Media Day Notebook

At Ohio State's annual media day on Thursday, head coach Jim Tressel addressed a number of topics, including: the Marcel Frost suspension, the Maurice Clarett saga, his first five years at OSU, his confidence in the Buckeyes' offensive and defensive lines, and more. We also have comments from senior quarterback Troy Smith and freshman linebacker Ross Homan.

Ohio State's annual media day was forced to move from Ohio Stadium to the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Thursday due to the rainy weather in Columbus.

Head coach Jim Tressel addressed the year-long suspension of junior tight end Marcel Frost (there are indications it was a result of a third failed drug test).

"Yeah, it's disappointing," Tressel said. "We have athletic department policies and team policies and when people don't meet them they lose their privileges of playing and that's Marcel's situation and that's disappointing."

Tressel was asked if Frost's suspension indicates that a violation of team rules was committed multiple times. But in true form, Tressel wasn't divulging too much.

"It indicates that we have a policy with various situations that occur," he said. "There are consequences and obviously there are longer consequences. Sometimes you might miss a quarter, sometimes you might miss a game. And however you want to read into it, obviously when you have to miss the whole season it's further along."

The situation opens up a golden opportunity for sophomore tight end Rory Nicol, who was expected to challenge Frost for the starting job this fall. Nicol played as a true freshman in 2004 before sitting out last season as a medical redshirt. Now, he's the clear-cut starter.

"Well, Rory is a guy that we thought needed to step up anyway," Tressel said. "We think he's very, very good. He missed all of last year with that (foot) injury and we thought that set him back a little bit. Reality is when you have one less at your position, you're going to be counted on even more. But we don't have those discussions after things happen. Just like in the middle of a game if someone turns an ankle, we have to move on to the next guy and go. Who was the guy that Lou Gehrig replaced? Wally (Pipp) sprained his ankle and he was history. So, the next guy has got to be ready like Lou Gehrig."

Tressel was asked if anyone like linebacker Chad Hoobler might be moved to tight end.

"I don't think so," he said. "At this moment, no."

OSU Gets Coaching Waiver

Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels is battling cancer, and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman is recovering from heart surgery. Bollman is over 10 weeks removed from the hospital and is able to work full days. Daniels is working half-days (which is eight hours for a football coach). The days he is unable to go, OSU is permitted by the NCAA to allow another coach to take his place.

"Yeah, we have a waiver with the NCAA, and interestingly enough, we haven't had to use it," Tressel said. "Joe hasn't missed one thing. But we are prepared and we have been OK'd. We have to communicate with our compliance office if anything comes up and he just can't get it done and that type of thing. But we've been here since Sunday with the kids and he hasn't missed a thing."

Tressel was asked if he would promote one of the graduate assistants on the days Daniels is unable to work full-time.

"Yeah, our off-the-field offensive quality control guy, Nick Siciliano, he'll be the guy that would move onto the field and give us one more voice."

Siciliano is a 1999 graduate of Youngstown State University, where he majored in computer information systems and was a student football coach under Tressel and coached on the 1997 NCAA I-AA national championship team. He then spent two seasons as the assistant video coordinator under Bob Stoops at the University of Oklahoma, helping the Sooners to the 2001 Orange Bowl and their 2000 season national championship.

Siciliano returned to Youngstown State for the 2001 season as the tight ends coach under Jon Heacock. He moved onto Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio, for the 2002 season as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He then began a two-year stint at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C., where he coached wide receivers (2003) and quarterbacks (2004). He joined OSU's staff in 2005.

As for Daniels, he is the offensive "eye in the sky" during games. He helps Tressel call the plays from the press box, and is also the passing game coordinator. It will be important to have Daniels on game days, but Tressel doesn't want him to push it if he's not feeling well.

"We really have to count on them just like we do our players," Tressel said of Daniels and Bollman. "You know, we tell our players, ‘You know your body best. You know when you're getting a little twinge in your muscle and know you better step off.' We have to count on the same kind of thing with Joe and Jim and anyone that has anything pop up. Sun is an issue, so when those guys come out for practice they have the big straw hats. Joe's got the long sleeves on and we're doing everything we can. It will be a little more tedious for Joe once we get to two-a-days and we might need to use the waiver. But I'm excited. He's gained weight. We had weigh-in today for all the coaches."

How much did the always-in-shape Tressel weigh?

"Too much," he said, eliciting laughter.

Tressel's First Five Years Impressive

Tressel's first five seasons at OSU proved to be one of the best stretches in school history. He compiled a 50-13 overall record, won a national championship, captured two Big Ten titles, went 4-1 against Michigan and 4-1 in bowl games.

But ask him about his impressive resume, and all you will get is a humble shrug and a deflection of credit.

"I have a hard time reflecting on anything that is history right now, other than maybe what play we should have called against Texas in a particular situation," Tressel said. "But, no, we've got great kids and we've had great kids. We've had good moments and we've had times when it didn't go as we had hoped. This is wonderful place with wonderful people and we enjoy every part of it."

Monday Night Lights

The Buckeyes will hold an open practice under the lights at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (cap. 10,000) the evening of Aug. 21. The team and coaches will be available to sign autographs between 7 and 8 p.m. followed by a two-hour practice, which is also open to the public and media. Admission is free. There will be a charge for parking.

"I think it will be fun and will serve a lot of purposes," Tressel said. "We haven't had a chance to do an autograph session this year yet. In the past we've done it the same day as media day and it's kind of made it a little tedious. We haven't had a chance to practice under the lights in the summertime, so we wanted to do that. And when you have a beautiful facility like the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, our kids getting a chance to play in that will get a chance to learn a little bit about the history of that stadium. So, I think it's a good situation all around. It will be fun. I think we'll get 10,000. I don't know what people are doing on a Monday night, but it will be fun."

Tressel Confident In Offensive And Defensive Lines

Just like a baseball team is only as good as its pitching, a football team is only as good as the "big uglys" up front. Tressel isn't one to gush, but he seems very confident in what his offensive and defensive lines will bring to the table this year.

"I think if we'll stay healthy, that we have the talent and depth to be very good on the offensive line," he said. "The other thing that I'm excited about is that our offensive line every day right now is facing a pretty good defensive line. I tell you what, I think our guys are going to be good on the front. So, not only do we have talent on the O-line and depth, but we have good competition that we'd like to believe will make them better. So, absolutely I'm excited.

"Defensively, our front catches my eye. Quinn Pitcock, Jay Richardson, David Patterson, Vernon Gholston, Joel Penton… we've got some veterans up there that I think are going to be good.

"If you had to say which one catches your eye from a year ago, to me the guy that has shown a lot is Vernon Gholston. Although you guys saw that in the spring. He played good in the spring. In fact, Quinn Pitcock was in my office today and said, ‘Coach, if Vernon can keep playing the way he's been playing we've got a chance.' And I agree with him."

Overall, it's hard to tell how the young defense is coming along since the Buckeyes are yet to have a full-contact practice.

"We've just had shoulder pads on one day and the two days in helmets they looked fast and in the shoulder pads they looked fast," Tressel said. "Now when we get the full pads on Saturday we'll have to see if they can bend their knees and really play low and tackle. We haven't seem them tackle yet, so it's a hard question to answer."

Clarett A Hot Topic

Unfortunately, instead of just talking about the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the topic of conversation surrounded around the Maurice Clarett downfall.

The former OSU running back was arrested early Wednesday morning in Columbus for carrying a concealed weapon and resisting arrest. It was the latest troubling incident in a downward spiral that began after Clarett helped lead the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship.

Tressel has never bad-mouthed Clarett and has always tried to help him. And has any parental-like figure would be, he is disappointed in Clarett's actions.

"When you review in your mind the kind of conversations you've had and the lessons you've tried to teach and so forth... anytime we don't succeed, whether it's socially, or academically, or if someone doesn't make it athletically, it's disappointing," Tressel said.

Tressel was asked, in retrospect, if there was anything specific that he or his staff could have done to keep Clarett from going down the wrong path.

"Oh, I think anytime something doesn't work out the way you wanted it you always review and think of ways you could have done it better," he said. "I'd like to think we help kids better than we did five years ago. But just specifically, I can't think of anything."

Tressel confirmed reports that Clarett tried to contact him earlier this week in the days leading up to the incident.

"I think Monday or so I had a (message) on my desk from a call from Maurice," Tressel said. "And I had talked with him within the last month or so. So, I returned the call Tuesday morning and got his voice mail and then after practice Tuesday there was a call on my desk and I didn't have a chance to get back with him. So, but yes, I did get a call from him, but never got a chance to talk with him."

When asked if he feels bad that he was unable to talk to him, Tressel said: "Absolutely. You try and return as many of the calls on your desk as you can, but when you're out there day and night and we had a couple other things that we had to attend to that night, we didn't get it done. But I did feel bad when I woke up in the morning and my wife said, ‘Hey, on the radio, you're not going to be very happy about this' and she didn't even know I had gotten a call from him. But, there's nothing I can do."

Tressel says many of the older players on the team know Clarett pretty well and are sadden by the recent developements.

"Our fifth-year guys, 15 of them came in with him," Tressel said. "And yeah, they feel bad for him."

Smith's Take

Clarett mentioned in 2002 that his only true friend on the team was quarterback Troy Smith. The two remained friends for a few years, but haven't talked recently. Smith was surprised to hear the news Wednesday morning that Clarett had been arrested.

"I saw it early when I was going to breakfast and then I had to get on the bus and go over to practice," Smith said. "I saw it on the news. I didn't think much about. I just wanted the channel to change because seeing negative things is not what I'm about right now. Being positive and getting through camp is what I'm worried about right now."

Smith is also disappointed about the Frost suspension. He thought the junior tight end would be a nice weapon for the Buckeyes this season.

"The loss of a teammate always affects you because he is one of your family members," Smith said. "That was a decision that we, as a team, could not handle. It came down to a decision by the staff. It will affect us because he's a great player. My heart goes out to him and I hope he is doing well. It's a dog eat dog world and we have to keep moving on."

But Smith is not letting anything get him down. He is focused and excited as he prepares to open the season as OSU's starting quarterback for the first time in his career.

"Very excited for a number of reasons," he said. "This is my last go around and hopefully we can finish off on a strong note. Just football in Ohio is exciting in itself. Anytime you get a chance to lace ‘em up and put the pads on and wear the Scarlet and Gray it's a great honor."

Smith is a Heisman Trophy candidate and the Preseason Offensive Big Ten Player of the Year. But he seems to be handling all the attention in stride.

"I'm able to do that because I know that I wouldn't be here without my team," he said. "Without the rest of the guys offensively and defensively, I wouldn't be in this situation."

Ohio State has the makings of a very solid receiving corps with Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall and Brian Robiskie (and others) and Smith is excited about the group as a whole.

"I feel real good about them," he said. "Without a doubt, that's one of the strengths of the team. We've got a lot of playmakers and all we have to do is figure out a way to divide all the touches up among those four or five guys."

And you know Smith can't finish an interview without giving some respect to his offensive line. It's a group that could be one of the best in the Big Ten this season.

"The O-line is the anchor of any offense, any team," Smith said. "The guys up front is where it starts. Whether it be defensive linemen, or offensive linemen, the game is won in the trenches."

Homan On The Shelf

Freshman linebacker Ross Homan, who has gained 10 pounds to the 240 range, is out with a hamstring injury and is expected to return next week.

"It's killing me right now," Homan said. "It's the worst thing right now to have an injury. I played through all spring injury free and then, to come in this season with a little hammy problem. I am rehabbing and trying to get as strong as possible. I'm just trying to get back on the field. It's not a major setback. I'm in the film room trying to get everything down."


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