Following Ohio State's dismal 35-3 loss to USC in week three, the team's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach has been the subject of criticism for how his units played against the Trojans. But two days following the game, as the Buckeyes reported for their first practice since the loss, the team's offensive linemen found out that another coach had been appointed to help them.
Say hello to Jim Tressel, assistant offensive line coach.
"I think we just needed a kick in the rear," senior left tackle Alex Boone said. "We were kind of like, ‘This is our O-line, we know each other and we can just play how we want to play.' Coach Tress is showing that, ‘No, you're going to play how I want you to play,' which is nice. I think a lot of us need to get yelled at to play better."
Across the nation and within the OSU locker room, there was little argument that the line needed to perform better. The Trojans recorded five sacks and held the Buckeyes to 71 rushing yards, frequently pressuring whichever quarterback OSU inserted into the game.
Apparently tired of seeing the team's offensive line underachieve, Tressel decided to take a personal interest in the matter.
"I think you're looking for them to let loose and not question what they're doing and not be sitting in a stance worried about a mistake," he said. "One thing I think you've got to be a little bit careful of when you've got great kids like ours and guys that it means a lot for them to do the right thing, is you've got to make sure you don't have a little hesitation because you don't' want to err.
"I've always believed that if you're going to err, err fast. If you want to get behind, get behind fast. Let's go."
Translating that into performance on the offensive line, the goal is to get players firing off the line quicker and getting to the second level of defenders. That need is even more important with freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor now leading an attack that will be more spread-oriented than in the past.
The fact that a swift kick in the rear was deemed necessary for an offensive line with four returning starters including three seniors must be a troubling one for the Buckeyes. With senior left guard Steve Rehring set to return from injury next week after missing two games, Tressel would not state that he will return to his starting spot.
Tressel said that the team's experience on the line could be the very thing holding the Buckeyes back.
"Sometimes I think when a lot is expected of you, sometimes you try not to err and try to be too careful," he said, "because we always talk about penalties are a problem and missed assignments are a problem and turnovers are a problem. Sometimes everything's a problem, so you don't do anything with the vigor that you should do it. That can happen."
Tressel and Boone sat down for an hour-long closed-door meeting following a practice during the last week and a half. While both declined to detail specifics of what was said, both have admitted that Boone has not played to the level of his potential.
"I think that I need to step it up," he said. "I don't know what was wrong with me. I just didn't feel right. My pass pro has been absolutely horrendous and I don't know why. I think run blocking I think I'm fine. You can always work on stuff, but pass blocking is one thing I need to step up on."
What the players thought was simply a one-day event has now taken root. With Bollman's interest spread across the offensive side of the ball, it is Tressel who has taken to getting after the team's offensive linemen.
It has not been the measured, even-keeled Tressel shown to fans and the media either.
"We just played with a lot more urgency," junior guard/center Jim Cordle said. "Coach Tressel came down (Sept. 15) and said, ‘I'm the assistant O-line coach today and we're going to play fast.' He was getting after us and yelling at us. There was just a lot more energy from all around."
Tressel said that his presence along the offensive line has been exaggerated, claiming that he spends no more than five extra minutes with the group per practice.
It has gotten the attention of the players, however short its duration during practice.
"We're getting there," Cordle said. "I think he's made that clear (Monday). He came down for a second and said we still have to play fast. That was his focus, play fast, and I think we're getting there."