Tressel: Thursday Evening Update

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with reporters following Thursday's practice. As expected, senior defensive tackle David Patterson has practiced at 100 percent all week and will start against Minnesota. Tressel also talked about why he likes to line his starters up against each other in practice, whether Antonio Pittman is underrated and much more.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel feels good about the health of his team going into this Saturday's game against visiting Minnesota (3:40 p.m., ABC).

"Yeah, David Patterson has been going 100 percent all week," Tressel said. "We had a nice, cold, nasty one on Tuesday, which was good. Then Wednesday was a real nice sunny day. Today, we got some work in the rain, so I think we got a little bit of everything. Teddy (Ginn) worked good today. We're in good shape."

As usual, there will be plenty of Golden Gopher players from the state of Ohio, including starting quarterback Bryan Cupito from Cincinnati McNicholas.

"Ohio is a highly-recruited state," Tressel said. "They have 17 or thereabouts on their roster. You look around, Iowa's roster, I think they had nine. Michigan's roster has X-number. So, yeah, Ohio is highly recruited."

Tressel talked specifically about two Minnesota players from Columbus that the Buckeyes recruited – wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright and running back/linebacker Alex Daniels. (OSU backed off of Wheelwright due to academics.)

"I've always thought (Wheelright) was a big-play guy," Tressel said. "I liked him in youth camp here. He played the ball well and he's a competitive kid. He's a good receiver.

"(Daniels) played some running back early in the year and recently hasn't played as much and I don't quite know the story there. But they don't want to take Amir Pinnix out of the game; he's darn good. But Alex played on the defensive side and the special teams a year ago against us and I'm sure he'll be excited this year."

Tressel recruited Daniels strictly as a defensive player.

"Yeah, linebacker, even a big safety kind of guy," he said. "We had him in youth camp and thought he was real good at a lot of things."

One of the secrets to Tressel's success – even going back to his Youngstown State days – is the amount that his first team offense and defense go head-to-head in practice. Tressel explained his reasoning behind lining up the starters against each other in practice.

"Fast. That's what we like about it," he said. "The speed in which we'd like to compete. Those guys are jawing the whole way and they like to go against each other. We don't full tackle right now like we do in the spring and preseason, but the speed is every bit the same.

"We started doing that in 1989 in Youngstown and we really picked that up from Florida State. We were down at their spring practice and it was like a war. I came back to my guys and said, ‘They're not too bad; maybe we should take a little tip from them.' And I don't know if it made that big of an impact, but we went from being an OK group in '86, '87 and '88, to from '89-'94 being extraordinary (with four I-AA national championships). We never backed away from it and haven't – knock on wood – gotten injuries. I think the thing is when you're going full speed and you're going with focus and intensity, I think there's less chance of injury."

Tressel was asked if one of the reasons that OSU's defense is exceeding expectations this year is because the unit has practiced against one of the nation's best offenses for the past year.

"I think both ways," Tressel said. "I think it's helped the offense grow over the years going against … you know, Troy Smith in five years has gone against some folks now. And if he's fortunate enough to be in the NFL, he'll have already seen a lot of those guys. I think he's grown a lot from it, as have a lot of guys.

"Defensively, I think the same thing is true. I think if you have to cover Teddy and Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) and the guys that can really go and they know where they have to go, I think it has to help."

Freshman wide receiver Ray Small was held out of the Indiana game last week due to an undisclosed disciplinary action, but he is back in the WR rotation.

"Oh yeah," Tressel said.

The coach also discussed sophomore wideout Albert Dukes.

"Dukes is doing fine," Tressel said. "He's moved in there and Teddy didn't have as many snaps this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, so all those got to get in there and get some opportunities and I thought Albert had a very good week."

Junior tailback Antonio Pittman informed reporters on Tuesday that he intends to return to OSU for his senior season so he can win the Heisman Trophy. Tressel was asked if he and Pittman have had a similar discussion.

"You know, I'm trying to picture back to his goal sheet," he said. "It wouldn't shock me if it's on his goal sheet because our guys have lofty goals and I know he has a lot of confidence in how good he can be and his supporting cast to do those things. But I can't tell you that I know for sure that he said those words."

There has been a lot of talk that Pittman is underrated. But Tressel thinks the people that truly follow OSU football understand how valuable Pittman is to the success of the team.

"I think the people that know football … I can remember during the Cincinnati and Penn State weeks of the season, every one of you guys saying, ‘Pittman is kind of the un-talked about guy,' so obviously you noticed it. The people that really study it know," Tressel said.

Tressel also gave his take on Smith being the frontrunner for the Heisman and what he can do even better as a quarterback.

"I have a lot of belief in how good he can be, so sometimes when there's a ball that's just not right, we'll have a discussion right at that point," Tressel said. "But, we've had discussions, big picture, offseasons, about goals, team-mostly goals.

"And I've said to you guys many times that what I love about some of the national awards now is they seem to be tied more to the teams and it's not a publicity race, it's a production race. I think voters have recognized that the most important production is the team's production. So, we've talked a lot about that and what can happen when there is good production, but he wants to talk about how can we attack this coverage, and what should we check against that and so forth."

Having a veteran quarterback allows OSU's coaches to have in-depth discussions with Smith. In fact, Smith wants to know just as much as the coaches.

"Yeah, they are more advanced because the more a guy gets to play, the more he is experienced," Tressel said. "He wants to know everything. Even if it's not that significant to the play, he wants to know, because he wants to know the whole thing.

"I remember the quote he said to (offensive coordinator Jim) Bollman right after spring practice. He said, ‘Coach, I need time with you. I need you to break it all down for me. I need to know it all.' And that's the way he's approached it."

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