OSU head coach Jim Tressel opened his portion of the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference with some thoughts on the Buckeye victory over Iowa.
"It was a good ballgame for our guys this past Saturday," Tressel said. "Iowa's a good football team. As the Big Ten season goes on, I'm sure that's going to become very, very evident. Our guys kind of had the ball bounce our way for them and also made some of those bounces as well and came up with a good Big Ten win. We're anxious to try to get better here in our open week and hit the road and head to Penn State."
Tressel's first question was about running back Antonio Pittman and his 171-yard rushing erformance against the Hawkeyes.
"I thought that was by far Antonio's best full game since he's been here," Tressel said. "He's still a young back, and I thought he really made some progress. He got to carry it 28 times and against a very physical team, Iowa, who are some of the best tacklers that you run across each year. So it was a physical game for him, and he obviously led the charge from a rushing standpoint. Troy Smith chipped in his share, and we had a chance to have a good, balanced football game."
Tressel was then asked what having a quarterback with running skills does for the offense.
"It certainly helps that it's one more thing that the defense has to concern themselves with, and that's if your quarterback runs," he said. "It's very good for us, and I think it compliments both the pass game and the running backs -- Antonio and that group. As thorough as we can be in attacking, the better we will become."
Ohio State's defense had a performance against Iowa that left many people talking. Tressel was asked if the defense compares to the unit on the 2002 national championship team.
"I think our defense is good and, if they continue to get better, could be one of those extraordinary defenses that you talk about in years to come," he said. "There are so many factors that go into that, though. What will the support be from the special teams? What will the support be from their offense? What will the injury situation be? And all the rest, but I think we have the makings of a very, very good defense. They enjoy preparing. They're very confident, they study hard to get ready for their opponents. They play the game hard, they have a lot of talent, but... only four games in, I think comparisons would be premature."
OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter was seen with his arm in a sling following Saturday's game against Iowa, while offensive lineman Steve Rehring was in the hospital and missed the game completely. Tressel talked about the status of each player, neither of whom appear to have any serious ailments.
"Bobby's just fine," Tressel said. "Steve is still in the hospital fighting an infection, but he's going to be fine. He was in all weekend and I would think will be in a good bit of this week, but we're hopeful that he will be out soon."
Tressel touched on a variety of topics today as there was no upcoming opponent to discuss. One topic was the Big Ten, which showed on Saturday to have a high level of parity this season. Tressel gave some thoughts on how the league got to that point.
"I think there's great parity, and that's been shown for a number of years," he said. "I think there are a lot of great coaching staffs in the Big Ten. I think there are obviously great institutions. Every one of the schools, I'd send my child to because they're great schools and so forth. Obviously the terrain has changed over the last 25 years, going from unlimited scholarships to 105 to 95 to 85, and that's going to create parity nationally, not just within our league. I think parity's here to stay."
Tressel was also asked if some teams in the Big Ten may or may not be living up to preseason expectations.
"You never know for sure in the preseason how teams are going to be," he said. "You can make best guesses based on people returning and that type of thing. One thing about the Big Ten is we play a grueling, out-of-conference schedule. It's once we get in season, when you go to those opposing stadiums, it's hard to win. Our stadiums are incredible, so you're already down by a touchdown once you walk in the door. So there is parity. I think it's one of the toughest leagues this year. I don't get to watch everybody play, but if there are leagues tougher than ours with eleven people that can play the game like ours can, I tip my cap to them because this is a pretty good league."
The topic of new Strength and Conditioning Assistant Butch Reynolds also came up. Tressel talked about the addition of Reynolds to the staff.
"Butch has been a great addition, probably for the main reason is that he loves Ohio State," Tressel said. "He's a Buckeye graduate and obviously an All-American and just loves competing in the scarlet and gray. Anytime you can add that to your program, that's going to help. Then, also, he has credibility in what he teaches. He's teaching speed training and conditioning and so forth, and I thought that our team reported in our best running shape in the five years we've been here. I think we have good speed on our team. Some guys who had good speed even have a little bit better speed, I think in part because Butch has had a chance to work with them some. To me, it's been just wonderful, having him here."
A follow-up question was asked based on Reynolds describing his job as being about speed and relationships. The relationships factor might come as a surprise to some, but Tressel talked about why relationships with the players are important for strength and conditioning coaches.
"That is (important)," Tressel said, "because obviously kids have goals and they want to run fast and they want to go to the NFL combines and that, but as important as that is developing relationships with the kids because he's been through the gamut of athletic excellence, and he's been to Ohio State and graduated from Ohio State and been in world-class events, and he can teach great lessons to those kids as to what it takes to achieve at the highest level and also be a guy that -- I think our strength coaches probably spend more time just in relaxed conversation with our players than our coaches even do because our coaches are out recruiting and in the film rooms, and so forth. Our strength guys are always down there and it's kind of a relaxed atmosphere, so without a doubt, he hit it on the head -- it's speed and relationships."
Tressel was also asked by a Pittsburgh newspaper reporter about being a first-year coach and the types of roadblocks that can occur (the question may have been influenced by University of Pittsburgh first-year head coach Dave Wannstedt's rough start). Tressel, who first arrived at OSU in 2001, talked about some of his experiences during his first season.
"I think it's more of a (case of) you haven't had the time to develop relationships," Tressel said. "Teams and families and communities or churches or whatever are built on relationships, and if you got in there in January and you run around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to make everyone happy from the alumni to the booster clubs to getting to know your players and putting a new staff together, you just run out of moments to develop relationships. One thing you feel better about when you're in year two is that you know everyone so much better, and they know you and you know one another's needs and expectations, and so that first year is really a grind from a standpoint of if you really want to get to know one another, that takes time, and time is the one thing you don't have much of.
"I really think it has a lot to do with the personnel that's returning and just how much experience you have coming back. You see some people take over teams that were very experienced and had showed that they could win, felt that they could win, and the relationships would be developed when you were doing that. Then other times, you take on situations where you don't have quite as much experienced personnel, you have quite a transition as to who's going to play, and you throw that together with the lack of time to build as strong of relationships you'd like to have, that makes it a difficult year. Really, it still comes back to the personnel involved."