Tressel Talks Penn State During Press Event

This story has been updated to include comments from OSU coach Jim Tressel and captains Nate Salley and Nick Mangold at Tuesday's weekly press luncheon. It also includes comments from Tressel on the Big Ten teleconference. This weekend's game between Penn State and Ohio State (7:45 p.m. Saturday, ESPN) has suddenly become one of the biggest games on the weekend schedule.

His Ohio State football team may be 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play, but OSU coach Jim Tressel was inundated at his weekly press luncheon with questions about being 1-3.

As in, the Buckeyes are 1-3 in his tenure coming off an open week and they were 1-3 in road games in the Big Ten a year ago.

"That seems to be the theme here, 1-3," Tressel joked as he answered questions regarding Saturday's prime time game at Penn State (7:45 p.m., ESPN).

Tressel discussed the challenge of going into Happy Valley this Saturday.

"It's going to be a battle every time you play in the Big Ten, whether you're playing at home or you're playing on the road," Tressel said. "You go into the greatest stadiums and the atmospheres are extraordinary, and we're getting ready to go into, in my mind, one of the most fun atmospheres and that's at State College at Beaver Stadium.

"We all saw that Penn State has progressed over a five-week time frame to get better and better and better every particular game, which is what becoming a good team is all about. They had excellent home victory this past weekend (against Minnesota) and they're a mature football team.

"On the defensive side, there are about nine guys that are either fourth- or fifth-year starter kind of guys and played a lot of games. I think their defensive starters combined have over 200 and some starts, not to mention 300 and some games they've played in. So they've seen it all, they've played it, they just do an excellent job."

Tressel discussed the festive nature of game day at Penn State and at Beaver Stadium, where a crowd near 107,000 is expected.

"I think it's one of the most fun places to play," Tressel said. "They're loud, they're excited, they love their team, they love their school. You know, they can't wait to get there and, you know, their students are involved, you know, I think it's neat. It's not unlike our situation or -- or Michigan's or when you get that many people, it's exciting and is it a tough place to play? I don't know what that means, exactly. It gets loud but so do a lot of places. It's tough because they're a good team. But it's a fun place."

OSU played, perhaps, its best game of the young season in defeating Iowa 31-7 on Sept. 24. Having to sit out a week can sometimes slow a team's momentum, although Tressel is hopeful his team can continue to progress.

"You know, sometimes when you're focused and you get into a little groove and a little discipline and you go forward, things can go well," he said. "Then on the other hand, you can get into a little rut from that standpoint and maybe you're not improving -- maybe your emotional gas tank isn't as full. So the open dates are scheduled when they are and you hope that, you know, you work hard on being focused on the fundamentals and we worked hard on ourselves last week and then got a head start on Penn State and I'd like to think that this group will be a focused one."

Tressel was asked if he approached this off week differently, given the road nighttime losses that followed at Wisconsin in 2003 and at Northwestern last year.

"We've talked about whether you should organize it a little differently, but you're a little bit bound by we have school and you practice when you practice," he said. "I suppose you could say, 'Hey, we're 1-3 coming off of bye weeks so we'll practice every day for 10 days and get that squared away.' I'm not sure, in my opinion, you're necessarily using that the right way.

"You have a plan and you believe in your plan and you execute the plan and when you do it well, you win and maybe all of a sudden you're not 1-3 anymore, but we talk about it every day as to what's -- what does this team need today?"

Ohio State was approached by the Big Ten and ESPN over the summer to move this game to a nighttime setting, and OSU obliged.

"We're a part of the partnership, which is the Big Ten and the Big Ten has partnerships with the television media and radio and everything else and they want as much exposure and fill their time slots and to be a good partner," Tressel said. "I think you have to be willing to do what people want. Would you vote for necessarily night games away from home, no, you probably wouldn't. As a coach, vote for night games period. You want to get up and play.

"The same with the players. But I don't know if that's fair, either, because you want people to have as many opportunities to see the Big Ten and Buckeyes as they can, so I hope we don't spend any time worrying about that, because it's scheduled for 7:45. It was either going to be 7 or 7:45. It's 7:45. We've known that, let's go."

OSU will fly to State College on Friday night and will stay at its hotel most of the day Saturday.

"It's hard to kill time on a game day anyway," Tressel said. "You could go to Cedar Point and you'd still be thinking about the game, still be nervous and still be dying for the game to start. We've got to make good decisions as to how we use the time and the mix of -- of useful time and rest and inevitably, though, you're going to have some nervous moments and hours. That's just the way life is on a night game."

Tressel talked about the impact several key freshmen have made for Penn State, including receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King.

"I think if you bring people that have a natural energy, natural excitement, difference makers -- I remember Mark Dantonio used to always talk about impact players are ones that not only come do it, they help raise everyone else up," Tressel said. "I think Derrick does a little bit of that. I think Teddy (Ginn) does a little bit of that. We've got a number of guys that do that, but I think Derrick Williams is that kind of guy. He does what he does and he assists others, you know, in raising their level."

Tressel said he has also been impressed with senior quarterback Michael Robinson, who is a true run/pass threat for the Lions.

"I think he's always been one of those guys that's tough," Tressel said. "He's a good leader. I think you can see that because he's gotten more undivided reps, you know, he's split a lot of the time with Zack Mills over the course of two or three seasons there. It's hard to get as good as you'd like to get when you're only getting partial reps and I think you see him progressing every day, every game, I'm sure their coaches see him constantly in practice getting better and better. He's a good football player. He's a leader and he's a tough -- you know, the number one characteristic that your quarterback better have is be tough especially to play in the Big Ten and that guy's tough."

Tressel was asked if coaches and college football fans still consider Penn State, which has had four losing seasons in the last five years, as a college football power along the lines of a USC, Alabama or Oklahoma.

"We always look at Penn State as good," Tressel said. "We've played them four times and it was a two-point game and a six-point game. Shoot, we've played a one-point game. We don't play Oklahoma every year or whatever. Penn State to us is big and I think to the people around the country, likewise."

Tressel revealed that offensive lineman Steve Rehring could receive a medical redshirt if he is unable to return after a bout with pneumonia that left him hospitalized for a short period.

"There's a possibility," Tressel said. "You know, obviously right now we just want him to get back to being able to go to school and that type of thing. But that is an option, yes. Obviously you're very careful when it comes to a kid's health and we're conservative staff in that situation."

Tressel was also asked about ailing linebackers Mike D'Andrea and Marcus Freeman. The coach said there was an outside shot that D'Andrea could be cleared to play Saturday, depending on how he handles practice this week.

"I think he (D'Andrea) will be back before Freeman and I think this week will tell on Mike if he'll be able to contribute this week. There's a possibility," Tressel said.

The Players' Take

Tressel was joined at today's luncheon by senior co-captains Nate Salley and Nick Mangold.

Salley talked about how the Buckeyes will respond after the open week and whether they could be flat.

"I don't think so, especially knowing how we've come out after a bye week the last couple of years," he said. "We know how that game can affect you. We focused a lot this week. That's the big thing -- focusing in and getting better. I think we did that.

"We looked at the past few night games and saw how we did in those games. We want to do better."

Salley said the Buckeyes know Penn State will be a tough challenge, especially with the confidence they have built with a 5-0 start.

"I know every time we play them, they play us hard and we have pretty good games against them," he said. "It's not a cakewalk when we play Penn State. They could be 0-4 and we know they would come in and play their best game against us. That's what we're expecting. We're going to give them our best."

Salley was on the field two years ago when OSU gutted out a 21-20 win at Beaver Stadium.

"It is one of my favorite places to play," he said. "They have a huge stadium and you have the lion roaring in the background. Their fans are crazy. It's a lot of fun playing there. Besides playing at home here, that is probably my favorite place to play on the road."

Salley talked about the long wait the players face for game time of a night game.

"Usually, we eat," he said. "I'll probably just sit down and watch some games and relax. I'll talk on the phone with my family. I'll chill with whoever my roommate is and just think about the game. You prepare all week and you're ready to go. You just try and relax and not get too pumped up before the game. When the game time comes, you need all the energy you have.

"I try to take little naps, but it's hard to sleep on game day. You have a lot of stuff going on in your mind. You see plays in your mind and you're dreaming about the game. I just try to relax and watch some games."

Mangold added, "You just try and take it easy and you watch TV for hours on end."

Mangold was asked if he had any opinion on the recorded lion's roar that is played over the Beaver Stadium PA system.

"I don't resent it," he said. "It's a great thing for them. I don't like it too much because it's loud and they do it after almost every play. But it's something that going on the road is all about and you have to deal with it. I'd like to see it outlawed all together, but whatever they do with their fans is how they go. It's part of what they do.

"If you let that kind of noise affect your game, you probably shouldn't be out there playing."

Regarding the Nittany Lions, Mangold sees a much better team than in the past.

"I think they are better," he said. "They're doing much better. They're using a lot of their young guys on offense. They're getting the ball around and making big plays. Their defense has a lot of returning starters who are experienced and know what's going on. Watching the film from a year ago, they were decent. But watching the film this year, you can tell they are on a whole different level."

Below is coverage of Jim Tressel's appearance on this afternoon's Big Ten teleconference:

OSU head coach Jim Tressel began his weekly media sessions today with the Big Ten coaches teleconference. Tressel began with some thoughts on this week's game at Penn State.

"Every test in the Big Ten, whether you're on the road or at home, is a tough one," he said. "Obviously, we didn't play this weekend -- we had a chance to see a lot of our Big Ten brethren play, and as we thought going into the season, this is a tough league and every day is going to be a battle. Obviously, we have a tough one as we go to State College to take on the Nittany Lions. Everyone saw they played a great game this past weekend. They've got a very veteran football team with an infusion of a couple of young guys that have really added a lot to their situation, and our guys are looking forward to a great ball game."

Tressel feels Ohio State and Penn State are teams with plenty of similarities.

"I think there's no doubt about it," he said. "I think from an offensive standpoint, we're doing similar things -- not exactly the same, but similar. We're trying to be balanced, and so is Penn State. We're trying to feature guys who can make big plays, so is Penn State. We're featuring quarterbacks who can run and pass, and so does Penn State. So I think there are a lot of similarities.

"Then you flip over to the defense -- they're a veteran defense with I think nine fourth- and fifth-year guys that have played, I don't know, 200-and-some-odd starting games on their defense. It's incredible. So they can do some things. They have an awareness, they keep the ball in front of them. And I think our defense, being a little more veteran this year, is similar. So I would agree that they're similar teams."

One similarity the two teams have is a quality group of linebackers. Ohio State's linebackers are regarded by many as the best in the country, while Penn State's linebackers have proven in recent weeks to be near the top in the Big Ten. 

"You can see that they're smart," Tressel said. "You can see that they're very, very sure tacklers. You can see that they ask them to do a lot of different things. They're not just standing back there and waiting for the ball to come to them. They're attack people, they're 'blitz people,' they can cover. They have a variety of different looks that they give you. Again, just like with some of the other positions, I think that the linebacker corps on both sides are very good and very similar." 

This year's Penn State team is much-improved in the area of offensive playmakers, largely because of outstanding true freshman Derrick Williams. Tressel compared Williams to Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn.

"(Williams) can play the game of football," Tressel said. "There are some guys who are just fast but they're maybe not football players. Derrick Williams is a football player -- great competitor, he's out there having fun. He reminds me a lot of Teddy (Ginn) that they want to just go out and do whatever they can for the good of the team and have an ability to bring energy. That's just the kind of people they are. He just enjoys it. Obviously, it adds one more dimension to an already veteran team, a very, very good team."

Tressel was asked if he was surprised at how complete of a player Williams is at such an early point in his college career.

"In this day and age, young people get to watch so much football and visualize what they would like to be, and, if they happen to be blessed with all those abilities like Derrick or Teddy, to go out there and have the opportunity to do it," Tressel said. "I think Derrick graduated early and went and got some experience in spring practice and those kinds of things. As soon as you know the system, your physical abilities allow them to express themselves, and he's special."

Both Ohio State and Penn State also have quarterbacks who are multidimensional in Troy Smith and Michael Robinson. Tressel was asked about Texas quarterback Vince Young by a reporter, and he quickly compared Young to Robinson.

"When you get a guy who throws it well and is well-schooled -- you can see that he's very well-schooled in what they're trying to do -- and a guy that presents such a problem with both the run game that's designed for him to run and the run game that he just kind of makes up on his own, that's tough," Tressel said. "It's like Michael Robinson this weekend for Penn State. He's a guy last weekend that rushed for over 100 and threw for over 100 and makes big plays with both his arm and his feet. I think that adds a tremendous difficulty for defensive teams. That's why we like to do it and hope that Troy Smith can be very similar."

Tressel will be going up against one of the legendary coaches in college history in Penn State's Joe Paterno. He was asked if he had given any thought to coaching at the same place for over five decades, like Paterno has.

"It's something I think we would all dream of," Tressel said. "I know I grew up with my dad being at Baldwin-Wallace College for a long, long time -- not 56 years, but 23 years at the same place as the head coach. That's just kind of the way I thought it was supposed to be.

"I had a chance to be 15 years at the same place, and you really become part of the community, part of the institution. As you say, coach Paterno is not only a part of Penn State or the State College community, but he's a part of NCAA football. He's been through so much of the change throughout time and he's been one of the leaders of the game for academic reform and for all the various things that are good about the evolution of football. What it means for the Big Ten to have a person like that, every time we're at one of our Big Ten meetings, most of us head coaches just try to sit and absorb as much as we can from the great wisdom and experience and knowledge that coach Paterno has. And he's fun to compete against because he loves to compete."

Tressel was asked if he could envision himself coaching at Ohio State as long as Paterno has.

I'm just trying to make it through my fifth year, day by day. I don't know that you ever, at any point in the job, sit there wondering that far in advance. You work hard every day, and I'm sure coach Paterno simply did that. As situations arose and the NFL came calling and all of those different things, the best thing for he and his family was to stay right there because it's a great place and a great program, and he's got his roots very deep right there. I try not to think too far in advance. I just try to get through today's practice."

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