Buckeyes Earn 'Respect'

It's finally time for fall camp to begin, and the Buckeyes are preparing to defend their outright Big Ten championship. Jim Tressel got things underway today, covering a variety of topics including the quarterback battle, some changes on the depth chart and why being picked third is a measure of respect.

CHICAGO – Not many big-time college coaches would view being picked to finish third in their conference as a sign of respect. But as the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon gets underway, that is exactly the sentiment expressed by Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

Standing at the podium in front of the national media, the OSU coach was presented with the fact that the Buckeyes, last season's outright Big Ten champions, had been picked to finish third behind Michigan and Wisconsin – in that order.

His response?

"I think it shows respect for our program that we've lost that many guys and we still get picked at that level," he said.

The "guys" he was referring to were the focal points of one of the country's most explosive offenses one season ago. Gone are Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith, speed demon Ted Ginn Jr., reliable Anthony Gonzalez and the team's primary rusher, Antonio Pittman.

The task of finding replacements for those players will formally begin this Sunday, when the Buckeyes report for fall camp, and Monday, when practice begins. For the past three months, the Buckeyes have been going through individual workouts out of the eyes of the coaching staff. Still, Tressel said the reports he has received on the team have been favorable.

"The only thing you get is, ‘Man, they're working hard,' and all that stuff," he said. "Really, I don't to get any reports. I want to see the test on Monday morning because you can have all the reports in the world, but if they don't do well on the test than maybe it wasn't as good as advertised."

While at the podium, Tressel was not asked as to who will be the starting quarterback this season. Later, he said that was because "the people with the microphones knew that we don't know and they didn't want to spend their questions on one without an answer."

The team's 2007 media guide lists Todd Boeckman as the heir apparent to Smith, but Tressel said fans should not expect any sort of final decision to be quickly reached.

"We have 29 more (practices) before we play a game and we have some games before we play a conference game, so we'll probably have this similar scenario for a couple more months with the same question," he said.

Tressel also said that while the team would continue to do some of the same core things on offense, the team's overall offensive scheme would likely look different than it did one season ago.

"There's an evolution that occurs with everything," he said. "I think you'll probably see a different-looking team. You'll see a team that's trying to evolve with the talent that we have.

"I don't know that it will look the same as it has in the past, but that will be the evolution."

With the release of the media guide came the first look at a fall depth chart that featured two changes in the defensive secondary. Sophomore Anderson Russell, who suffered a torn ACL during OSU's victory over Iowa last season, has apparently reclaimed the starting free safety spot.

"That's because he couldn't go full-speed in the spring," Tressel said. "You don't lose your position with an injury, and he was a good player. I'm excited to get Anderson Russell back."

Additionally, true sophomore Kurt Coleman – whom Tressel described as "playing very well" – is pegged as the starter at strong safety ahead of Jamario O'Neal, who started eight games last season.

Junior linebacker James Laurinaitis, who is expected to help anchor the team's defensive unit, was named the preseason defensive player of the year for the conference. While he is not in attendance for the luncheon, Tressel said he feels he knows how his linebacker would respond to the award.

"He's a good, tough player," Tressel said. "He trains hard and is deserving of notice, but I think he'd rather be noticed at the end of the year than the beginning."

Regardless of who plays where, it appears the Buckeyes are focused on getting on the field and getting past the bad taste left by the team's 41-14 trouncing at the hands of the Florida Gators in the national championship game.

"It's an exciting time to get back at it, especially when your last game wasn't as good as you'd liked it to have been," he said. "It makes you very anxious to get back on the field."

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