Tressel Votes Texas No. 1 (With Audio)

At Tuesday's press luncheon, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel revealed that he voted Texas No. 1 in the Coaches Poll. Tressel also talked about comparisons between Troy Smith and Vince Young, who will be OSU's kicker on Saturday and more. UPDATE 3 pm EST: We also have full audio of Tressel's press conference along with a wrap-up of this week's Big Ten coaches teleconference.

Note: This week, we bring you a special audio feature as we have full audio of Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon.

The audio runs 27 minutes in length. To listen, click here!


Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel opened his weekly press luncheon by informing everyone that he voted Texas No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.

The Buckeyes hold the No. 1 ranking in the AP and Coaches polls and the Longhorns are No. 2, adding even more intrigue to Saturday's prime time battle in Austin (8 p.m., ABC).

"They are very good and everyone knows it," Tressel said of Texas. "They are the defending national champions and I've got them ranked No. 1 on our ballot because I think they deserve that. I think they deserve that from top to bottom. I think they deserve that from a program standpoint, they deserve that from a special teams standpoint, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. They have excellent speed which is what we all seek. They demonstrate great toughness, which is what we try and teach and try and recruit. And you can tell that they understand the game."

The Longhorns won last year's thriller in Columbus 25-22. Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had a forgettable night, but Tressel thinks Ginn is a more mature player this year.

"I think he's progressed quite a bit," Tressel said. "And I think we have progressed right along with it. We are going to need Ted Ginn to have an excellent football game to have a chance to move the ball against a defense like this. There is no question about it. We need him to rise up and have a great game.

"Those young guys that played receiver last year – Anthony Gonzalez was a starter, Teddy was young and we had the veteran in Santonio (Holmes). What we need now is for our (veteran) guys to be like Santonio and bring along the young guys like Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline."

Tressel feels good about Robiskie, a sophomore, and Hartline, a redshirt freshman.

"I think both Brian and Brian are going to be very good," Tressel said. "They're both quick studies, they've got good physical characteristics, good speed, excellent hands. They are both going to be good players."

And with No. 3 receiver Roy Hall still nursing a sprained ankle, Robiskie and Hartline could play a lot on Saturday. Hall sat out the opener against Northern Illinois.

"Right now as far as Roy Hall's prognosis, I'd say it's up in the air," Tressel said. "We would certainly like to have him out there being the veteran that he is, but I'm not sure we'll know the answer to that one until Thursday."

Texas received some bad news over the weekend when senior cornerback Tarell Brown was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of marijuana. Most indications are that Brown – who was expected to cover Ginn most of the game – will be suspended this week, but Mack Brown has not made any decisions yet.

Even if Brown doesn't play, Tressel doesn't think it will be a big distraction for Texas.

"No, I don't know that it takes away their focus because the focus is about the game," he said. "Is it disheartening? Yes. I mean, I know Mack fairly well, pretty well, and I know their program. I know they try and teach just as hard as the rest of us try and teach and so I'm sure they are disappointed. I'm sure that feeling crops up in relation to that subject. But when it comes down to preparing for the game, it's not hard to focus for this type of game and I wouldn't look for that to have any impetus at all."

Of course, the Longhorns will also be without their star player from last year – quarterback Vince Young – who is now doing his thing in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. This year it's the Buckeyes who have the marquee quarterback – senior Troy Smith. Tressel was asked how Smith compares to Young.

"I think the both seem to have a sense about them that they're in charge and they have command," he said. "We've talked about how a quarterback needs to have command, they both seem to have that. And they both have that ability to beat you with the run and pass. Outside of that, I haven't studied which routes Vince Young throws the best. Our defensive guys could tell you that. I happen to think – and I've been saying this all along – that Troy can make all the throws. But there's a height difference and some of the obvious things. But to me the most important one to a team is the one they both have, and that's command."

With the heat expected to be in the high 80's at kickoff, and with OSU still trying to find the right mix of defensive players, Tressel says that several defensive players will see the field on Saturday. In fact, there will be a rotation among offensive players as well.

"Yeah, we absolutely envision rotating on both sides of the ball," he said. "Partially because we still need to keep giving kids opportunities, and partially because heat is a real issue."

Despite a fumble in his OSU debut, Tressel thinks that Chris Wells is coming along well and will continue to be a big factor in OSU's offensive plans.

"Well Beanie is going to be a good player," Tressel said. "I thought his debut was excellent. There's some fundamental things he needs to get better at, but he's not alone. Obviously we can't have the ball on the ground and he knows that and he'll take care of that. But I think if he continues to grow the way he's been growing he's absolutely going to be a big part of who we are."

On the official depth chart for the Texas game, senior John Kerr and freshman Ross Homan were bracketed together as the starters at weakside linebacker.

"I think that was a Steve Snappism," Tressel said, referring to OSU's sports information director. "John Kerr and Ross Homan will both play."

The Buckeyes used rotating kickers in the opener, but it looks like just one kicker will get all the opportunities against Texas.

"I would say this: If the game were today, there's no question in my mind that Aaron Pettrey would kick off," Tressel said. "And he would probably do the field goals."

The Players' View

Smith was told that Tressel voted Texas No. 1, but the senior quarterback has a different view of things. He agrees with the majority of voters.

"I'd vote us number one," Smith said. "I think that's more of subliminal thing. There's something behind why he said that. He'll keep you on your toes. He's going to stay a couple steps ahead of you regardless. He said that in a meeting."

Smith was used as a runner quite a bit last season. But in the opener against NIU, he ran just one time for minus-one yard. But knowing how much Tressel enjoys the quarterback keepers in big games (see the national championship game) we could see Smith carry the ball a few times this Saturday.

"I don't know because I think Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman and Maurice Wells did a great job of running the ball," Smith said.

Smith is good friends with Hall and he gave his take on the senior wide receiver's injury and if he might be able to play against Texas.

"Thus far I know that Roy has done a great job of trying to get back on the field, get back into the rotation," Smith said. "A sore ankle can stay with you the whole year though and that's something you have to treat delicate because it can come back at any given moment and be worse than it is now. It's such a delicate situation and Roy is a warrior and I know he wants to be out there with us and contributing as much as he can, but that sore ankle is holding him back, but we're with him all the way."

Smith was hardly touched in the NIU game, but there is a good chance he will feel much more heat facing a good Texas defense.

"I can't say that and I won't say that because I have all the faith in the world in my offensive line to know that we're trying to keep this streak going," Smith said. "That's something that hasn't been done in a long time, I don't know if it's ever been done: two weeks with no sacks. That will be a great thing that hopefully we can do."

Last year, one could have argued that the Texas-OSU game was the swing game in terms of the national championship race. The same could be true this year. The national championship could be on the line in week two of the season. But Smith isn't buying such hype.

"No. I don't think the national championship is won this early," he said. "We haven't been through none of the season-long tests and the adversity that we still have to go through."

OK, so maybe the title can't be won this early, but it can be lost, right?

"No, I can't even say that because there have been teams that have made it to the national championship game with one loss early, but then got a chance to go," Smith said. "We just have to show up this week and play ball how we know how to play ball. Perform our game-plan the best way we can and hopefully it will be enough."

There was some talk that OSU and Texas have nothing to gain by playing these big early season games. If OSU was to play a cupcake non-conference schedule, and then went undefeated in the Big Ten slate, there would be a good chance the Buckeyes would make it to the BCS championship game. But don't tell any of that to junior right tackle Kirk Barton. He loves playing in big games.

"If you want to be a top-flight program, you shouldn't be worried about playing other top-flight programs," Barton said. "Our schedule in the future kind of dictates that. We've got USC on the board, we've got Oklahoma, we've got Miami. If you're getting recruited, those are the kind of teams you want to play. Those are the games that if you win, you can tell your friends, your family, your kids, your employees, how it exactly went down in Austin. Those are the things you remember. You remember the big games like beating Notre Dame, beating Michigan, those are the ones that are always crystal clear in your memory bank."

Barton was named OSU's Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week after grading out 93 percent against Northern Illinois. With Barton, right guard T.J. Downing, center Doug Datish, left guard Tim Schafer, left tackle Alex Boone and super sub Steve Rehring, OSU has the makings of a very solid O-line.

"We feel great up front right now," Barton said. "We know this is going to be maybe our toughest test of the year, but we have six or seven guys that we are rolling in there that can all get the job done. Doug is our leader in the middle and I think we are good all the way down. We have experience and we just need to keep working on what Coach Bolls (offensive line coach Jim Bollman) tells us and we'll be fine."

* Other players of the week included Smith (offense) David Patterson (defense) Quinn Pitcock (attack force), Jamario O'Neal (special teams), Aaron Gant (scout team special teams), Austin Spitler (scout team defense) and Ray Small (scout team offense).


Weekly Big Ten Coaches Teleconference Wrap-Up

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel spoke with the national media early this afternoon during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. He opened his segment of the conference with some thoughts on the game against Northern Illinois.

"We had an opportunity to rotate a lot of guys in the game because we're still a little unsettled as to exactly where we are from a personnel standpoint," Tressel said. "It was a good, hard physical football game for us and hopefully prepares us for another great task. The great thing about our early season schedule is you couldn't ask for much more to prepare for the Big Ten conference in the folks we're playing."

An area of concern that came from the Northern Illinois game was the amount of yardage given up by the defense. Tressel was asked why he defense wasn't playing up to par.

"I'm not sure we know yet what our par is," Tressel said. "If you're talking about 'Is it as good as we were a year ago?' No, not right now. We missed too many tackles. We had some assignment misses. We did some very good things; we had a lot of good film to study. With the shorter games -- I think we had about 20 plays shorter than the average game last year -- we have a few less snaps to learn from and grow from. We felt very good about the experience we got. Northern Illinois is very good; I'm not taking a thing away from them. They're a very fine football team, but we've got to get a lot better."

He was then asked what the defense will need to focus in when it comes to improvement.

"The one thing you have to do very, very well is tackle," he said. "We always say that if we can have in single digits the number of missed tackles in a ball game, then we've got a good chance of playing a great defensive football game. We had a little bit more than that, and we've got to get that to the point where it needs to be.  The other thing is we've got to do a good job with the takeaway area. We had one very crucial takeaway when linebacker Larry Grant intercepted a pass and took it back beyond midfield. But we need to come up with even more big plays than that."

Another area of concern to come out of the Northern Illinois game was Ohio State's placekicking. Kickers Aaron Pettrey and Ryan Pretorius each missed their only field goal attempts.

"Our kickoffs were very solid and our guys did a pretty fair job there, but absolutely our placekicking, when you miss two field goals -- one of which was over 50, and you're not going to make all of those," Tressel said. "We need to make all those ones from about 40 on, and we missed one of those. There's no question we must, must get better in the placekick area.

"Unfortunately the only thing that helps you learn is experience out there. We wanted to make sure both our kickers got out there and had some opportunity because we're in this for the long haul. I think as they continue to grow, we'll have someone emerge and we'll end up with a very good kicker. We just need to end up with someone as soon as possible."

Tressel was then asked if the same kicking situation would remain the same against Texas.

"I don't know that for sure," he said. "This is Tuesday, and it's our first real work day. I would say this -- if I were pressed for a decision, most certainly Aaron Pettrey would probably be the kickoff guy, and we need to study the placekick part of the field goal/PAT a little bit this week. But I think Aaron,  fairly certain, would be the kickoff guy."

The talk then shifted to this week's big showdown between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas. This week's game is expected to be perhaps the biggest game of the regular season.

Tressel said that being able to play in such a high-profile non-conference matchup is a privilege.

"You get excited about being allowed to step on that stage," he said. "For us to go and have this great two-game series with Texas, this is what we dreamed about. We dreamed about two of the great programs getting together, and I don't think last year's game was a disappointment to the casual fan. It was a disappointment to the Ohio State fan, but I think to the world it was a tremendous football game. We like to think we can make it that way when we go down there. It'll be an experience that our guys remember forever and  I'm sure it'll be one that I remember forever. It isn't just another game."

Tressel was asked how the games with Texas compare with the OSU-Michigan rivalry.

"It's a whole different scenario in my mind," he said. "When the Ohio State-Michigan game comes along, it's the last game. Both teams hope that they have worked all season long to be at their best. Usually by that game, you know exactly what you're playing for and what you've earned up to that point, and so I think that there are so many more factors in the Ohio State-Michigan game.

"That's not to discount the exciting and the fun and privilege of playing in a marquee game like this. One of the things we've talked about in our scheduling is along with playing in a great conference and having the greatest rivalry in in college football as our last game, we want our players to always be a part of a marquee intersectional matchup. That's the way this one is this week and we have some in the future that are the same. Those'll be memories none of us forget."

One man credited with making a big difference in his short time at Texas has been defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The Longhorn defense looked strong once again in their opening 56-7 rout of North Texas, and Tressel gave his thoughts on what his team will be facing.

"Gene's done a great job ever since he's been there," he said. "Of course, they had excellent defense before he arrived, but I think he's taken their defense to the next level. They just have such great speed, they're very, very physical. He does a great job of alternating a lot of people in there. He does a great job of applying pressure to you by doing a lot of different things. He's not a lineup and play vanilla guy.  He'll play vanilla and play it well, but he's always going to keep you on your toes and have a little something for you and make you question whether you can do something or not.

"I think the biggest thing is he's got great speed and great toughness on his defense and it's at every position with some depth. Gene and his staff there, they've just done a great job."

The Texas defense may have been dealt a blow by the recent arrest of starting cornerback Tarrell Brown on weapons and drug charges. However, Tressel feels that Brown's status will not change the strength of the Texas defense.

"No, no," Tressel said emphatically. "They play a lot of guys. You watch their films throughout the course of the season and you see a lot of different guys playing a lot of snaps. That's something they've committed themselves to doing. Even if he is there, he won't play 60 snaps just because of the way they alternate, so no, I don't think that would make a difference at all."

In last season's game in Columbus, Texas quarterback Vince Young showed his leadership and playmaking ability to the nation. Some feel that this year may be OSU quarterback Troy Smith's turn to shine. Tressel was asked if he could pinpoint the moment that was a turning point in Troy Smith's career. 

"I don't know that I can pinpoint one moment," he said. "What's been good about Troy is that since the day he's got here, he's progressed. I think perhaps that I can't tell you what the moment was, but  I think whatever that moment was, when the moment occurred that he decided being the complete quarterback was more than just going out and playing and practicing, but it's what you do off the field from a film standpoint and a curiosity standpoint... I think whenever that moment was, and it was at some point a year ago, to me that would have been a turning point."

Tressel was also asked if Smith wants to be known as more of a passer than a runner.

"I think all guys have goals and aspirations of going to the next level," he said. "The one thing you constantly hear bantered around by talk shows and media and so forth is so-and-so can do things with his feet but doesn't have an NFL arm-type thing. So perhaps that's it. I don't think Troy wants to be any less with his feet, I think he wants to be more with his arm and his mind."

Finally, Tressel discussed his friend Mack Brown, whom he will be coaching against this Saturday.

"I remember studying from Mack when he was back at North Carolina," he said. "I thought he did an absolutely tremendous job there. He started out, had some adversity like many of us do when we take over programs. He had a plan, he had a vision. I can remember talking with him about that during his time there when I was at Youngstown State. When got here to Ohio State, he was one of the first ones who jotted out a congratulations note and I had some interaction with him. I haven't had a whole bunch of chance -- we couldn't visit one another in spring practice the last few years, but just watching his program and studying his program, I like to study from the best. There's no question about it -- Texas has one of the best programs in the country and that's under Mack's leadership and under Mack's vision."

Brown captured his first national championship last season with the Longhorns. Tressel was asked if people treated him different after winning his championships.

"I really don't know," he said. "You get so engrossed in what you're doing. I was just getting ready to come over for this conference call and someone asked me how I liked the Florida State-Miami game last night, but I didn't even know it was played. I didn't even know who won. You get so engrossed that I don't even know if you know how people treat you."

 




Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":" This week, we bring you a special audio feature as we have full audio of Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon.

The audio runs 27 minutes in length.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel opened his weekly press luncheon by informing everyone that he voted Texas No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.

The Buckeyes hold the No. 1 ranking in the AP and Coaches polls and the Longhorns are No. 2, adding even more intrigue to Saturday's prime time battle in Austin (8 p.m., ABC).

\"They are very good and everyone knows it,\" Tressel said of Texas. \"They are the defending national champions and I've got them ranked No. 1 on our ballot because I think they deserve that. I think they deserve that from top to bottom. I think they deserve that from a program standpoint, they deserve that from a special teams standpoint, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. They have excellent speed which is what we all seek. They demonstrate great toughness, which is what we try and teach and try and recruit. And you can tell that they understand the game.\"

The Longhorns won last year's thriller in Columbus 25-22. Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had a forgettable night, but Tressel thinks Ginn is a more mature player this year.

\"I think he's progressed quite a bit,\" Tressel said. \"And I think we have progressed right along with it. We are going to need Ted Ginn to have an excellent football game to have a chance to move the ball against a defense like this. There is no question about it. We need him to rise up and have a great game.

\"Those young guys that played receiver last year – Anthony Gonzalez was a starter, Teddy was young and we had the veteran in Santonio (Holmes). What we need now is for our (veteran) guys to be like Santonio and bring along the young guys like Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.\"

Tressel feels good about Robiskie, a sophomore, and Hartline, a redshirt freshman.

\"I think both Brian and Brian are going to be very good,\" Tressel said. \"They're both quick studies, they've got good physical characteristics, good speed, excellent hands. They are both going to be good players.\"

And with No. 3 receiver Roy Hall still nursing a sprained ankle, Robiskie and Hartline could play a lot on Saturday. Hall sat out the opener against Northern Illinois.

\"Right now as far as Roy Hall's prognosis, I'd say it's up in the air,\" Tressel said. \"We would certainly like to have him out there being the veteran that he is, but I'm not sure we'll know the answer to that one until Thursday.\"

Texas received some bad news over the weekend when senior cornerback Tarell Brown was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of marijuana. Most indications are that Brown – who was expected to cover Ginn most of the game – will be suspended this week, but Mack Brown has not made any decisions yet.

Even if Brown doesn't play, Tressel doesn't think it will be a big distraction for Texas.

\"No, I don't know that it takes away their focus because the focus is about the game,\" he said. \"Is it disheartening? Yes. I mean, I know Mack fairly well, pretty well, and I know their program. I know they try and teach just as hard as the rest of us try and teach and so I'm sure they are disappointed. I'm sure that feeling crops up in relation to that subject. But when it comes down to preparing for the game, it's not hard to focus for this type of game and I wouldn't look for that to have any impetus at all.\"

Of course, the Longhorns will also be without their star player from last year – quarterback Vince Young – who is now doing his thing in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. This year it's the Buckeyes who have the marquee quarterback – senior Troy Smith. Tressel was asked how Smith compares to Young.

\"I think the both seem to have a sense about them that they're in charge and they have command,\" he said. \"We've talked about how a quarterback needs to have command, they both seem to have that. And they both have that ability to beat you with the run and pass. Outside of that, I haven't studied which routes Vince Young throws the best. Our defensive guys could tell you that. I happen to think – and I've been saying this all along – that Troy can make all the throws. But there's a height difference and some of the obvious things. But to me the most important one to a team is the one they both have, and that's command.\"

With the heat expected to be in the high 80's at kickoff, and with OSU still trying to find the right mix of defensive players, Tressel says that several defensive players will see the field on Saturday. In fact, there will be a rotation among offensive players as well.

\"Yeah, we absolutely envision rotating on both sides of the ball,\" he said. \"Partially because we still need to keep giving kids opportunities, and partially because heat is a real issue.\"

Despite a fumble in his OSU debut, Tressel thinks that Chris Wells is coming along well and will continue to be a big factor in OSU's offensive plans.

\"Well Beanie is going to be a good player,\" Tressel said. \"I thought his debut was excellent. There's some fundamental things he needs to get better at, but he's not alone. Obviously we can't have the ball on the ground and he knows that and he'll take care of that. But I think if he continues to grow the way he's been growing he's absolutely going to be a big part of who we are.\"

On the official depth chart for the Texas game, senior John Kerr and freshman Ross Homan were bracketed together as the starters at weakside linebacker.

\"I think that was a Steve Snappism,\" Tressel said, referring to OSU's sports information director. \"John Kerr and Ross Homan will both play.\"

The Buckeyes used rotating kickers in the opener, but it looks like just one kicker will get all the opportunities against Texas.

\"I would say this: If the game were today, there's no question in my mind that Aaron Pettrey would kick off,\" Tressel said. \"And he would probably do the field goals.\"

Smith was told that Tressel voted Texas No. 1, but the senior quarterback has a different view of things. He agrees with the majority of voters.

\"I'd vote us number one,\" Smith said. \"I think that's more of subliminal thing. There's something behind why he said that. He'll keep you on your toes. He's going to stay a couple steps ahead of you regardless. He said that in a meeting.\"

Smith was used as a runner quite a bit last season. But in the opener against NIU, he ran just one time for minus-one yard. But knowing how much Tressel enjoys the quarterback keepers in big games (see the national championship game) we could see Smith carry the ball a few times this Saturday.

\"I don't know because I think Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman and Maurice Wells did a great job of running the ball,\" Smith said.

Smith is good friends with Hall and he gave his take on the senior wide receiver's injury and if he might be able to play against Texas.

\"Thus far I know that Roy has done a great job of trying to get back on the field, get back into the rotation,\" Smith said. \"A sore ankle can stay with you the whole year though and that's something you have to treat delicate because it can come back at any given moment and be worse than it is now. It's such a delicate situation and Roy is a warrior and I know he wants to be out there with us and contributing as much as he can, but that sore ankle is holding him back, but we're with him all the way.\"

Smith was hardly touched in the NIU game, but there is a good chance he will feel much more heat facing a good Texas defense.

\"I can't say that and I won't say that because I have all the faith in the world in my offensive line to know that we're trying to keep this streak going,\" Smith said. \"That's something that hasn't been done in a long time, I don't know if it's ever been done: two weeks with no sacks. That will be a great thing that hopefully we can do.\"

Last year, one could have argued that the Texas-OSU game was the swing game in terms of the national championship race. The same could be true this year. The national championship could be on the line in week two of the season. But Smith isn't buying such hype.

\"No. I don't think the national championship is won this early,\" he said. \"We haven't been through none of the season-long tests and the adversity that we still have to go through.\"

OK, so maybe the title can't be won this early, but it can be lost, right?

\"No, I can't even say that because there have been teams that have made it to the national championship game with one loss early, but then got a chance to go,\" Smith said. \"We just have to show up this week and play ball how we know how to play ball. Perform our game-plan the best way we can and hopefully it will be enough.\"

There was some talk that OSU and Texas have nothing to gain by playing these big early season games. If OSU was to play a cupcake non-conference schedule, and then went undefeated in the Big Ten slate, there would be a good chance the Buckeyes would make it to the BCS championship game. But don't tell any of that to junior right tackle Kirk Barton. He loves playing in big games.

\"If you want to be a top-flight program, you shouldn't be worried about playing other top-flight programs,\" Barton said. \"Our schedule in the future kind of dictates that. We've got USC on the board, we've got Oklahoma, we've got Miami. If you're getting recruited, those are the kind of teams you want to play. Those are the games that if you win, you can tell your friends, your family, your kids, your employees, how it exactly went down in Austin. Those are the things you remember. You remember the big games like beating Notre Dame, beating Michigan, those are the ones that are always crystal clear in your memory bank.\"

Barton was named OSU's Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week after grading out 93 percent against Northern Illinois. With Barton, right guard T.J. Downing, center Doug Datish, left guard Tim Schafer, left tackle Alex Boone and super sub Steve Rehring, OSU has the makings of a very solid O-line.

\"We feel great up front right now,\" Barton said. \"We know this is going to be maybe our toughest test of the year, but we have six or seven guys that we are rolling in there that can all get the job done. Doug is our leader in the middle and I think we are good all the way down. We have experience and we just need to keep working on what Coach Bolls (offensive line coach Jim Bollman) tells us and we'll be fine.\"

* Other players of the week included Smith (offense) David Patterson (defense) Quinn Pitcock (attack force), Jamario O'Neal (special teams), Aaron Gant (scout team special teams), Austin Spitler (scout team defense) and Ray Small (scout team offense).

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel spoke with the national media early this afternoon during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. He opened his segment of the conference with some thoughts on the game against Northern Illinois.

"We had an opportunity to rotate a lot of guys in the game because we're still a little unsettled as to exactly where we are from a personnel standpoint," Tressel said. "It was a good, hard physical football game for us and hopefully prepares us for another great task. The great thing about our early season schedule is you couldn't ask for much more to prepare for the Big Ten conference in the folks we're playing."

An area of concern that came from the Northern Illinois game was the amount of yardage given up by the defense. Tressel was asked why he defense wasn't playing up to par.

"I'm not sure we know yet what our par is," Tressel said. "If you're talking about 'Is it as good as we were a year ago?' No, not right now. We missed too many tackles. We had some assignment misses. We did some very good things; we had a lot of good film to study. With the shorter games -- I think we had about 20 plays shorter than the average game last year -- we have a few less snaps to learn from and grow from. We felt very good about the experience we got. Northern Illinois is very good; I'm not taking a thing away from them. They're a very fine football team, but we've got to get a lot better."

He was then asked what the defense will need to focus in when it comes to improvement.

"The one thing you have to do very, very well is tackle," he said. "We always say that if we can have in single digits the number of missed tackles in a ball game, then we've got a good chance of playing a great defensive football game. We had a little bit more than that, and we've got to get that to the point where it needs to be.  The other thing is we've got to do a good job with the takeaway area. We had one very crucial takeaway when linebacker Larry Grant intercepted a pass and took it back beyond midfield. But we need to come up with even more big plays than that."

Another area of concern to come out of the Northern Illinois game was Ohio State's placekicking. Kickers Aaron Pettrey and Ryan Pretorius each missed their only field goal attempts.

"Our kickoffs were very solid and our guys did a pretty fair job there, but absolutely our placekicking, when you miss two field goals -- one of which was over 50, and you're not going to make all of those," Tressel said. "We need to make all those ones from about 40 on, and we missed one of those. There's no question we must, must get better in the placekick area.

"Unfortunately the only thing that helps you learn is experience out there. We wanted to make sure both our kickers got out there and had some opportunity because we're in this for the long haul. I think as they continue to grow, we'll have someone emerge and we'll end up with a very good kicker. We just need to end up with someone as soon as possible."

Tressel was then asked if the same kicking situation would remain the same against Texas.

"I don't know that for sure," he said. "This is Tuesday, and it's our first real work day. I would say this -- if I were pressed for a decision, most certainly Aaron Pettrey would probably be the kickoff guy, and we need to study the placekick part of the field goal/PAT a little bit this week. But I think Aaron,  fairly certain, would be the kickoff guy."

The talk then shifted to this week's big showdown between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas. This week's game is expected to be perhaps the biggest game of the regular season.

Tressel said that being able to play in such a high-profile non-conference matchup is a privilege.

"You get excited about being allowed to step on that stage," he said. "For us to go and have this great two-game series with Texas, this is what we dreamed about. We dreamed about two of the great programs getting together, and I don't think last year's game was a disappointment to the casual fan. It was a disappointment to the Ohio State fan, but I think to the world it was a tremendous football game. We like to think we can make it that way when we go down there. It'll be an experience that our guys remember forever and  I'm sure it'll be one that I remember forever. It isn't just another game."

Tressel was asked how the games with Texas compare with the OSU-Michigan rivalry.

"It's a whole different scenario in my mind," he said. "When the Ohio State-Michigan game comes along, it's the last game. Both teams hope that they have worked all season long to be at their best. Usually by that game, you know exactly what you're playing for and what you've earned up to that point, and so I think that there are so many more factors in the Ohio State-Michigan game.

"That's not to discount the exciting and the fun and privilege of playing in a marquee game like this. One of the things we've talked about in our scheduling is along with playing in a great conference and having the greatest rivalry in in college football as our last game, we want our players to always be a part of a marquee intersectional matchup. That's the way this one is this week and we have some in the future that are the same. Those'll be memories none of us forget."

One man credited with making a big difference in his short time at Texas has been defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The Longhorn defense looked strong once again in their opening 56-7 rout of North Texas, and Tressel gave his thoughts on what his team will be facing.

"Gene's done a great job ever since he's been there," he said. "Of course, they had excellent defense before he arrived, but I think he's taken their defense to the next level. They just have such great speed, they're very, very physical. He does a great job of alternating a lot of people in there. He does a great job of applying pressure to you by doing a lot of different things. He's not a lineup and play vanilla guy.  He'll play vanilla and play it well, but he's always going to keep you on your toes and have a little something for you and make you question whether you can do something or not.

"I think the biggest thing is he's got great speed and great toughness on his defense and it's at every position with some depth. Gene and his staff there, they've just done a great job."

The Texas defense may have been dealt a blow by the recent arrest of starting cornerback Tarrell Brown on weapons and drug charges. However, Tressel feels that Brown's status will not change the strength of the Texas defense.

"No, no," Tressel said emphatically. "They play a lot of guys. You watch their films throughout the course of the season and you see a lot of different guys playing a lot of snaps. That's something they've committed themselves to doing. Even if he is there, he won't play 60 snaps just because of the way they alternate, so no, I don't think that would make a difference at all."

In last season's game in Columbus, Texas quarterback Vince Young showed his leadership and playmaking ability to the nation. Some feel that this year may be OSU quarterback Troy Smith's turn to shine. Tressel was asked if he could pinpoint the moment that was a turning point in Troy Smith's career. 

"I don't know that I can pinpoint one moment," he said. "What's been good about Troy is that since the day he's got here, he's progressed. I think perhaps that I can't tell you what the moment was, but  I think whatever that moment was, when the moment occurred that he decided being the complete quarterback was more than just going out and playing and practicing, but it's what you do off the field from a film standpoint and a curiosity standpoint... I think whenever that moment was, and it was at some point a year ago, to me that would have been a turning point."

Tressel was also asked if Smith wants to be known as more of a passer than a runner.

"I think all guys have goals and aspirations of going to the next level," he said. "The one thing you constantly hear bantered around by talk shows and media and so forth is so-and-so can do things with his feet but doesn't have an NFL arm-type thing. So perhaps that's it. I don't think Troy wants to be any less with his feet, I think he wants to be more with his arm and his mind."

Finally, Tressel discussed his friend Mack Brown, whom he will be coaching against this Saturday.

"I remember studying from Mack when he was back at North Carolina," he said. "I thought he did an absolutely tremendous job there. He started out, had some adversity like many of us do when we take over programs. He had a plan, he had a vision. I can remember talking with him about that during his time there when I was at Youngstown State. When got here to Ohio State, he was one of the first ones who jotted out a congratulations note and I had some interaction with him. I haven't had a whole bunch of chance -- we couldn't visit one another in spring practice the last few years, but just watching his program and studying his program, I like to study from the best. There's no question about it -- Texas has one of the best programs in the country and that's under Mack's leadership and under Mack's vision."

Brown captured his first national championship last season with the Longhorns. Tressel was asked if people treated him different after winning his championships.

"I really don't know," he said. "You get so engrossed in what you're doing. I was just getting ready to come over for this conference call and someone asked me how I liked the Florida State-Miami game last night, but I didn't even know it was played. I didn't even know who won. You get so engrossed that I don't even know if you know how people treat you."

 

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