Thursday Night Update: Tressel Talks Iowa

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel addressed a number of topics following the Buckeyes' practice on Thursday. Tressel compared wide receiver Brian Robiskie to a young Michael Jenkins, gave his take on the weather forecast for Saturday, talked about Ted Ginn, Antonio Pittman, Troy Smith, Kirk Ferentz and more.

Sophomore wide receiver Brian Robiskie is one of the rising stars on Ohio State's roster.

The 6-3, 190-pound product of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is already drawing comparisons to one of the best wideouts to come out of OSU – Michael Jenkins.

Of course, Jenkins broke out with 988 receiving yards as a sophomore in 2001, but he didn't have players like Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez ahead of him.

Jenkins went on to become OSU's all-time leader in receiving yards with 2,898. No one is saying Robiskie is going to break Jenkins' record, or even come close, but OSU head coach Jim Tressel was asked to compare the players at similar stages of their careers.

"They are similar," he said. "Now, Michael was a quarterback, linebacker, everything coming out of high school, and Brian was a receiver. So, Brian might be further along from a receiver standpoint in his second year. But Michael had just great speed and size. They are both very similar and both very bright. But that would be a lofty thing for Brian to want to live up to and surpass because Michael Jenkins is special."

With the way Robiskie has been playing, it might be difficult for senior Roy Hall to regain the No. 3 receiver spot. But Tressel thinks the players will continues to compete for playing time.

"I don't think there's anything right now where we would say, ‘Roy needs to be in for that.' Or, ‘Robiskie needs to be in for that.' I think it's whoever's turn will be in there."

Ohio State's offense struggled in the first half against Penn State last week and a lot of people might have chalked it up to the rainy weather. But Tressel wasn't offering many excuses.

"I think that was maybe a small percentage," he said of the weather. "And we had a turnover. You make a first down and all of a sudden you have a turnover. Then right when we turned around in the second quarter we had a turnover. So, I attributed it to turnovers. But the weather wasn't awful. Never got cold and never got where you couldn't handle the ball. I've said before, I was disappointed with our field, but it's the same field Penn State played on. Maybe they played better on it than we did."

Tressel also touched on the versatility of his offense. The Buckeyes can spread it out in the shotgun with four receivers, or they can go with a traditional power-I.

"We can do a lot of different things," Tressel confirmed. "A lot of it depends on how they line up. I don't feel as if we're limited to a great extent in anything. But you have to execute. So, where you have to be careful is don't become jack of all trades and master of none. So, we've got to make sure we execute, especially against a team like Iowa that's not going to give you any freebies."

The top-ranked Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will make the trip to Iowa City on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC) to take on the No. 13 Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0). Like many Buckeye fans, Tressel is anxious for OSU receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to break out with some big plays.

"I would love to have him bring a punt back, or a kickoff, or catch a home run," Tressel said. "We threw a home run ball to him the second or third play of the game and didn't throw it well, but if we had thrown it a little bit better it could have been a home run. So, absolutely, we think that he's a threat every play, whether he catches it deep or catches it under and can split them. So, yeah, I've love to see it."

The good news for OSU's passing game is the whether conditions are supposed to be clear in Iowa City Saturday night.

"As I listen, the weather is supposed to be gorgeous from a fall standpoint," Tressel said. "In the 50's and I'm sure there will be a breeze – there always is in the plains."

One player that will be trying to disrupt OSU's passing attack all night is Iowa defensive end Kenny Iwebema. His arm was in a sling following Iowa's win over Illinois last week, but he is expected to play this week.

"He's a player," Tressel said. "He's going to be a guy that you'll see playing in the NFL. Excellent pass-rusher; plays low and physical. Reminds you a little bit of that guy from Wisconsin (Erasmus James) a year or two ago. To me, he's that kind of tall difference-maker. He's a guy that can disrupt a lot of what you're doing, so you better have him accounted for."

Tressel and Ferentz are arguably the top two coaches in the Big Ten and Tressel has a lot of respect for his Iowa counterpart.

"Well, he's done a tremendous job," Tressel said. "And he's one of their own. He's a Hayden Fry guy; he was an assistant a bunch of years there. Then he went and had some very valuable years in the NFL, and a valuable experience as a (college) head coach. He brought back to Iowa a lot of their tradition and he has an outstanding pedigree from a coaching standpoint. Just watch the film. They do things the way you're supposed to do them. The play hard and tough and all game. We have great respect, not only for Kirk, but he's got a great staff. A lot of guys that we know and respect and it's just a good outfit."

Ohio State continues to be in very good shape health-wise. Several Iowa players have minor injuries, but the Buckeyes are nearly at full strength.

"Todd Boeckman will go, but probably won't end up dressing," Tressel said. "But, no. Roy Hall is back and obviously we lost Mike D'Andrea a long time ago, so it's not like we're at 100 percent, but we're in good shape."

Junior tailback Antonio Pittman is having another strong season for the Buckeyes. Pittman has 450 rushing yards, is averaging a healthy 6.3 yards per carry, and has scored four touchdowns.

"I think the last two weeks, he's been the guy that's come up with the plays that have got us going," Tressel said. "And some of that may be attributed to the fact that he's got that ability, and the other part may be, hey, you better cover those guys and you better not get too many guys in the box or someone is going to hurt you. So, I hope we get to the point where every which way you turn we can hurt you."

But it seems Pittman continues to be one of the most underrated players in the country.

"I think Pit's one of those guys that he's very careful with the football, he wants to make sure he does the right things, and then when he gets a feel, he explodes," Tressel said. "Plus, we give him a little bit of rest. We've given the ball to Beanie (Wells) and we've given it to Mo (Wells). We've given them opportunities in the passing game. But clearly Antonio Pittman is our guy that is best at everything."

This could be the week that OSU quarterback Troy Smith sees more carries. Smith is a talented runner, but the Buckeyes have not used him much in that role this year, in part to keep him healthy.

"We're not a, quote, option team, but we do want to have some option that people have to worry about it," Tressel said. "We're not what you would call a quarterback zone run team like you're seeing some of the people that major in that, although we want to have some of that. To me what's impressive about Troy is that he's grown to the point where he can make every throw. That being the case I would like for him to be in there making every kind of throw."

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