Andy Gottesman / Lantern photographer
Jim Tressel addressed the media Wednesday, to discuss upcoming spring football practices and the personnel issues that face the team after the departure of a talented senior class. Tressel also declined to discuss pending NCAA investigations and named Luke Fickell as the interim head coach for the first five games next season.
The suspended five
Even though DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas won’t be able to play for the first five games of their senior season, coach Jim Tressel said they’ve all stepped up significantly as leaders.
“During winter workouts … it was amazing watching their leadership and their attitude,” Tressel said. “Just watching the way that they led, quite honestly, I was amazed.”
Tressel said the players would still get significant reps in spring practice, even citing Herron as an example.
“You know, ‘Boom’ Herron is a guy you want out there getting reps to show people how to do good reps,” Tressel said. “When you get into the game situations, the changes occur.”
Pryor remains in a walking boot, and has been unable to fully participate in team activities, but he plans to have the boot removed by the end of the week. As for who will be quarterback for the opening five games next year, Tressel did not give any indication. Senior Joe Bauserman, redshirt sophomore Ken Guiton and freshman Braxton Miller figure to be the candidates, but Tressel never mentioned any of their names.
“I’m going to have as much fun watching as you guys are as to who is going to step up and emerge.” Tressel said. “It’s going to be fun to see that battle at the quarterback position.”
Changes to the Spring Game?
The traditional Spring Game the Buckeyes host every year might be changed because of shortages at certain positions, such as offensive line.
Tressel said this might be for the best because players have complained that the glorified scrimmage lacked the competitive edge they desired.
“Some of (the players’) thoughts were to maybe make it a little more competitive,” Tressel said, “and perhaps have a jersey scrimmage to end the spring.”
Allegations and sanctions
Tressel briefly commented on the continuing NCAA investigation and the events that led to it, but was limited on what he could say on the matter.
“It’s obviously been a difficult past couple months,” Tressel said. “The mistakes I’ve made have been very disappointing and I’m very sorry for that. Through these past couple months we’ve certainly appreciated support we’ve got from folks. Probably the strongest inspiration I’ve gotten over the past couple months has come from our administration and our staff, and most especially our team.”
Tressel did not comment on a timeline or any specifics pertaining to the investigation.
After losing defensive backs Jermale Hines, Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence, the Buckeyes will have new faces getting significant minutes in the upcoming season. Tressel said players such as redshirt junior Orhian Johnson and sixth-year senior Tyler Moeller have to step up if the defense wants to perform at a high level.
Tressel spoke highly of cornerback Dominic Clarke, even comparing him to former Buckeye and current New Orleans Saint, Malcolm Jenkins. Clarke received playing time in the Sugar Bowl after injuries ravaged the Buckeyes’ secondary. Since then, Tressel said he’s excelled.
“I think he’s gained some confidence. … He’s always had great ability,” Tressel said. “He was young, but we’ve kind of seen a transformation from him not unlike we’ve seen from (Malcolm Jenkins).”
Defensive front seven
Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat gained significant experience stepping in for the injured Ross Homan last year, and should be the anchor at the position.
“Andrew Sweat is a guy who stepped in when Ross (Homan) was hurt last year, and played very, very well,” Tressel said. “He does things exactly the way that you’d like them done.”
Tressel also mentioned redshirt junior Etienne Sabino and junior Storm Klein as players he expects to step up.
Along the defensive line, Tressel mentioned seniors Nathan Williams and Solomon Thomas as players he believes are ready to lead the unit, but he especially singled out junior John Simon.
“John Simon has emerged as a guy that we believe needs to take the next step from a leadership standpoint,” Tressel said.
The Buckeyes are short on the offensive line this spring, only having 10 guys at the position, but Tressel said he is confident in the guys he has.
“(Senior) Mike Brewster, we think, is the best center in the country,” Tressel said. “He will be a leader.”
Tressel also pointed to two other seniors, Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts, as being responsible for leading the unit in the spring.
“Those three guys have got to help the rest of that young bunch,” Tressel said, “because there’s only seven other guys in that room right now.”
Wide receivers and tight ends
The situation for wide receivers and tight ends couldn’t be any more different. The tight end position is loaded, and Tressel expects big things from redshirt junior Jake Stoneburner and junior Reid Fragel.
“We think we’re going to have as good of a tight end core as you could possibly have,” Tressel said.
The wide receiver position isn’t as promising.
“We all know (the wide receiver position) is thin,” Tressel said.
Though Posey is suspended for the first five games, Tressel said the group can be productive, and is looking forward to getting those players some experience.
“It’s a thin group,” Tressel said. “It’s a talented group, but those guys need to get some tremendous experience as we go.”
Coaches studying in the offseason
OSU coaches spent much of the time since the 31-26 Sugar Bowl victory against Arkansas studying other programs and the way they do things. The defensive coaches got an opportunity to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, and also learned from Virginia Tech.
The offensive coaches met with the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, as well as LSU, Oklahoma and Georgia.
“Our guys went to work so they can see where things are going from an evolution stand point,” Tressel said, “so that they could bring it back and we could begin tomorrow to figure out what our kids can do.”
New helmets for the spring
OSU football players won’t have their traditional headwear this spring, instead opting for a gray army-styled camouflage helmet to honor the military.
“Our helmets this spring will be letting our United States military know how much we appreciate them,” Tressel said.
Tressel said the team loved the new look, but rest assured, the traditional silver bullets will be back in the fall.