Fiesta Bowl Notebook

The players and coaches have been out in full force talking with the media. Here is an assorted collection of notes from the meetings with the team, including some thoughts on the OSU recruiting philosphy from Jim Heacock and some injury news.

Anthony Schlegel

  • Schlegel and his wife are expecting.  He announced it to his teammates at their banquet.  While he is a boar hunter and a bear on the field, he is ever the romantic teddy bear when it comes to her.  Apparently he gave her a rose and said, "She is my sugar momma and my baby's momma."
  • Last season, Schlegel played on a leg that needed surgery.  He still won't reveal what the exact nature of the injury was, but his fellow defensive players simply shook their head in awe that he could even take the field.  This year his play has been much improved.  When asked about playing healthy and without the brace, he indicated he feels like a new man: "I tell you what, you've seen those offensive linemen (wearing the brace).  They have a hard time moving.  I had one of those on, but when you are healthy and able to run around and cut and make tackles that's great.  There are times I would be running and a guy would give a little juke, and I couldn't stop."
  • Head coach Jim Tressel is impressed with Schlegel's ability to handle the defense, marriage, and the upcoming challenge of parenthood: "Anthony is a mature kid.  He has been through a lot.  He is a great leader and that is why he was at the Air Force Academy.  He had to make a very adult decision, ‘What do I want to do the rest of my life?'  He wants to coach.  So, he felt like he needed to make a change of scenery which takes some courage.  Here he was a starter and leaving some wonderful friends and an environment where he had established himself and came here and sat out for a year.  I think he has put himself in situations where he had to grow up and had to grow.  Taking on the commitment of marriage is a tough thing in its own right and then parenthood.  I think he has a good foundation.  He is very strong in his faith and counts on his faith and his experiences."

Ashton Youboty

  • With a hip pointer hurting his play the second half of the season and a potent passing attack on the way with Notre Dame on Monday, is he finally healthy?  "My hip is fine since Michigan," said Youboty.  "I haven't used a hip pad or anything since we played Michigan."  That's great news for the Buckeyes but perhaps not so wonderful for the Irish receivers.
  • Much has been made of the Ohio State – Minnesota tilt.  When asked about the Gophers and how they had ‘abused' the Buckeye secondary, he bristled, saying, "I wouldn't say they abused us, they made plays.  If you watch the tape, two deep balls – that's average for some other teams.  It looked bad because we played so well.  I don't think abused is the right word.  They made plays.  As far as Notre Dame receivers – 6'5" guys they are going to make plays, but we are division I players also.  That's our job to stop them.  You wouldn't think they are as fast.  Not that many 6'5" guys are that fast.  Their speed is deceptive.  I watched one player; he was two steps every five yards.  They are faster than they look."  This should get interesting.

On Ohio State Recruiting by Jim Heacock

With Buckeye native Brady Quinn and former Ohio State recruit Darius Walker forming the core of the Notre Dame Offense, questions on recruiting are inevitable.  Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock tried to answer a few of those on Thursday morning.

He pointed out, "The key is anyone you recruit you want to make sure they can play.  Probably the worst thing that can happen to you, in my opinion, and Don James used to say when I coached at the university of Washington – ‘I would rather lose a guy than recruit a guy who can't play for us because now you have that problem every day.'  If you lose a guy to an Oregon, he is gone and you made a decision not to recruit him you may face him once a year, but the biggest problem you have I think is when you take someone who can't play for you.  You have him on the team for four years.  He is disgruntled because he isn't playing.  There are some great players in the state of Ohio.  We try to do a good job in camps.  Camps have become so big in evaluating." 

With the Buckeyes in the home stretch trying to lock down the last remaining spots in the class of 2006, they have recently struck out on a few prime targets.  This has led to questions by some fans on this staff's methodology.

Heacock disputes that notion: "I think it does a great job.  The thing Jim does is he is unbelievable with high school coaches.  He works extremely hard with those guys and does whatever it takes.  He has done a great job and I think he has a great deal of respect from them which helps."

This probably goes back to Tressel's tenure at a division I-AA school when instead of taking the top shelf players he normally had to uncover the hidden gems at each high school, but it's not just that.

"I think that is the way he is," Heacock mused. "He knows what is important.  He knows recruiting is important, but he is also aware and loves the game of football and feels like it is important Ohio football is good.  He is going to do everything he can for the Ohio coaches to make sure they continue putting a good product out there.  He is a tireless worker when it comes to the high school coaches and in the state."

So is the Ohio State staff aggressive enough?  Some Buckeye fans would like to see their coaches take more of a Pete Carroll or Phil Fulmer approach.

Not Heacock.

"I've coached 30 years for four head coaches.  I think we are aggressive, to be honest with you.  I think coach Tressel works as hard as anybody.  I know he won't get out-recruited.  I don't think our staff will get outworked in recruiting.  I think we are thorough and try to be thorough in what we do.  Once we identify a guy we think is a player we try to evaluate him a lot.  I think there are some good players here.  It's hard to criticize what he has done or the way we recruited.  You are always looking to get better though."

Ohio State Medical Report

Overall the Buckeyes appear fairly healthy with only three days remaining until the Fiesta Bowl.  Santonio Holmes' foot is about as sound as it has been all season.  He claims he is somewhere close to 90-95%.  Carpenter is at least running and participating in limited practice drills. They will return two seniors injured much of the year in Ryan Hamby and Brandon Schnittker.  In fact, the biggest injuries are to two freshmen defensive ends that were both redshirting.  Doug Worthington and Ryan Williams both have been confirmed by teammates as having knee injuries.

Overall in Jim Tressel's estimation, their health is, "Good.  We won't know about Bobby for a couple of days, but outside of that we are in great shape."

Tressel is rooting for Hamby, especially after the dropped pass against Texas and injury plagued senior season.

"If you asked for a perfect ending for him you would say he catches the winning touchdown.  Of course you would want that for Santonio and for every guy.  For Nate Salley to have the big play that wins the game or something in his last game." 

The Babb Bits on Jim Tressel's Salary

Yes, the math was a little off in my recent article which simply illustrates the point that I was not a math major in college.  I realized the math was off while driving through the middle of nowhere in West Texas on my way to the Fiesta Bowl (note to self and anyone else who is wise, never move to West Texas).  Alas, it was too late to correct the snafu, and I've spent the last two days covering the Fiesta and amassing quotes for the upcoming tilt. 

Jim Tressel is still the most underpaid coach at a major BCS school in Division I-A.  With Pete Carroll getting yet another raise and Mark Richt likely to be paid a handsome sum by the Georgia Bulldogs, it's time for the Ohio State administration and alumni to step up and do the same for their head coach.  Win or lose in the Fiesta, this is Tressel's third BCS game in the last four seasons, and he has come within 10 points of playing for national titles in 2003 and 2005 while winning one in 2002.

Ohio State and the Big Ten as a conference have a long standing reputation for underpaying coaches.  While their values are to be applauded for placing more emphasis on academics, the current setting in college football doesn't reward their stance of paying less.  In fact, it cost the Big Ten one of their better coaches in Nick Saban and Bo, Earl Bruce, and John Cooper all nearly left for greener pastures when other universities saw their below market compensation came calling.

If the Big Ten expects to compete and keep the best coaches then they will have to pay market value.  Otherwise, they will become feeder institutions for the ACC, Big 12, SEC, and even the Pac Ten.

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