Transcript From The October 3rd Football Press Luncheon
Oct. 3, 2006
COACH TRESSEL: You were all out there in Iowa City and it was a battle. It was a great environment. I'm sure the whole country got to see another Big Ten spectacle with the crowd and enthusiasm and a tough hard hitting football game. I was really pleased with the way that our guys prepared and our scout teams did a great job of getting us ready. Our coaches did a great job with their planning.
Our travel was right on schedule, which sometimes makes you nervous, and everything seemed to click, and then just came down to our guys had to step up and see if we could match up to Iowa, who came out and played extremely hard. And it was a physical game. I think our guys will tell you it was a hard-hitting, rough, Big Ten football game. We had probably not as many winning performances on defense for a couple reasons. One, there were some missed tackles and so forth that we thought hurt us a little bit, but secondly, when you have fewer plays, sometimes your mistakes are amplified in terms of your grade and I think we only had fifty-two or three plays on the defensive side. 19 minutes and 30 seconds of possession, in large part because we had take-aways. When you have four take aways and get off the field that way. We had seven three and out. So we didn't have quite as many plays, therefore, the grading was a little tougher. If you had a few mistakes and only had a few plays, it made it very difficult to grade winning performance. Over on the offensive side, just the opposite was the case. I think we had 70 some odd plays and I think nine or 10 guys grade winning performance. And when you possess the ball for 40 minutes and 30 seconds, when you have no turnovers and every possession change occurs on the other side of the 50, you're going to have a good chance to win and then when you get in the red zone and score touchdowns for the most part, you're really going to have a chance to win.
Our special units were solid, not dominant, per se, but I think they did a solid job. Aaron Pettrey was the special units player of the week. Five of his seven kickoffs were touchbacks, which means that the other guys have 80 yards to go, which is tough. He was one for one in field goals, which I thought that was a crucial field goal that he made, and he hit it well, and that to me was the best part about his place kicking. I was five for five extra points, but he really, I think, with the exception of one, hit them with a great stroke that showed some consistency, which is very, very important as we go forward. The offensive player of the week was Anthony Gonzalez who will be here today. He did a great job of doing what Anthony does. He's a great blocker, number one. He's a very disciplined route runner, and then he makes plays after he gets the ball in his hands and then he does an excellent job leading that receiver corps and he was our offensive player.
Brandon Mitchell, who has class until 12:18, should be here between 12:30 and quarter to 1:00, was our defensive player. Brandon has done a good job leading back there with Antonio Smith. He lost his running mate, Anderson Russell, early in the game after, I think, three plays was all Anderson had and he had to adjust to that and we won't have Anderson the rest of the year. And he did a good job adjust to go that and making plays. He had an interception and almost another one and just very, very solid back there and did a good job leading that secondary. The Jim Parker offensive lineman was T.J. Downing. I thought T. J. played his best game by far. I think T. J. likes the Big Ten games. I think he likes the physicalness of the whole situation. I think he likes it when we run the ball 40 some times and he played an excellent football game.
Our attack force player was James Laurinaitis and James did an excellent job leading that linebacker corps. He plays in both our field defense and our nickel defense, whereas some of the other guys rotate in and out, he plays both sides of the spectrum, does an excellent job versus run and pass and came up with the fourth interception which is pretty darn good from a linebacker position.
Our scout teams did an excellent job. Iowa doesn't do things a lot like the mainstream. Defensively, they're a little bit different from a technique standpoint and our defensive people lined up and tried to emulate that. Offensively Iowa has some uniqueness as well, and our scout offense did a good job of that, as well as our scout special teams did a good job getting us ready for what Iowa brought to the table special units-wise. Marcus Williams from over in Ironton was our scout special units player. Tyler Moeller from Cincinnati Colerain was our scout defensive player and he's going to be a good football player, and Ray Small from Cleveland Glenville was our scout offensive player. Those guys along with their running mates did a good job getting us ready and our guys performed hard and performed well and we were very proud of them on Saturday night.
Now I guess the question at hand is just how good would we like to get. That question will begin to be answered this afternoon. We didn't do a whole bunch Sunday, we got in a little bit late and it was on time, the travel was excellent, but it was still late, and we had a brief workout just from a recovery standpoint, but not a whole bunch of football, and then yesterday was their day off as we're moving into the -- towards the middle of our quarter, so today has to be game plan, has to be focus, has to be going back and working on some fundamentals on both sides of the ball and the biggest indicator to the coaches will be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice.
The biggest indicator universally, though, will be just how we play on Saturday because there's no way that you can keep getting better if you don't put your mind to solely that and make sure that you're focusing on what's happening right now, right this second, and maybe one of the most difficult things for human beings to do, but that's what we have to make sure that we do. I remember in '03, Bowling Green coming in with an outstanding team, so a 24-17 game and they're onside kicking to see if they can get a chance to go down and tie it or win it and I'm not sure that we improved that day, and it was just a week or so later that we go up to Wisconsin and get beat. And I happen to think that you have to get better every day. You heard Coach Bruce say it every day, you either get better or you get worse and you hear every excellent coach understand that, so we have to get better today. We have to get better tomorrow and Thursday and especially on Saturday.
Bowling Green comes in right now very young, playing much better than they did five weeks ago. Early in the year, with so many young people in the game and their quarterback out and so forth and so on, they weren't playing to the level that Bowling Green has grown to expect. In fact, if you look at the last five years, no one has a better record in the Mid-American Conference than Bowling Green. And they weren't playing to those expectations. Then this past weekend when they traveled to Ohio U, they seemed, in my mind, for the first time this year, to put it together fundamentally. All three sides of the ball did an excellent job, and just methodically and decisively won on the road. As I understand in road games, they won five in a row, I guess, was on somebody's release that they won their last five road games. I guess you don't count the one in Cleveland a road game, that was a home game. So they're not afraid to go on the road. They have a great road history of playing teams in the Big Ten and the Big 12 and the Big East and so forth if you look at their history lessons, so we're catching Bowling Green at the peak of where they are in 2006 and I think our guys will be able to see that growth and evolution on the film, but what's most important is making sure that we get better and today we'll go to work on that. I've got a guy that -- sorry, but I've got a guy who called in early for the first question, okay? I guess we can have call-ins now. Raj, first question.
REPORTER: Coach, you're entering a stretch of games before Michigan that everybody, especially the media, expects Ohio State to come out with big victories, with all the National Championship and Heisman talk, how do you keep your team focused on the next game and the next play?
COACH TRESSEL: That's our task as teachers and we'll find out how good of teachers we are, whether it's our situation or the people saying get geared up for writing a big story the week of the Michigan game, you better write a good story this week, so we better write a good story this week and that's the way that you have to do it. You have to do today what is needed today and it's a great lesson because it will carry on the rest of their lives. It's no different when they are out doing their job or out doing whatever, and that will be the way we approach it.
REPORTER: Coach with Anderson Russell going down, obviously Kurt (Coleman) played safety in high school, might Kurt move to safety now?
COACH TRESSEL: No.
REPORTER: How much of a drop-off from Kurt to Anderson in your opinion?
COACH TRESSEL: You might need to ask that of Paul Haynes. Obviously he was ahead of him, but beyond that, I couldn't quantify if it was 4% or 8%. I really don't know.
REPORTER: Do you have any idea, obviously you have some probably, but I don't know if you'll talk to us about what will be done with Nick Patterson, because he's backing up in three slots. Right now you don't have a two, quote, unquote, two-deep in the true safety spot.
COACH TRESSEL: The first thing that's probably going to occur is Aaron Gant who's been working at the fifth safety and we've kept him off spot duty, maybe think we could red shirt him, I think that thinking is over. So you're going to have to move Aaron Gant into that fourth spot which will mean he'll get a lot more reps, he got some in the past weeks, he'll get tons beginning today. I think you have a couple other emergency things that you could do. Antonio Smith could always go back into safety. We'd prefer he not, though, because he plays nickel and corner. One thing that is being added into the two-deep or two and a half deep this week is Brandon Underwood, now is back into the mix and he'll have a chance to help maybe on some special teams and from a depth standpoint at that corner position, but right now, if we had a game this moment, our two-deep would include Nick and Aaron Gant as the back-up safeties with Jamario and Brandon as starters. See, I shared it with you.
REPORTER: You said this was one of the hardest things for human beings to do, are you talking about focusing against lesser competition or what do you mean by what the hardest thing is.
COACH TRESSEL: Hardest thing to do is keep your mind on what's going on this second. I don't care if there's hard things, easy things, perceived things, whatever, keeping your mind on what's going on right now. It was hard on Tuesday not thinking about Saturday this past week because you're excited about Saturday. Well, you can't think about Saturday, you have to think about Tuesday. And I think that's hard for people, just in general. Some of you are thinking about retirement, you know, so --
REPORTER: Jamario O'Neal was such a highly touted guy. Has there been something holding him back learning-wise or anything?
COACH TRESSEL: He played a lot as a true freshman, which is unusual at a place like ours, and he had a veteran guy, Brandon Mitchell, who was fighting it out with him during preseason and played some, probably played 20 to 25% through the first few games and didn't grade out winning this past weekend, but didn't grade out poorly at all. So he'll just keep getting better. The more you play, the better you get and Brandon Mitchell had played a lot more than he over the course of a career. So now Jamario gets a lot more opportunity.
REPORTER: Jim, what do you see that you like about Brandon Mitchell? He seems to have stepped up this year.
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah, I think Brandon Mitchell has always had a great handle on what it is we would like to do. Sometimes he didn't have as many opportunities to do it, because he had some pretty good safeties. If you think about the safeties that have been here since Brandon's been here, guys like Donte Whitner and Nate Salley, you can only play a couple safeties at a time and those two guys are in the NFL right now. So I think he's always had a handle on what to do, now he's had a chance to prove that he can do it day after day. And I've been pleased, not just with his physical performance, but I think he's done an excellent job making sure that the people around him who are new are comfortable and he's done a good leadership job.
REPORTER: Is there an explanation for as good as last year's defense was and all the talent that it had, the turnovers weren't what everyone was expecting, and this year started so young defensively and they've already got 11 interceptions and 13 turnovers?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, I don't think there's an accurate answer for that. Some of it has to do with what the other guys do and a couple of those balls I could have maybe intercepted, not to discredit anything, but our guys are in position and when people make mistakes, if you're in position, you can make plays. And if they'll continue to be in position, we can continue to have those take-aways, which are huge. Now, does that mean our defense last year wasn't in position? No, but it just didn't seem to happen. And I wish I had a formula for knowing exactly how to get take-aways. I've got one forgive-aways, hand the ball to the official, but I don't know what to do, take it from the official, I mean, I don't know. But I'm glad we're getting them, because it's been huge.
REPORTER: Has Brandon Mitchell been a big take-away guy in practice?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, he has, since he's been here. He's been a guy that's been in position because he knows what to do and has a good feel for what the opponents are doing and I've never had that question asked about Brandon, but as I think back through his five years here, yes, he's been a guy that you've seen make plays in practice.
REPORTER: Can you kind of look over the last five games, things that have not -- we always use the word surprised, but things that you think you developed a little quicker than you might have expected and some areas that you think are, if not concerns, things that you certainly could have more room to improve in?
COACH TRESSEL: Things that were surprised?
REPORTER: No, not surprised necessarily, but things that you think, oh, maybe the defense, in light of how you had so many people that were young, how quickly they've kind of developed.
COACH TRESSEL: I think one of the things, and it relates a little bit to the last question, was that being so young and so inexperienced, they've been in position, significantly well, compared to people making mistakes and being out of position. That's how plays happen against you. So I think the poise in which learning the system without much game experience, I think that's been a real plus. I'm trying to think here.
REPORTER: Offensively, has there been anything?
COACH TRESSEL: It's good to see the depth that we hoped to have at receiver come true. Everyone talked about our depth, but all I could think about was Santonio Holmes was the first round draft choice and I hope that we can approach the type of productivity that we had while Santonio was here and I've been pleased with Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, Roy Hall is now back in the mix, Gonzo so and Teddy have been part of that productivity in the past, so that's been a plus that that's occurred. We had hoped to have three solid runningbacks as we come forward and Beanie and Antonio have gotten a lot more opportunities, but to this moment, I still think we have three solid guys who could run our offense, which is again, knock on wood, if you can keep healthy with three guys who can run your offense from the runningback position, I think that's a real plus, but we get so immersed in what's going on day-by-day that we've seen steady improvement across the board really as a football team.
REPORTER: Did Hartline get the Tatum hit of the week for that block?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, it was discussed, and we've had a couple unTatum-like hits been given awards, and I don't want Jack to call, so we didn't have a Tatum hit. It was a good block though, huge. Anthony Gonzalez could descriptively tell you how important it was, but it didn't quite -- those were two big guys, though. If he would have hit them like Tatum hits, Brian might still be in Iowa City, so --
REPORTER: Jim, it seemed like there were several plays where Pittman was able to bounce out to the left a little bit, maybe you ran left a little more than you had, with Boone and Rehring over there, have you seen maybe some growth from those two guys on that side of the line?
COACH TRESSEL: I think Alex's last two games have been his best two. A week ago, who did we play before these guys? Penn State, he was the lineman of the week, and Steve Rehring, the week before that, I believe, was lineman of the week, so I think they're coming along. 92, who I thought was a major league pass rusher and all those things, I'm not sure was as stout as 99 was on the other side and that may have just naturally, maybe we got a little more push. I thought Rory Nicol had his best day blocking the edge. Sometimes that was on that left side.
REPORTER: When you have two guys, Rehring and Boone are both 6-8, 330 pounds about, does that add anything? Can you do anything more? I know it's more than just size when you're being a lineman, but they're so big.
COACH TRESSEL: They're big, and if they play low enough with good technique and get their hands inside, against Iowa, if you watch the film, if Iowa gets their hands inside, you're in trouble, you're knocked backwards and we had some plays where we were knocked backwards. But when you use good technique and play low and you happen to be 320 some pounds, do you have a chance to make a difference and there were a significant number of times those kids did that.
REPORTER: Would you prefer that the nonconference games be at the start of the season rather than having them mixed in?
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah, in fact when I was just on the conference call with the Big Ten, they asked that question. In fact, they coupled like six questions into one about that scheduling and all that, a perfect world for me would be to start the season a week earlier than we do, because here in the north, I'd rather add a game when the weather's nice than at the other end and have a bye week perhaps after your nonconference games and play eight straight in the Big Ten.
I wouldn't like at all the option of playing the week after Thanksgiving because I think that's one of the things that's a real plus when you play in the Big Ten as a student athlete is you know you train all summer long and you know you play a hard season but you know what, you're going to have a Thanksgiving. And for as hard as our guys work, I think that's a real plus for them. I wouldn't want to kick the season backwards.
REPORTER: Your two outside linebacker slots still seem to be in a state of flux and there also seems to be teams starting to run wide on Ohio State. Can you discuss that situation and the learning curve and growth and what's being done to slow that run down?
COACH TRESSEL: I can't say that I've studied that maybe as much as you have. The outside backer situation, Curtis Terry has been playing the bulk of it when we're in base people, and when we're in nickel, Marcus Freeman. On the other side, John Kerr and Ross Homan when we're in base have been getting fairly equal snaps according to drive length and so forth, and they're not on the edge much, you know, the weak side linebackers, out on that edge, a couple of the ones I remember were the ones that rolled all the way back and got outside, those are tough and you have people for every gap and people that are supposed to have the gap and I don't know that it was either of those linebackers that are the culprit there, if you will, but Iowa's a good running team and especially when you're throwing it as much as they were and all of a sudden they get you maybe into a pass-rush mode and a pass-rush mode and a run-stop mode are two different things, just ask any D lineman. We've got work to do. No one walked out of Iowa City saying, hey, we've arrived, because we've got a lot of work to do.
REPORTER: Bowling Green gave up at least 21 points in each of the first four games. You mentioned earlier about there had been some maturation on their defense in particular, could you talk a little bit about that? And secondly, their offense, I don't know if you've had an opportunity to see much offense, Barnes, the quarterback --
COACH TRESSEL: The two quarterback system, they seem to throw it a little more with Turner and run it a little more with Barnes, they're both dangerous and the QB run is such a big part of their system. So you have one more guy to account for than you do in many games and they'll spread you out all over the field, so it's going to be a challenge for our defense. They give you every kind of personnel grouping you can think of.
From their defensive standpoint, I think their ends, who one of them started against us last time we played, I think their ends are the strength of their defense, not just the two starting ends, I think 99 who comes in as the third end also. The other thing that I think is the strength of their defense is they can run and they like to strike you. They're getting better. They're so young in the secondary that I'm not sure they do as many things as some teams we face, so what we have to figure out is what is it they're focusing on growing with, and then adjust our plan accordingly, but I'm very impressed with the speed at which they play.
REPORTER: Is youth primarily why they gave up so many points those first four weeks?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I know this, in at least two of the games, there were defensive scores. They've had two kickoffs returned for touchdowns, they've had punt blocks for touchdowns. I don't know exactly how many points they've given up on defense, but it isn't as many as it appears. Now, it's probably too many, if you ask them, but I think their youth is what has affected their production.
REPORTER: Jim, do you have a thought on video replay? I mean, going back to the Oklahoma-Oregon situation and then bringing it forward to last weekend, there were calls that appeared to be wrong even after they looked at them on video, including the Ted begin catch in the Iowa game, do you have any idea on whether that's working at this point?
COACH TRESSEL: My thought originally was I'm not a real replay guy because it's not comprehensive, there are holds, there are this, there are that, that you can't replay, but if you're going to have a system, perhaps we might have the best system. Now I think what we have to do is decide, is it the best system and I don't know. I've got enough things I need to get better at, but you hear it talked about a lot and usually if it's talked about a lot, it does need some work, what, I'm not sure, but again, I like the human element, and I've never lost the game because of the officials and I'd like to think I've never won one because of the officials. I'm for them running the show, but I don't have any votes.
REPORTER: Did you guys look at that play and the pass, it looked like a fumble, did you --
COACH TRESSEL: Offensively we looked at the one in Teddy's case. What disappointed me about that one was, I thought it was a catch, but things happen. I was disappointed. I thought that he got speared and to me, I'll never complain about calls when they're safety related, even if they're wrong. I was a little disappointed from that standpoint, but again, I don't know what views -- we can't have any electronic equipment in our booth or on our sideline.
The people watching the game in DuBuque know more than we do I haven't seen Drew Tate's arm going forward or backward, whatever the thing. The people in the booth have all the angles that the TV has and so I have to assume they'll make good decisions. I like the focus of the game being on the humans playing it.
REPORTER: You haven't used your challenge yet, though? You haven't used a challenge yet though, right?
COACH TRESSEL: No. You know, I don't know how to use one. The guys say, Coach, you haven't used your challenge, I say, I don't know, guys, I don't have a TV.
REPORTER: Do you have a big screen?
COACH TRESSEL: Do they play back the questionables?
REPORTER: Not at Ohio State they don't.
REPORTER: Not here. They did Saturday night, a couple of them.
COACH TRESSEL: Did they? I should have looked, my bad.
REPORTER: In your years at Youngstown State or Ohio State, have you ever had a team that lost a game because they were looking ahead?
COACH TRESSEL: Boy, I don't know if I could accurately --
REPORTER: Do you think that might have been a factor in why they lost?
COACH TRESSEL: No, but I've probably had teams that lost a game because they didn't progress as much as we needed to at that point, and so if the reason was that we were looking ahead and that's why we didn't progress, then I guess the answer is yes, because I know we lost some games we shouldn't have lost in my opinion.
REPORTER: Troy's emerged in the first month of the year as the Heisman frontrunner in a lot of people's opinions, is that meaningful at all that the guys take pride in that at this point?
COACH TRESSEL: I've overheard some of the guys saying that. I overheard someone in an interview one time saying I block for the guy that's up for the Heisman or whatever so I would think they do it. Again, we don't discuss it. They may sit around discussing it, wishing for good things to happen to your teammates is not a bad thing.
REPORTER: How do you manage that, going into a break, because there are other Heisman candidates?
COACH TRESSEL: Going into what kind of break?
REPORTER: Going into, not necessarily a break, but --
COACH TRESSEL: Next.
REPORTER: Going into some games where there might be more opportunities to score more points. Maybe you would disagree with that.
COACH TRESSEL: We won 17-6 in 1992 and 24-17 in '03.
REPORTER: How do you manage Troy and the offense over the next five to six --
COACH TRESSEL: Same way we've managed them from the get-go, study the film. Here's what we think we can do. If they come out and deploy that way, keep on, here's what they're doing, we better do this, and don't throw it to them or you're coming out of the game.
REPORTER: I guess say you get ahead, do you leave Troy in or do you pull them out?
COACH TRESSEL: I don't know. Depends on what the score is. We like to play as many guys as we can. We didn't get our second line in on Saturday, which we kept talking about, all of a sudden, we're down on the 10, and then the next time we're down on the 11 or something. So we want to play as many guys as we can, but we cross those bridges when we come to them.
REPORTER: What part of the turnover margin equation is your two road games -- how much of that is relating to Troy and his development in decision making, where do you see that in him?
COACH TRESSEL: Troy has always been very careful with the football. However many interceptions he has here at Ohio State, I would bet you a high percentage of them are deep throws, which we talked to the receivers about, hey, if we're going to throw deep, at least break it up, because they've got more time to play the ball and so forth, or deflected balls, flat out missed throws, Troy is very aware. One play during the Iowa game, he came off, I said, Troy, the post might have been open. He said, no, Coach, you'll see on the film, it wasn't. And he was right. He's very aware of where people are and very careful. And he understands the importance of that turnover margin and as long as he'll continue that understanding, then we can contribute on offense our part to that statistic and if the defense will remain to be in position they'll keep doing their part and knock on wood, we've got to do a good job of not turning it over in the special teams. If you'll recall, by this point last year, we had had a few turnovers in the special teams. So it all fits together.
REPORTER: Jim, with no bye week this week, have you scaled anything back in practice over the course of the season as a result of that?
COACH TRESSEL: No.
REPORTER: Do you feel like it's affected anything you've done with any of the substitutions or has anything changed because of the no bye week?
COACH TRESSEL: We've played five games and probably played about the number of plays that you'd play in six -- or, no, four. Which way would it go? Four. You know what I'm saying? We haven't played as many plays. We've practiced just as long and just as hard and we scale back practice as the season goes, but we've made no adjustment for no bye week. We've got a game every week. We had 12 straight weeks back in '02 and it didn't seem to bother us. Marla, last question. We've got to get these guys on here.
REPORTER: There are some stories floating around out there that Gonzalez is the best receiver on the team.
COACH TRESSEL: There are some stories floating around, written by any of these people?
REPORTER: Most of them are nationally. I was just wondering how you feel about that.
COACH TRESSEL: Gonzalez is the best receiver playing the position we have him playing. Teddy is the best guy we have playing that position and that's the way it is.
REPORTER: Have you seen anything out of Gonzalez this year that you haven't seen in the past?
COACH TRESSEL: Gonzo so is like everyone else. The more he learns, the better he is. Studies the film extremely hard, trains good extremely hard, and he's better than he was a year ago and if he wasn't, we wouldn't be better. Teddy's better than he was a year ago. Brian Robiskie is significantly better than he was. Brian Hartline is. Roy's back. So we have a chance to have a good receiving corps.
REPORTER: Are you better, too, over the years?
COACH TRESSEL: Am I? No, unfortunately. Old people don't get better with age.