Daniels Talks About His Health; QB Situation

Ohio State quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels plays a big role on football Saturdays as the man who calls most of the passing plays from the press box. Daniels was diagnosed with cancer over the summer, but says he is coming along well. The coach also feels very good about OSU's quarterback situation with starter Troy Smith and the four backups.

Ohio State's players made it through the off-season in pretty good shape health-wise. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the offensive coaching staff as Jim Bollman had heart surgery and Joe Daniels was diagnosed with cancer.

Bollman is back close to 100 percent and is working full days, and Daniels is also making strides. Interviewed for the first time during preseason camp on Tuesday, the Buckeyes' quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator says he is coming along very well.

"Feeling great," Daniels said. "Haven't missed a practice, haven't missed a meeting. I've gained probably nine or 10 pounds. I've got a fear now that I'm going to get fat again, so I've got to watch out for that. But no, it's been great, been wonderful."

Daniels talked about the mental aspect of battling cancer.

"The best part of it is that football has taken over everything as far as the mental part of it, which I think has been very positive," he said. "Honestly, I haven't really thought about it much. Football, as you know, is 100 percent time consuming situation, other than when you are sleeping. It's been great along those lines."

Daniels, a well-liked man by nearly everyone who comes into contact with him, received an outpouring of support from OSU fans during the summer. Every day, he would get dozens of get-well wishes.

"It's been amazing," he said. "The number of emails I've received from people I don't even know has been wonderful. I really feel very blessed right now because I don't know if I can feel much better than I do right now. Let's face it, when I first found out about this, I had no idea. I had no warning and it came out of nowhere. It wasn't like I had a pain down there (points to the side of his stomach).

"And in all honesty, from that time to today, there's not been a whole lot that's been different. I lost a whole bunch of weight, and I'm not sure if that's just from being in the hospital because hospital food just isn't going to do it. I lost a lot of weight and got weak, but as far as any other type of reaction, I really haven't had any. I feel very blessed about it and feel very grateful for all the people that have supported me."

Talking Shop

Daniels plays a big role for Ohio State on game days as he is the one who calls the passing plays from the press box. Well, maybe "suggests" passing plays to head coach Jim Tressel is a more accurate description.

Daniels dissected his responsibilities from the press box on game days, but not before getting a little quip in.

"Tress says I get hot dogs," he said. "Sometimes he'll ask a question and I'll say, ‘I can't answer, I have a mouthful.

"But yeah, pretty much. The discussion is ongoing all the time on the phones. Obviously Jim Bollman and I are sitting right next to each other, but we're all on the same hookup. When we're on defense, it's a constant discussion of, ‘What are we getting? What do we want to throw from within our game plan? The next time we're in a third down and medium situation, this looks good.' There's a lot of conversations. And the pass part of it would be Tress and I and there's a switch on the phone where Bolls can talk directly to the people involved with the run game – John Peterson and maybe Doc Tressel. So, we've got it set up where there is an awful lot of communication going on.

"Once we're on offense, then it becomes a little bit more specific. If there's a run situation, ‘OK Bolls, what do you think?' If there's a pass situation, ‘What do you think?' If there's even to the point where there is some indecision between run or pass, I may venture a pass and Bolls may venture a run, then that's where it becomes Tress' decision in terms of what we want to do."

When asked how often Tressel goes out on his own and calls a play that neither Daniels nor Bollman suggested, Daniels said: "I don't know percentage wise, but he does that. He's got a great feel for things as far as how the game is flowing. He does a great job of planning for a defensive team's tendencies. We chart all that and we have things like the percentage that they blitz on a third down situation and even to the point of where are we on the field, or backed up, or midfield, or red zone. So, I think he does a great job with things. He can do it as much as he wants – he's the boss."

Daniels has coached several good quarterbacks during his career – most notably Dan Marino at Pittsburgh. But he has never seen a QB come as far as Troy Smith. The Buckeyes' senior starter has gone from "athlete," to possible wide receiver, to one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in four years.

"I think his progress is ongoing," Daniels said. "I think he continues to improve. I mentioned this before: Probably the biggest asset that Troy brings to the table is his ability to make plays. And that's what he's been doing going back to last spring, fall camp, he really has the ability to make things happen.

"And I'll repeat this: We handicap him a little bit by putting the black jersey on him. He can't do some of the things that he can do. There was a situation that happened the other day in practice where they blitzed and he didn't get the ball off, but the linebacker hit him, and of course the whistle blew because that's the rules – he has a black jersey on. But there's no way that linebacker would have had him. I guarantee you he would not have had him. He had clear sailing on the outside on the way out. So, those sorts of things will handicap him, but it's an ongoing process. He's a veteran and he understands a little bit more and he's a little bit more assertive, which I think is good because he knows what is going on."

When Daniels was released from the hospital over the summer, Smith would drop by his house to check on his health, and talk a little shop. The two would study film together, but when it was time to play video games, Smith had to find a different friend to hang out with.

"It was great for me because he would come over and show concern about me personally," Daniels said. "It was good just to sit and talk football. It was fun. That, I think it helped me as much as it helped him. I hope it helped him, but I know it helped me. It was great, it really was. It was enjoyable. I wish he would have come more. He could have came every day, but he had to play his NFL game and sleep and all that."

Overall, Daniels has been pleased with all five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster thus far in August.

"It's been a good camp," he said. "I've been real happy with the other quarterbacks. Justin (Zwick) is really working hard and has a great attitude. The two young quarterbacks – Todd Boeckman and Robbie Schoenhoft – they've come a million miles, which is what you want to see out of young quarterbacks. It's really been a camp that we've done a lot of things because the quarterbacks were able to do it.

"I might say this: Our young quarterback Antonio Henton is another guy we've really been happy with. We've got to spoon feed him a little bit just because he's a freshman and he just walked in and we're way ahead. But, I tell you what, I give him a lot of credit because he's a sharp kid and really has a great idea of what is going on. When we're in a quarterback meeting and we quiz him on some things he's right on. He's been impressive. He has a little bit of a sore shoulder right now."

Henton, who led Peach County, Ga., to a state championship in 2005, reminds Daniels of how Smith looked when he entered the program in 2002.

"I think an awful lot," Daniels said. "Right now, the problem we have is Antonio has got a bit of a groin problem and he's got a sore shoulder. But when we watched him as a high school guy, we thought he did remind us a lot of Troy. He threw the ball well and we thought he was a heck of an athlete and that's true. One of the few times in our lives we were right. He can do some things athletically and he can do some things throwing the ball. But right now, the unfortunate thing is he can't run too well and he can't throw too well because of his soreness, which is typical. But I've been very, very impressed with him. Will he be another Troy? I don't know. But what I see out of him right now mentally and physically, we're very happy."

Daniels was asked if Boeckman was currently ahead of Schoenhoft on the depth chart, or vice versa.

"Interesting question," he said. "It's like, OK, which day do you want to talk to me after practice? They are taking turns. Todd, to be honest, is probably a little bit further ahead because he's been around. I think this is his eighth year here, isn't it? Something like that. So, he has a little bit better grasp on the offense than Robbie does. They have been battling. They've been doing a great job and I've really been happy with their progress.

"And they are pressing Justin. There is no question. They are pressing Justin."

So the backup job is wide open?

"Well, yes and no," Daniels said. "What I like right now is Justin's attitude and his approach to everything and I think that's a big thing. The one thing that you can't forget is that he has a lot of experience. He's been under fire. So, that's a big plus for him. But I guess the point is that those two young kids, Todd and Robbie, are really showing progress.

"We have never approached a situation like this saying, ‘OK, we've got to plan for next year.' I know people say you should probably do that, but our number one concern is this year. It's not a matter of we should make the second guy one of these two young kids to get them ready. If it happens that way, fine. But the number two, whoever we think will give us the best chance to win the game is the guy that will go in there. And that could change. That's the other thing that could change. Things happen in practice that you have to evaluate."

Boeckman saw a lot of action during Friday's jersey scrimmage and played well. However, at some point, he injured his wrist and has been unable to practice since.

"Yeah, he got banged on the wrist," Daniels said. "There is nothing broken from what I know, but he didn't even know when it happened. There were two situations that we saw on tape. One, he got hit, and the other he hit a helmet when he threw. But that's sore right now and really the only way they think it will get better is for him to take a couple days off from throwing, but other than that he's OK. I don't think it will be a big problem. I hope not."

On paper, it looks like the Buckeyes will have one of the best offenses in the country. They are experienced, talented and there does not appear to be a weakness in the group, other than possibly depth at tight end. Daniels explained just how advanced the offense is heading into the season.

"In one aspect we're very much further advanced in the things that we're doing," he said. "We've done an awful lot with formations and groupings – four wide receivers, three wide receivers, two tight ends – and I think that gives us a great advantage. That's where we've always wanted to be. And we haven't been able to be quite to the extent that we are now because we've always been lacking something, whatever it happened to be. So, I think in that aspect we're a little bit further advanced than we have been.

"What we try and do is take some of things we were good at last year and try to add to that. So, obviously with the group that is coming back, you're able to do that. But I think we're much further advanced than we have been."

But there is no getting around the fact that OSU seems to start each season off slow offensively. The Buckeyes never seem to click until around midseason or later. Daniels was asked how OSU can avoid allowing the same thing to happen this year. There is no time for a grace period with September night games at Texas and at Iowa.

"I don't know," he said. "I wish I could answer that. We're executing better, we're understanding better, we're doing a lot of things. But when the whistle blows… I wish I knew."

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