Jim Tressel Interview In-Depth
Today, Ohio State University Coach Jim Tressel spoke with the media at length about the BCS game and more. Coach Urban Meyer is up next and his transcript will follow shortly... Stay tuned!
Q. Coach, the illness of Coach Bollman and Coach Daniels, how has that affected your preparation throughout the year?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, it has been an amazing thing to watch those guys who went through some personal medical adversities to see the way that they’ve worked so hard to make sure that they take care of themselves, number one, and take care of their responsibilities, number two.
It has been inspiring watching them. They have been tremendously efficient, focused, and they haven’t missed a beat.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your eighth national championship game for playing at Youngstown and your second here? Not a lot of coaches have been in that position.
COACH TRESSEL: Well, the only one that’s important is the one this week. We have been very fortunate. We have said many times the great players we’ve had and the great coaching staffs have been fortunate to have them working with us.
I guess you don’t ever stop and reflect on a whole picture when you are in the middle of painting a picture. We are just excited to be here and it is truly an honor.
We talk all the time about the fact that it may be your only opportunity in your life to be in a situation like this. So let’s make sure we take advantage of it.
Q. Coach, can you talk about you being from Cleveland and your Cleveland connection?
COACH TRESSEL: The Cleveland area, northeast Ohio, the entire state of Ohio is huge for us. If we are going to have a huge football team, I’m sure there are going to be some guys from Cleveland who make an impact, guys from Cincinnati and throughout the entire state.
One of the things we’ve always said is the thing that gives us a chance at Ohio State to have a good program is that the high school football in Ohio is outstanding, the high school coaching is excellent, the game is important to the people in Ohio. When you grow up in Cleveland, Ohio, and you are watching the Browns and you are watching the Buckeyes, you get excited about becoming a football player.
Q. Coach, why do you think you have been so successful against big names, you have won against Michigan, your Bowl record is tremendous. Is it something where you are successful the first time so you keep doing it the same way? Or is it just something about big games?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I’m not sure you can get a tag of being successful in big games. A year ago we lost a big one to Texas and lost a big one to Penn State. We have had our good fortune at times. It starts with good players. They pay close attention to preparation.
They wouldn’t have that good preparation if it weren’t for a good coaching staff, and they have excellent coaches. Obviously they are very talented. But you have to do it that night and we’ll see how good coaches and players we are in this big game.
Q. Can you talk about the connection between Troy and Ted Ginn off the field and how that translates to closeness from being at Ohio State to on the field?
COACH TRESSEL: We have a lot of players who are very close. Troy and Teddy have a history that goes back even further. They kind of grew up together and they care about one another more deeply than even football, more deeply than even being a teammate. And it is just they have a special bond and I know this will be a special game for them because they won’t get to play together again. They have been doing it since they were that big (indicating).
Q. Can you talk about Doug Datish?
COACH TRESSEL: Doug Datish has done a great job. Jim Bollman believes you better have a great center.
And if the guy in the middle making the calls is doing a good job like Charles Bentley did for us, like Alex Stepanovich did for us, like Nick Mangold did for us, and now Doug Datish, you will have a chance to be good up front. Doug Datish is our leader up there without a doubt.
Q. Coach, why do you believe you are going to win Monday night?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know I have ever said that I believe we are going to win. I believe that we’ve got good kids. I believe that we have guys that have worked hard to understand in this matchup, what it is going to take to be successful. I believe in our kids.
But I think you play the game one day at a time in preparation and one play at a time. And if you start thinking about and predicting about what the outcome is going to be, I think you have lost sight of the task at hand.
Q. Do you think you are better than the Gators?
COACH TRESSEL: I believe we are a good football team. We haven’t played the Gators. I think they’re outstanding. I have watched them on film. Great preparation, great speed, excellent creativity. I think that’s why we are having the game.
Q. There has been a lot of talk about Bowl games, national championships play-offs, this is the first time you have played in what in essence is called a national championship. Does it feel different when it is not necessarily a Bowl game?
COACH TRESSEL: They have done a nice job here with the Fiesta Bowl committee making our kids feel as if it is a Bowl game. Because one of the things, I think, that you worry a little bit about if you get too much into the discussing of being in play-off mode is that you lose some of that Bowl game flavor. And Bowl games are fun for kids whether they are playing for the national championship or they are playing just because they have had a good season and earned that and some of the activities that go along with it. I think they have done a nice job of making it a Bowl atmosphere while giving you a chance to prepare for a championship game.
So, no, this doesn’t feel any different than any other time that we have been here.
Q. Would you have wanted to play Boise State after watching them last Monday night?
COACH TRESSEL: Boise State is awfully good. I watched them for about ten minutes. I have been watching Florida for hours and hours and hours so I’d rather play them.
Q. Jim, is the stuff about the speed—do you think both teams are pretty equal in that department?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know that you ever know comparisons of teams until you see them play each other. I think Florida has extraordinary speed everywhere, whether it is their punt team, their punt block team, their receiving core, their running backs, their DBs, their linebackers, their front. They have excellent speed.
We try to recruit speed. We will find out how we compare.
Q. But, I mean the perception, is that a little frustrating because outside of the senior guys, they still look at it—Ted Ginn is as fast as anyone there is?
COACH TRESSEL: You are going to see a whole bunch of fast guys on this field Monday night. I am sure it will be a fast surface, which is just what everyone wants.
And, again, it will be interesting to see the matchup. No, it doesn’t ever get frustrating. The only thing that we enjoy doing is preparing for the game. I guess answering all the questions and all that gets a little redundant.
But we don’t worry about people’s opinions because we have to form people’s opinions on Monday night.
Q. Coach, what’s your take on the growth of the sport and making this national championship game? You look around and the numbers of people who are here, people that care about it? What’s your take on the way this has grown and of course having a role in that?
COACH TRESSEL: I think the reality of sport right now is that we’re covered so broadly. People get to watch football games—I don’t know how many football games there were on T.V. this year, but there had to be thousands. And so people know the game better. They appreciate the kids and the work they do and the competitiveness.
They appreciate good teams when they see them and they watch the Ohio State-Michigan game and they appreciate that. Then they watch the Florida-Arkansas championship game and people appreciate that game.
They say, man, let’s go cover Ohio State and Florida. Let’s watch Ohio State and Florida. I think it is because we’ve gotten so much exposure, people appreciate who our kids are and what they do and how well they play this game and football is a game that has so many people involved and I think people like that about it as well.
Q. Jim, the long lay-off, did you have to do something a little different, a little special so you are ready for the speed of the game?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I don’t feel as if we have had a lay-off. We have been working pretty hard since the day the season was over. You try to practice as fast as you can. That’s all we were allowed to do. We weren’t allowed to go out and have a scrimmage with another team. We have done all we can do to emulate the game.
Again, whether it is comparisons or it is emulation, it won’t occur until Monday night and then you will be able to adjust.
Q. Is that a risk? Is that a special challenge that you have?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t think so, nope.
Q. If you were one of us asking you questions, what would you ask you?
COACH TRESSEL: What would I ask me? You know, kind of like the question that came up about is this different being a championship game than a Bowl experience because to me that is important for our kids to have a Bowl experience and not just another game that happens to be for the championship.
And to me, that keeps it a little bit in the perspective into what we are trying to do. I suppose I’d ask, Hey, Coach, your school started Wednesday, what adjustments have you made from that standpoint, because that’s important as well.
Again, I wasn’t trained to ask questions. I wasn’t trained to answer them either, by the way.
Q. Jim, how do you prepare for the two quarterbacks against your defense?
COACH TRESSEL: I think you have to be aware of who is in the game at every position. Most certainly the guy that’s going to get his hand on the ball which many times is the quarterback. But you better know where 81 is and 5 is and 8 is and 42 is. And you better know where all the guys are. But most especially you can only do certain things with certain situations.
But you better not assume that one quarterback does this and the other quarterback only does that because both of those quarterbacks are capable of everything.
Q. Did you ever do that at Youngstown? Did you ever play two quarterbacks?
COACH TRESSEL: We have played two quarterbacks at times. Sure, when you are trying to make sure that you heighten the abilities of both.
Q. Jim, your players say you give them zingers when they are least expecting it. Is there a side of you that the media doesn’t know?
COACH TRESSEL: I wouldn’t give the media zingers. I suppose there is a side of us no one knows. We have a lot of fun with our players. To me, that’s part of the relationships and it can’t be all work and no play.
We try to play a little.
Q. How many vests do you have?
COACH TRESSEL: How many vests? Sweater vests? Gosh, I don’t know.
COACH TRESSEL: Whatever is in my locker. I don’t know. They put them in and I put them on.
Q. Jim, what have you come to appreciate the most about Troy Smith getting to this place? I am talking not so much as a player but as a person.
COACH TRESSEL: I have always enjoyed Troy’s passion to be successful. From the day I met him, you could tell he had a fire burning inside that he had some ideas of what he wanted to be, and he has gone on and he has worked hard at that.
I really appreciate that. He has always been willing to listen and he is like a sponge for knowledge. I know that’s often used, but he really is that.
Q. Coach, the game plan has obviously been in for a while. What have these last few days here preparation-wise about—do you sense a difference in the guys that, hey, this lay-off is almost over?
COACH TRESSEL: You can see as we tailor down the plan and shorten the practices, it gets closer, you can see them getting anxious and getting into that late in the week mode. Today for us is Wednesday. I don’t know what day it is in the rest of the world, but today it is Wednesday for us.
You can see him getting focused in on what we are trying to get done and I am sure they are getting anxious. It has been a long time since they have had that thrill of running out onto the field and getting a chance to compete.
So you can definitely feel it is coming.
Q. What are your impressions of Florida’s secondary? They have the same number of interceptions as your guys, a lot of turnovers. How big of a challenge are there?
COACH TRESSEL: Florida’s secondary is excellent. They brought the young man over from Utah who I think really came in and made a difference, 28. 22 is a veteran kid. He has been around the game a long time.
Number 1 is the great eraser. He is incredible. The amount of territory that he can cover. And then those inside safeties, 18 and 19, physical, talented. They can play a run. They can cover man. They can cover zone.
Just like all the other parts of their team, their secondary is very deserving of being in this position.
Q. Jim, when you took this job, what were your expectations?
COACH TRESSEL: Expectations at Ohio State are always high. People like to talk about Big 10 championships and national championships and that type of thing. But I guess my expectation coming in was trying to create a situation where you go to work on building every day getting better. And at Ohio State, you are going to attract good student athletes, and if you do get better and better and better, maybe those things, those major expectations, will come true.
But my expectation was to work every day.
Q. Jim, the track record with big games like this and the long time to prepare, what are the keys aspects in these kind of scenarios to maximize the ability to play?
COACH TRESSEL: I think the blend that you try to create of time off, of academic time of fundamental work on the field, of game planning, of not over game planning. Getting to the point where you are going to play your best on that day. That’s the challenge.
Sometimes you do it well and sometimes you don’t. But that’s what you are up against and what you try to blend.
Q. Jim, with the expectations at Ohio State, before you got there, they had won national championships. Now you are in a position to win the second in five years. What’s the key to your success?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you know, you don’t really stop and think about it too much. You go to work. And every day you evaluate what you did yesterday and how can we get better at what we did yesterday. We get good players.
I think you have to understand that. We have excellent coaches. People want to coach at Ohio State. So when you have good players and good coaches who want to get better each day—granted, we had have good competition and they are doing the same thing, but you just go to work and you try to get better and if enough good things happen, they will let you keep trying to get better.
Q. How similar is your day-to-day operations, your philosophy to your success?
COACH TRESSEL: The whole game hasn’t changed a whole bunch from IAA to IA. Obviously there are nuances that are a little bit different. The difference is the recruiting aspect. At IAA, we waited to see who IA didn’t want. At IA, you have to go out on the front end and see who you can get.
So, you know—and I think the world has changed a little bit recruiting-wise with the Internet services and the exposure and the kids being talked to constantly and their families being highly educated and so forth about it. So it has changed a little bit. But the fundamentals of what we try to do have not changed one bit.
Q. When you were at Youngstown, was it always your goal—not necessarily at Ohio State, to IA you were there for a long time, did you feel this is where I should be?
COACH TRESSEL: I think all of us at times think about our careers. We hopefully on a day we are supposed to be working on the job, we are not thinking about down the road.
I think in those times that I considered my career per se, I was fine with being at Youngstown State because there are only a few head coaching jobs in the country. There are probably more reporters in this building than there are head coaches in the country.
So when you have one of those, you shouldn’t feel too bad about anything. And I never really had a time line saying I wanted to be in IA by this time. My belief always was something I learned from an athletic director years ago. He said, Keep your mind and your rear end in the same place. Didn’t say it exactly that way. He said, Then you will be fine.
And I heeded that advice because wherever I was, I was always working only on that and then when the proper times came when you could have some considerations about other things, assess the opportunities and made decisions and then went back to work.
Q. When the opportunities came up for Ohio State, do your job might be a little cliche (indiscernible)?
COACH TRESSEL: Ohio State didn’t really come to me. I called Ohio State in this particular case. When it came along at the time it came along, you know, I threw my hat in the ring and kind of talked about here is what I believe and here is how I would proceed, and thank goodness Andy Geiger and his committee and so forth decided to give me a chance. And is it a dream job and so forth? I grew up in Ohio. I coached in Ohio. Of course it would be more of a dream than some other place miles and miles away.
But I didn’t wake up every morning dreaming about going there. I don’t want to imply that. I woke up every morning working at Youngstown State.
Q. What about your preparation has allowed for your success in big games, whether it is BCS games or the big regular season games this year?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, this year we have had success in all our games.
Now, we haven’t always had success in every game. And we haven’t prepared any differently this year than we have any other year. We are very conscious of fundamentals. We are very conscious of trying to do what our guys do best. I think you have to assess your talent and say, okay, that’s wonderful that they can do that but that’s not our kind of guys; our guys can do this.
And so we work hard on that and our kids train hard, it is important to them. And they know the challenges and they know this challenge coming ahead is extraordinary and I know they are excited to see how they can do.
Q. They say even if they are always there, you are there before they are?
COACH TRESSEL: It is easy to get places before college students. I mean, college students aren’t always there, you know, that early (smiling).
Q. Coach, if you had to pick one quality that has allowed you to have such success in big games, whether it be against Michigan or Bowl games, one quality, what would it be?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know. Barry Alvarez is doing the game for Fox. And I am 1-3 against Barry Alvarez. I’m not sure that big game is going to come up too much.
Q. Barring that.
COACH TRESSEL: Good players. Was I allowed one word or two?
Q. You are allowed to expound as much as you want.
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, gosh. This is a T.V. interview. I know you like short snippets.
Q. What do you think the perception is, Coach, if you have any idea, of you outside the state of Ohio?
COACH TRESSEL: Gosh, I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even know what it is inside the state of Ohio. I can’t worry about that.
Q. Coach, I know you talked about it a little bit earlier but the two quarterbacks with Florida, how much do you—given what you see on film all season long, how much do you feel you have a grasp on how they will use Tebow in different situations?
COACH TRESSEL: We have a very good grasp on how they have used him. We have no idea how they will use him. And that’s the beauty of football.
You can pretend that you know everything and then all of a sudden you have been doing something and have you been setting up something for quite some time to go to the next level, the next step.
So we know exactly how they have been used. We have tried to anticipate how they will continue to use them. There will be a lot of the things that will be the same. And then you try to anticipate what will be the new wrinkle.
And that’s the fun of it.
Q. Speaking of wrinkles, how much has Boise State and Oklahoma’s game kind of sparked new interest by fans especially about trick plays and why don’t we maybe see things like that in big games too much? Is it just too much risk?
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know that we see less of these kinds of things in big games. There wasn’t a bigger game in the world for Boise State or Oklahoma than that one. I mean, that’s the biggest game in the world. And I think if you looked across the land, I saw Georgia on- side kick. That was a big game for them. It wasn’t like, well, this isn’t a big game and we will try this. Georgia Tech did the same.
So I don’t know that it’s—the game is huge if you are playing in it. I played Division III football and it was—our game was more important than the Ohio State-Michigan game to us.
I think you will see plenty of wrinkles from both teams.
Q. You have so much time to prepare and so much time to work.
COACH TRESSEL: That’s one of the things that will be evaluated on Monday is did we overprepare or did we underprepare. I wish I had the answer. But I am very confident in our coaching staff in what they have tried to do.
Q. What kind of things—what is the importance of special teams? Who taught you the importance of special teams?
COACH TRESSEL: Growing up around football, watching my dad coach and then playing the game, it is not like it just started being talked about. Special teams has always been huge. Football is more talked about now and so, therefore, the things that were talked about just within the meeting rooms and the coaching staff rooms are being talked about all over the place. It used to be just the people involved in them talked about them.
Now people not even involved in the game talk about them. All you have to do is study the game, whether you have to be in it or not, and special teams have made a huge impact for Ohio this year, the University of Florida this year, and for any champion any year.
Q. (Question about DeShawn Wynn)?
COACH TRESSEL: He is a good football player from Cincinnati. You hate losing anybody out of your state. Realistically you can’t keep everyone. It is good to see that he went down there and had fun and has pressed on. He is a good football player. I am sure had he dreamed five years ago that his final game in the 2006 season was going to be against his hometown state, I am sure he would have thought, man, that’s awesome. And I know he will play it up a notch because that’s just human nature.
Q. What about when your assistants went down and spent time with Urban Meyer’s staff, what kind of things did they learn or also share that would be evident in watching the game?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know that you will see anything that you could say, hey, that was picked up in that discussion, because we have discussions with staffs all the time, whether it is on the phone or exchanging video or going down and meeting with one another.
Tim Beckman on our staff coached with Urban at Bowling Green. They have had a great rapport going back and forth. I don’t know that you will be able to pinpoint something on the film or on the T.V. set or at the game that came as a result of that one particular visit together.
I think the fact that both of these teams are highly organized and meticulous about what they do, those types of meetings are just—that’s how that results. And so that’s the way I think you will see it.
Q. Did you see it in practice a lot?
COACH TRESSEL: You will see it in practice. It won’t be a play or defense. I think it is just a way of operation.
Q. Kirk Barton, kind of a free spirit kind of guy. Does the team need a couple free spirits or is there a level of freedom that you don’t want to --
COACH TRESSEL: The world needs everything. Look around the room here. There is all shapes and sizes. I am sure all personalities and styles, our team needs that. If we had all the same kind of guys, it wouldn’t be any fun. And Kirk Barton is a great kid. He loves the game of football. Loves his teammates. And we need Kirk Barton, that’s for sure.
Q. The thing after the Michigan game, did that --
COACH TRESSEL: We took care of that.
Q. Did that bother you at all?
COACH TRESSEL: At all? That’s a broad statement. It is like everyone says “is everything all right.” I don’t know about everything being all right. But there is a lot of all right. Yeah, we took care of it.
Q. Coach, Troy Smith has been fantastic in the red zone this season, 21 touchdowns and no picks. What has allowed him to have such success inside the 20?
COACH TRESSEL: Troy has really learned to slow the game down. When you get in the red zone, the game is even faster than ever because the people don’t need to back up any more. So there are more bodies in a tighter area.
And so things are whizzing around. But Troy has really grown through experience to slow the game down in the red zone.
And you are going to make good decisions when you have the game slowed down.
Q. How has your personality allowed you to connect with players?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I hope my personality is caring. And I think young people—one of the things that they want to be a part of is a caring situation. I hope I am demanding because I think players want to be part of a demanding situation when they are as highly passionate about their craft as they are in college football. So caring and demanding and I don’t know what else.
I would hope those two are a part of who we are.
Q. And the if you get away from football?
COACH TRESSEL: It is probably boring: We don’t get away from football too much. And when we do we are tired so we are not that much fun.
Q. You talk about the 15 years you spent at Youngstown and how that contributed to your growth professionally and as a person?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, those years in Youngstown really helped me understand how much impact a good football program could have.
I always appreciated football and grown up with it and thought it was important and it was just kind of happened to be what I liked. But all of a sudden, when you are in Youngstown and you see the way a group of people rallies around a group of kids and rallies around some success and perhaps at a time they needed it, that really etched in stone my understanding of how important it can be to people bigger than yourself. Bigger than you winning the game or making your goals.
That was a great learning time for me and then obviously because there was a play-off system and we had so many games that you were either in or out. You got thrown under the gun a lot. And I’m sure those experiences have helped.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Laurinaitis’s development from, I think, just one start in a Bowl last year to this year.
COACH TRESSEL: The thing about James Laurinaitis from the day he got there was that he was going to pay close attention and study from the right people. He would follow A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel all around, into the weight room, into the film room. He was going to pick up things from the right people. He was going to surround himself with the right people off the field and make good decisions.
Academically, he was going to get around the people to whom academics were very important. So he was an excellent decision maker from the day he walked in the door, and you couple that with his extraordinary talent and he is going to end up being a very good player.
Q. His dad ever say, You don’t play him, I am going to body slam you, or anything like that?
COACH TRESSEL: He didn’t mention that. But I would listen more to his mom anyway.
COACH TRESSEL: It is amazing the size of the linemen and the fact that they can move so well. It is incredible their power and strength and they just seem to get bigger and bigger every year and as long as they get bigger the right way. I don’t want them to race to weigh the most; I want them to get big and strong and continue their flexibility and movements and so forth.
But the game has changed on the front probably more than it has changed in the back ends.
Q. Can you talk about Anthony Gonzalez not just as a player but as a kid, have you had a kid like this?
COACH TRESSEL: Anthony Gonzalez brings a lot to the table. He brings a calm to the team and he brings a confidence. He brings a very open interest in academics and learning and seeking to become your best and so anyone that happens to just watch him has to take something away from him.
And then he can play. So the fact that he has that interesting ability to challenge you intellectually and personally, he also produces on the football field and that raises people’s awareness of who he is and opens their eyes to maybe listening and learning from him.
Q. Have you been in his tent?
COACH TRESSEL: I have never been in his tent. I don’t need energy. That’s the last thing I need. I need sleep.
Q. How do you prepare for gadgets or gimmicks, snapping the ball when they try to mix-up the formation. Football is football in the end. How do you prepare your team for those kinds of things?
COACH TRESSEL: You will see a lot of effort by both teams in trying to put pressure on the other team by deployment. You know, how do you prepare for it, I think you do it first with a soundness that every defense has gap responsibility and has zone responsibility, or if you happen to be in man-to-man, has man responsibility.
And your ability to be sound, even though you have maybe never rehearsed something, that’s what happens sometimes. You might never have gone against that play. But if you fall back on your fundamentals and your soundness and your zone, your discipline, to me that’s the only way you can prepare for it.
Q. Can you talk about their background of the kids being in high school?
COACH TRESSEL: I think the expectations that their high school coach, Ted Ginn, Sr., had for both of them helped them raise above the norm. He works his kids extremely hard. He expects tremendous things from his players. Now, those two guys got to do it together. They got to get beat on together, if you will.
They grew from it. They grew close and they can beat on each other because they know it is only in love. So I’m sure that this is an emotional time them playing their last game together.
Q. What do you think of Glendale?
COACH TRESSEL: This is the first time I have ever been to Glendale. Our players came over for the Fiesta Bowl. Loved the stadium. Came back, we were in coaches meetings. You know how coaches are. They came back raving about the stadium and the people and so forth. One thing I know about the Phoenix area in general, people care about football. They care about their guests. And then you look at this facility, obviously they are passionate about having the best for the participants and the fans and the media and everyone else.
So we are excited to see this place lit up.
Q. Jim, say I just got hired by a big-time school like Ohio State to be the head coach. What advice would you give me?
COACH TRESSEL: I think you have to lean on your understanding and training. I don’t think anyone can tell you how to go about a job. I hope they didn’t hire you if they didn’t think you already knew how to do the job. Believe in yourself. Believe in your plan. Believe in the way you have learned from so many.
I had a chance to watch my dad my whole life. I had a chance to work for four great head coaches, work with a bunch of assistant coaches, learn some things I would do. Learn some things I prefer not to do and then try it out for 15 years at Youngstown State and try to improve.
A person coming into Ohio State, I would say you better believe in yourself because there are expectations.
COACH TRESSEL: I think there have been discussions about player statements over the years. I think the road block has always been this. And I knew it as an athletic director for seven years, is that, for instance, at Ohio State we have 509 athletes. Could we afford to have a stipend for all 950? Probably not.
So then the decision comes down to what’s more important. Having a stipend for some and dropping 12 sports? Or not having a stipend and having as broad-based a program as we can have?
Right now our decision-making has been in collegiate athletics, especially in the Big 10, programs anywhere from 36 sports like ours. I think probably the smallest group might have 24, 22, whatever.
And having a broad-based comprehensive program, men, women, funded obviously by the sports that can generate revenue and not having the stipend issue.
Will it change? I don’t know. I for one like the comprehensive program. The more people we can have involved. And the nice thing down the road for the revenue-generating kids is that there are careers out there that if you become one of the great ones, you can maybe generate some income for yourself. Just like I’m sure you say to a medical student, keep grinding, keep grinding because there are some good things out there for you if you excel.
But, again. I don’t know where it will be. That’s in the hands of the presidents and the athletic directors.
I know our guys take great pride in the fact that we generate enough money to run the largest athletic department in the country. We have probably more student athletes than anyone—athletes than anyone in the country. And they take great pride on that.
Q. Do you see an X factor on the roster? Not an all-American like Troy or maybe somebody we haven’t seen a ton of this year?
COACH TRESSEL: Gosh, I don’t know. If I knew that, I would be practicing more of that person’s plays or his coverages or something. It will take more than the stars and everybody from top to bottom. It might be the left guard on the punt team that is a difference maker. It might be the R2 on the front rush team. Whatever it happens to be. But every guy better expect to be the difference.
Q. Is there someone on Florida’s roster that you look at on tape and say, You better keep an eye on that kid?
COACH TRESSEL: That’s the hard part. There are 60 of them. They have a lot of good players. Every time you turn around there is a new number doing a good thing.
Q. How have you changed since your approach to coaching? Has it changed at all from Youngstown State to Ohio State?
COACH TRESSEL: It probably hasn’t changed dramatically. The world has changed a little bit. I didn’t have a cell phone back there. I didn’t have a BlackBerry. I didn’t have to keep an eye on the Internet to hear was the guy going to visit our campus or not, because chances are he wasn’t going to visit our campus. It has changed a little bit, but I don’t know that I have changed a great deal.
Q. Is that part of your strengths, the consistency of the approach to each year you try to put the same system on the team you have?
COACH TRESSEL: Fundamentally, absolutely. There are certain things that we believe in and we won’t waiver from those.
Q. Jim, what is it other than recruiting the right players and putting them in the right positions, what do you attribute your big game success to?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know. People keep asking me that question. I am not sure if you go back and check the records that we have been that flawless. We have been fortunate that the ball has bounced our way some. We have been fortunate we have had those players and coaches who it is important to them to be at their best when their best is needed.
But I don’t think you can quantify in any way, shape or form good fortune.
Q. Jim, we know that Ted and Troy were very influential in other’s lives as youngsters. Can you describe how they have been influential to one another while playing in your program?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, I think they have been a certain sense of security to one another. That Troy always knew he could yell at Teddy because that’s the way they grew up and Teddy always knew he could confide in Troy because that’s the way they grew up.
I think whenever you are involved in very challenging things that you are passionate about, if people that you care about and trust and love are with you, it is a great bonus.
Q. Do you think the way that they relate and this thing that you have just described could play a role in this game that could be their last together and have so much at stake?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know how much they have thought about the fact that they may never play together again. I would guess that that’s an emotional thing.
The hard part about emotional things is you still have to play within yourself. It is my last time, it is the fourth quarter, it is the last time I am playing with Teddy, I will throw to him. You better not unless he is open.
Q. The perception of the stereotype that the players are faster in the South than players in the North. Do you have any idea where that comes from? Is it the idea that the weather is better makes them faster? I mean, it seems like it has no—there is no common sense to that?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I know this, when I turn on the film and watch all the games that Florida has played, there is lots of fast guys flying around that field.
Are there more fast players in the SEC than the Big 10? I don’t know. But I know one thing, they’re fast and I know one thing, too, that’s our number one goal in recruiting is to recruit speed.
Q. You’re fast, too?
COACH TRESSEL: We hope so. But the good thing is we will match up on Monday.
Q. Coach, what do you think the keys to the game are?
COACH TRESSEL: They are the same as they are in every game. Same as they were in the Fiesta Bowl here and the Chick-fil-A, Peach Bowl and all the rest. First and foremost, you have to take good care of the football.
I think secondly your special units have got to be outstanding.
And thirdly, I think probably is that you have to play the best you’re capable of playing within your system. If you come and try to change your system for one game it will be hard. We have to be the best us we can be.
Q. When you coached at Youngstown State, what’s your thoughts on Division I?
COACH TRESSEL: You couldn’t have one like we had in IAA because we didn’t have four straight weeks of Bowl games. I think those are really apples and oranges. I think the X factor is the factor that we have a Bowl system that’s extraordinary. And to do anything to take away from our Bowl system, I think, wouldn’t be a great thing.
Because I don’t remember how many teams—64 teams or something? Times 100 players and all the fans and coaches and so forth. We have a system right now that has two teams that get to play for the national championship, yet, continue the integrity of our Bowl system.
I would want to lean more in that direction than I would a full-blown play-off because Bowls are great experiences.
Q. What about playing in Arizona, have you been here four out of the last five years. It has to mean something special coming back to Arizona every year?
COACH TRESSEL: It really is. You get off the plane, you see some faces you know and you have appreciated. And the thing that we have learned coming here is that no one cares more about your experience at a Bowl game than the people right here. It is awfully special.
Q. Jim, Lawrence Wilson and his progress, can you talk about that?
COACH TRESSEL: Lawrence Wilson is a good player. Going into the spring and the preseason he was a little banged up and probably didn’t progress from the end of last fall to the beginning of this year like you had hoped because he missed so much practice.
Once he got healthy, his progression has been tremendous and Lawrence Wilson is going to be an outstanding player.
Q. Is he beginning as a high-level player?
COACH TRESSEL: Absolutely.
Q. Jim, going back the way it is handled from the way the NFL handles, do you have some recommendations?
COACH TRESSEL: I think it is as good a system you can get, again, because of the Bowl situation. They don’t want to put deadlines in the middle of the Bowl season. Obviously there is thinking going on, not just during the Bowl season, way prior to that by youngsters and parents and so forth.
And the NFL can’t really give us much data until we have played a season. Now, we have gotten some good data from the NFL on our juniors and been able to add that to their thinking.
I don’t know—I guess the only other thing you could do in our particular case is make it such that a guy could go in the draft. If he liked where he was picked back and forth. In football, I don’t know if that would work because how would you know on signing day then?
So based upon the circumstances we have, I would have no advice.
Q. Would you be comfortable with the four offensive players who were considering it—I guess three now, that they would be competitive—or they would be valuable NFL players now or do you think they would benefit from another year?
COACH TRESSEL: I know you probably hate this, but I would answer yes to both things. I think they are viable. They are going to play in the NFL. Will they be better a year from now? Yes. But unfortunately it is not that simple.
So I have told all our guys that I don’t think there is any wrong decision. How tough is this? You are going to be at Ohio State or NFL.
Whatever the decision is, you have to do what you need to do to become the best you can become.
Q. Jim, this year’s—the Bowl games’ finishes and high scoring, I heard a Bowl director say this year it has made the case for maybe staying with the Bowl system than a play-off system than any year he can remember. In case in point of West Virginia and Boise State. Is it possible for those kids to be any happier. Would you agree with that?
COACH TRESSEL: As I mentioned a little bit ago, I would lean more toward where we are today than a full-blown play-off system because of the experiences all these people are having in the Bowl games.
We were in the NCAA play-offs and IAA when they picked 16, and there were still five teams mad, so—and five journalists writing that their team should have been in the play-offs.
So just like at the 65 teams in the basketball, you are never going to get consensus. I like combination of Bowl experiences and your best attempt to find out if we can get the two best teams playing.
Q. As a coach, will it be difficult—if you are the Boise State coach, will it be hard to get those kids emotionally ready after what went on last week?
COACH TRESSEL: Especially if they didn’t think they were going to have a game.
Q. Coach, what are the NFL personnel people saying? What are some of the things you are hearing?
COACH TRESSEL: I think NFL people want the same thing we do, they want guys to win. They want guys to compete. The thing that I continue to say and I haven’t heard anyone disagree is that Troy can make every throw and there are some people who are excellent quarterbacks, they can’t make every throw.
We really haven’t had the traffic through in December like you have during the fall and they don’t bug us. Where they will really start rolling through is in February and March with their opinions and then after you hear all their opinions, the draft will go some opposite direction.
But I think they like Troy.
Q. Do you think his height is overrated?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, at five-foot-nine, I feel the same. Right, you agree? The rest of you (waving).
There have been plenty of guys who have played the game at six-foot and done well. Is it one of the measurables? Yes. And so people put all the things they can measure, game film, vertical jump, height, all that.
They think they can measure when they go out there and do all the throwing tests. But that’s a fact that he is six-foot and there will be some teams that shy away. But all he needs is the right team.
Q. Coach, when you look at Florida, what is the one thing that you really notice, wow?
COACH TRESSEL: How fast they are. The best team in every league is probably the fastest team. They have great speed.
Very well prepared. The difference that they have made in games—tight games with their special teams is impressive to me. I am a special teams kind of guy. And they are very creative. I think if you just at first glance just watch their stuff, they are very creative.
Q. What was the tone of the conversation with Kirk Barton?
COACH TRESSEL: My tone, we have a little challenge we give our coaches. We say, Raise your voice only in encouragement. And when you teach, there is a different tone.
And so it wasn’t an encouraging tone, okay? (Laughter). I will leave it at that. Okay.
Q. Jim, as you watched the film on Florida, is there a team that you played already earlier this year that their defense reminds you of? Or is it something totally different?
COACH TRESSEL: Texas had a lot of speed like that. Michigan, outstanding. No one could run on them type thing. And then Florida and then some.
Q. How about offensively, what you have seen on film and teams you have gone up against, are they totally different than anybody you have faced?
COACH TRESSEL: They have the style of a Northwestern and a Bowling Green. But then they also do some things that Texas did. They spread you out. They put pressure on you. They can hit fast.
Q. Coach, what is your perception of the Big 10 being slower, why do you think that is?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know for sure. I suppose historically maybe there has been some intrasectional games that have led one to believe that. I’m not sure. But the Big 10 is trying to be as fast as it can be and there is no question that the SEC is fast.
Q. Is that the first thing you look for?
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, sure. After character and academics and skill sets to play the game. Now you want to find the fastest guys that have those skill sets.
Q. Coach, you mentioned that the Cleveland area—the Dayton area has also been good. Talk about what is the factor to have guys from Ohio to be on Ohio State?
COACH TRESSEL: There is no question. I think the better we can do getting the top guys from the state of Ohio, the much better chance we have of being Big 10 champions, national champions and all the rest. That is just one part of the state.
We have to be as comprehensive in the whole state as we can be. We have been fortunate and we have got kids from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Canton. You name it, Columbus. If we are able to do that, we are going to continue to have the kind of personnel that gives you a chance to have a good team.
Q. Jim, as a coach, have you prepared any differently for this national championship than the previous seven that you have been in, one in Ohio State and the other six at Youngstown State?
COACH TRESSEL: Not really.
Q. What have you learned to help you?
COACH TRESSEL: December is always the craziest month of the year. Whether we are in the IAA play-offs, marching and trying to get to the championship, yet trying to catch up and recruiting a little or we’re in a Bowl situation where we’re recruiting, Bowl preparation, film study. December is crazy. I don’t know what else you can do than work the 20 hours a day we do in December. I don’t know how we could have changed it. Maybe slept more might have helped us.
But December is the most challenging month of the year for us and we think we have a good system. You always tweak your system. But I feel good about the preparation my players and coaches have put into this.
Now we have to perform.
COACH TRESSEL: I was looking all over for the flag and then it sailed out there and I said hallelujah.
Q. Did you expect to see fireworks?
COACH TRESSEL: I needed to find the flag.
Q. Can you talk about the background of the person Kirk is becoming?
COACH TRESSEL: Kirk is a special young man for a youngster at 21, 22, whatever he happens to be. He has been through some personally tough things, losing his father and losing some close friends and some tragic situations. And Kirk has always been a very caring person and very emotional person, even though he is quiet. One might think that he is not emotional, but he is.
He has dealt with a lot in his young life and I think handled it very well.
Q. He has got a three-point grade average?
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, yeah. Despite adversities, Kirk does a great job of keeping the task at hand.
Q. What difference is there between this game and other games?
COACH TRESSEL: Really not much difference. December is a juggling act. It is recruiting. It is Bowl preparation. It is fundamental work with the younger players. It is Christmas. There is a lot going on. We tried to have the right doses of each thing and trying to create time off for our players and those kinds of things and I feel very good about the efforts that our staff and our players have had. This is the first time I have been in here. Or players came over for the Fiesta Bowl. It reminds me a little bit—it’s so colorful like the Alamo Dome. The Alamo Dome was very colorful. Those are the only domes we have played in, and the Metro Dome. A little scarlet and gray is kind of neat. Once the game starts and you get hit a couple times, you won’t know what stadium you are in.
Q. Integrity, not overpursuing against the fast team, how do you keep your players from being so jacked up when they step on the field that first quarter, from overpursuing and getting opportunities for a big play?
COACH TRESSEL: I don’t know if there is anything we can do because we want them to play fast. We just, I think, need to have them learn as the game goes along. You get settled into things. I mentioned before, our first two plays in the national championship game in ‘02 season, first one we have 12 guys on the field because, you know, Gamble wanted to start both ways. I think is what happened.
(Smiling) then the second play our running back lined up on the wrong side and we didn’t have a guy to hand the ball to and we were nervous and hyped but we settled down. They are kids.
Q. Can you talk about Urban Meyer, you both worked in Ohio?
COACH TRESSEL: It was fun to see Urban progress. I was just leaving Youngstown when he came to Ohio State. I never worked with him. He worked with friends. He worked at Illinois state. He worked at Colorado State and had a chance to visit with him, when I visited Earl. When he was at Bowling Green, we are in the same state and watching him at Utah, talked with him a fair amount since he has been at Florida. He is just one of those good guys, always looking to get better.
COACH TRESSEL: Well, that is a compliment because he already knows how to run a program. But I think we will both admit that we can learn from a lot of people whether it is one another or people around the country.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.
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2014 Football Commits
|Davidson (NC) Day|
|Columbia (SC) Spring Valley|
|Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar|
|Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County|
|Jacksonville (Fla). Raines|
|Deland (Fla.) High|
|New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine|
|Miami (Fla.) Central|
|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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