Wednesday Update: OSU Prepares For Gophers

Jim Tressel met briefly with reporters following Ohio State's practice on Wednesday. The coach tackled a number of topics, including: preparing to play in a dome for the first time this season, injury updates, the influence of Earle Bruce, Ohio State's defensive line, trying to contain Minnesota's running game, and more.

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

The Buckeyes will play indoors for the first time this season Saturday at Minnesota (noon, ABC) and to help prepare for the environment OSU has practiced indoors at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center all week.

"Hot," Tressel said of the conditions at the WHAC. "And it will be hot in the Metrodome. We're so fortunate that we have a facility like this. And it also turned out that the weather wasn't wonderful. So, we got to sweat a lot and we got to see the ball thrown around with lights and so forth. I think we've had good preparation."

Senior defensive back Tyler Everett and sophomore right tackle are still nursing injuries but are close to returning.

"Both still questionable," Tressel said. "I think Everett is a little ahead of Barton, whatever that means."

Tressel was asked if there's a possibility true freshman Alex Boone will remain as the starting RT even after Barton returns.

"I would say that the day Barton would get back full speed, Barton would be the right tackle," Tressel said. "Now, that doesn't mean Alex wouldn't play. But we typically say that you don't lose position by injury. Now, if you're out for a year and a half, you know. But typically, we don't."

It is looking more and more like sophomore linebacker Marcus Freeman will be redshirted this season. Unless there is an injury to another linebacker, the Buckeyes would like to save the year (Freeman only played one game, so he is virtually assured of being granted a medical redshirt).

"Marcus probably won't go," Tressel said. "He would be ready to go and so forth, but right now we feel as if the best thing for him would be to look toward a developmental medical redshirt. Something can happen injury-wise and you're down to the stretch run, but I think our decision would be not to take him. That's not 100 percent sure, but I think that's where we're leaning."

Tressel always wants to try and control the clock offensively. But against a team like Minnesota, time of possession might be even more important than usual. The Gophers like to try and control the clock themselves and Buckeyes do not want to have a fatigued defense in the second half.

"There's two things that's important. One is time of possession, and the other is score," Tressel said. "You can not have time of possession if you're scoring. Both of those things can put the pressure on the other offense. And football is a game of pressure. Every play, someone's putting pressure on someone. If you're scoring points, or you're keeping the ball, that's putting pressure on the other group."

The Minnesota game will mark a homecoming for OSU freshman outside linebacker James Laurinaitis.

"He's a starter on special teams and he's really coming along (at linebacker)," Tressel said. "I think he's ready to contribute if called on defensively."

Both Tressel and Minnesota head coach Glen Mason coached together at OSU under Earle Bruce (and Tressel and Mason were the finalists for the OSU job in 2001). Tressel was asked if there's a little bit of Bruce in both him and Mason.

"Oh sure," he said. "When we talk, we'll always get to at least one or two Earle-isms. And I would say this: I bet if you really dissected our coaching styles and our coaching beliefs is that you would find strands of what Earle Bruce is all about because you learn from people who are successful and you take those things with you and hope they will contribute to your success."

Did Tressel and Mason occasionally chuckle at some of those Earle-isms?

"You didn't chuckle when he was in the room, but you chuckled," Tressel said.

Ohio State has the best defense in the Big Ten in nearly every statistical category. And it all starts up front with an excellent defensive line.

"Well, they were young a year ago and learning the tricks of the trade," Tressel said of the D-line. "This year, knock on wood, we've stayed relatively healthy and we've been able to rotate and able to learn and apply pressure. So, I'm pleased with the progress, but I've got to make sure I'm pleased on Saturday too. It doesn't end there. But if they play the way they have and even get better, I think when we look back after this season we'd say, ‘Those folks stepped up.'"

Junior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock was limited last week against Indiana with a minor injury, but will start against Minnesota.

"We held him out a little bit last week in anticipation," Tressel said. "He still played last week some; I think 15, 18 snaps. He wasn't 100 percent, but he wasn't like he was 70 either. He was probably 85, 90 percent and I think Jim (Heacock) just wanted to keep him a little fresher."

So, the Buckeyes were saving Pitcock for Minnesota?

"Well, maybe, yeah," Tressel said. "Because our game against Indiana was not going to be a slugfest on the line of scrimmage. It was going to be pass rush and that kind of thing. So, yeah, I'm sure Jim anticipated that."

Minnesota has the No. 1 rushing offense in the conference – led by tailbacks Laurence Maroney and Columbus-native Gary Russell.

"Great challenge for our defense," Tressel said. "Our guys have been challenged in so many different ways. People have thrown it 50 times. People have done a little bit of this, little bit of that. Had quarterback runners like (Texas' Vince) Young and (Penn State's Michael) Robinson. And this is the first time they're going to face a guy that's going to ram in at them 40 times and other guy maybe 15 or 20. I'm sure they want to see how they can measure up."

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