Talkin' Tressel: Navy Edition

The 2009 Ohio State football season will get underway in less than 48 hours when the Buckeyes host Navy for a noon kickoff. Head coach Jim Tressel gave the latest on his team heading into the showdown including updates on Cameron Heyward, Jordan Hall and others.

Junior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is healthy and good to go for Ohio State's season opener against Navy, head coach Jim Tressel said.

In the final press conference before the game (noon, ESPN), the head man for the Buckeyes said Heyward – who was injured during the team's jersey scrimmage August 22 – looks fine after turning his left ankle.

"He hasn't missed any reps (this week)," Tressel said of Heyward.

Tressel listed Orhian Johnson, Travis Howard, Jermil Martin and Mike Adams as players who will be out for the game. At his Tuesday press conference, he said some of those players would miss the game for injuries and others because they are in the doghouse without further elaboration.

In addition, senior safety Aaron Gant is questionable for the contest.

With plenty of emphasis paid during the week about how difficult it will be to stop Navy's triple-option offensive attack, Tressel cited the importance of one of his favorite areas of the game as being critical for his team's success: special teams.

It appears that the Buckeyes are settled on senior Jon Thoma as the team's punter. The walk-on from Alliance, Ohio, has served as a backup to A.J. Trapasso for the past three seasons.

"He's really been in a good battle with Ben Buchanan for punting," Tressel said. "Jon's got the edge right now. For him to step up and do well would be a great story of patience."

One of the players he singled out as being particularly impactful on special teams this season is sophomore defensive back Donnie Evege, who has spent most of his two seasons in Columbus recovering from injury.

"I think a guy that you'll see show up that you haven't seen on the field much who has done a good job of embracing special teams is Donnie Evege," Tressel said. "He really is going to show up on a number of special teams."

Evege is currently the No. 4 cornerback, Tressel said. The coach also singled out junior wide receiver Grant Schwartz as a player who could have an impact on three special teams units. For now, Schwartz is listed as the No. 7 wide receiver on the depth chart.

The Buckeyes were ranked 108th nationally in kickoff return last year, but Tressel said he feels that will turn around this year.

"The key is those guys up front," he said. "You've got to get hats on hats and give a guy a chance. I'm confident that we're going to be solid."

The fate of a few freshmen was cleared up as well. Tressel mentioned wide receiver James Jackson as a probable redshirt, while he said running backs coach Dick Tressel feels that both Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall can and will contribute this fall for the Buckeyes.

"He would very much like and feels they're very much deserving of playing (Saturday)," Tressel said. "We'll see how it unfolds."

How much – or if – they get into the game will depend on the situation the Buckeyes find themselves in. The same goes for backup quarterback Joe Bauserman, whom Tressel is planning to insert early in the game provided the situation allows.

Along those lines, Tressel was asked if quarterback Terrelle Pryor might reprise his part-time role from the Fiesta Bowl as wide receiver with Bauserman throwing passes his way. Tressel was mum on the topic.

"I can't answer that one," Tressel said with a smile. "You'll see it if you see it."

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