or a poor record or lots of injuries or no injuries or whatever it happens to be. Quite honestly, every year is a battle and a struggle at times, and I think that's part of the fun of it. You love the challenge of your struggles, and you just handle it the way you handle any other challenge in a year." 

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