Tressel Talk: Wednesday Evening Update

The Buckeyes are putting the finishing touches on their game-plan for Saturday's showdown with Iowa in Columbus and head coach Jim Tressel met briefly with reporters following Wednesday's practice. Click here for more.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with reporters following Wednesday's practice.

First up, Tressel was asked what he would most like to see out of OSU's offense this Saturday against Iowa (noon, ABC) to know that it is "all in-sync."

"Well, I think all in-sync is probably premature," he said. "I would like to see great effort. I would like to see the understanding that everything we have to do has to be done precisely. Obviously we would like to see execution on the things we have planned. Like to see the ability to adjust to what Iowa brings, because they do a great job with their planning. All in-sync doesn't usually happen until much later in the season, but we're moving closer to that."

Ohio State's offensive line was dominated by Iowa's defensive line last year. But the Hawkeyes lost all four starters from their D-line, while OSU's offensive line seems much improved.

"Well, that's what we're going to find out Saturday," Tressel said when asked if he thinks OSU's offensive line will have the advantage this year. "I think our guys are coming along. But if we think for a minute that it's not going to be a typical, great-technique, low playing, hard playing Iowa defensive line, we're mistaken, just because some guys graduated."

Tressel can't say enough positive things about Iowa's always-stingy defense.

"What I think is so good about Iowa is that their linebackers tackle so well and diagnose so well," he said. "Something that you were hoping would be a six-yarder is a three. And their secondary tackles so well. Something that you were hoping would be a 10-yarder is a six. And that's why they're good on defense. Great conversion points. Their leverage is always on the ball and they always tackle well."

Tressel was asked if any of OSU's players have stood out this week in practice and if there have been any injuries that have recently popped up.

"I think Santonio Holmes has had an outstanding week," Tressel said. "I think he does a great job of leading by competing. He's always practiced well, but he's even practiced better than that. I thought he was extraordinary this week, thus far.

"Injury-wise, no, we've haven't had any. Knock on wood, but we haven't had any problems there."

One thing Ohio State junior quarterback Troy Smith does not do much of is audible at the line of scrimmage. Tressel was asked if Smith has the freedom to call audibles if he sees something he doesn't like from the defense.

"Well, it depends on what we're doing. He can always get us out of a dumb call," Tressel quipped. "He has that freedom whenever. But there are various packages. Sometimes we have checks where he goes to the line without a play and makes a call. Sometimes you go to the line and if they're in something that we can't handle, we get out of the call. And then there's other times when we go to the line and just execute. There might be hot throws, or route adjustments, or that type of thing."

Smith bristled at reporters on Tuesday when asked if he thinks Justin Zwick might be put in the game if Smith struggles. The same question was posed to Tressel.

"If we feel as if we need a change – if there's a moment when you think something else might be better – you always (leave your options open) especially when you have a veteran behind a guy," Tressel said. "But we're not going into the game with that thought, no. We're going into the game with the thought that Troy is going to have a great game."

It's no secret that one of the reasons Tressel likes Smith is his running ability. But does the coach need to be careful not to run Smith too much in order to avoid injury?

"Not really," Tressel said. "You might ration your quarterback designed runs a little bit, because we want other guys to handle the ball too – we have other guys we want to get their hands on it. But we don't ever tell him, ‘Hey, throw it out of bounds instead of running it if they're not open.'

"We have research back all the way through Craig (Krenzel) that when we step up and run on a pass play, it's our leading rush per play, in the neighborhood of 10 yards a rush. We don't have any other runs that average 10 yards. I think Craig his last year had something like 55 step-ups, is what we call them, for nearly 10 yards a carry. So, we always encourage those and not discourage them."

Tressel then explained why he trusts Smith to be his starting quarterback.

"Well, I think the number one thing that we talk about – outside of quarterback skills – is toughness," he said. "You have to be tough to play that position. I don't care if you're on a team that's doing well, not doing well, scoring lots of points, not scoring lots of points. You've got to be tough mentally and physically. It's a tough position to play. So, that in itself – that toughness, that competitiveness – is huge."

One of Smith's strong-points is his leadership skills. Several of his teammates single him out as being one of the leaders on the team.

"I'd say – I don't know what the right word for it would be – but he certainly has the leadership qualities as much as perhaps anyone on the team," Tressel said.

Tressel says the Buckeyes always practice hard, no matter the opponent. But even he has noticed a better tempo and more attention to detail this week as OSU prepares for Iowa.

"It's certainly not same-old, same-old," Tressel said. "The awareness level, the excitement level, the anticipation, the respect, the importance that this is the Big Ten opener and we're playing one of the outstanding teams in the Big Ten. Our guys train hard and I've never been concerned that they're taking one off or something like that."

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