Tressel, Players Speak At Spring Preview

OSU head coach Jim Tressel continued the annual April tradition of Coach Tressel's Spring Preview, a fund raiser for the Alzheimer's Association of Central Ohio. Tressel discussed his 2006 team at the event, which is in its 15th year. The event was started by former coach John Cooper, who was recognized along with his 1996 Rose Bowl championship team. Click here for a ton of notes and quotes from this special event.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel welcomed in a crowd of more than 1,000 for Wednesday's Coach Tressel Spring Preview. The event, which celebrated its 15th anniversary, is fund raiser for the Alzheimer's Association of Central Ohio.

It was begun by former OSU coach John Cooper, who was on hand as his 1996 team was recognized on the 10th anniversary of its Rose Bowl victory. In 15 years, the event has raised more than $1 million for the Alzheimer's Association.

Tressel discussed how his 2006 team was coming along after four sessions of spring practice.

"We got to put the pads on Saturday and were back out there yesterday," Tressel said. "We have some talented young people. I am excited about the fact we kept our coaching staff intact. We have an outstanding coaching staff."

The coach provided some random observations on players who have impressed him so far.

"One guy who has caught my eye a little bit is (wide receiver) Brian Hartline," Tressel said. "He's competitive out there. It means a lot to him to help this football team. It's an exciting time for him to get into that committee of wide receivers.

"It is fun to watch the young tight ends. Marcel Frost has gotten good marks from (coach) John Peterson and Coach Bollman as to his improvement. Rory Nicol is back from being injured a year ago. Brandon Smith is coming along.

"Another guy is (fullback) Dionte Johnson. I thought he had as good a winter as you could possibly have. He trimmed down 10 or 12 pounds and ran just under 4.6 in the 40. At 240-some pounds, he has shown he is ready to become an outstanding fullback and special teams player."

WBNS-TV sports anchor Jeff Hogan kidded Tressel about his affinity for the quarterbacks, a position he helps assistant Joe Daniels with.

"They're my guys. As long as they don't turn it over, they're my guys," Tressel joked.

Senior quarterbacks Troy Smith and Justin Zwick joined other players and coaches in addressing the crowd during the Spring Preview. Tressel shared some thoughts on the younger quarterbacks as well.

"We've been pleased with all of those guys at the quarterback position," Tressel said. "I think Todd Boeckman has done a tremendous job mastering what our offense is about and what opposing defenses are about. It's fun to watch Todd Boeckman come of age. And, if you ever come out and watch one of our practices or scrimmages, you can tell that Robby Schoenhoft is going to be a very good one."

The coach then looked ahead to the schedule the Buckeyes will face in the fall.

"I think one of the greatest challenges we have is a brutal schedule," he said. "We have Northern Illinois coming in here, with perhaps one of the finest backs in the country in Garrett Wolfe. He rushed for over 200 yards a year ago in Ann Arbor. They have a good team and they played for the MAC championship.

"Then, we travel to Austin, Texas, and we play the defending national champions. That will be a battle.

 
"Then, we come home and play Cincinnati. That coaching staff is filled with former Buckeyes. Our other nonconference game is Bowling Green. With the new 12-game schedule, that game happens to be in the middle of the season where you usually have an open date.

"We open the Big Ten with Penn State. Then, we play at Iowa at night. Playing at Michigan State is a challenge. You could go on and on and on with the Big Ten. Then, when the guys from up north come down here for the last game of the season, it's going to be a heck of a battle."

More Viewpoints

As noted, Tressel brought up three groups of assistant coaches and players to answer questions from Hogan and himself. Here were some of their comments on a wide range of topics:

* Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman on the offensive line -- "With Rob Sims and Nick leaving, we are losing 74 starts between these two guys. But, as happens every year, there will be a couple of guys who leave. That's part of the process. We're very fortunate to have three starters back with Doug (Datish), T.J. (Downing) and Kirk Barton.

"We have a number of other people fighting for those positions and we are changing a number of guys back and forth between guard and tackle. We'll try and end up with the best five to eight guys who can play.

"Besides T.J. and Doug, Tim Schafer is another senior who has played a lot of football for us and gone back and forth between offense and defense. He's in there fighting for some playing time. Kirk Barton is the only guy in the (junior class).

"We have Steve Rehring, who played a lot of football for us two years ago and, last year, got pneumonia and was redshirted and missed the whole season. Then we also have Kyle Mitchum, Ben Person and Jon Skinner. They are all fighting for time and fighting to contribute.

"In the class after them, we have Jim Cordle and Alex Boone. They were both freshmen last year and we expect them to help us. Jim missed all of last year with a foot injury. He had a great start, but then he missed the whole season."

* Bollman on the offense -- "We have to start over. Fortunately, we do have a lot of people back. The people who have proven themselves need to step up. But there are some holes in there to fill."

* Bollman on the receiving corps -- "I think the committee sounds pretty good. A lot of those guys have done some things. We have to make sure we use them to their best ability."

* Bollman on much heralded freshman RB Chris Wells, who enrolled early for spring practice -- "Beanie has gotten a lot of attention. We have to remember he has only been here four days and he is learning which way to go and what to do. It may be unfair to him sometimes with some of the things put on him. But he looks like he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it."

* Offensive lineman Doug Datish on the line -- "I think on the offensive line, we have a lot more hidden depth than people may perceive. With Kyle Mitchum, Jon Skinner and Ben Person, even though they may not have played a lot they still got some experience on the field goal team or in some late game situations."

* Offensive guard T.J. Downing with his observations thus far -- "Chris Wells is a guy who really impressed me. He ran the ball hard and he ran it up in there tough, just as Maurice Wells did.

"I think the offensive line is coming together. It's hard for us because we're the biggest unit on the field and we've got five guys who have to come together and be on the same page. I think we're going along well.

"I think the defense is coming along pretty good. Everybody is talking about how they'll be reloading, but they looked just as tough as they did last year."

* Quarterback Troy Smith on his goals -- "First and foremost, I want to be a leader and learn the offense in and out from the protection on down."

* Smith on what has impressed him so far -- "Our togetherness. We came in with a lot of hype, but everybody seems to be pretty much even keeled knowing that it starts now and we have a long way to go until the end of the season."

* Smith responds when asked by Tressel what he sees as the team's greatest challenge -- "As a team, I think our biggest challenge is playing together. And it's not only playing together, but being complete in every phase of football – offense, defense and special teams."

* Split end Roy Hall on the receiving corps -- "Everybody knows about Ted (Ginn Jr.). He's an electric player, probably one of the most electrifying players in the nation in my opinion. You've got Gonzo and then you add 235, with my weight, to that equation. We can get some muscle and some strength out there. Our young guys are coming along.

"A good name to remember is Brian Robiskie. He's just a freshman right now, but he's making great plays in practice. We're looking forward to those young guys lining up next to us.

"Everybody on the field can play every position. Gonzo is playing split end some, I'm still playing split end and Ted is playing flanker and the slot. Gonzo is also playing the slot some some. Brian is playing some at flanker. If every receiver can play every position, we'll be a better offense."

 
* Fullback Stan White Jr. on the running game -- "You go back to last spring at this time and we had the Shot-Ginn with Ted Ginn Jr. But as the season went on, we proved we could be a running team with Troy and Pitt. We showed that running is a big part of our offense. For our fullbacks, we just have to show that when push comes to shove, we can line up in two backs and run right at you."

* Quarterback Justin Zwick on the offense being the focal point of the team -- "We very well could be. We have a lot of guys coming back with a lot of experience. The thing about us is we're continuing to get better every day. We want to get better and we strive to do everything perfect. As long as we keep on that track, we'll put some points on the board, keep the team going and help the defense out as much as possible."

* Cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman on the competition at the four open secondary spots -- "This year, starting off, we've got Malcolm Jenkins coming back. He ended up starting six games for us last year as a true freshman and he did an outstanding job. He's at the boundary. At the field corner, we have Antonio Smith. He has played safety for us and we've moved him out to corner. For the first four practices, he has done an outstanding job for us at the field corner.

"Backing them up, we have Donald Washington at the field corner. He is a freshman who was redshirted. He competes well and he has a lot of talent. At the boundary corner, right now, we have Mike Roberts backing up Malcolm. He's been in the program a long time and we're looking for him to step up and take over.

"Then, we also have Andre Amos, who is a young man who is a redshirt freshman. He's doing a good job. Kurt Coleman came in early for us and he's learning it. It's his fourth day of being here and he's doing an exceptional job. Then we also have Sirjo Welch and Brandon Underwood, who are also competing.

"Paul Haynes coaches the safeties for us and he does an outstanding job. Right now, Nick Patterson and Jamario O'Neal would be the two guys who would be the starting free safety and strong safety. Behind them, we've got Anderson Russell. He's a redshirt freshman. We have Devon Lyons, who is injured right now but should be back by the end of the spring. We also have Brandon Mitchell who has had starting experience for us and done a good job with that. (Curt) Lukens has done a good job, too."

* Linebackers coach Luke Fickell on the situation at linebacker -- "We don't have a whole lot of names. We probably have seven or eight guys who could line up there by day one for our first game against Northern Illinois and be starters. That's the beauty of what we've got. We've got two seniors in Mike D'Andrea and John Kerr. They need to be great leaders for us."

* Linebacker John Kerr on the linebacking unit -- "We're all working really hard. Every position is wide open. You can see that the competition is really tough. Every single day, guys are getting tons of film in and working out hard. It's great to see that we're going to get this thing done as a team. Nobody has really stood out. It's not about me. It's about the team, and when you think that you can win."

* Long snapper Drew Norman on the kicking competition and his role -- "Through the first four days, Ryan (Pretorius) and Aaron (Pettrey) have both looked really good. They each have high percentages. I'm not sure on the exact numbers. I think they both bring the ability to play for us. I think they're both going to get the job done for us.

"As far as myself, I want to be to them like Josh (Huston) was to myself and A.J. (Trapasso) last year – a calming influence and a guy who has been there before and can help them out."

Also Notable

* Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock is out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery.

"Quinn Pitcock may be one of the most underrated players around," Tressel said. "If you watch our big games, he made an awful lot of big plays. We are being conservative this spring and not having him participate in hitting. We want to make sure he is totally healthy."

* Defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is one of the leading names at end, Beckman said. But he is dealing with a hamstring injury right now.

* The luncheon was held on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, although there were no tours as the building renovation continues.

"Next year at this luncheon, we'll do some tours because it is going to be a tremendous facility," Tressel said.

This spring, the team uses locker facilities and meeting rooms at Ohio Stadium. They bus to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for practice on most days, then bus back to the stadium to dress and hold meetings.

The coaches offices are located across from the WHAC at the Fawcett Center.

Sources indicated that the team meeting rooms and locker rooms should be open at the WHAC before the start of fall camp. But the weight room will likely remain on the indoor field through next spring and the coaches will remain at the Fawcett Center until that time. The building may not be complete until next April.

* Tressel said seven players, including Datish, graduated in mid-March. Troy Smith will be among the graduates in June, Tressel said.

"He will play his senior year as a graduate," the proud coach said.

* Tressel acknowledged Kerr's brother, Josh Kerr, who has enrolled and is participating as an offensive lineman.

"Josh Kerr, the younger brother of John Kerr, just began this spring," he said. "He looks to me like a competitive young man and will add to that group."

* In addition to Cooper, former head coach Earle Bruce also attended the event.

* There was a silent auction of sports memorabilia as well as a live auction that brought in over $10,000 for items including press passes for the Cincinnati game, luxury suites at Value City Arena for a men's and women's basketball game, a signed helmet from the 2005 football team and dual signed basketballs by the Big Ten championship men's and women's teams.

But the biggest item was a No. 1 jersey with OSU's new uniform design. The jersey – which features shortened sleeves, smaller stripes, numerals higher on the sleeve and a fabric for better ventilation on hotter days – was signed by Tressel, Cooper and Bruce. This "signature piece" was auctioned off for $5,000.

Coop's Troops

Cooper was beaming to return to the WHAC and see such a large crowd for the event he and his wife, Helen, started. Helen Cooper lost her mother, Minnie Thompson, to Alzheimer's.

"This is special for us," Cooper said. "We've been able to raise a lot of money for the Alzheimer's Association and, of course, my mother-in-law passed away with Alzheimer's. I'm just thankful that Jim has kept this thing going. Hopefully, one of these days we'll get enough money to at least slow this down a little bit.

"It's also special today because they are recognizing our 1997 Rose Bowl team. I think that was one of the top five teams that has played at Ohio State."

Cooper was asked about OSU's 20-17 win over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl.

"The Rose Bowl was special because we beat a great football team," he said. "Arizona State was undefeated. They led the Pac-10 in every category. They had one of the all-time great quarterbacks in Jake Plummer. But the thing that stood out was they celebrated a little too early. It's not over until it's over.

"Joe (Germaine) led us down the field at the end and, of course, he hit David Boston for the winning touchdown. That will forever be the play I remember the most."

And the talent on that team also made it special, Cooper said.

"It's almost like a who's who in college football," he said. "We had Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Luke Fickell and Shawn Springs. I'll tell you how good that team was: Antoine Winfield was a backup corner, and he would go on and win the Thorpe Award. That was a great football team and a great honor and privilege for me to coach that team."

Cooper still resides in Columbus. But he keeps busy as a draft consultant for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals and also as a studio commentator for ESPN-Plus' coverage of Big Ten football.

Mike Vrabel, a defensive end on that 1996 OSU team and now a linebacker for the NFL's New England Patriots, was among several players in attendance.

"I think first of all that we won and, secondly, that we beat an undefeated team that was essentially playing for the national championship," Vrabel said of the Rose Bowl win. "They were playing for a lot and so were we.

"I think about the number of future professional football players that played in that game. From Jake Plummer right on down the line to Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, myself and Andy (Katzenmoyer). You go on and on. I believe there were 35 of them. Arizona State had a lot of them as well with Pat Tillman and others.

"It was a great game and it could have gone either way. But we made the play at the end to win."

Other former players from that team in attendance included Fickell, Ryan Miller, Michael Wiley, Matt Keller, Matt Calhoun, Josh Jackson, Matt Finkes, D.J. Jones and Jerry Rudzinski.

Click the link below for photos from Coach Tressel's Spring Preview.

Spring Preview Photo Gallery


Buckeye Sports Top Stories

\r\n\r\n \r\n\"Then, we come home and play Cincinnati. That coaching staff is filled with former Buckeyes. Our other nonconference game is Bowling Green. With the new 12-game schedule, that game happens to be in the middle of the season where you usually have an open date.

\r\n

\r\n\"We open the Big Ten with Penn State. Then, we play at Iowa at night. Playing at Michigan State is a challenge. You could go on and on and on with the Big Ten. Then, when the guys from up north come down here for the last game of the season, it's going to be a heck of a battle.\"

\r\n

\r\nMore Viewpoints

\r\n

\r\nAs noted, Tressel brought up three groups of assistant coaches and players to answer questions from Hogan and himself. Here were some of their comments on a wide range of topics:

\r\n

\r\n* Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman on the offensive line -- \"With Rob Sims and Nick leaving, we are losing 74 starts between these two guys. But, as happens every year, there will be a couple of guys who leave. That's part of the process. We're very fortunate to have three starters back with Doug (Datish), T.J. (Downing) and Kirk Barton.

\r\n

\r\n\"We have a number of other people fighting for those positions and we are changing a number of guys back and forth between guard and tackle. We'll try and end up with the best five to eight guys who can play.

\r\n

\r\n\"Besides T.J. and Doug, Tim Schafer is another senior who has played a lot of football for us and gone back and forth between offense and defense. He's in there fighting for some playing time. Kirk Barton is the only guy in the (junior class).

\r\n

\r\n\"We have Steve Rehring, who played a lot of football for us two years ago and, last year, got pneumonia and was redshirted and missed the whole season. Then we also have Kyle Mitchum, Ben Person and Jon Skinner. They are all fighting for time and fighting to contribute.

\r\n

\r\n\"In the class after them, we have Jim Cordle and Alex Boone. They were both freshmen last year and we expect them to help us. Jim missed all of last year with a foot injury. He had a great start, but then he missed the whole season.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Bollman on the offense -- \"We have to start over. Fortunately, we do have a lot of people back. The people who have proven themselves need to step up. But there are some holes in there to fill.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Bollman on the receiving corps -- \"I think the committee sounds pretty good. A lot of those guys have done some things. We have to make sure we use them to their best ability.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Bollman on much heralded freshman RB Chris Wells, who enrolled early for spring practice -- \"Beanie has gotten a lot of attention. We have to remember he has only been here four days and he is learning which way to go and what to do. It may be unfair to him sometimes with some of the things put on him. But he looks like he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Offensive lineman Doug Datish on the line -- \"I think on the offensive line, we have a lot more hidden depth than people may perceive. With Kyle Mitchum, Jon Skinner and Ben Person, even though they may not have played a lot they still got some experience on the field goal team or in some late game situations.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Offensive guard T.J. Downing with his observations thus far -- \"Chris Wells is a guy who really impressed me. He ran the ball hard and he ran it up in there tough, just as Maurice Wells did.

\r\n

\r\n\"I think the offensive line is coming together. It's hard for us because we're the biggest unit on the field and we've got five guys who have to come together and be on the same page. I think we're going along well.

\r\n

\r\n\"I think the defense is coming along pretty good. Everybody is talking about how they'll be reloading, but they looked just as tough as they did last year.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Quarterback Troy Smith on his goals -- \"First and foremost, I want to be a leader and learn the offense in and out from the protection on down.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Smith on what has impressed him so far -- \"Our togetherness. We came in with a lot of hype, but everybody seems to be pretty much even keeled knowing that it starts now and we have a long way to go until the end of the season.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Smith responds when asked by Tressel what he sees as the team's greatest challenge -- \"As a team, I think our biggest challenge is playing together. And it's not only playing together, but being complete in every phase of football – offense, defense and special teams.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Split end Roy Hall on the receiving corps -- \"Everybody knows about Ted (Ginn Jr.). He's an electric player, probably one of the most electrifying players in the nation in my opinion. You've got Gonzo and then you add 235, with my weight, to that equation. We can get some muscle and some strength out there. Our young guys are coming along.

\r\n

\r\n\"A good name to remember is Brian Robiskie. He's just a freshman right now, but he's making great plays in practice. We're looking forward to those young guys lining up next to us.

\r\n

\r\n\"Everybody on the field can play every position. Gonzo is playing split end some, I'm still playing split end and Ted is playing flanker and the slot. Gonzo is also playing the slot some some. Brian is playing some at flanker. If every receiver can play every position, we'll be a better offense.\"

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
 \r\n
* Fullback Stan White Jr. on the running game -- \"You go back to last spring at this time and we had the Shot-Ginn with Ted Ginn Jr. But as the season went on, we proved we could be a running team with Troy and Pitt. We showed that running is a big part of our offense. For our fullbacks, we just have to show that when push comes to shove, we can line up in two backs and run right at you.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Quarterback Justin Zwick on the offense being the focal point of the team -- \"We very well could be. We have a lot of guys coming back with a lot of experience. The thing about us is we're continuing to get better every day. We want to get better and we strive to do everything perfect. As long as we keep on that track, we'll put some points on the board, keep the team going and help the defense out as much as possible.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman on the competition at the four open secondary spots -- \"This year, starting off, we've got Malcolm Jenkins coming back. He ended up starting six games for us last year as a true freshman and he did an outstanding job. He's at the boundary. At the field corner, we have Antonio Smith. He has played safety for us and we've moved him out to corner. For the first four practices, he has done an outstanding job for us at the field corner.

\r\n

\r\n\"Backing them up, we have Donald Washington at the field corner. He is a freshman who was redshirted. He competes well and he has a lot of talent. At the boundary corner, right now, we have Mike Roberts backing up Malcolm. He's been in the program a long time and we're looking for him to step up and take over.

\r\n

\r\n\"Then, we also have Andre Amos, who is a young man who is a redshirt freshman. He's doing a good job. Kurt Coleman came in early for us and he's learning it. It's his fourth day of being here and he's doing an exceptional job. Then we also have Sirjo Welch and Brandon Underwood, who are also competing.

\r\n

\r\n\"Paul Haynes coaches the safeties for us and he does an outstanding job. Right now, Nick Patterson and Jamario O'Neal would be the two guys who would be the starting free safety and strong safety. Behind them, we've got Anderson Russell. He's a redshirt freshman. We have Devon Lyons, who is injured right now but should be back by the end of the spring. We also have Brandon Mitchell who has had starting experience for us and done a good job with that. (Curt) Lukens has done a good job, too.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Linebackers coach Luke Fickell on the situation at linebacker -- \"We don't have a whole lot of names. We probably have seven or eight guys who could line up there by day one for our first game against Northern Illinois and be starters. That's the beauty of what we've got. We've got two seniors in Mike D'Andrea and John Kerr. They need to be great leaders for us.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Linebacker John Kerr on the linebacking unit -- \"We're all working really hard. Every position is wide open. You can see that the competition is really tough. Every single day, guys are getting tons of film in and working out hard. It's great to see that we're going to get this thing done as a team. Nobody has really stood out. It's not about me. It's about the team, and when you think that you can win.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Long snapper Drew Norman on the kicking competition and his role -- \"Through the first four days, Ryan (Pretorius) and Aaron (Pettrey) have both looked really good. They each have high percentages. I'm not sure on the exact numbers. I think they both bring the ability to play for us. I think they're both going to get the job done for us.

\r\n

\r\n\"As far as myself, I want to be to them like Josh (Huston) was to myself and A.J. (Trapasso) last year – a calming influence and a guy who has been there before and can help them out.\"

\r\n

\r\nAlso Notable

\r\n

\r\n* Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock is out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery.

\r\n

\r\n\"Quinn Pitcock may be one of the most underrated players around,\" Tressel said. \"If you watch our big games, he made an awful lot of big plays. We are being conservative this spring and not having him participate in hitting. We want to make sure he is totally healthy.\"

\r\n

\r\n* Defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is one of the leading names at end, Beckman said. But he is dealing with a hamstring injury right now.

\r\n

\r\n* The luncheon was held on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, although there were no tours as the building renovation continues.

\r\n

\r\n\"Next year at this luncheon, we'll do some tours because it is going to be a tremendous facility,\" Tressel said.

\r\n

\r\nThis spring, the team uses locker facilities and meeting rooms at Ohio Stadium. They bus to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for practice on most days, then bus back to the stadium to dress and hold meetings.

\r\n

\r\nThe coaches offices are located across from the WHAC at the Fawcett Center.

\r\n

\r\nSources indicated that the team meeting rooms and locker rooms should be open at the WHAC before the start of fall camp. But the weight room will likely remain on the indoor field through next spring and the coaches will remain at the Fawcett Center until that time. The building may not be complete until next April.

\r\n

\r\n* Tressel said seven players, including Datish, graduated in mid-March. Troy Smith will be among the graduates in June, Tressel said.

\r\n

\r\n\"He will play his senior year as a graduate,\" the proud coach said.

\r\n

\r\n* Tressel acknowledged Kerr's brother, Josh Kerr, who has enrolled and is participating as an offensive lineman.

\r\n

\r\n\"Josh Kerr, the younger brother of John Kerr, just began this spring,\" he said. \"He looks to me like a competitive young man and will add to that group.\"

\r\n

\r\n* In addition to Cooper, former head coach Earle Bruce also attended the event.

\r\n

\r\n* There was a silent auction of sports memorabilia as well as a live auction that brought in over $10,000 for items including press passes for the Cincinnati game, luxury suites at Value City Arena for a men's and women's basketball game, a signed helmet from the 2005 football team and dual signed basketballs by the Big Ten championship men's and women's teams.

\r\n

\r\nBut the biggest item was a No. 1 jersey with OSU's new uniform design. The jersey – which features shortened sleeves, smaller stripes, numerals higher on the sleeve and a fabric for better ventilation on hotter days – was signed by Tressel, Cooper and Bruce. This \"signature piece\" was auctioned off for $5,000.

\r\n

\r\nCoop's Troops

\r\n

\r\nCooper was beaming to return to the WHAC and see such a large crowd for the event he and his wife, Helen, started. Helen Cooper lost her mother, Minnie Thompson, to Alzheimer's.

\r\n

\r\n\"This is special for us,\" Cooper said. \"We've been able to raise a lot of money for the Alzheimer's Association and, of course, my mother-in-law passed away with Alzheimer's. I'm just thankful that Jim has kept this thing going. Hopefully, one of these days we'll get enough money to at least slow this down a little bit.

\r\n

\r\n\"It's also special today because they are recognizing our 1997 Rose Bowl team. I think that was one of the top five teams that has played at Ohio State.\"

\r\n

\r\nCooper was asked about OSU's 20-17 win over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl.

\r\n

\r\n\"The Rose Bowl was special because we beat a great football team,\" he said. \"Arizona State was undefeated. They led the Pac-10 in every category. They had one of the all-time great quarterbacks in Jake Plummer. But the thing that stood out was they celebrated a little too early. It's not over until it's over.

\r\n

\r\n\"Joe (Germaine) led us down the field at the end and, of course, he hit David Boston for the winning touchdown. That will forever be the play I remember the most.\"

\r\n

\r\nAnd the talent on that team also made it special, Cooper said.

\r\n

\r\n\"It's almost like a who's who in college football,\" he said. \"We had Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Luke Fickell and Shawn Springs. I'll tell you how good that team was: Antoine Winfield was a backup corner, and he would go on and win the Thorpe Award. That was a great football team and a great honor and privilege for me to coach that team.\"

\r\n

\r\nCooper still resides in Columbus. But he keeps busy as a draft consultant for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals and also as a studio commentator for ESPN-Plus' coverage of Big Ten football.

\r\n

\r\nMike Vrabel, a defensive end on that 1996 OSU team and now a linebacker for the NFL's New England Patriots, was among several players in attendance.

\r\n

\r\n\"I think first of all that we won and, secondly, that we beat an undefeated team that was essentially playing for the national championship,\" Vrabel said of the Rose Bowl win. \"They were playing for a lot and so were we.

\r\n

\r\n\"I think about the number of future professional football players that played in that game. From Jake Plummer right on down the line to Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, myself and Andy (Katzenmoyer). You go on and on. I believe there were 35 of them. Arizona State had a lot of them as well with Pat Tillman and others.

\r\n

\r\n\"It was a great game and it could have gone either way. But we made the play at the end to win.\"

\r\n

\r\nOther former players from that team in attendance included Fickell, Ryan Miller, Michael Wiley, Matt Keller, Matt Calhoun, Josh Jackson, Matt Finkes, D.J. Jones and Jerry Rudzinski.

\r\n

\r\nClick the link below for photos from Coach Tressel's Spring Preview.

\r\n

\r\n

Spring Preview Photo Gallery

\r\n

\r\n

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