Tressel, Buckeyes Prepare For Spartans

Jim Tressel met briefly with the media following Wednesday's practice. The coach was asked about veteran leadership, responding to bye weeks, OSU's injury status, the matchup against Michigan State, freshman tackle Alex Boone and more.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with reporters following Wednesday's practice. He was pleased with the way the Buckeyes looked on Wednesday as they prepared for Saturday's home tilt against Michigan State.

"Good sharp practice," Tressel said. "Kind of bonus weather here. Nice 70 degrees. Guys are focused on what needs to be done and the good news is that we're getting better with every snap."

Coming off a loss, one might think that the Buckeyes practice a little harder than usual. But Tressel says that's not necessarily the case.

"They always practice hard," he said. "I think at all various times you see and feel different feelings. This seems like a no-nonsense, don't need a whole bunch of talking, we need to do what we need to do. That's the way they are handling themselves."

Ohio State has a veteran team and the players never thought they would be sitting on two losses just five games into the season. With the season not going as planned, it could be time for the seniors to step up and be more vocal leaders.

"I don't know about vocal in a group setting," Tressel said. "I think where leadership really happens is in those one-on-ones and in that locker room and at the study table and that type of thing. I think most teaching is done in small groups and not large audience, pep-talk kind of thing."

Michigan State is coming off a bye week, which usually helps a football team. But the opposite was true for OSU last week against Penn State. Tressel was asked if he expects to see some new wrinkles from the Spartans since they had an extra week to prepare.

"You can find a variety of things," Tressel said. "You can find some people that have some new things. You can find some people that are much, much better at the things they have been doing. You never know, and really quite honestly I'm not sure that bye week has much affect. What has affect is what goes on in the game, especially in the early going. Then all of a sudden it's irrelevant about a bye week because the game has started. But you can see some new things. Usually people aren't going to wholesale change, especially if they are as good as Michigan State and have done well and are deservedly ranked."

Penn State's defense was very effective against OSU. Tressel was asked what he learned from watching the film of that game and how that might affect the Buckeyes as they go forward.

"What you do is say, ‘OK, what did they do to some of things that we like to do? Does that fit the scheme of that your next opponent has?' If it's irrelevant to the scheme, no one is going to change their defense and change their concept. But no, you always look and say, ‘OK, here's what they did to stop this that we like to do and we have done in the past.' Or maybe, ‘Here's how they've put pressure on us. Here's how their offense has put pressure on our defense.' Typically, if you would watch games, you'd see a little bit sprinkled from earlier games in everyone's attack. Because everyone says, ‘That's a good way to attack that blitz.' Or, ‘That's a good way to attack that coverage.' There's constant borrowing from one and other."

The coach gave an injury update on right tackle Kirk Barton and linebacker Mike D'Andrea.

"Barton would remain questionable," Tressel said. "Decent opportunity (to play Saturday). But D'Andrea is in. He's ready to go."

Tressel is not sure how much D'Andrea will play against the Spartans.

"I don't know you could say that there's no question about it that you'll see him in there," Tressel said. "But then on the other hand, we would like to sprinkle him in, perhaps, on some special teams and have him be ready on the defensive side. I don't know that he's practiced enough for our coaches all of a sudden to get creative about, ‘OK, we've got one more great player and we can do this or that.' I'm not sure we're there yet, but we'd like to get his participation going."

Ohio State's defense is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and Michigan State's offense is ranked atop the conference. Something has to give on Saturday.

"That's a great matchup," Tressel said. "But if you watch Big Ten games, it usually ends up that way when you have… some games you'll say, ‘Hey, this is going to be a high scorer because of these two great offenses.' Now all of a sudden two defenses rise up and people block punts and people return punts and people do this and that. So, one would think that, but to be determined."

But Michigan State's defense has struggled thus far. Tressel was asked why MSU has given up so many points and yards.

"Well, they've played against some people that can throw it around," he said. "Hawaii throws it all over the place. Michigan can move the football – over the course of years, you've seen them do a lot with the football. Illinois can move the football a little bit. I haven't seen anyone just go (right down the field) and constantly do it series after series. I've seen some little flashes. And usually when that happens, it's just a player here missing an assignment, a player here slipping, a player there not getting the communication or whatever. But I wouldn't say they are a defense with a whole bunch of problems. They've got a whole bunch of players and they're pretty good."

As for OSU's struggling offense, Tressel was asked if practice this week is more about fixing the Buckeyes, rather than game-planning for Michigan State.

"Well, it always about that," Tressel said. "But it's always about, ‘OK, what's their scheme?' Because if you just go out and say, ‘OK, we're just going to practice our stuff.' And then all of sudden you haven't lined up against how they blitz, or how they cover, or how they deploy, then maybe you fundamentals are better, but your kids are at a disadvantage because it's a different scheme. And what you find in this league – and probably every league – is that everyone does things a little bit the same, and a lot different. It's kind of like during spring and preseason. You get so used to playing against the way your team plays that all of a sudden you get to that first game, or second game, and someone's in a different concept and it's not quite as automatic. And the toughest thing I think about coaching both sides of the ball is that every week it's something new. Very seldom will you face the same concept defense two weeks in a row; same concept offense two weeks in a row. And with the little bit of time that we're allowed to have with them – because we can study it for hours – but what's important is: What do they know? That's the key."

True freshman offensive tackle Alex Boone will get his first start of the season if Barton can't go. "It's a big challenge," Tressel said. "Michigan State is good up front. They'll know that he's young and I'm sure they'll want to do things to make life tough on him. That's what football is about is putting pressure on the other team, especially if you know that they lack some experience somewhere. But he's played a significant amount. Obviously getting into a tough ballgame like he did last week and playing 30 snaps or thereabout, that will serve him well."

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