Talkin' Tressel (And Kelly): Pregame Edition

The Rose Bowl is drawing near, and one sure sign of that was the final press conference Thursday morning featuring head coaches from both Ohio State and Oregon. Jim Tressel discussed his team's preparations, its level of focus and a few personnel updates ahead of the New Year's Day game.

LOS ANGELESOhio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor raised eyebrows in the City of Angels and across the Buckeye Nation when he told reporters earlier this week that he was still fighting a torn ligament in his knee.

Since then, the health status of the No. 8 Buckeyes' talented quarterback has been a major topic of discussion, but yet again head coach Jim Tressel talked down concerns over Pryor during a press conference Thursday afternoon one day before OSU will take on No. 7 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

"He's very healthy," Tressel said. "He can move around very, very well. He's done a good job of rehabbing and had a good Bowl practice, didn't see any hints of any problems there, back in Columbus or here, and I'm sure he's ready to go."

Tressel did seem somewhat annoyed by Pryor's admission, noting that coaches, trainers and doctors had not discussed the injury's extent with media members. However, he admitted it was clear Pryor was hobbled in early November when his rushing skills took a backseat during wins against top-15 teams Penn State and Iowa, and Pryor said he struggled to move to his left after the win against the Nittany Lions.

Other than that, Tressel – who mentioned no other injuries had popped up during bowl practices – was upbeat in discussing his team's time in the Los Angeles area in preparations for the bowl game.

"We've certainly had a great few days here, and the people here that have taken good care of our players and coaches, and media, I hope, and fans, and everything else has been wonderful," he said. "It's been a great experience for our young people. I think every guy that ever chooses to attend Ohio State or any Big Ten school or any Pac-10 school perhaps dreams of the day where you might get to play in this game and spend this week here.

"Our kids had a lot of fun at all the different things that were provided for them, and they worked hard along the way. I think they're anxious to get out and compete against a great team."

As for his team's readiness to take on an Oregon team that was among the hottest in the nation at the end of the season, Tressel said he was anxious to see if the squad's pregame work would result in triumph after the Buckeyes have lost their last three bowl games, all BCS contests.

"I mean, I thought our guys did a terrific job getting ready to play a year ago. Their bowl preparation again this year I thought was excellent," the ninth-year coach said. "There's no way at 6:00 o'clock Pacific time will I tell you that I was disappointed with the way that our guys prepared because coaches and players alike, they prepared very hard."

The team has also had the chance to enjoy the Southern California sights and sounds like Disneyland, but a new trip was on the docket for Thursday afternoon – a first trip to see the actual Rose Bowl stadium.

This is Ohio State's first trip to "The Granddaddy of Them All" since after the 1996 season and only its third in 26 seasons, a unique fact for a team so often represented in the game that the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame enshrined yet another Buckeye in John Hicks on Wednesday.

That fact is not lost on Tressel, who as an assistant coach on the 1984 team is the only player or coach familiar with Pasadena.

"Well, the fun of it is it's unique, obviously unique to us because we've never been here," Tressel said. "This is a special opportunity. There's not one of our kids or coaches that have been here, and there's something special about it. When you talk to people that have been in multiple venues, you know, they'll always tell you that this one holds a special spot. It hasn't disappointed."

When it came to personnel updates, Tressel said the punt return spot vacated by the suspended Ray Small will be filled by either DeVier Posey or Dane Sanzenbacher, while offensive linemen Mike Adams and Marcus Hall – the Buckeyes Nos. 6 and 7 blockers – should see playing time. Jim Cordle will continue to start at the left tackle spot he held during the final five games of the year. In addition, Aaron Pettrey could get the chance to try field goals, while Iowa game hero Devin Barclay definitely will handle kickoffs.

Kelly Also Present While Tressel discussed his team for around 20 minutes in the last formal press conference before the game, Oregon counterpart Chip Kelly had the stage for about half that amount of time. Highlights from Kelly's time at the dias:

**On his team's focus for the game: "I think sometimes during the season that's difficult because they want to look down the road. But there's no down the road; this is it. And what we've done to this point is give ourselves an opportunity to play one more time in ‘The Granddaddy of Them All.' So I think just try to keep them focused and stay on task. I never have to worry about our players in terms of their focus. They're the most focused group that I've ever been around."

**On his team's defensive game plan to stop Ohio State: "We know, I think, first and foremost you have to stop their running game because they have two outstanding running backs and got a quarterback that can really hurt you in the running game. And obviously you just look at the statistics, and they're a run-first operation. But that's part of how we kind of set our defensive game plan."

**On the game: "You know, I think the first quarter itself will be a feeling-out process in terms of us actually getting an idea of what their scheme is going to be. Most of the time in league play, because of what we do offensively, what we see on tape isn't what we get in the game, so there will be that first kind of feeling-out process, them for us, us for them, and then just kind of settling down and getting into a rhythm. If we can get into a rhythm offensively, we feel like we're pretty good."


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