Tressel, Players Discuss Fiesta Bowl Match-Up

OSU head coach Jim Tressel and several players met with the media today at the Fawcett Center to discuss the ongoing preparations for the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. Plus, split end Santonio Holmes shared some of his thoughts on the tough decision he faces on whether to return or enter the NFL draft. Click here for more.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and a number of his players met with the media in Columbus for the final time before they will end the Ohio portion of Fiesta Bowl preparation and adjourn for the Christmas holiday.

The team will reconvene in Arizona Dec. 26 to begin final preparations for its Jan. 2 date with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (5 p.m. Eastern, ABC).

Here are comments from Tressel on a wide variety of topics:

* The mood within the OSU camp -- "I think our guys are excited. They are real anxious to get out there. I think they're real anxious to get some time off around the holidays. When they show up for work and walk out on that field, they go after it. They're in the film room studying and in the weight room working out. I've never questioned their work ethic. They seem to have that bounce in their step that they want to get better."

* On the legacy of the seniors -- "I'm not sure there has been a senior class that has won four bowls. I don't know about total number of wins. They can certainly leave quite a legacy if they are successful in this ballgame. But that is a tall order and that's why they are practicing so hard."

* On the history of the OSU-Notre Dame rivalry -- "It's part of the whole experience. We're part of the Ohio State-Notre Dame history. It's not a long one, but it is a special one. But as the guys say, when you go out and line up against the Irish we won't be lining up against the guys that played in 1935-36 or the guys that played in 1995-96. We'll be able to be a part of that storied history. I think you have to put it where it belongs – as part of a total experience."

* General thoughts on the match-up with ND -- "We better make sure that we do a great job in the special teams. We better understand how diverse an offense and how explosive an offense this is that we're facing. Our defense has a great challenge. We better understand that their defense does a great job at what I think you should do first – they do a great job against the run.

"No one has run the ball extremely well against this defense. From a game plan standpoint, you start with all of the basic principles. Our defense wants to stop the run. Our offense wants to establish the run. And we better do a great job in the special teams."

* More on facing Notre Dame -- "Any time you get to compete against the likes of a Notre Dame, you enjoy it. And if you're successful, you really enjoy it. I don't know that we've had that much time to think about that. I'm not sure that has sunk in all the way. The fact that we're ranked fifth or whatever and they are ranked about the same and the fact you get to play on a stage like the Fiesta Bowl, it is going to be special. It is going to be exciting. But, as we've said, we can't allow that to get between us and our preparation and get us off-kilter from that standpoint."

* On OSU's success at the Fiesta Bowl -- "We're both 0-0 in bowl games this year. We probably have 40 of our players who have been there before instead of 107 or however many are going. But we do have the advantage of knowing how nice a place it is and how wonderful you are treated. I think our guys are mature enough to know that this game is about getting prepared to play against a great team."

* On the reported injury to TE Marcel Frost and other injury updates -- "He missed a half a practice or 1-1/2. But he's been working the last couple. Mike D'Andrea seems to be practicing more. Based on ending today's practice, I would tell you that he might be able to give us some help. We were trying to get him back in the regular season and he just wasn't ready. He would be more ready. Ryan Hamby will be more ready. Brandon Schnittker is still up in the air. Bobby Carpenter would be way up in the air."

* On his team's fall quarter academic performance -- "We had maybe the best academic quarter we've ever had with 55 guys over a 3.0."

* On his contract status (he is signed through 2008, although there is a clause that allows for a three-year extension if the sides agree by March 1, 2006) -- "I would envision no talks for the three weeks leading up (to the bowl game) and probably no talks during January because we're flying. Those kind of things happen in February and March. I would hope (it would come up), but we have to go and see what we can do here."

* On the Notre Dame offense -- "I think Charlie does a great job with balance. He runs the ball well in a variety of ways, not just one or two. He does a good job of moving his pocket around with his quarterback. You can't just tee off on where you think Brady (Quinn) will be. He distributes the ball so well. He throws it Darius (Walker), he throws it to the tight end and he throws it to the wideouts.

"He gives you a lot of problems. When an offense can give you a variety of problems, that gives them a little bit of an advantage."

* On whether he has reflected on this season -- "Not beyond the reflection that forced its way in near the end of our season. We had senior day in our 10th game and then these guys' final Michigan game. You reflect on this truly is the last time I get to see A.J. play or Robbie Sims or whoever it turns out to be. We've certainly appreciated what they have done."

* On preparing for the bowl and working with young players -- "I think 80 percent of what we're doing is to get ready to play Notre Dame and play the best we can for the group that won't be here any more, our senior group. Twenty percent of the time, we're doing some scrimmaging. I don't know that we make a whole lot of evaluations. We just want them to have experiences. It's fun to have them under the gun."

* On OSU's offensive game plan -- "I hope it's never a case where we are playing afraid that we're going to error. I hope we make good decisions on what we ask our guys to do. Some of that is based on what our opponents are doing and also on field position and what's going on in the game. We have to go out and let it all hang out the best we possibly can. You're not saving any plays for the next week. You're doing what you think you have to do to be successful."

Going Pro?

Reporters asked Santonio Holmes once again about the chances he will forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

"That's a good question," he said. "That is a possibility, a possibility."

Holmes was asked what was influencing that decision.

"I just want to feel comfortable with making that next step," he said. "I am dealing with a lot of family issues outside of football. I just have to put all of that in the evaluation and go from there.

"It's my decision. No one is helping me with this decision or telling me whether I should stay or go. I'm not feeding into that stuff. I haven't looked at one (draft projection) since the season has started."

Tressel discussed the process he goes through in advising his underclassmen on their draft status.

"The one thing we talk a lot about in recruiting is there might be a day when we'll have to sit down and have some discussions about the NFL," Tressel said. "With underclassmen, we talk about if they're going to be a first-round draft choice they probably need to consider it.

"We're fortunate that the NFL has an advisory council that you can put some information in and find out what your players' draft status might be. They give you five categories – he may be as high as a first round pick, he may be as high as a second round, he may be as high as a fourth, he may be as high as a sixth and the last one is he is probably not going to be drafted.

"When you get that information back, you can sit down and have some discussions. We are awaiting that information on a number of guys. We always talk about the team concept, but never at the expense of individual goals and dreams.

"Sometimes, we've had some guys get draft status reports back that have motivated them. They say, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I would be better than that.' All of a sudden, you see a downshift in their effort. I don't think it's a bad thing."

Early Bird Gets The Worm

With exams over, the team has made it a practice to get up early each day and report for practice. Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock likes the change.

"The seniors have made it so we come in at 8 a.m.," Pitcock said. "We come in and meet and get our work done. I like it this way because we get our work done and you have the rest of the day. Plus, it frees up the coaches so they can go and recruit."

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