COACH JIM TRESSEL
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Jim Tressel. If you’ll start us off with a few comments and then we’ll take some questions.
COACH TRESSEL: As I was standing up here with Coach Petrino with the trophy, it kind of reminded me back the first BCS game we were ever a part of. I showed up at this press conference in my sweat suit. And Larry Coker had his coat and tie on. I thought they probably didn’t use those nine million pictures they took.
But it’s a tremendous honor to be a part of games like this. Really, it’s more than a game. I was talking a little bit last night with Mike Sly at one of the events, and the opportunities that we as schools and conferences and kids have to experience different cultures and meet new people and hear different speakers and be a part of different things is you know, it’s extraordinary.
And it’s a neat opportunity for kids. And the folks here at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, their hospitality is tremendous. And the opportunities the kids have to experience things are special. The people over at the Dome were unbelievable.
And our kids are out there practicing on the field that the NFL plays on every Sunday. And it’s been a wonderful opportunity. We always talk about these opportunities being life changing opportunities for our kids. And it’s been fun. I think we’re all anxious to tee it up and get going.
We know we’re playing against a wonderful football team. If you’re fortunate enough to be at games like this, you know that your opponent is going to be extraordinary. And Arkansas is just that. It’s been fun getting to know Bobby a little bit and some of our guys know some of the guys on the staff.
Of course, we’ve competed with John L. Smith a little bit over the years. And it’s another experience that you feel very fortunate to be a part of.
And I think our kids are excited and know the task at hand. And looking forward to that. And we’ve been here since the 29th and they’ve experienced a lot and are excited to go out and be in a tremendous football game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Jim, I’ve been asking the players all week about whether or not adversity can help a team grow closer, rally together. You’ve had experiences particularly in Bowl games before with stuff going on outside. Your players seem to have responded well in those situations. What makes that so and are you hopeful that’s the case?
COACH TRESSEL: I think adversity, whether it’s for a football team or for an individual or for those that aren’t football players is always the greatest teacher. Not always the most fun. But always the greatest teacher.
I think it does give you an opportunity to be inwardly reflective and all of those things. And I think I’ve been around Bowl situations where sometimes I was worried that everything seems like it’s too good and all of a sudden you might be get shocked at the adversity you face on the field and we’ve been a part of moments where we’ve had to handle some adversity.
But nevertheless, as we move closer to game time, our ability to handle adversity and play together and stay together.
And the last time we were, it here wasn’t in the Sugar Bowl, per se, but playing against LSU. I thought we came out ready to go and played pretty darn well and then had some adverse things happen, and probably got knocked off kilter a little bit and didn’t regain our feet for 10 or 12 minutes in the game. And when you’re playing great teams, that’s not something that you can afford to do.
And so you’d like to think that you can gain from those adverse situations. Not that you want them to occur in hopes that you learn from them, but you would hope that will be the case maybe in this game, but more importantly down the road for individuals and teams in the future.
Q. With all the things that Ohio State has done, Big Ten titles or Michigan wins, where do you think that Bowl games, where do they fit into how people evaluate both teams and players, how you perform in a Bowl game, how individuals perform in a Bowl game? How does that fit into the mix, do you think?
COACH TRESSEL: I think when people look at teams or individuals, they get a whole laundry list of things they talk about. It might be statistics in their performance. It might be how they do in their league. It might be how they do in their rival games. It might be how they do in Bowl games and all those things.
I think when you get a chance to play in Bowl games, you just give one more opportunity to add to your legacy, to be evaluated within how you’ve done.
But where they rank, you know where Bowl games rank versus other things, I don’t know, I’m not sure where any of the things rank, per se.
But it’s part of the data that’s talked about.
Q. As you watched on Saturday, the Big Ten took a lickin’ from the SEC. Do you feel like you’re carrying a little bit of a burden in that respect, the banner of the SEC of going against the SEC, Big Ten against the SEC, and how does that figure into your plans?
COACH TRESSEL: I think one of the big thrills about playing in the Big Ten is that we know our Bowl alliances and the games where we have a chance to compete against the SEC and other conferences and so forth. And to me that’s one of the bonuses about playing in our league.
We always say if you ever want to become the best, you play against the best. And I didn’t really see many of the games. I got back to see the later games that day. Obviously I saw the results.
Does it add something more to our challenge? I don’t think so. Arkansas is enough of a challenge of its own. What someone else did or didn’t do is probably going to have very little effect on how we do against Arkansas. And our guys have been preparing hard to compete against a great team, which happens to be from the SEC.
I’ve said all along, I think if you go back to any of the thoughts I’ve had over the course of the years, is that I’ve always held in tremendously high esteem the programs in the SEC, and this one is this one is no different.
Q. Your thoughts on Pryor on criticizing former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit this week?
COACH TRESSEL: As we talked about with any of our kids in terms of giving their opinions on things, I’ve always felt that sometimes those are best left unsaid, which is difficult sometimes for kids because they spend so much of their time hearing people’s opinions of them.
But I’ve always wanted to err on the side of sometimes keeping my thoughts. But I guess that’s why we get to play this game in this great country and so forth. We’re allowed to say what we think, and that’s, I guess, one of the standards that makes our country a little bit different.
But as I’ve said before, not simply about what TP might have said, but what anyone might say from an opinion standpoint, I’m not sure giving opinions is that flattering.
Q. What kind of reins have you tried to keep on your guys this week, balancing the practice and in fact, some of the guys who were part of the suspended group were out, you know, some elbow grease and hedge clippers and clearing a lot in the lower Ninth Ward this morning. Do you find that helpful, therapeutic?
COACH TRESSEL: In terms of how we were trying to keep the reins on our guys, when we go to any Bowl game, before we leave, before we print our schedule, we sit down with our seniors and we talk about here’s the events that we get a chance to go be a part of and here’s the practice schedules and so forth. Now, where do you think we ought to be from a curfew standpoint, and that type of thing.
So it’s been very similar. I think there was a night or two where they had a 1:00 o’clock curfew and the rest of the time it was midnight, 11:30 type thing. And I haven’t heard any issues with that.
One of the opportunities our entire team had to take part in if they would have liked to was a community service project. I think we had 25 or 30 guys go out there this morning and clear some land and that type of thing with being around some of our fans. And a couple of the kids told me that Dr. Gee, our president, was out there helping out and so forth, and the cheerleaders and the band and that type of thing. And again the list of opportunities that our kids have had from the time we arrived through today, in my mind, have been so valuable. And again those opportunities for those kids on our team, Arkansas team, I don’t know how many Bowl games there are 30 some Bowl games you know, it’s hard to put the right value on that. I think our kids have done a good job. They also know part of the job is do we play to our ability come Tuesday night.
Q. How confident are you that the suspended players will keep their word to you and return for next season? And has anything happened to maybe make you believe any differently?
COACH TRESSEL: I’m totally confident. Totally.
Q. Jim, how much lower on the radar screen would you have rather have been on this Bowl with all that’s going on? It strikes me often you’ve been successful when you’ve kind of been the team that wasn’t getting all the attention. Is that something that kind of comes with a big game, being the team that’s kind of ignored?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I think all of us as coaches like to be on the radar from a standpoint of recognizing that our kids have worked hard and have earned this opportunity to be at a wonderful Bowl game.
We obviously don’t like to be on the radar when we err, but we know that’s part of being on the radar. And it’s not wrong. But as far as whether we’ve been under the radar or over the radar, I guess I don’t check the radar that close. But we’ve been working hard to prepare ourselves and get ready to play a whale of a football team.
And I’ve been pleased with our preparation. The beauty of games, as you look back, there’s been, what, 28 games so far? You look at those games that have been played, and the same things that make the difference in games during the regular season are the ones that make the difference in this game. And so what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to make sure we do the things you need to do to be successful against a very, very good team.
And I wish I could help you more on the radar thing, because I’m not that knowledgeable on where we are there. It’s a bad answer, I know.
Q. Given all the things that have happened off the field with the kids, and specifically with Terrell, how would you describe how he’s been emotionwise, leadershipwise responding to all of this in terms of his preparations for the Bowl?
COACH TRESSEL: Terrell?
Q. Terrelle Pryor. Sorry.
COACH TRESSEL: I think his preparation has been good. I’ve said many times over the course of the years I’ve spent with Terrelle, he’s the kind of guy that, he’s really a perfectionist. When he doesn’t do as good as he could, it really bothers him. Whether it’s on a test in school or on a play during practice or something off the field, or maybe just in a casual conversation with someone, you know, he’s got a really deep seated need to do okay.
And I think he’s prepared hard. I think he’s done all the things that we’ve asked him to do and had the same type of film preparation and practice preparation and little things, and you know how coaches are, we evaluate every little thing on every play and all those things. And I have not seen I have not seen any drop off in any of that.
But I also know this about him. And that’s what I love about him, is that it really disappoints him when he doesn’t do what he thinks he can do. And I mean that universally. I don’t mean that simply off the field or I mean that within his play, within his relationships, within his role on our team.
He really wants to do well. And so he works hard to try to do that.
Q. Following along that, do you worry about Terrelle possibly pressing I mean, this could be his last game until October of next year. Will you have a talk with him about that, trying to make his mark so to speak? Because as he said the other day, many of his goals maybe going into his senior year, making a run possibly for a Heisman, things like that, are going to be wiped out by this suspension type of thing. Do you worry about him pressing?
COACH TRESSEL: We try to evaluate as we go play by play, and if we sense that there’s a pressing there, you know, obviously we’ll address that, and we always talk about the old quarterback phrase of: Take what they give you and your best throw of the day might be a throw away. And it’s okay to punt. And all those things.
But you guys that are from Columbus know him. He’s a highly competitive guy. He looks like he’s pressing a lot. He is. He’s pressing to do the best he possibly can. So we’ve got to make sure we make good decisions while we’ve got the ball in our hands or when we’re at the line of scrimmage, change and protections or whatever it happens to be.
But he knows he’s playing against a great team. And we’ve got to be we’ve got to be on target with all that we do and not be thinking anything beyond that.
And so my sense is that he isn’t sitting around consciously saying: I’m not going to play for a while so this has to be out of this world. And if he is, I suppose we’ll be able to tell that in his play and we can address that.
Q. Earlier Coach Petrino had said, you know, you’re always going to see things that you haven’t prepared for. Knowing Coach Petrino’s pension for offensive play calling and pulling a surprise here and there, how concerning is maybe that aspect, the stuff that you haven’t prepared for when it comes to this Razorback offense?
COACH TRESSEL: I think that’s always a concern you have defensively is you have a little bit longer in a Bowl game so you get a little bit more locked into what tendencies might be and all those things. And you gotta make sure that information doesn’t hurt you.
Because all of a sudden, the key breakers can be devastating. And you know, Bobby’s teams have always done that. I thought his brother did good job of that against us with Illinois this year. Came out especially early and did a couple of key breaker things, and it was challenging.
And so we have to make sure that in the course of the game, you know, that we don’t get disappointed that, hey, you know, they’re not doing exactly what we’ve prepared to do, because it’s not within the rules that they have to. They’re allowed to run whatever plays they want and line up in whatever formations they want and do what they think will work best against us.
And our job is to react to that and execute the neat thing about every defense is it’s engineered for success. And every offense is, too, so it will come down to who can block and who can tackle and throw and catch and protect and all those things.
Q. Adding to that, Petrino said that you guys are very physical on both sides of the ball. How would you describe Arkansas? What do you think is going to be the most challenging thing about them for you guys?
COACH TRESSEL: I know this, they’re a physical team. 10 and 2 and the schedule they played, week after week, the battles they were in. I mean, they’re a well banged, you know, made it through lots of rounds team.
And I’d like to think we are. And that’s the beauty of getting two folks together who both have been tested. Both have done a lot of good things. Both wished they would have done even better. And anxious to improve and to end their season the right way.
But they’re a physical I’ve said all along, I think they’re the quickest, fastest physical team we’ve faced in quite some time. And I hope we are I hope he’s right. I hope we are a physical team.
Q. A number of your players said that since the Michigan game, the biggest area they’ve seen improvement is that everyone’s pretty much healthy now. Can you talk about how much difference that will make compared to how you were playing at the end of the season? Specifically we saw Solomon Thomas didn’t seem to practice on Friday. What’s his status for the game?
COACH TRESSEL: We had a couple or three guys had a little bit of flu type things. Soly was one of them. I think Storm Klein missed a day or two in there. We had to move someone in to kind of a sick room, but we don’t have any ankles, knees, elbows, shoulder stuff, that’s anything new.
As far as who we get back, I thought we were pretty healthy near the end of the season. We lost all those guys for the year that we lost. But I’m just trying to think back. I’m not sure who we get back that we didn’t have at the end of the year. Christian is back. He’s probably in the two deep. But I wouldn’t expect him to have quite the role that he had when he was first injured.
He missed such a big chunk for a young guy. I’m trying to remember what game it was. Had to be there in October. Didn’t he miss four or five? Yeah. So we do have him back. Which, of course, helps our depth.
But other than that, you know, one of the reasons we’re blessed to be at the Allstate Sugar Bowl is that we stayed healthy, because you don’t make it through a conference schedule if you’re not healthy.
And so hopefully we can stay that way in the course of the game.
Q. I know this is off track. I wanted to get your reaction to your favorite NFL team making a coaching change today. I don’t even know what you think of Mike Holmgren, and what direction do you think he’ll be taking the Browns in?
COACH TRESSEL: There are times when you question whether I know what we’re doing at our place. How would I know what Mike’s doing? (Laughter).
The Browns are my team. Now you’re getting me in trouble in New Orleans. But the Browns are my team. I grew up a Browns fan, and I was in mourning those years we didn’t have the Browns. And now I’m back.
Coach Holmgren has had great success wherever he’s been a part of. I don’t really know him, other than I know of him.
What will he do? Gosh. No scoop here on that one. I have no idea. I have no idea.
Q. You were a quarterback in college, too. You know that competitive drive similar to what Pryor has. If you were in his shoes right now with his current situation, how do you think you would react and how do you think is a good way to react?
COACH TRESSEL: I think play by play is the only way to react as a quarterback. If you do anything beyond that, if you do anything beyond learning from the last play and getting your communication set for the next play and then working hard on all the little things that you need to do to execute that play, if you do anything beyond that one of the kids was talking I think to one of the strength coaches at the Saints, and they were talking about Drew Brees and the way that, just in walk throughs, that everything is so precise.
And that’s why he’s one of the great ones. And you know, you play that position, you better only be worried about the next play. And so that’s what I would hope he will do. If we’re going to be successful, you know, against a team like this, that’s what he’s going to have to do.
And you know, again, I think he enjoys competition. And he understands that that’s what he needs to do.
Q. You’ve had the luxury, if you will, or at least the experience of facing Mallett before. Can you talk about what you see as different, maybe seeing him now on film, his growth, and also just how that, you juxtapose him into that offense, that Petrino offense, and how explosive it makes him?
COACH TRESSEL: I remember watching him warm up when he was a freshman and we were playing up at the big house, and I mean, he could spin it.
And Chad was banged up at that time. And Ryan had played some. And you know, we weren’t for sure who we were going to face and so forth. And it was their last game, and Chad was a senior, I believe. And so we figured we would see Chad. And he tried. He was banged up.
It was kind of not a great situation to throw the ball. It was kind of a sleeting, rainy it wasn’t a wonderful time for a guy to try to spin the ball out there.
And Ryan came in and played some. And for a freshman, his composure and command and so forth were outstanding. I’ve told people here before all week or weeks leading up to this that when he left Michigan, you know, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to think, but I was happy.
I don’t know if that’s an honorable emotion or not. But I was. And as fate would have it, I guess I was being punished for that terrible thought, because here we are. And now I get him as a senior. Whoo. And I get him with a great tight end and great running backs and offensive line that hasn’t missed a start and wide receivers who can make plays, balanced, and let’s face it. I think all of us know that Bobby’s done a great job wherever he’s been with his offenses.
But that’s exciting. Our guys, when they’re sitting around 15 years from now and they’re talking to their kids or their buddies or whatever, they’re going to talk about they played against Ryan Mallett. They played against so and so. They played against so and so. And that’s the good fortune about being in situations like this.
Now, will it be a challenge? I hope to shout. And, you know, if you don’t want that challenge, when the Allstate Sugar Bowl called you up, say no thanks.
Q. Just wonder what you expect from Cameron Heyward in this last game?
COACH TRESSEL: Cameron Heyward, as any of you who have covered him know, is a special, special kid. He’s a great player. Everyone knows that.
It’s been kind of neat seeing him here, because you know his dad spent time here. And people bump into him that knew his dad and maybe give him a little bit of a story about I remember when.
And so beyond being his last game, beyond being that he doesn’t really know what the future holds and that emotion that every youngster has at that stage in their career, you know, here he is back in the city where he knows his dad loved.
So what I expect from him is, like he always does, he goes the best he can possibly go. And he knows he’s got a tremendous challenge. And he will play every play the way he has for Ohio State for four years. And I think when he’s done, he’ll have an emotional reflection that he got to do that here in the city where his dad loved so much.
And that’s pretty neat. It’s pretty neat.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.