Tressel Gives Bye Week Update

The Buckeyes do not have a game this week, but they were getting after it at Thursday's practice. Head coach Jim Tressel met with the media following the workout and addressed a number of topics, including: injury updates, the play of the defensive line, the recruitment of Troy Smith four years ago and more.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel spoke with the media Thursday following practice – his lone meeting with reporters during the bye week.

First up, the coach was asked about the progress of true freshman outside linebacker James Laurinaitis – one of the pleasant surprises thus far.

"He's doing well," Tressel said. "With Marcus Freeman being injured, right now he's the No. 2 backup at SAM and is doing a good job. Bright. On some special teams. Doing a good job."

Freeman suffered a torn meniscus in the opener against Miami University, then came down with a staph infection following surgery. Tressel expects Freeman back at some point this year, he's just not sure when.

"I think this season, yeah, but not the next game," he said. "We go along with what the medical people say and they haven't said (he will miss the rest of the season) to us."

Junior wide receiver Santonio Holmes was seen wearing a protective boot walking off the practice field Thursday. He hurt his foot in preseason camp and also wore a boot the week before the opener against the RedHawks. Therefore, it doesn't sound like anything to worry about; simply a precaution.

"He's had a little bit of tenderness in that left foot, probably all through preseason and so forth," Tressel said. "And here's a chance for him to take a little pressure off of it and we're doing that."

Tressel also gave an update on sophomore offensive lineman Steve Rehring who was hospitalized with pneumonia recently.

"He's doing a lot better," Tressel said. "He had an infection and he was hospitalized for four days. You always get scared with those kind of things and we're excited that he's out. But he's going to be out from playing for I would guess a significant amount of time."

Tressel said there is a list of players that might fill in for Rehring on the O-line rotation.

"(John) Conroy, (Alex) Boone, (Kyle) Mitchum, Steve Winner, Andree Tyree is back playing center, guard and tight end," he said. "So, that's what the middle of the season is about – that's why we have scrimmages like we had (Thursday) – to make sure more and more guys get ready."

Tressel was asked if he will watch OSU's next opponent, Penn State, play this weekend against Minnesota.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Our staff has been watching them for a couple days. I've watched a little bit. To me, the most important read on them is that they went into an opposing Big Ten stadium and got way behind and came back and won (against Northwestern). That tells me a lot about Penn State."

One of the reasons the Nittany Lions are 4-0 so far (other than their schedule) is the play of a couple of young standouts.

"Yeah, (Derrick) Williams and (Justin) King – two guys that we tried like crazy to recruit," Tressel said. "They have a lot of good young kids there and (Michael) Robinson I think has settled in at the quarterback position. And obviously they're great on defense. So, it's going to be a great challenge."

Tressel thinks it will be a tight game between PSU and Minnesota.

"That will be an interesting one because they're both good teams, both undefeated and it's going to be a good one," he said.

Tressel was asked point blank if he thinks Ohio State is the team to beat in the Big Ten this year.

"Oh gosh no," he said. "We've got one win and you need to win eight times to assure yourself of a championship. So, no. We've got to go one day at a time. If we can keep getting better at the pace we have been, I think we can contend, but it's a little early to say."

The bye week seems to fall at a good time for the Buckeyes. Classes started last week and it also gives players like Holmes an extra week to get their bodies close to 100 percent for the rest of the Big Ten slate.

Tressel revealed what he likes to accomplish during a bye week.

"Well, what we tried to do is break it down," he said. "Wednesday we worked hard on our own fundamentals and did a lot of self-scout and went back and watched ourselves and said, ‘Hey, these are some areas where we've got to do better and let's not even worry about what opponent it is.' (Thursday), we started a little bit on Penn State preparation and continued the fundamental work. And in both cases – Wednesday and Thursday – we scrimmaged the young kids. I think they had 43 snaps (Wednesday) and right around 30 scrimmage snaps (Thursday). And then (Friday) we'll probably be totally Penn State preparation."

One of the bright spots for OSU this season has been the play of the defensive line. Many expected a big season from junior tackle Quinn Pitcock. But senior end Mike Kudla is playing at an All-Big Ten level and the rest of the D-linemen are more than holding their own.

It's a far cry from last season when the Bucks had arguably one of the worst defensive lines in the conference – at least for the first half of the season.

"Well, I think our defensive front in general is further ahead than they were a year ago," Tressel said. "They were all so new. They were taking over for Timmy Anderson and Darrion (Scott) and Will Smith. So, there weren't that many experienced guys. And by the end of the year, we had a little bit of experience. And now through four games we've got a little bit more. We're obviously better (than we were last year). That's just the progression of good players and gaining experience. It hasn't been a surprise to us. They're good players."

Tressel also reflected on the recruitment of quarterback Troy Smith four years ago. When Smith was signed, he was labeled an "athlete." He was almost an afterthought in the class since most everyone expected Justin Zwick to be the future starter.

"Well, the reason for labeling him such is that we wanted to be honest about how many repetitions there are and aren't out there," Tressel said. "We had a lot of guys. We had (Craig) Krenzel and (Scott) McMullen who were going to get the bulk of the snaps. And I can't even remember, when Troy committed, we might have still had (Rick) McFadden. So, you want to be honest with people and say, ‘Hey, you're not going to come and have lots of reps as a position.' So, that was just to make sure we were communicating fairly and clearly."

Other than Smith's fumbles against Iowa, he played an excellent game. Tressel was asked for his thoughts on Smith's performance against the Hawkeyes.

"Well, I don't like the dropping the rock part. We've got to straighten that out," Tressel said. "I thought he had good footwork. I thought he improved his command and I thought he made good decisions. A couple times he just threw it away and it's OK to throw it away. We don't have to win the game this play. And obviously he loves to compete and he did a good job running the ball and moving the team. He had that ‘generalship' that you like in a quarterback. So, we like all that progress."

Finally, the coach gave an update on junior linebacker Mike D'Andrea. He was expected to return for the Penn State game, but it sounds like his knee is still not ready.

"He hasn't had any hitting, so my guess would be he will probably be hard-pressed to travel to Penn State," Tressel said. "But he has shown a lot of progress this week. If the game was this Saturday he wouldn't. But the game isn't this Saturday, so we'll see."

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