"Quinn Pitcock is an outstanding player," Tressel said. "I don't know anybody in the country better at that position than he is. He is a great effort guy, he's a great leader and he's a great trainer. He's everything you want in a guy."
The 6-3, 295-pound Pitcock is getting some run as a preseason All-Big Ten and All-American pick. As a junior, Pitcock was tabbed as a second-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches after tallying 28 tackles and three tackles-for-loss.
He is by far the most experienced returning player on the defense was 37 games logged, including 23 starts. It was a natural that Pitcock would represent the defense in Chicago.
"I feel privileged to be selected to represent my team," he said. "It's a great honor to be here and hopefully I'll be able to do more for the team."
Pitcock said the Buckeyes are aware there are some high expectations this year. The Big Ten media targeted OSU as the preseason favorite in the conference.
"It's a great honor, but at the same time it is just a preseason ranking," he said. "It does put a target on our backs. At the same time, it's exciting. We want to take each game in stride. If we're able to win out every game we can fulfill those predictions."
Pitcock is one of two returning starters on the defense. He is joined there by senior David Patterson, who is moving from end to tackle this season. But Pitcock said he is seeing some other leaders emerge.
"Dave and I do feel like we have to lead the team," he said. "But there are a lot of guys on our defense who have played some college football. (Middle linebacker) John Kerr played at Indiana. He'll be calling the plays and be in front of the huddle all the time. I've noticed (cornerback) Malcolm Jenkins, even though he is just a sophomore, after one year of playing he has stepped up and taken all the guys on the back end under his wing. There is a lot of potential, I think, for this defense."
Pitcock is excited to put OSU's quartet of defensive ends to work chasing down opposing quarterbacks. That group includes senior Jay Richardson and sophomores Vernon Gholston, Alex Barrow and Lawrence Wilson.
"I expect a big year out of those guys," Pitcock said. "We have the opportunity to rotate them in and out. We can really let everybody go wild and not get tired. If we can do that, I think that will help us to go three-and-out."
Likewise, Pitcock wants to become more productive. His tackle total last year was down from 2004, his first as a starter, when he tallied 49 stops and 7-1/2 tackles-for-loss.
"For myself, I want to let loose more and not just play in a small focused area," he said. "I want to let it loose and have a lot more fun. I want to make more plays, of course, like anybody else would want to."
Pitcock is beginning his fifth year of playing for defensive line coach Jim Heacock, who assumed the coordinator's role in April 2005 after Mark Snyder left to become the head coach at Marshall. Pitcock said Heacock and co-coordinator Luke Fickell did a great job last year in stepping in after spring ball and calling the defense.
"They have done a tremendous job in the past year," Pitcock said. "They took parts of the defensive scheme that have been effective the last few years. Coach Heacock has always talked about defenses and what he thought might work, but he wasn't the coordinator and wasn't able to put them in. He's done some study with NFL teams. We have played around with a lot of different defensive schemes."
With so many new faces on defense, Pitcock knows it may be hard for this year's defense to measure up to last year's unit, which led the Big Ten in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense.
"I think as a defense our goal is not only to be as good as the defense last year, but to become better," Pitcock said. "That's a higher goal to achieve this year because we will be trying to get so many guys ready.
"Every defense has to replace starters. There are a lot of great players and coaching involved that gets them ready. It's just a vicious cycle."
Pitcock sees himself as a leader. He said he and quarterback Troy Smith organized the players' off-season on-field workout sessions.
"In the spring, the seniors would get together for senior drills," he said. "He and I would always talk about what we were doing. We would do 11 on 11 and I'd ask him what personnel they were running so we would know what personnel we would run. I think it's good communication between us to set up all of these situations for everybody."
Pitcock has a ring from OSU's national championship season in 2002, when he was redshirted and spent time as a scout team player. He saw complacency, though, a year later when OSU, picked by many to repeat, ended up 11-2. He doesn't want to see any of that this time around.
"I went through a perfect season and the year after people thought we would repeat," he said. "But I think we had some guys who didn't work as hard. They didn't want to win as much and we lost a couple games. You always learn from your mistakes and hopefully don't make them again in your senior season.
"We definitely have the opportunity and the chance," he added. "I am glad to be a part of it and to contribute to it. We'll see what happens."