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January 5, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Q. Coach, I saw you looking around before we started, what are you thinking?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: This is the first time I've ever been in the Superdome. And I think it was built in the early '70s, and so I've watched it on television, so many huge games. And whether they be college football, pro football, and just look around and tie that together with where you saw it in the national scheme of things, with the Katrina, and, you know, just a lot of things pass through your mind.
What has really been neat about coming here, not just to the dome, but here to New Orleans, it's just a special group of people that have been through a lot that this is such an exciting week for them and an important week, two weeks, three weeks, counting the other games, that you can feel just how special and what a privilege it is to be here.
Q. What do you expect crowd-wise, I mean in terms -- is it basically going to be a home game for LSU, do you think?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I expect our people to have gotten as many tickets as they could possibly get their hands on. How many that is, I don't know. You know, maybe a third of the group. I don't know. But I expect it to be very electric, which is a great thing. I think you can feed off the energy.
The way I look at it, I don't know if they're cheering for me or against me, but they're cheering. So that's electricity, and I expect it to be a lot of fun.
Q. You mentioned Katrina, how has Nader handled this whole situation coming down?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think Nader was excited to get back here. In fact, I think he was the first one that left Columbus when we took a break there on the 31st to get back here with family that were kind of coming back together and I think it's a very exciting thing for him and I know that there will be a lot of emotions for him or have been this week that we've been here. But I'm sure there will be some tremendous emotions for him as the game kicks off as well.
Q. Staying on Katrina, have you had a chance to take your players around, just kind of get a feel for New Orleans and see everything that went on?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think our guys have had some small snippets of opportunities. I know our official party that came with the families and administrators and all that, they had like a special three-hour tour and really got the in depth. Our guys, we haven't done the three-hour tour. They've been busy preparing for a ball game.
But they've gotten some short snippets and I think learned a little bit as times have gone on, and I think coming in here, you know, it's going to add one more piece of the puzzle for them to understand that in talking to Benny, the fellow that runs the security here, the way they look at this place is this the place that saved 38,000 lives. That's incredible.
So hopefully our guys and our staff and all of us from Ohio will grow to understand the specialness, if that's a word, of this place.
Q. Are you guys healthy, any concerns there?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: We're very healthy. There are some guys that we knew coming down we wouldn't have, and we won't. But, no, we're healthy, we're excited.
Q. Coach, what do you look at as the motivation from last year? Do you use what happened last year as motivation or is there a danger of, well, if we get down early, our guys are going to start to remembering last year, do you think?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think the motivation any time you don't do something as well as you could have, you've got to take it out in two directions. One, from an instructional standpoint, one could we do better from an execution standpoint. And then you also have to, I think, look at, okay, how did I mentally not get ready.
And so outside of that, you know, there's nothing magical that our experience can do from last year, other than teach us some lessons, and it's not going to get us any 1st downs, it's not going to get us any advantage of any kind.
But anything we could have learned from that, hopefully will have better prepared us.
Q. Did you learn anything?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: We'll find out on Monday. I think that's a premature answer. But hopefully we did.
Q. The DVD you made for the players and have heard so much about it this week, do you think you got your points across to those guys?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Well, you don't know. But the interesting thing about us coaches and I think in some sense our players is you're so engrossed in preparing and you're in a cocoon, whereas the other people are sitting there talking and drawing their opinions and all that kind of thing. And the thing that dawned on me, Anthony Gonzales happened to be back at practice, they were in an open date and he kind of talked to our guys a little bit about the fact that, you know, I know what you guys are doing because I did it last year. You're in here, you're watching film. You're preparing. It's eat, sleep and meet. That's all you're doing, plus we had final exams and all those things were part of it.
And you better understand what the public persona is. And that dawned on me that, heck, I don't even know what that is. So like anything else, you go out and you research the data.
Q. What did Gonzo say to the team? What did he tell them?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I just told you what he said to the team.
Q. Coach, Ohio State actually plays if not unique with the tradition and passion and everything, can you explain how you personally or your coaching philosophy kind of meshes with what Ohio State is all about?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Ohio State is special. I don't know about unique, because there's a lot of special places in this country in terms of the ones that play collegiate football, and we're playing one of those special places.
What do we try to understand about that is that it's a privilege to play at Ohio State. It's a privilege to coach at Ohio State.
There's been excellence from the beginning of time at Ohio State. There's a certain responsibility you have to uphold that fine tradition. It's bigger than just us playing and coaching today. Our alumni are huge all over the country. We graduate thousands of people every year and they disburse all over the land and all over the world to make a difference.
And it's probably one of those areas Ohio State football is that they get to hold onto their collegiate experience by watching and cheering and that kind of thing. And that's a responsibility. But I think the biggest lesson you try to understand, whether you're at Ohio State or LSU or wherever you are, is that it's bigger than you.
And I suppose that's the same thing. I don't know who you work for, but it's bigger than that paper. It's bigger than that magazine or that TV station. It's bigger than that. And hopefully that's a lesson that we hope our guys learn while they're here at Ohio State.
Q. What did you learn as a coach mostly after last year's loss?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Well, I've been coaching a long time. I don't know if I learned anything new other than had reinforced that if you don't do the things that it takes to win a football game, especially against a great team, you're not going to win a football game.
You have to do the things -- that's what this game will come down to, it will be the execution of those things you have to do to win a game. And I don't know that that was new news to me, but just like any experience, it was reinforced news. And I can go back -- and I've lost a lot of games. People make a lot of the game we lost last year, but I've coached a lot of losses in my day. I've been a head coach a lot longer than most people.
But I think you learn something along the way. You have things reinforced along the way. And, you know, it's probably not as complicated a game as we sometimes make it.
Q. Do you think you guys are ready mentally last year or --
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I'm not sure we were as ready mentally as I look at our execution, one of the things, when you don't execute, is that maybe you weren't mentally as ready as you should have been. That's not all of it. Because you can't take out the other side of the equation. You know, the other guys executed pretty well. They're part of the deal, too.
So I think it's a combination of all of the above.
Q. What are you doing to mentally prepare the team?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: What am I doing?
Q. What are you telling them?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Today what we'll be talking to them about is it's about our execution. It's about what we do. It isn't about last year's game. It isn't about what may be being said or not said or whatever. It's about we've got a plan and how well will we execute it. That will be what we'll be talking about at this moment in time.
Q. Kurt Barton described you as Elvis in Ohio?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Elvis in Ohio?
Q. That's what he said. How do you respond to that?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I can't sing, I'll tell you that much. In college I had those longer chops, but that was back in the day.
I don't know about that. I think depends upon where you are and who you're with. And if I'm a little kid in Ohio and I see Kirk Barton wearing No. 24 down the street with a little gray-haired coach, I'll run up and see Kurt Barton. Depends on where you are and who you're with.
Q. You got down here a little bit later, and what made that, was that part of keeping the guys more focused this year or what sparked the changes? Was it just the loss last year?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: One of the realities we a year ago was our training facility was under construction and we only had about two-thirds of a field. And we didn't feel as if we were getting as good enough opportunities to be spread out. And there's a little bit of a safety issue, you're trying to work 100 guys on two-thirds of a field.
So we felt like we had to leave town a year ago. Don't know that we preferred it. But we had to. We didn't have to do that this year because we had our whole training complex: We had locker rooms, we had meeting rooms. We just happened to be under construction a year ago.
I think sometimes when you're somewhere too long you have a tendency to maybe lose a little bit of your continuity and the people here have been extraordinary and when we arrived in meeting rooms and practice facilities and everything has been just perfect for us. So hopefully that will serve us well.
Q. Florida's defensive line got after you guys pretty good last year; LSU's got a terrific defensive line. Can you talk about the Kirston Pittmans, Glenn Dorseys and how you'll keep them off Todd Boeckman who was not near as mobile as Troy was?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Well, I think the key to anyone's defense is those people that start up front, because they can not only be run stoppers, they can hurry passes, they can make big plays. LSU does a great job deflecting passes. They get their hands up in the air. So there's no question about it. The strength of their defense begins there, but it doesn't end there. It goes to the linebackers and to the guys in the back end. That's why they're one of the great defenses in the nation.
But there's no question about it. You're going to have to do a good job against a great front if you want to move the football.
Q. Coach, I have a question for you real quick. I was wondering, do they make sweater vests in my size?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think if you get on the weights a little bit you can fit into one of mine.
Q. Wow. Thank you very much, Coach. I appreciate it.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: And your name?
Q. I'm Alex Boone. I'm from Cleveland. (Laughter.)
Q. Is there any truth to the perception of you as a conservative coach versus Les Miles as the riverboat gambler or are you guys both in between?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Is there any truth to the fact that I'm conservative? Probably.
Q. But more of the perception. Are you as conservative as people like to think?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Am I as conservative as people like to think? I suppose it depends on the situation. There are moments when I'm conservative. And then there are moments when I'm less conservative. And if Les has that perception, you know, that people might say he's a riverboat gambler, that's probably true in cases. But I'm sure in other cases he's conservative.
What you gotta find out is what's the right time to be conservative and what's the right time to gamble. And if we both can figure that out, we'll serve our teams well.
Q. He says he's more of a Texas Hold 'em guy. Are you more of a blackjack player?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I'm not much of a card player at all. I play a little cribbage. But I haven't played either of those games. But I hope I'm a smart card player. We'll find out.
Q. Coach, 10 years ago, Youngstown, you were beating a Louisiana team from McNeese for the national championship 10 seasons ago. How much of that experience has translated into your experience at Ohio State and how much of that I-AA experience just doesn't translate for this?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know what, I think a championship game is the same whether it's at the high school level, at the I-AA level, the BCS title game. I think if you really studied any of those championship games you'd find out that the same important issues are going to determine the game.
You know, I think back to that game with us and McNeese, and really had we not come up with that take-away that we did that went and led to that score and gave us a chance to beat them decisively 10 to 9, if we don't come up with that turnover, we don't win that game. So the same things, if they didn't turn that over, they probably end up beating us 9-3, whatever the score was at the time.
The same things hold true. And do you learn a little bit in every experience you have, I'm sure. But that was a whale of a football game. And that was as exciting a day in my coaching life as any other day.
Q. Have you ever thought of that angle that 10 years ago at Youngstown you beat a Louisiana team for a national championship and here it is 10 seasons later playing another Louisiana team?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I hadn't thought of it until I had seen that Southland Conference jersey you're wearing. I've been focused on those Tigers. I don't know if that's going to get us a 1st down, that angle. Let's see, 1997, how old were my players? I'm not sure they're going to tie into that thinking. My older guys were 12.
Q. Your players talked about the DVD that you've made them before Christmas break. You've taken motivation from some of your critics, critics who say this football team and the back 10's slow. Is that another angle where you rally your guys, saying this is another misconception of our football program?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: No, you know, first of all, I didn't make that. I don't even know how to Tivo. I don't know. So our video guys did that. I can't take credit for that.
You know, I think what you try to do is you try to compile as much information as you can about everything. I hope our video guys were working hard on 3rd down cut-ups, too, and goal line and all that stuff.
But I think you try to do as much as you can to raise the level of awareness of just what it's going to take and study yourself. And I've said many times in the last six or eight weeks, when people are talking all about hasn't this been a crazy year of football and these upsets and all that stuff, and I've said, you know what, these kids that are playing the game at this moment in time have seen so much football, have heard so much analysis, they listen to good people analyzing the game that have played the game and coached the game and understand the game.
So when they arrive in college, they are so much further ahead in their understanding of what it takes and things they've learned along the way that it's not a shock that this team beats that team or this team does something very well, because they've learned a lot.
So what I want our guys to do is to learn all they can possibly learn from as many people as they can possibly -- you have the two different schools of thought. I have friends that say, you know what, I put the game on TV and I put it on mute because I don't want to hear any of that.
And then you have the other ones, in my mind, that say, you know what, those people that are broadcasting that game have been studying that game and working on that game and learned a lot about those teams, and I can probably learn a little bit from them.
And I happen to be in that second school of thought. I want to learn all I can possibly learn from the insights of people that have had the luxury of studying the game.
Q. Do you put it on mute when you hear people say Ohio State's slow, the Big Ten is slow, that type of thing?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: No, I don't put that on mute.
Q. Can you talk about managing the long lay off for the second straight year, and are you in favor of what the Big Ten is going to year after next in which they won't play the 12 consecutive games, give you an off week during the season, not so much off time before the bowl game?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know, I hope we've managed the days to our best advantage, from a health standpoint, from a training standpoint, from a preparation standpoint, from our kids getting family time standpoint.
I hope we've prepared ourselves well. We'll find out, I guess. The second part of the question, am I in favor of having an open date instead of 12 straight weeks? Probably not.
In our case, an open date occurs somewhere there in October, early November, whatever. That's a week that our guys probably can't get away and go home, other than maybe on a Saturday, on a Sunday, because they have class.
I like playing 12 straight weeks and then that Thanksgiving week our guys get home four, five days, because we don't have school. And we ask so much of our guys, they're there training all summer. They work like crazy. They're going to school.
And we've got guys from all over the country. All of our guys can't hop in the car and be home on a weekend. So I think for my players it's better to play 12 straight weeks and give them that Thanksgiving week off. But, again, that's just my opinion. Whatever the conference does, I'm a good conference member. I won't pick it or anything like that.
Q. Did they survey the coaches or did they just decide?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think they did. It's about fifty/fifty.
Q. Can you talk about coming down only a week prior to instead of like last year when you guys were in Arizona? How does that help preparation and help the team from a mental standpoint?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think when you break up things, we've had that good bowl preparation right after exams, and then they got to go home for the holidays. Then they came back and they had another focused time back in Columbus and then they had the New Year's Eve and day off. And then they reconvened down here.
I like that kind of teaching and learning and concentration. So I'd like to think it prepared us.
Q. Can you see it, though, this week, so far?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know what, I like what I've seen here, yeah, I absolutely do. A lot of it has to do with the fact that it's not as extended a period. I think the people here have done a wonderful job. You know, the energy that you gain here, I think the bonus that I didn't even think about is that when you get here and you see how important this is to the city to do a great job of what in the BCS lingo is double hosting and that some people question whether or not they could handle it. And they did a great job with the Sugar Bowl, and you can feel the energy of their hosting of the title game, and you can just see how it's very, very important to them.
Everything you go to, for the players, for the coaches, the practice, or whatever, and I think they give you -- they just give you a little bit of energy because of how excited they are to do a great job.
And I guess I didn't factor in that bonus, because this is very important to this city. They get to be on the national spotlight for something neat like this, and they want to show that they're going to do it very, very well.
Q. LSU's built -- like on both sides of the ball they have senior leadership. You don't seem to have that many seniors on your roster. So where do you see the leadership coming from and how do you get that from an underclassman compared to a fourth- or fifth-year guy?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know, that was something that we were very aware of going into the season, whereas a year ago we had 18 fifth-year seniors and natural leadership, lots of experience of good things and not so good things, a lot of wisdom. We knew we weren't going to have a big senior class this year, but we knew we'd have a large junior class. A number of which were fourth-year juniors.
And so we really felt as if we needed to tap into that leadership. And I thought that leadership's done a good job. Guys like Vernon Gholston or Marcus Freeman, guys that are -- they're, quote, juniors, but you know they're fourth-year juniors, and I thought they've done a nice job of stepping up, and Nader Abdallah, from right here. Stepped up and brought a little bit his wisdom and growth and those kinds of things.
And so to kind of make up for the reality that you point out is that we don't have a huge senior class.
Q. Jim, Antonio Henton says he was wrongly accused by the police about the misdemeanor solicitation. Do you believe him when he says there might have been mistakes or that he had not done anything wrong?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I mean, he went through a legal process. I always believe my guys, but I also the tell them there's a process, there's a system. And you have to live by whatever that system is.
So but, yeah, I believe that whatever he and his legal team decided to do was the best thing for him and that he may have been misunderstood, might be the best word.
Q. He says he pled guilty just to get it over with to get back on the field. Did you counsel him at all on anything as to how he should proceed?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't counsel our guys legally. The good news is that the NCAA allows us to help them find legal counsel. And which is what Gene Smith and the athletic department helped us do.
And I'm not about to make suggestions. I'll follow -- the only thing -- I take that back, the only thing I'll say after all the legal discussion is made and the guy says this is what he wants to do, I'll say, are you sure that's that what you want to do? Is that what your family wants you to do? You're not being pushed into that? If I feel okay that they feel that's what they want to do, I'll always back them from that standpoint.
Q. Did you feel okay in that situation?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Yes.
Q. You've been in a lot of these championship games at Youngstown, and here does your emotion change on game day or what do your feelings become on game day, what's going to be running through your mind?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: What a privilege. How exciting. How fortunate we are. How fortunate I am to have a chance to compete in this, two great teams, two great staffs. And a city that's so excited about having this here. You could just feel them bubbling. Just blessed.
Q. The image of football coaches is often Lombardi and the yelling and that sort of animated kind of a coach. And you've been successful doing it a different way. Has it changed in terms of what is effective or is that your style?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Just like we tell our players, you have to be who you are, you can't play outside of your game. I think you have to do that with coaches as well. And I don't know that I could be Vince Lombardi. Nor do I want to be Lee Tressel, because my dad had his best way of doing things.
I think you have to figure out what you need to do to do your part of the task and make that your number one focus, and then anything beyond that, I think you have to be a little careful.
Q. Do you pound a locker occasionally, when we don't see it?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Do you see any nicks on those hands? No, I'm smarter than that.
Q. You do this a lot with the soldiers coming back from Iraq. Kid from Dayton came up December 26th, do you recall that conversation with him and just what are your impressions of those guys?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Well, any chance we have to get the soldiers and soldiers' families -- I remember getting an e-mail just the other day from a soldier in Iraq that wife's from Dayton. Went to Dayton and then got her masters from Ohio State, and I think they met at Ohio State or something. And he just wanted us to send her a little e-mail because she was a little lonely during the holidays and she loved the Buckeyes, and we were able to do that.
And so anything we can do to let the people know that are serving our country that we appreciate them and we wouldn't be able to be doing this today if it weren't for them. So we owe a lot to them. So any time they can come to practice and bring their family. We had a number come over right before they were going to deploy recently. Some that are home on break. I'm not sure my first choice, if I was home on five-day break from Iraq, would be to run over and watch practice. But that just shows you it's bigger than us.
Q. Do you remember meeting that kid Justin, does that ring a bell?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Yes.
Q. Anything you recall about that time with him?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You just see how much it meant to he and his family, and it was something they got to do together.
Q. The third championship game at Ohio State, any of them bigger than another one?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Better not be, because if I run into the guys from one or the other and they hear me say that this one or that one is bigger. No, they're all exciting. They're all a privilege. They're all -- I look at them all as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it is. This is once in a lifetime with these guys at this moment. And I've been lucky. I've been at a few of these games. But it's what's most important is these guys.
Q. You have a couple of guys grow up in an NFL household. Can you tell a difference? Is there an advantages for those guys, Robiskie and Heyward and Dionte who have grown up with NFL influence?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: If a young person is paying attention and his mom or dad is a doctor or a player in the NFL or a great professor or whatever, if a youngster pays attention to what it takes for that person to achieve along any front, that's an advantage. I think that's a huge advantage.
When you say I've got to study, I've got to get my rest, I've got to be passionate, excited about what I'm doing. And so guys like Brian Robiskie or Cameron Heyward or Dionte Johnson who have seen what it's taken for their fathers, that is an advantage. It's no different than the young lady who has seen what her mom has accomplished. And that's an advantage.
And Brian Robiskie had a chance to be around as a ball boy. And I remember when Chris Carter used to always tell us about Larry Fitzgerald was always around the Vikings. And that's an advantage. And some people don't take advantage of their advantages, and those guys did.
Q. Obviously the kids know how big the game is. But because of where they are in their life, is it possible for them to know just how big the impact this will have for years?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I talked to Baschnagel and guys like that, and 30 years later it almost hurts worse. I think you can only know what your capacity allows you to. And I hope that they understand how big this game is beyond them. Because this is big for the city of New Orleans. This is huge for Ohio State and LSU in general.
And, yes, it will be huge for them down the road to think back and say, oh, man, I should have caught that ball or I should have made that block or, oh, wow, I made that catch or I made that hit when I needed to.
But I hope it goes beyond that. And it's going to be a memory of a lifetime. And hopefully it will be in a huge, positive way.
Q. How important is it for people to sort of appreciate what this is, prior to 2002 it had been a long time, now you guys sort of make a trend of it. Sometimes people take winning for granted. Do you feel that at all from 2001 that people aren't as excited about it because you've been here recently?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Oh, no. I think you can take things for granted at times. But the Buckeye fans and everyone that surrounds us, you can feel that they are not taking something like this for granted, because it's a special opportunity and I'm sure that there would be about 50,000 more of them here if they could have rounded up tickets. So, no, I don't worry about that at all.
Q. Have you noticed that the LSU coach is a Michigan man and are you going to use that at all?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: No. I knew him back when he was a Michigan man. I've known Les for a long, long time.
And I'm sure if I went up and pounded my fist on the table with our team and said, did you know that their coach is a Michigan guy? Our guys would say "so?" Because this is about Ohio State and LSU. We've had our chance to play Michigan this year. And now we have our chance to play LSU and we take a little bit of pride in the fact that Les is from Ohio and he's from the Big Ten.
But, okay, that's over. Now, what coverage are they playing? How are we going to block those guys? And you go from there.
Q. Can you talk about Boeckman and following a great player like Troy Smith how he's progressed this year getting you back to the same point?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: What I've appreciated about Todd is that Todd has held true to who he is. He knows he's not Troy Smith. I think he feels down deeply he can do some things that maybe Troy couldn't. But he knows for sure that he can't do some things that Troy did.
But that he's who he is. And he's worked very hard to try to provide for us what we need. And I think he's prepared very hard for this ball game to see if he could possibly do his role to help us be successful.
To me, that's it. And which I appreciate.
Q. When you lose a Heisman trophy winner, a great player, do you as a coach expect Boeckman to lead you to that, to get you right back --
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't know about expect, but you sure hope. You hope that the next guy steps up and you don't spend any time wishing and hoping, you go to work. And you say, okay, what can he do, how do I prepare him? What is it that we can help him around him and set up things and give him experiences and all that.
But you certainly hope that there's a progression of excellence at every one of your positions.
Q. How would you assess his decision-making, which is so important at that position, or how he's gotten better at that?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think as a first-year player, who has been out there for the first time, and sometimes you have to learn lessons to become a better decision-maker, I think he's been a very good decision-maker. Most especially with what plays to get us into and out of and adjustments and checks and all those kinds of things. He's thrown the ball 300-some times, I think.
Can I find some times when he could have made better decisions? Absolutely. But the majority of the time did he make good decisions? Yeah, I would have to say he did.
Now, we're playing in the national championship game against a great football team. He's going to need to do a great job making decisions. Just okay won't be good enough. Because this is -- but he's had 12 games to rehearse. It's not like we're sending him in for his first game ever and saying okay, by the way, you're playing LSU, who is good at every position, and it's not like maybe in some games you can say, okay, let's work on this guy or let's work on that. There's nobody to work on. We gotta all execute.
And you gotta make good decisions, and I think he's excited about that chance to see how he fares.
Q. Can you talk about how Cameron Heyward has really come on for you this year?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Cameron Heyward is a exceptional kid. Practices with phenomenal intensity. And sometimes Coach Heacock has to take him out because he doesn't understand tempo yet. In a practice, there are certain tempos. There's teach tempo and there's what we call thud tempo, which means, you know, it's almost live but we're not tackling.
There's walk-through tempo. Then there's live. Cameron only has one. It's live. He loves to compete. He's a special kid. He's had great support at home. His dad's not living, but mom and his step dad and his family members around him, great support system.
He's just been blessed athletically, but there's a lot of people that have been blessed and haven't taken their blessings and used them. And he has. Anyone you talk to, whether it's a high school teacher, coach, principal, current coach, faculty member, dorm director, will tell you that Cameron Heyward is one of those special guys.
Q. Antonio, another Georgia kid, he's had a tough year, back in the fold talk to me about him and where he is right now?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: The good fortune we've had is that most of the guys we've had from Georgia have been good players for us. Brandon Mitchell a year ago and Antonio now is our back-up, and working hard to prepare himself.
Could you take your whole plan and have Antonio run it Monday night? Probably not. Because he hasn't had those practice reps to do all that. But he has a portion, I think, down conceptually that when we call on him he'll execute. I know a guy like Anderson Russell has been a heck of a player for us there.
So the Peach State has been good to us.
Q. Did you have any role contributing to the DVD, we've heard a lot about the 10-minute DVD?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't watch a bunch of TV or listen to a bunch of talk radio, I apologize. I read the paper if I get a minute in July. But no, I didn't have much to do with that at all. But I mentioned to a group earlier when they asked a similar question, kids these days I think are better football players because they've learned so much in their lifetimes about football. They turn on a TV at any time and they can watch football. They can listen to the analysis. They can learn while they're just recreationally watching the game.
And so data is huge to kids. Because they can assimilate that. And not necessarily is all the positive data all you want to bring in. You know, at the end of practice we don't just cut out the good plays and show them those.
We show them the plays that, like, oh, man, I can't believe -- so we try to give them all the data that's out there.
Q. This DVD was really educational?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Educational, absolutely. Everything we do is educational. This is the NCAA. We're in the education business.
Q. Malcolm Jenkins said yesterday that he thought the speed training Reynolds has done has helped the offensive and defensive lines most of all. When I think about that I think of Gholston, would you comment on him and how fast he is. And other guys?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: To me, the biggest change in the game of football maybe in the last 20 years isn't that there's fast guys out wide or fast guys at tailback, because we can all go back in history and Bob Hayes was pretty fast, and I mean all the way up. But we've always had those. But I think where the game has changed a little bit is all 11 guys on the field, their quickness and their speed is enhanced.
And that's why, as you hear Malcolm say something like that, it's not shocking that you take a Vernon Gholston who is a 200-something-pound defensive end who loves the weight room, loves anyone that will help him enhance his game, loves Butch Reynolds and his speed training and so forth.
And I think going back to that discussion about our kids being more aware, you know. It's highly publicized that the NFL combine, it's about speed. It's highly publicized that why did they draft this guy over that guy, well, he was faster.
Not at just the receiver position, but at the offensive line. The Browns drafted Joe Thomas, he ran the fastest time as the offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash. It wasn't the only reason, but it was certainly defining.
Our guys are very aware and are very open to suggestion as to what do I have to do to get better. And as Malcolm alluded to, he trained in speed his whole life. These other guys, those big guys, maybe that wasn't always at the top of their to-do list. They might have enjoyed the bench press a little bit more when they were young, but the speed part of it they've grown to understand that that's going to make a difference for them in their performance.
Q. How unique a player and threat is Trindon Holliday for you?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Unique is a good word. There aren't that many unique players because everybody's got a guy that can go. I don't know if anyone has a guy that can go that fast, I don't know what his 100 meter is.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I couldn't do 50 yards in 10.02. He's unique. He is tough, loves to compete, see him out there making plays, he brings in excitement and energy and you better get him on the ground.
Q. You talk about everyone being talented on LSU and in all facets of the game, but there's always standouts. Anyone in particular that you guys will need to contain to get that W on Monday night on all sides of the ball?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I've watched more of their defense and I mentioned to a group earlier here, it always starts up front. They've got a great leader up front. But don't discount the rest of those guys. Dorsey is not the only guy up there.
You better make sure you block, No. 7. No. 7 is a player. He's a veteran. Great analyze guy. Speed to run anything down. I mean, he's certainly a standout. Then you go to -- I'm not taking anything away from the rest of those guys. And you go to that back end and they can all fly. They all play their position quite well. They play their man coverage stuff well and zone coverage stuff well. 16 is going to come down and stroke you. And even when they get to their dime package. I love the way No. 3 plays when he comes in there.
So are there any standouts, yeah, anybody that comes out there in a white jersey is going to be a standout.
Q. Speed has been one of the topics of conversation all week long, people saying that the SEC is this much faster than the Big Ten, but there was a quote earlier in the week by someone saying they handed out scholarships to Ohio State, something tells me these guys are going to be pretty quick, is this going to be a factor in this game or do you think that's just something that's media talk?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: We talked about speed every day. It's not just media talk. When we're recruiting, we want the fastest guys. When we're seeing who can get in our lineup it's the guy that plays the game the fastest. Now, the mind has a lot to do with who you play the game.
So we can't just go out and line up our fastest guys, just go running around. We have to line up guys that can assimilate the game and play the game fast. When you asked about a standout, No. 7, Highsmith, he plays the game fast. Not only does he run fast, but he plays the game fast. It's not just media talk. Speed is critical. We've got to play this game fast.
Q. Has too much been made of the 0-8 versus the SEC?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Oh, I don't know. When there's a fact, there's a fact. I know this, I think since I've been here we've played South Carolina and didn't succeed. We've played Florida and didn't succeed. And have we played any other, if we did we didn't succeed. So I don't know if too much -- how can you make too much of the truth.
Q. Has there been a big difference between the way you prepared the team last year versus this year for this week?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Not a big difference, other than we had kind of like a short spurt back in Columbus after Christmas before going to the bowl site. Because we had some facilities. A year ago we were under construction. And outside of that, no.
Q. You have a punter on the platform over there, I know special teams is important but just talk about that aspect of the game.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: We really believe that special teams make the difference for championship seasons and certainly in championship games. Because the impact of a special teams play is usually gigantic, whether it's a blocked punt, a punt return or a kick-off return. Just look back at the bowl season.
I mean, the game most recently you saw the other night. We got back in from meetings or whatever we were doing, and just in time to see Kansas snap the ball and throw it out to their guy that goes down the field to cover because he was uncovered and huge, might have been the difference in the game.
Q. A.J. said he was a little shocked that he was on the platform.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: He was a little shocked. I don't like to tell these guys up front every responsibility they'll have. Because he might be back there with his heels against the end zone line punting it from right under the goal post. So he's going to be shocked in his life. So I like those guys to have experiences of shock.
Q. Talk about Brandon and the change in his role this season?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Brandon has been a guy that we saw an evolution from a tailback standpoint, then he got banged up and missed, I don't know, it was about four weeks or so and then had to refuel back in and we really believe we've got to have three healthy tailbacks for what we do, and it seemed like throughout the course of the year we were only with two or one and a half healthy off and on. Fortunately we have three healthy right now, which I think is an advantage for us to be able to do all we would like to do.
Brandon Saine is a good football player, humble young man. All he does is work hard. And he's a pleasure to be around. And it's going to be fun to watch him develop over the years, because I think he's going to be very, very special.
Q. Is there a pretty good chance we'll see Henton play some quarterback Monday night?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Is there a pretty good chance? Define pretty good chance.
Q. Let's say 65 percent chance.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Maybe a little less than that.
Q. Better than fifty/fifty?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Right about there. How is that?
Q. From last year's bowl --
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I've learned my lessons, Bob will tell you, I don't make promises because the first thing that happens is when you promise that so-and-so is going to play and they don't, that's the first question you get.
So I just hope there's better than a fifty/fifty chance that he's prepared to play.
Q. One of the questions about bowl prep, some of the guys talked last year and starting to use the word vacation and this year more business-like, maybe some of that's overdramatized. Was there a sense last year leading up to that Florida game that maybe guys were not taking it as seriously and there was that overconfidence creeping into them?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know, I didn't sense it until we were out there a while. And then you know what? You think about your emotions. You've been watching these kids work like crazy, they've done everything you've asked them to do. You have a little bit of an inkling you have to have faith in your guy and all of a sudden you don't change your approach to guys and go from handling guys that you think are doing exactly physically and mentally what needs to be done.
Then all of a sudden you turn into a lion trainer, and you start -- because maybe you're wrong. And who knows. The outcome of the game points to maybe the fact that we weren't ready. I don't know. We were ready the first play. And then all of a sudden we became unready. I don't know. If I knew that I wouldn't have lost all these games I've lost.
Q. Did that game create -- I don't know, I don't want to say a false impression, but the wrong impression of your team? I mean, all the speed talk and all that seems to stem from that game.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think every time you have a chance to go out and compete you are adding to the creation of an impression. And when you're giving a positive impression, it only lasts as long as until you give a negative one.
And I'm sure when we left Tempe, Arizona on January, whatever, '03, we had a good impression. Everyone said, oh, these guys are okay. Now, then, we were okay the next year and then next year we're whatever we were, 8-4. So the impression ebbs and flows. And the only impression I'm interested in is the one Monday.
So I don't know, is it unfair? We didn't leave a very good impression last year.
Q. Do you think, though, maybe -- do you walk away from that game thinking, gosh, if we had played them 10 times we would beat them several times, this game we got murdered or do you walk away from it and just --
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I walk away from it saying you know what? The only chance we had to play we didn't play and, Coach, don't single out anyone, we didn't get it done.
And you only have one chance. And that's to me that's the beauty of sport is that I guess Bannister had that one chance to run that sub four-minute mile and he did.
Q. You're a little bit older and wiser than the players?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: A little bit older.
Q. Than the players?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: There was a question earlier in the week (laughter).
Q. Is it easier for you to get -- was it easier for you to get over the loss last year with Florida? Or maybe not easier, but were you able to do it quicker than a lot of the players?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Oh, I doubt it. I don't know. Do you think when you are getting older it's easier to get over things?
Q. Maybe have a different perspective.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Now, perspective, perspective and getting over it are two different things. I'd like to think I have a perspective of where all this fits into the big picture. That doesn't mean I'm not excited about this and that how we do in this still affects me.
But no more than when we win a big game, all of a sudden now I don't put that out of proportion either. But still within where it fits within the big picture, it's no easier to get over it when you're young or old, I don't think.
Q. How long did Florida affect you in terms of getting over that? Was it a while? Do you continue to use it as motivation for the other kids as well?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Let's pretend I was the guy who dropped a pass. I don't care what game it was and we could have won, I'm not sure that ever goes away. Every time I run into a guy at a reunion, he says, you dropped that pass. And like now it won't be talked about as frequently, but every time it gets brought back up it's like, hmm, you're right, I dropped that pass. It's the same thing with a tough loss. Every time that it comes to the forefront, and I guess our loss last year has been brought up quite frequently.
I hope 20 years from now it won't be brought up quite as often. But if it is and when it is, you know, I'll see Bob at the retirement home in Columbus, and Bob and I are the only two old guys here, and when they bring it up to me at the checkerboard or shuffle board, he might get an upper cut.
Q. With the teams two days away, are they going to be excited to be on this field, the talent level, and what kind of game are you expecting on Monday?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: It will be exciting, the energy in here will be something. The respect that I know we have for LSU and I'm sure they have for us, I think you're going to see a great, tough, clean, hard-hitting, exciting football game.
The team that does what you have to do is going to win the game. But you're going to see a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. And I guess one of the big things I've grown to gain a bigger appreciation for now that we've been here for a few days is I hope we put on a great show for New Orleans. I hope that show that's going to be broadcast all over the world has New Orleans in a great light, because this is very important for this community.
Q. Have you gotten to see any Bourbon Street? You don't seem like a Bourbon Street kind of guy.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I'm not a Bourbon Street kind of guy because I'm old, Todd. You're killing me (laughter).
Q. Have you ever been to Bourbon Street?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: When I was younger.
Q. Have you been there on --
COACH JIM TRESSEL: If I'm there on a bus down Bourbon Street, you'll have a snapshot.
Q. You can't get a bus down Bourbon Street.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You can't? Then if a bus can't get there, I haven't been there.
When the national convention was here in January of '03 -- and actually we left Arizona and came straight here for the convention, and so I was on Bourbon Street, because I remember going out to get a hamburger. We went right out Bourbon. Because we had some great Cajun cooking for a couple of days. I said, I need a hamburger. We asked a guy, he said, I'm telling you go north on Bourbon Street and you go to whatever, there's the greatest hamburger you'll ever get. So he was right. I know I was on Bourbon street.
Q. By no means does a national championship define a coaching career. If you get this national championship, will that be the icing on the cake for your career?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: For this week (laughter). I hope they don't throw the cake away (laughter). This is huge for this moment and this is a tremendous privilege to be part of this moment. But if we happen to succeed, I'm going to work hard for -- I'm going to hit the road recruiting. If we happen not to succeed, I'm going to hit the road recruiting.
So I'm not going to stop and ice any cake.
Q. Win or lose you'll be right back to business as soon as this game is over?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Well, I haven't talked to Mr. Smith, our athletic director, but I'm making that assumption.
Q. For all this talk about the Florida game, you guys had to get over a loss much more recently with Illinois. What did you learn about the team's resiliency with the way they played against Michigan the next week?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think one of the benefits that we had was the fact that the Michigan game was that next week. And I think it gave us a chance. I'm sure one of the benefits that LSU had that tough Arkansas game was the fact that they got to play for the SEC championship shortly thereafter.
And so what's up next has a lot to do with where is your mind. So I think the fact that it was the Ohio State/Michigan game, you know, it gave us a little bit of an advantage of getting over that.
Q. Why do you think the underdog has won six of the first nine BCS championships games? What have you found now being on both sides of the fence on this deal?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't think it's a surprise, but both teams are good when you're in this game. And that whichever team does the things that are needed are going to win.
You know, outside of that, I don't know that there's any magical reason for that. But I know when we won one time when we were there and we were the underdog, we did what you needed to do to win that game.
And outside of that, I'm not sure how that helped.
Q. Have you found it's been easier to keep your team's attention this month with everybody basically touting them as the underdog, has it been easier than maybe a year ago?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't know. We'll see. I suppose I can answer that yes if we play well. Which is what you want. You want to play as well as you're capable of. And you'll live with the results. So I suppose if we play well, the answer is yes. If we don't play well, the answer is I guess not.
Q. Where is Kirk Barton's captaincy going to go down?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: In captaincy history?
Kirk Barton, you know I've said often, had a very difficult situation. If you looked at the facts. All his buddies are either in the NFL or didn't make it in college and transferred to here or there or whatever. And there he was, the Lone Ranger of that group. It wasn't a big group of a dozen guys, but he was still the Lone Ranger. All the guys he hung out with all those years and stuff, they're gone. The guys that he was going to ask to naturally lead were much younger than him. Didn't have as much in common with him. And how would he handle that? I think he's done an extraordinary job.
Because it started with his commitment to doing his part, preparing and training and playing and all that. And when people see that, whether you hang out with them or don't hang out with them or whatever, when they see that, they then, I think, have a chance to follow your lead.
And I think Kirk's done a great job and I think you guys cover him every day have to say that you've seen great growth in Kirk Barton.
Q. Who is the next Kirk Barton for the media?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: The next?
Q. He said a lot of those guys are lame?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I don't know if we have that ability level (laughter). If I gave you a name, you couldn't find him anyway. The next guy.
Q. He couldn't come up with one. Who is a character?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I can't answer that, I'm sorry. Next question. I don't know.
Q. A year ago you said you were somewhat satisfied with the way the team practiced when it was Columbus, less than satisfied with the way they practiced in Arizona. This year, I'm just wondering, you said you would give us an evaluation of how they had practiced out here, I'm wondering what you think now?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think very well.
Q. The mind-set has been good or different?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: I think very good.
Q. How has Heyward been able to hold up being a true freshman?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Physically or mentally?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: He's a big, strong kid. And he trains like crazy. Mentally doesn't seem like he can get enough. He just wants more and more. Whereas some young guys hit the wall, you know, and it's like, man, I've had enough of these coverages and game plans and I want to go shoot pool or something.
That's not him. He can't get enough.
Q. What would you think of the one-plus system?
COACH JIM TRESSEL: Compared to what?
Q. To what we have now.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: No. I like what we have now.
Q. Hunter says he can take you in shuffleboard.
COACH JIM TRESSEL: You know what? After Todd Porter beat up on me. I think anybody can beat me at shuffleboard, at my age.
End of FastScripts