Tressel, Zook Discuss Upcoming Game

This Saturday's matchup between Ohio State and Illinois is expected to be a one-sided battle. At today's Big Ten weekly coaches teleconference, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Illinois head coach Ron Zook talked about the game as well as other topics.

Tressel opened with a statement about the game against Minnesota and then some thoughts about this week's opponent, Illinois.

"We get to come back home --  we haven't been home for a few weeks," Tressel said. "The Illini comes in, and as you watch their film in the course of the year, every day they get better. They had a tough battle this past weekend with Wisconsin. There was a couple plays that the game hinged on at various time and there was a one-touchdown spread. The Illini are playing good football right now."

Tressel was asked if the fact that Illinois has not yet won a Big Ten game could be causing the OSU players to have trouble getting motivated or look past the Illini.

"I would think not," Tressel said. "We have so many films and we have so many examples of where if this would have gone this way or that would have gone that way, all of a sudden the scores or the results wouldn't be perhaps what it was. We haven't played the Illini since '02, but we have a number of guys on this team that were on that team in '02, and they know full well that we were fortunate to win in an overtime ball game against a tough football team. I think too they know how good all those teams that Illinois has played against, they know how good they are because they've had their moments with some of them. I would hope that we're most concerned with... becoming consistent. I would hope we are most concerned about who we are, whether we're playing Illinois or whoever it happens to be, Ohio State is what it's about for us."

Quarterback Troy Smith has been putting up solid numbers recently, particularly in the area of passing efficiency. Tressel was asked how has Smith has been able to become more efficient throughout the year.

"I think the reality of that situation is he was starting to get a handle on that as the back half of 2004 unfolded, and then we had the unfortunate situation where he needed to miss the bowl game and forced him to miss some progress in spring practices," Tressel said. "He was not permitted in our particular situation to have quite as many reps, so I think that slowed his progress. Then preseason (was) the same because we knew we were going into game one and the only thing we knew for sure about the quarterback position was that it was not going to be him. Then I think he was able to get a lot more quality reps beginning with game two, and then all of a sudden, games two-three-four, he started to get more comfortable and then games five-six-seven-eight, he's gained a certain level of consistency that is only good if he keeps progressing." 

Illinois head coach Ron Zook also discussed the upcoming game with the Buckeyes.

"We're jumping out of the fire into the frying pan," Zook said. "We're going to Columbus, Ohio to play a very, very talented, well-coached football team in the Ohio State Buckeyes. It's going to be important that we continue to improve and get to the place where we're supposed to be."

Zook was asked how much of a challenge it would be facing Ohio State's defense this week.

"It is a great challenge, a monumental challenge in the fact that they're very, very athletic," Zook said. "They've arguably got one of the best linebacking corps in the country. They take Carpenter and put him down as a rush guy at times. They're very, very athletic. They chase the football, got a great scheme, safeties are big time hitters. They're going to fill the box up and put a lot of pressure on you. There's a reason why they are ranked where they are in the country on defense."

Zook's young Illini team has faced some growing pains this season, losing their Big Ten games by lopsided margins. Zook talked about whether or not he was disappointed with the way things have gone based on what he expected coming into the season.

"Obviously I'm frustrated and disappointed, but I didn't have a starting point of where we were," he said. "In fact, I tell people if things were great, I wouldn't be here, so we've got a lot of work to do. But the thing that's exciting about this place is we have everything we need. The only thing we can't do is we can't buy experience and we can't control time. But we'll get players in here and we'll raise the athleticism of our team. We have a great, great university, and it won't be long that the University of Illinois will be back on top." 

Tressel also spoke on several other topics, one of which was the topic of how much the Internet has affected recruiting process. He talked about some of the positive and negative aspects.

"I think when you talk about effect and recruiting, you talk about the people involved, most importantly the student-athletes," Tressel said. "I think the recruiting process with all the Internet interviews and people checking up to see what things are said about them on the Internet and what not, I think it's distracted young people a little bit. I'm not sure it's what they should be keeping their closest eye on, but I understand when someone's talking and you're one of the subjects, you're a little bit interested in what's going on there. Then with the text (messaging) and so forth, the only thing constant is change. The recruiting process has changed dramatically in those areas, but I suppose some of it for the good because the young people and their families can find out more about situations as they study them, and perhaps some ways not so good that perhaps it takes too much of their time and attention.

Tressel added that the changes have not really affected OSU's recruiting process.

"I don't know that it's changed it dramatically," he said. "When we're in-season, the amount of time that we spend on recruiting is very small compared to when December 1 hits, December-January, and then of course the month of May. But I don't know that it's changed the way we go about things dramatically."

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