Coaches Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel spoke with the media for the final time before the BCS national champion game in Phoenix, Arizona. Here’s their full quotes.
COACH MEYER: I just visited with Coach Tressel. We are both ready to go play a football game, and enough press conferences, with all due respect. I know our players are ready to play. It has been a long time.
We are kind of the new kid on the block as far as Ohio State and Florida playing in the championship game where it is removed from the other Bowls.
It has been a long time. I think we managed very well as far as keeping our kids fresh, yet focused. We have a lot of preparation left. Our saying is the preparation ends when the foot hits the ball tomorrow night at 6:30. We’re anxious to get back and have our Friday. Today is our Friday. With that, I will take questions.
Q. Can you talk about during the time off what you have done to—particularly in the last week to keep your guys mentally focused? Because it has been a long grind in between ball games.
COACH MEYER: I really like the way we did it. We broke it down—dealing with young guys, attention span issues show up quite often. If you stand in front of our team and say, okay, by the way, we have 20 practices, they will look at you that you have seven heads and they are not really into 20 practices. If you say you have three game weeks and we get into the game routine, we believe very much in routine and we went through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday routine. The only thing we didn’t do was play the game. We had three of those phases, we called them.
I think it worked well. We never lost their focus or attention. We game them enough time off. They got to see their families over Christmas. We gave them New Year’s off. It has been really good.
Q. Urban, from what you have seen of Troy Smith on film, is there any comparisons that you may have drawn from—between Troy and Alex Smith?
COACH MEYER: There certainly is. We judge quarterbacks, when we recruit quarterbacks, we don’t—the quarterback that can stand there and throw a ball through that wall, when the pocket opens and the guy is wide open, there is a lot of guys that can do that. It is the one when the pocket is not open, he had to take three steps, steps up in the pocket and put either the touch pass like Troy did against Penn State where he scrambled back and made plays.
Alex Smiths, Chris Leaks, Troy Smiths, Tim Tebows, those are the kind of quarterbacks that are difference makers. Like I said, there are a lot of guys that can stand there and throw the ball, but there are few that can create plays out of a bad situation.
Troy Smith is obviously a Heisman Trophy winner. He won that Heisman because he has good personnel around him but he is a play maker when the plays aren’t there.
Q. Coach, at what point in the season did you realize just how special this team was?
COACH MEYER: When we played very well at home against LSU. In my opinion, obviously you saw what they did in the Bowl game. LSU is a talented team. They have been the last two years. After that game, I remember thinking to myself—I think it was 23-10. And going into that game, we knew exactly what we were getting into. And we had some injuries issues, we had other issues we were dealing with. To see a team reorganize and come out and play as hard as they did this with, I thought this could be a good outfit if we don’t screw it up as coaches.
Q. Coach, could you talk about your relationship with Billy Donovan, his importance in bringing you to Florida, maybe similarities in how you run your program and what you may have learned from his championship run?
COACH MEYER: The best form of education is to witness, to experience, to watch videos, to listen to people, to have it happen firsthand. I can sit and talk about the—even the ‘96 football team, that’s old news for our players. Try to bring as many of those guys back as well.
But our players witnessed, they know those players. I had the basketball players come. We have a three-on-three basketball player. Dunk contest. The basketball players were the judges. In the summer, I learned—I almost did not go to the championship game. They were pushing me, Billy invited me. And we decided to go.
I didn’t win it, but I sat in that locker room after the game, and that reenergized, refocused, re-everything the passion you had for coaching and trying to reach the pinnacle of college football.
And Billy is a close friend. He lives two houses down. He recruited me and more importantly Christine recruited my wife and—about all the important things, not size of stadiums but schools and about what it is like to live in Gainesville with the children. Our kids are the same ages.
He is the best. He as good a person as there is.
Q. Urban, how much has the increasing popularity of freshmen enrolling early changed college football? When you determine what guys those are in your program, what goes into that?
COACH MEYER: Their value skyrockets. We very a big board, like all college programs do. It is basically a draft board, recruiting board in each position and the value increases.
We’ve had—I want to say my first year, two or three. Second year, four or five. They are all three-point students. They get acclimated. The more you think about it, a young person playing at the University of Florida in front of that people, the pressure on you and some of the premier players you get, you are playing right now (snapping fingers). They tend to struggle in school a little bit. Especially at a school like Florida where you are dealing with 1,400s in the classroom S.A.T. So the competitiveness in the classroom is significant.
I see a much more balanced—we have bunch coming in now, I have to have the most in the country coming in here. We start school—what is today, Sunday? We start school tomorrow. And as a matter of fact they are on campus today starting school tomorrow. They get to go through spring practice. Tim Tebow is a good example. Tim would have played early in the year if he didn’t go through spring practice. Not in a position like that.
It is certainly changing. I know across the country, I never heard of this three years ago and all of a sudden now we are talking about nine, ten—ten of them coming here and doing that.
Q. Coach, everybody looked at your schedule at the beginning of this season. It was one of the reasons why nobody thought—or not a lot of people thought you would be here now that you have gone through this schedule and handled the way you and your team have. How much is that going to be a positive for you going into the game tomorrow night?
COACH MEYER: As much as you would like to play all IAAs, I enjoy—I tell you I love a 65-0 game. That’s a lot of fun. That’s a lot of fun. The 17-16s, and we were hanging on at the end of the game, that causes gray hairs and ulcers and everything else. But it also strengthens and toughens your outfit and gets them in situations that you try to create in practice. We try to put them in tough situations, but you can’t do that.
You learn a lot about people. You learn a lot about your football team when you get hit right in the mouth and you respond to that. We were hit in the mouth quite often this year against some very good opponents. We toughed it out and won 12 games. You don’t hear me say this very often. I admire our guys. I really do. They have earned that admiration because they got hit right in the sock a few times and came through it. That was a tough schedule.
Q. Coach, you talked about how your preparation will end at 6:30 tomorrow when the ball is kicked off. What does that mean for the last 36 hours before a game?
COACH MEYER: We have a saying and our captain says it, you know, Cornelius, workweek is done, which means the physical work is done, now it is—the old Don James’ theory is the 48-hour rule; in 48 hours nothing bad goes in your body, you get your rest, you prepare to go to battle. And we believe that. We live it. Our guys really believe—today, Friday is a big day for us. It is a big day of preparation. It is also a big day of getting them to relax a little bit, too. We do some things with our team, we have a routine our team loves, our coaches love. We don’t kill them. When it is time to be intense, it is extremely intense. When it is time to relax, it is very relaxed.
We really enjoy—our players look forward to today. Today is our Friday. We call them the best Fridays in football. I hear them talk about it. I hear our former players come back, a bunch of them are here, and talk about the best Fridays in football. It is one of the great days we have for preparation.
Q. Coach, I imagine being a head coach at Florida and Ohio State, best coaching jobs in the country, what goes into making those jobs the best in the country and are there others?
COACH MEYER: I tell you what, it is hard to say there are better ones than that. That’s all I know because I have worked at both of the places.
I think—the first thing, I think the thing that makes a place great if you are at a real academic school—if you are at a school that says you are academic and you’re not, and you are dealing with just issue after issue after issue, we are clear when we go out and recruit young people that you are going to go to class and our job is not to baby-sit you. And we make that clear. If you are one of those guys that are interested in something other than that, there are plenty of places to go.
I remember it was the same way when I was at Ohio State, when Coach Bruce was the coach. It was very clear, the program, the University, it is very clear. Some people want to be a part of that, some don’t.
That’s what I think. When I was looking and when I was offered the job at Florida, a lot of people thought I looked at the stadium size, I didn’t. I looked at the resource available to make sure the kids would graduate. I knew it was competitive in the classroom. That was very high on our list. That’s what I think makes the Floridas and the Ohio States premiere places, is because you are getting real student athletes playing the game of football.
I think it is great for the country to see these two schools playing for a national championship because they do it the right way.
Q. Urban, both you coaches have had so much time to prepare and you talk about preparedness. But once the game starts, how important is it to make adjustments? Both teams will probably show things that the other guy hasn’t seen?
COACH MEYER: I think that’s—because we both—you know, they talk about our spread offense. Make no mistake about it, Ohio State runs a spread offense. The very different game plans, and you look at the Texas and the Michigan, and that was a very spread offense to get their athletes space and create matchup issues.
So I think any time you face that type of offense, I can just speak for us, that’s very—the first two series is going to set the game plan for the rest of the day because there is really not that many different ways to play it. You either decide to pack them in or spread them out or—I don’t want to get too much into it. The first two series are very critical to find out how they will play you.
It is much different when you are in a closed formation because there is just way too much. When you are spread, there is very few—the defensive coaches need to make—have a plan and usually can see it a lot quicker when you are in a spread set.
Q. Yesterday President Machen took issue with Nick Saban’s contract at Alabama. Have you a fairly lucrative contract and getting substantial bonuses for being in this game. Given the amount of money coaches are making, is it time to talk about players sharing in that wealth somewhat?
COACH MEYER: Wow, I don’t know. I rather talk about Chris Leak. I don’t have any idea. I don’t have any thought.
Q. Speaking of Chris Leak, Urban, I was just wondering, if you took his stats from the outside and you looked at a guy that led his team to the national championship game, you think he lived a pretty carefree life. He has been skewered a lot. I am wondering if that’s the focus of today’s message board society where guys get killed during the season and they have to deal with that? Or do you think some of the scrutiny is warranted?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know. I don’t really care about that stuff. I do remember there was a basketball coach that I come home and picked up the newspaper and listened and driving to work because I—I was just driving to work and he talked about what a lousy basketball coach and he can’t win the big game and maybe it’s time and all this. And they are talking about some guy named Billy Donovan who lost three games in a row, and then I flipped on Jimmy Buffett and said I’m good, worry about my kids and players and go.
The unique thing about Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, people make a big deal about it, they are focused on winning games. If they are focused on other things that I know young people sometimes do, I think that disrupts their attack mode.
Chris Leak had a very fine year against the top defenses in America. If he is getting killed, I will tell you what, if he wins this game he will be one of the two top quarterbacks to play at Florida. You are measured by wins and championships. He won the SEC championship. And now he will be measured if he can compete for the national championship.
Q. Urban, two questions for you. First of all, in regards to Troy Smith, he obviously is a player who has played his best in big games. In your experience why is that? Obviously a guy has to prepare and be talented. But do you see a common thread in guys who do that?
COACH MEYER: I think that. I think they let him play now. That’s like—I know—they are going to be very aggressive in letting him play. Some of the games where they didn’t have the statistics, it was more of a closed game plan. And I would imagine against Florida we are going to see the whole kitchen sink like Michigan. In that game plan against Michigan they did a great job. Same thing against Texas where the checkers were fairly even. Those are very talented teams.
So he plays best his big game for a lot of reasons, mostly him. He is one of those kind of guys. He is an experienced guy. I know Troy Smith. I have known him as a young player. I think great players play their best in those type of games.
Q. What else is in the CD player? Just Buffett?
COACH MEYER: That’s it.
Q. Coach, with you and Coach Tressel being born in Ohio, what similarities do you follow with him or what things do you have in common with him at all?
COACH MEYER: I know Jim. I can’t say I know him that way. He left Ohio State the year before Coach Bruce brought me in as his graduate assistant. I can’t tell you I followed him my first spring practice as a new head coach, I was 36 years old and I went and visited Bill Snyder. Went and visited some other people. I made sure Jim Tressel was one of the guys I visited.
I drove down from Bowling Green to watch his whole operation and watch a head coach who I respect go to work.
Other than that, I can’t say we are real close because we’re not. We talk maybe once or twice a year and it is strictly business and staff issues or off-season program issues. Other than that, the common theme is we both worked for a great coach in Earl Bruce. That’s about it.
Q. Urban, you may have something more in common with Jim if you win the championship on Monday night, your second year you take over, you could win the title. Jim did that. Why has this team come together so quickly with you taking over and are you surprised by it?
COACH MEYER: I was asked that question many times. If you were to ask me a year ago, no chance, no chance. If you ask me now, I think we probably should have done that because we have 21 seniors that played their best year of football.
It is a great little thing we do all the time, I do all the time and I talk to the team about it all the time. When you look at a championship team and you look across that front row with a team picture, every one of those kids played the best year of their football and they did it the right way, you are probably a champion. The front row is always your seniors. Reggie Lewis and Tremaine McCollum and all these guys, Brian Crum, never played a down and they are playing their best year of football. That’s why we are where we are at. Ray McDonald, two ACL surgeries, probably 5, 10% chance of him coming back the way he did. He is the guy that made up that 90% with will, attitude and great effort. That’s why we won. I would have said absolutely not.
After watching our little deal we did last night, I know why we are here, it is because of those 21 seniors.
Q. Urban, with so many prominent players and recruits on your team, what does it mean to have a player like Tim Higgins on your squad and what satisfaction do you get in finally getting him into a game?
COACH MEYER: Tim Higgins. Good question. We had 90,000 people screaming at me to put him in the game and I did. He is our Rudy. He spoke last night at our little deal we do with the seniors. Had trouble speaking, that’s how emotional he was. He came to Florida because he sat and watched the Army All-American game he could go. He could go to Ivy league or go to a smaller school and play. Chris Leak said I am going to Florida and come with me and win the national championship. He did that at the All-American Bowl.
Tim Higgins watched and said I will go to Florida to help them win a national championship and he helped get us where we are at because he is a great worker.
Q. Urban, I talked to your dad before that Missouri game, your first game as Bowling Green’s head coach. I said, Hey, are you proud of your son, he is a D1 head coach now. He said to me, He hasn’t done anything yet. What has it been like—what’s been the most important thing over those five or six years to get from you that first game as Bowling Green’s head coach to where you are now?
COACH MEYER: I have said this many times, too. Everybody is asking that question. I think I am really good at a couple things and that’s surrounding myself with unbelievable people. I have the best staff in college football, and I got some really good players. You take Alex Smith out of that equation at Utah, and I’m not the head coach at Florida. I am the first one to recognize that. And our staff is the first one to recognize that.
You take Chris Leak and Tim Tebow out or Percy Harvin out or Ray McDonald at and we are at some other Bowl and I am already home and jogging and getting back in shape and those type of things. We have had a real tendency to attract and motivate really good players. That’s what’s happened.
You saw it at Bowling Green with Josh Harrison and some other phenomenal football players.
Q. Coach, all season long you have said this is a good football team, not a great football team. You have been hesitant to call it a great football team. Is tomorrow the day that you finally decide whether or not this is a good or great football team?
COACH MEYER: Well, to show you how elite the greatness is, is Florida football has been around for 100 years and there has been one great team—has been a bunch of really good teams. And I would put us in the really good category. If you find a way to play well tomorrow night and win a game, then I would put us as a great football team.
Q. Urban, since the season ended, have you looked back and analyzed what you did this year, what did you pinpoint that left you 118th in the country in penalties, is a pinch of that good because some are predicated on aggression?
COACH MEYER: Pete, you brought up the penalty thing, huh? I will remember that, Pete. No, I don’t buy that. I have heard coaches and I heard people say that’s okay. We are very disappointed in that. That’s not something we are proud of. No, I don’t buy that at all. Those are aggressive mistakes, it’s okay. No, a penalty is a penalty and it usually takes you off schedule, certainly in offense and keeps drives alive on defense.
I can’t answer why. I know I am disappointed and they catch it every Monday when I see it. I am in charge of special teams. We had two punt returns called back, long ones. It just so happens I get the call-back on Monday or Tuesday and saying that probably shouldn’t have been a penalty but I am still dealing with that. I don’t buy that fact at all, Pete, that aggressive teams still make penalties. Undisciplined teams make penalties. That’s not something we are very proud of.
Q. Coach, in the SEC championship game, McFadden, 73 yards rushing on 21 carries, 50 yards under his season average. With respect to Troy Smith and Chris Leak, do you think the battle in this game will be decided against the line of scrimmage against the Ohio State’s heralded running offense, also your guys’ talented running game as well?
COACH MEYER: Every game is dictated by that. I can’t say that about Texas Tech, because I don’t know. The teams that throw 70 times, Hawaii something like that, I don’t know if that’s true.
Every football game is decided on whether you can run the ball or not. If you can run the football, that makes the throw game much easier. I watched Ohio State play, studied them ridiculously for the last 30 days. They will run the football at you, but they are not stubborn enough to run it against all those unblocked people when they start in the box.
For Florida to win the game, we have to run the ball, have to. That means our offense line will have to handle arguably the best defensive front they played all year. For Ohio State to win the game, I’m sure the coach would say the same thing. Pittman has got to get going or you can bracket people, double-team people because you are a single gap defense.
If—I’m sorry. If you are two-gap defense, which means you are putting more people on the back end, you are very concerned about giving up the run. The two big plays that knocked it over the edge against Michigan were the two-run plays, off tackle—simple off-tackle power play against a two-gap defense and then a great run from another guy with a defense that was spread out covering people. That’s the chess match that goes on during the course of the game.
Q. Everyone knows about what Troy Smith does physically and what he brings to the game. As you have watched them on film, does something innate as his leadership skills, does that come through on film?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I don’t know that you have to be around the kid to know that. The way he plays. The biggest thing that comes across on film is his ability to make something out of nothing and that what makes him so dangerous.
Q. You were talking just to follow up—you were talking about how important players are to a coach’s success. Just follow up what you asked earlier, how would you feel about a proposal that would give player a small stipend or something for helping you reach a Bowl game like this. I am not talking about a lot of money, but just something, just a significant stipend?
COACH MEYER: Well, we tried to—I’m sure most programs do, you get stipends, you get per diems, you get all those types of things for Bowl games. We try to—we give them every cent they can possibly get. I am a big proponent of that.
I heard the story about Ohio State had the families that were going to get together to raise money. That’s nonsense. To think about that and all this money being shuffled around and here is a star player whose mom can’t afford to go out there, that’s not right. I certainly don’t have the answer because the first thing that happens in college football is there is creative coaches out there that try to find ways to do things and then we have to make the NCAA staff double what it is to watch for that.
I certainly don’t have the answer to that. I think that is a little out of whack when you start seeing some of this other stuff going. And then the families having a spaghetti dinner so they can watch their son play in the national championship game. That’s not right.
Q. Urban, people in charge of this game have said they wanted to make it less like an ordinary Bowl experience and more concentration on the teams—could concentrate more on the preparation for the game. Is that the way you wanted to do it? Do you feel like that’s going to be the tone for this game in the future?
COACH MEYER: I think it is the best I have ever been around. That’s a great credit to the Fiesta Bowl staff who I have known for a couple years now. Our hotel, I was very concerned about that. Man, they got that locked down. And the practices were locked down so they have done a great job.
Usually at Bowls it is a cluster for a while trying to get things organized. But they have done—if that was a trend, they have done a very good job. It has been all football.
Q. Urban, what are your thoughts about the uniqueness of college football with the time lapse between the regular season and the tournament title?
COACH MEYER: I will let you know after the game. Sitting here on Thursday, Friday, the day before a game, I feel great about it. I was very concerned and a lot of time spent on trying to make sure we were organized. I know we played two more games than Ohio State, so I feel a little better maybe than they do. I don’t know that. But I was very concerned about it. I think we managed it well.
I kind of like—it’s the Super Bowl of college football and I think college football needed that. I will tell you about the lay-off if that really crushed us more after the game.
Q. Kind of the same thing, Urban. What do you think about playing a championship less than a month before signing day? Is there a logistical problem?
COACH MEYER: We certainly had—for example, Ohio State, they had two weeks plus on us recruiting because we were preparing for FSU and then preparing for the SEC championship, rather important games, in Gainesville. Those are two really important games.
So we prepared for those. Our coaches weren’t on the road. They were simply making phone calls and the other staffs were out recruiting. And then you go and I had to pull guys off the road. Our coordinators did not recruit during the next three weeks because we were getting ready to play. We were behind but we also had a 30-day commercial for recruiting. Everybody watching Chris Leak and our defense. So I am concerned about it, but we are doing just fine in recruiting.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH TRESSEL: Good morning. I’m not exactly sure what is left to say other than we’ve had terrific treatment as always. The Fiesta Bowl committee and all of the folks that we’ve had a chance to interact with have been extraordinary.
I have often said that memories that our young people and our coaches and our fans will have forever, and I think it is because of the relationships with the people here and how much the people here care about putting on the best possible event that they can. Our kids have done a good job of preparing. You hope that you have done the right doses of the right things and are prepared, but ultimately it comes down to how well you do things on Monday night.
I think our guys are very anxious to tee it up.
Q. Jim, health-wise, how are you health-wise? You have a couple guys dinged up a little bit. Will they both be able to play or if there are other guys that are hurt, can you fill us in on that?
COACH TRESSEL: At this point in time the one we have been talking about the most is Antonio Smith and I think he will be fine.
The other I am not sure will make it is a special teams guy, John Kerr. Outside of that, I think we will be in good shape.
Q. Jim, why do you think other quarterbacks seem to receive more attention as far as NFL prospects than Troy Smith? With all the accolades that Troy got, you think he would be number one on that board, too?
COACH TRESSEL: I haven’t really seen that board. I think a lot of those decisions are yet to be made. Right now the collegiate season has got a couple more days and then those that are going to be battling for draft status have some things to take care of, various All-Star games and Combines and individual interviews and workouts. That’s a whole season unto itself.
I don’t know. I haven’t seen any boards, but I have been busy. I’m sure Troy will do fine.
Q. Jim, it seems like that teams have treated this game less like a Bowl game and more like a Super Bowl type of event, less extracurricular activities, for want of a better word. Is that the way you wanted this to feel?
COACH TRESSEL: I didn’t see a significant difference in activities. I know they went to their steakhouses and barbecues and they ate like it was a Bowl game, I will tell you that.
I’m not sure what we didn’t do that we typically have done. We had our media day and had our practices.
So it has felt to me, anyway, to be just like Bowl games, whether they were here or elsewhere.
Q. Jim, what will you tell your seniors before this game and a game with this magnitude, not only their last game?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you know, it is a special game for everyone. I think it is an even more special game for those that are playing for their school the last time and we have got a good number of guys who have done a great job over the years.
Florida has a group of guys that have done a tremendous job over the years. And so I’m sure it will be special for both groups.
What you say to them, you know, hopefully what you have been saying to them all along, is that you have appreciated what they have done for, in our case Ohio State, and that we know they are going to enjoy their last opportunity to put on the silks and of course they have got plans for the future.
Q. Jim, when you were out here getting ready for the national championship game four years ago you had some issues to deal with Maurice Clarett and some things going on over the field. How much easier has it been this time around not having things like that and do you appreciate having a team that those are things you don’t have to deal with?
COACH TRESSEL: Of course, you would always like things to go perfectly. There weren’t more media sessions or less activities. They have got you pretty pigeoned in. What you are talking about when you are at various things, you love talking about questions like that of those seniors playing their last game and have done so much for the various schools and so forth as opposed to talking about things that are outside of the way you would want them.
Again, you kind of are plugged into a schedule and you invest the time accordingly, and you hope that the time is fun in each situation. It is more fun to talk about seniors.
Q. Coach, both you and Urban Meyer have experienced quick success with your respective teams. Do you notice any similarities between you and Coach Meyer that has brought about that success in your coaching?
COACH TRESSEL: We are both at great places. We both have excellent coaching staffs, the ability to attract good players, and I’m sure we have both had good fortune.
I haven’t been in his shoes every day, and I know in my shoes we’ve had good fortune. Hopefully we have both contributed something to the success. I’m sure there are some things I would do differently over the course of time. But you are as good as the people that surround you and the place you are. And we are both at great places.
Q. When people talk about the Cleveland contingent on your team, it is usually about the players. But as a guy who grew up in that area, do you have a sense of how the Buckeyes are followed there, giving the city a little bit of an uplift, something to smile about in sports or anything along those lines?
COACH TRESSEL: Cleveland is a place that loves their sports. They have been a historic, professional franchise there. The pro football Hall of Fame is 60 miles down the road or less. They love sports. It is part of the culture there. When the Cavs are going, they are going crazy. When the Indians have a chance, they are going crazy. When some of their own playing for the Buckeyes, they get excited about that. And so any time you can bring joy to people who follow things and those things happen to be important to them, you feel good, especially in my case when you have grown up there.
Q. Jim, I am wondering how important timing is to the passing game and whether the 50 days, 51 days, can you expect maybe some adjustment early as the guys get their timing down in the passing game?
COACH TRESSEL: I think the timing of catching isn’t as important as the timing of what are those guys doing that are chasing you and trying to knock you down before you throw it or catch it. We haven’t done live. We haven’t sacked our quarterback for 50 days. We haven’t splattered our receivers as they catch the balls for 50 days. How well we protect will have more to do with our timing and the 51 days, quite honestly.
You know, again, there may be getting used to adjustment for both teams that haven’t played in a while. I don’t think that’s a huge issue.
Q. Coach, it is probably day eight or day nine for you here. How do you stay fresh and wind up instead of winding down?
COACH TRESSEL: This is a pretty easy place to stay fresh. The way you are treated, just everything has been extraordinary. The weather, we had one day and everyone that is from here is walking around with winter coats and our guys are in shorts and they thought they had a major rainstorm and it rained for, like, four minutes.
It is pretty easy to stay fresh here. Especially with the treatment you get. Every day is fun for the kids. And they know what’s most important and most fun and that’s the game. So that keeps you fresh on its own.
Q. When you look at which freshmen are going to enroll early, how do you determine that, which ones should and which ones would be a good fit?
COACH TRESSEL: You start off with the ones that are interested in doing it and see if they academically can graduate and take care of things and handle admissions and so forth in midterm.
In our particular case, we have two opportunities. We started school as many of you know, this past Wednesday, January 3rd. And so if a guy could graduate in December, could he start then. We didn’t really have anyone do that this particular year.
We have over the course of time. Or you can start spring quarter, at the end of March in our case. We have had a handful each year. I am sure we are going to have a couple start this spring quarter, but they have to be, first, academically able to handle it.
Q. Kirk Barton said if they picked an all-time Ohio State team, just players, that Troy Smith would be the captain of that team because of his leadership abilities. Is he the greatest leader you have had as a player and what makes guys want to follow him?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I think you have to produce before anyone will follow you. So it starts with his production. And then I just think you have to have an aura about you that you back up what you say. You train like you ask others to train. You are as committed to the task at hand as anyone. But I think there is something special about those guys that can step up and lead and there is no question about it.
Troy is an outstanding leader. I think he will have that ability to be a leader at the next level and I think that’s one of those intangibles that they wouldn’t be able to measure at the Combine or at the Senior Bowl or any of that stuff.
I was listening to Donnie Nickey and Rob Reynolds talk about Vince Young at Tennessee when they were home for an open date. And they talked about there is something special about that guy, I don’t know what it is. We haven’t been completing passes that high of a percentage and so forth and so on, but you just have a way of believing in him.
And I think Troy has some of those same qualities and I happen to agree with Kirk that he is one of the finest leaders ever.
Q. Coach, you have been number one since the preseason. Has there been a point after a certain point in the season or after a certain game that you said to yourself, hey, we are pretty good, we could make the national championship?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, the only time we thought for sure that we were going to be in the national championship is when that game ended on November 18th because we knew going in you have to win them all. That’s the way we enter each year. And I hope there was never a point where we were saying hey, we are pretty good, we are going to be in the national championship game, because when you play in a conference like ours, anybody can beat you. And most especially in the Ohio State-Michigan game, anything can happen.
I guess we didn’t rest easy, if you will, until the game was over.
Q. Jim, both you and Coach Meyer have talked a lot about preparedness. Last 36 hours now, is it time to sort of put preparing aside and relax a little bit and get focused?
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah. I think every phase of it is a different sort of preparation. Right after our season, the part of the preparation was to get some rest and take care of academics.
Then there was a part of the preparation that was fundamentals. Then there was a part that was game plan. Then there was a part to take some more rest. And then there was a part to travel and get back at it and refine that game plan.
Certainly, these last 36 hours are different than many of the hours leading up to it. But for every moment, there’s there are certain things you have to get done.
Q. Craig Krenzel had not bench of a runner in his career, but in 2003 Fiesta Bowl he ran a lot. Troy has not run a lot but diminished some as he wound down. Do you anticipate Troy will be used as a runner more this game than he has throughout the season?
COACH TRESSEL: I would not anticipate Troy being the leading rusher in the game, you know, like Craig was. That’s still one of the great trivia questions, is who was the leading rusher in that particular game, and it was Craig Krenzel. There are some other guy that is could run an it pretty good. I wasn’t anticipating that in Troy’s case.
Q. Jim, you have had a month to prepare for Florida. Do you feel like you have a grip on this matchup, meaning what you are facing? In a game like this, does it take a quarter to figure each other out?
COACH TRESSEL: I think we have as good a grip as we can to this moment. But I think you have to get on the field and actually get in the ring before you know exactly what’s going on. Our guys have had that situation before and I think they will be able to handle the ups and downs that will occur for sure in the course of the game. Will it take a quarter, will it take two quarters, I don’t know how long it will take.
Our guys will have a handle on what they’re up against not until they are up against it.
Q. Coach, in 2002, some people called you the “luckeyes” because of the way you were able to get by in some of your games —
COACH TRESSEL: Were you one of those guys?
Q. Not a bit. How much, as you put it, good fortune does it take in getting this far and do you see some parallels in the way Florida has managed to get through in its close games?
COACH TRESSEL: I think we have both had good fortune in 2006. I think that is a part—I think you can go back to any team that’s had an outstanding season, whether they are champions of the country or just their conference or whatever. And you would find the ball bounce right a couple times. Maybe us throw a ball and it could have been picked and it wasn’t or whatever. So I think good fortune—we would be kidding ourselves if we thought we were the reason for all good things.
So now, as far as had they had an inordinate amount of good fortune, I wouldn’t say so. They have earned—you look down their schedule, watch their film throughout the course of the year, they have earned their way to be here.
Q. How would you feel about a proposal that would allow athletes who help their teams get to this level, to this kind of Bowl game, get maybe a token, a significant bonus, I guess for lack of any better word, just a small amount of, I guess we call it profit sharing, not a lot but just something significant? How would you feel about that kind of proposal?
COACH TRESSEL: I think that would take a lot of discussion, and that’s what I think people like about the game of football, is that there are so many components that go on to the success of a team.
When you are talking about anything within the collegiate athletic realm, you cannot separate it by sport. So I think it would take a lot of discussion.
But I will say this, our guys have certainly enjoyed a lot of the fruits this week because they’ve—we have been treated tremendously.
Q. Coach, this is your eighth championship game, your first with Youngstown State in 1991. As you get ready for a game like this, talk about those experiences and how they help prepare you for a big game?
COACH TRESSEL: I think any time that you are in experience with really good competition, you learn something about yourself and you learn something about what it is to compete at the highest level of wherever you are.
Any time you can go up against a number of teams that are every bit as good or better than you and try to figure out a way to compete with them, I think it helps and you learn some things. As you move on, things are different. Nothing is ever the same in the way you prepare.
But if you’ve paid attention and your coaches have, in our case if our players have paid attention over the years of going against great teams like Florida, and we have learned some good lessons, it has got to help us.
Q. Coach, Chris Leak took over and had a long playing time in 2003 and in four years has seen a lot more playing time than most quarterbacks. Troy Smith has seen a lot of playing time since 2004. In looking at the film over the past season, can you talk about the emergence of Chris Leak and Urban Meyer’s offense as compared to Troy Smith and his maturation process with Ohio State over the same time?
COACH TRESSEL: I am a Chris Leak fan. I happen to think he is good. He has done it year after year. He has taken his team to a SEC championship and on to a chance to be the national champions.
You look at his figures, they’re extraordinary over the course of time. I think it is tough on a quarterback when systems change and staffs change. That’s why I was impressed with Craig Krenzel in our particular case that a new world came in and he adapted so well to change. I think Chris has been first class. He has been a guy that academically stands for the right things. He is a guy that stands as a champion.
I think he has grown just like Troy has grown. They have both been very serious about becoming better and better and better at their trade. It is kind of a neat thing to see those two guys having a chance to compete for the crystal ball.
Q. Jim, how much talk has there been around about being wire to wire, number one, and do you sense these guys really want to do that, be the first Ohio State team to do it?
COACH TRESSEL: We haven’t had any discussion about it other than at the beginning of the season in preseason, Gene Smith, our athletic director happened to mention that to the team. He said, you know, one thing you always want to do in life is find ways to separate yourself from our greatness. It will take a lot of hard work and so forth, but that type of thing would separate you.
We really haven’t had any discussion about that ever since.
Q. Coach, is there something as you prepare for tomorrow night’s game that you have noticed about Florida now that—or a particular facet of the game that they are a lot better at that you may have not noticed before the week started?
COACH TRESSEL: Boy, you know, we got to watch the whole to start with, so we didn’t really have any impressions to begin our study. And you don’t really make preliminary discussions until you have studied the whole gamut.
I’m not surprised by any of their excellence because you don’t win that league, you don’t position yourself where they are without doing the things they did across the board, in their special units and with their defense and with their offense and with their coaching and creativity and all the rest.
So I really wasn’t surprised because I got to look at the sum total before I needed to make any generalization in my mind.
Q. Coach, as we have talked to the players and the coaches over the past few days, everyone keeps mentioning their conference. We all know the Big 10 and the SEC are two of the best conferences in the country. Is it just a matter of pride with you guys about our conference or do you really think there is a difference between being in the Big 10 or being in the SEC? Is that really part of all this? Or is it just a matter of, hey, we want to have the best conference?
COACH TRESSEL: I think one of the fun things about Bowl games, whether they are for the national championship or they are just another Bowl game is being a part of how your conference does. I think that’s another thing to get excited about.
Our guys take great pride in our conference because they run into those guys all year long and they bang into them and they compete with them and so forth, and they are proud of the people they compete with.
And then you get into the postseason and everyone is talking about how did your conference do? And you want to contribute to your conference doing well, and I think that’s real.
Q. Coach, what’s your favorite part of preparing for a national championship game? Is it the game planning? Is it the motivating your players? Or can you really not think about what’s your favorite part before the game is finished? What’s the most fun about preparing for a national championship game?
COACH TRESSEL: The thing I mentioned after the season was over is that the best part about having a chance to play on January 8th was that we were going to get an extra week with all these guys, because spending time with these guys is—that’s what it is all about. The process in my mind is the fun of it.
In everything we’re doing, whether we are sitting around and having fun or we are sitting behind the film projector trying to figure things out or out on the practice field running around, it is all fun. There is none of it that’s not. And I don’t know that I could pick anything more exciting than the other, other than the day of the game, you know, the competition. That’s what you shoot for.
Q. Jim, one of your defensive players this week said you handed out a card with a Confucius saying on it. I was curious what motivational device you used during the year that did or did not work and could you share the Confucius saying with us?
COACH TRESSEL: Obviously that one didn’t work because it wasn’t Confucius (smiling). It happened to be Nelson Mandela. But anyway, so some of them work and some of them don’t.
Q. Jim, for your fifth-year seniors, being around that ‘02 championship team and now having a chance to be a major part of this year’s possible championship team, how much do you think that experience is going to help those guys when the lights come on, the ball is snapped and the game gets underway?
COACH TRESSEL: Maybe it will have helped them on their anticipation of how difficult the task is, although they may not even know how difficult the task was that night because they were cheering.
But really once the ball snapped, you are going to have to rely on your preparation and just who you are and what you have to do and are you good enough to get the job done and I don’t know if anything from five years ago can make a difference that night.
Q. Coach, there are a lot of players in this game that are playing as true freshmen. Not all of them are playing significantly. To compete with lesser programs that might be able to offer more playing time, do you feel like there is a pressure in recruiting to play kids as true freshmen that might have a couple years ago taken a redshirt?
COACH TRESSEL: Not really. The thing we talk about in recruiting and follow then when players get here as freshmen is we do what the team needs done. And if the team needs the services of that freshman, then that’s what that team needs, because that year, that team is what’s most important.
If that team can get along without the services of that person and a developmental redshirt can occur, which usually happens with about half your players, then that’s fine and well, too. No, I don’t feel any pressure to play guys just from a recruiting standpoint.
Q. Coach, the BCS, in your opinion, has it worked this season? And if not, would you like to see it changed sometime in the near future?
COACH TRESSEL: I think the BCS as it has evolved from the beginning has worked. It will constantly be reviewed and there will be a lot of discussions as to what is the best thing, and it is a very complicated matter because it isn’t just about one single thing.
But I think the BCS has done a good job and I think it has worked this year without question.
Q. Jim, what is it about the demeanor or the makeup of this team that enabled it to handle the pressure of being number one all season? Can you put a finger on what’s that been?
COACH TRESSEL: I think they have had good leadership from their senior class. There is a lot of those guys that have been here quite some time and a question or two ago they asked was there something that would be an advantage since those guys had been here before. I think the advantage was during the year. And they have done a nice job of keeping our guys focused on the task at hand. I think they did pay attention when they were younger, when we did things well and maybe when we didn’t do things as well.