Tressel Talk: Wednesday Evening Update

In the midst of preparing for No. 6 Ohio State's clash with No. 16 Penn State on Saturday, OSU head coach Jim Tressel met briefly with the media on Wednesday. The coach discussed his taste in music, the status of Mike D'Andrea, the rise of Penn State, Ohio State's defense, the play of Antonio Pittman and more.

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

To prepare for the noisy environment they will face at Penn State Saturday night (7:45; ESPN) loud rock music was blasted through loudspeakers towards the end of the Buckeyes' practice.

Anything from U2, to Michael Jackson, to Quiet Riot could be heard by anyone in the general vicinity of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

But Tressel won't take responsibility for the choice of music.

"No, I'm not the music guy," he said. "Thank goodness it was only the last 20 minutes."

What is Tressel's favorite rock band? No, believe it or not, it's not Quiet Riot.

"Beach Boys, absolutely," Tressel said.

Back on a serious note, Tressel gave an update on junior linebacker Mike D'Andrea, who is returning from a knee injury.

"He practiced the whole time today," Tressel said. "I can't mention as to how he did, but I saw him out there on all the semi-live situations. You know, we didn't tackle today."

The Penn State game is OSU's first road tilt of the season and Tressel says there are specific keys to being a successful road team.

"Well, obviously experience helps in everything that you do, whether you're home or away," Tressel said. "We always talk about the fact that you better do a great job in your special teams, especially away from your home. Nothing electrifies a home crowd more than the special teams going the way of the home team.

"No matter what's going on on defense, you better keep playing. Because sometimes the momentum can get flowing and you just have to keep playing.

"And offensively, you better not go into someone's stadium and make mistakes. Those are kind of truisms that we try and teach and live by."

Solid special teams combined with a stingy defense sounds very similar to OSU's formula for winning home games as well.

"It's not different than a home game, I think it's just something that is even magnified even more," Tressel said. "Sometimes at home you can overcome a mistake because if you make a mistake on offense, all of a sudden your crowd is behind that defense and so forth. Not that I want to make any mistakes on offense. But I just think mistakes and special teams are magnified when you're on the road."

At 5-0, Penn State appears to be a confident team. The Nittany Lions are talking about such things as winning a Big Ten championship and playing in a BCS bowl. Even the most diehard PSU fan might not have thought that was possible before the season, but a 5-0 start will get a lot of people excited.

"Yeah, I think success helps confidence," Tressel said. "And they're undefeated; five straight wins. Experience makes for confidence. Hardships make for confidence. And they've had all those things. Those guys are in their fourth and fifth year. They've had good times, they've had tough times. They've got experience and I think that's why you see such a good team."

One of the strengths of Penn State's team is its veteran and talented offensive line.

"Big, strong," Tressel said. "Four fifth-year guys, another fourth-year guy and a fifth-year tight end. I don't know how many games that their offensive front has started, but it's a bunch. They've see it all. They've been in games where they were ahead, behind, fourth-and-ones, goal-lines, they've been everywhere. Again, I think they are underestimated."

Both OSU and PSU have emerging tailbacks in Antonio Pittman and Tony Hunt, respectively. Tressel was asked just how much helps having a workhorse tailback in the stable.

"I think when you've got a back that you know for sure you'd love to get him 20 carries, I think that's a real plus," he said. "I think that takes a little pressure off pass protection. Takes a little pressure off the quarterback, whether it's run or pass. Takes a little pressure off the receivers because they sometimes now get singled-up because you have to drop an extra hat into the box to stop it. So, I don't care if you're in the NFL, college, or high school. If you've got a guy you know is going to rush it 20 times and maybe break the century mark, that's what you hope for."

Tressel was asked if Pittman is reaching that point.

"Yeah, I think he's progressing towards that," he said. "Every weekend is a new test. The Iowa game was a test and obviously he got to carry it 28 times and did it with good success. And now going away from home, against a veteran defense that puts a lot more hats in the box than Iowa, is Tony's next test."

Ohio State's defense has once again established itself as one of the top defenses in the country. Maybe the best. Tressel was asked if it's getting to the point where OSU can count on a strong performance from its defense every game.

"Yeah, we've seen through four games that they're going to be relentless, they're going to put pressure on, they're going to play hard and they're going to do a good job of adjusting," he said. "If you look at our games, as the game has gone on they've adjusted and handled situations. To date, I would say it's something that you can count on. But that doesn't mean anything on Saturday. We've got to count on them Saturday."

Penn State defeated Cincinnati 42-24 earlier this season in Happy Valley. Tressel was asked if he had recently talked to UC head coach Mark Dantonio, OSU's former defensive coordinator, about the Nittany Lions.

"I talked to Mark last Wednesday, the day of his game (against Miami University) and really haven't talked to him since," he said. "I asked him just in idle chatter about Penn State and he had nothing but the things you would expect: sound, big, strong, tough, veterans – compared to Cincinnati's youthful team. But nothing X and O wise."

Finally, the coach was asked about Penn State senior quarterback Michael Robinson. He struggled as a passer last year, but appears to have turned things around. Robinson hasn't faced a defense in OSU's league quite yet, but there is no question he has elevated his game this year.

"He's an excellent runner and he's throwing the ball well," Tressel said. "They throw it down the field. They throw the home run ball 10 to 15 times a game. Those are things he does well. So, I think what they are doing is featuring his talents pretty well and as a fifth year senior he is responded. He's big and strong and he'll lower his shoulder and that electrifies his team and his crowd and everything else."


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