Aug. 25, 2003
Opening Statement: "Time is running short. We're about to play the national champions. We're very excited about that opportunity, but we also know the quality of the opponent and the task at hand."
On two-way players like OSU's Chris Gamble: "My only background with two-way players would have been Jim Owens' teams in the 60s. I haven't seen anybody do that since I was in I-AA, when Gordie Lockbaum was a great player. But we haven't seen many people out here do it. Chris Gamble and Reggie (Williams) are both fabulous athletes, they're both very competitive guys and it is going to be a very interesting part of this game."
On Moving On From Neuheisel Situation: "We've practiced well and had a good camp. I'm certainly not going to speak for everybody. I think most of our players are pleased with where we're at and how we're practicing and looking forward to this game but it was a tough situation on all of us. It wasn't easy. I think our people have rallied around each other and I'm pleased with what I see, but like I said I certainly wouldn't speak for everyone. That wouldn't be my place."
On Pickett and Williams Combo: "I've been lucky to be around some great passing combinations. Here at Washington we had Cary Conklin to Andre Riley and then we had Mark Brunell and Billy Joe Hobert to Mario Bailey. I was around (Warren) Moon to (Joey) Galloway at the Seahawks, some pretty talented guys. This is an awfully unique passer and receiver in that they're both big, athletic, very competitive guys, great kids to coach and they like to play. The thing I've enjoyed about them is the more difficult the challenge, the more they like competition."
On Environment Entering Game: "Am I going to be excited about the game? Heck, yeah. Am I going to be nervous? Sure, I'm going to be nervous. It's an unbelievable facility they have. They've got great fans, got a great passionate following. It's one of the great places in college football. But I'm excited about our team and getting a chance to play, so I'll be excited. I've been head coach before and been some places I thought were tough, maybe not like Columbus obviously, but we're looking forward to it, are excited about it and we also know who we're playing and how good they are."
On Defending OSU Without Maurice Clarett: "We just prepare to defend their system and what they do, because Ohio State is going to have more than one quality tailback. I think the two other youngsters who are listed to play are highly respected guys, highly recruited, and we know they're going to put a quality athlete out on the field at tailback. So we defend the system, not particularly the individual."
On Respect For Ohio State: "We certainly respect them. We watched them play Miami; we all have TV sets, and they were pretty impressive because we had played Miami the year before so we know how talented they are. So for those people to beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl is quite an accomplishment. We just have a lot of respect for them. I've known about Jim (Tressel) and his teams for a long time. I was at I-AA Idaho when he was at Youngstown so I know a lot about his career and what he's done. They've got great athletes and they're well-coached, so playing at their place will be a great task."
On Rich Alexis and Running Game: "It's a big deal for us to become a better running football team than we were last year. That doesn't mean we're not going to throw some passes because we do have excellent skilled athletes, but Rich has had a great camp, his best. He's in his best condition, best shape. So he's the lead guy at the tailback position and I'm excited about seeing Rich play."
On Tailback Rotation: "Rich (Alexis) is going to start and then the other three players - Chris Singleton, Kenny James and Shelton Sampson - are going to fall in sometime after that. We're going to go with Rich and let him get himself established. We'll spell him with those other people. It's difficult to get four people reps in practice so you've got to space your reps out and just get one or two guys really ready. But Rich is the lead in that rotation."
On Defensive Line: "Our defensive line took a hit this summer when we lost Junior (Coffin) and Josh (Miller) obviously, and now big Tui (Alailefaleula)'s a little banged up and so is Dan Milsten. So we don't have the depth there that we thought we were going to have coming off spring football. I think Terry Johnson's had a great camp, as has Manase Hopoi and Jerome Stevens. What we don't have is the experienced depth we thought were going to have with all those other people. I think Tui will be ready to go and I think Milsten will be ready to play but we're not the same as had all those other people been healthy and ready to go."
On Relationship With Jim Tressel: "The first time I ever met him was when he was here watching us practice in '90 or '91. One time in the I-AA playoffs I think Youngstown's name crept up in the bracket we were in and had we continued to win we'd have played them, but we never did. I just knew about him and the job he was doing. Then he came out here and obviously he won a lot of national championships at Youngstown, and then Ohio State. Whatever recipe he has is working."
On Opening With A Tough Game: "I think there are some benefits in that you're pretty much going to know what you're good at and what you're not good at real soon, like maybe the first couple series. I think it just gives people a keen sense of where they're at, the staff. And I think in some ways it helps you prepare in the summer and the off-season. Also, uou get people's attention. There's a little more intensity in your off-season, and your preparation in summer - your lifting and conditioning - when you know that you're going to play the defending national champions who return 10 of 11 on offense and have a lot of great athletes."
On Offensive Line Rotation: "Todd (Bachert)'s coming off a shoulder surgery and we felt like he would've started at tackle had (Nick) Newton not come back. But he's an experienced inside player and Newton's now back at full speed and Todd's still recovering from his shoulder. I don't think Todd's back to where he was a year ago. Todd probably enjoys it inside a little bit more than outside. So we've got a rotation at center with (Dan) Dicks, (Brad) Vanneman, and then Todd Bachert. Todd can also play center and he can also play guard and he can also play tackle but he's not listed as a starter for this week."
On Freshman Wide Receiver Competition: "I think Bobby Whithorne has kind of separated himself. He's probably made the most strides in camp. All of them at times have really shown some great things, particularly Quintin Daniels and Sonny Shackelford. I would say Bobby and Sonny in that order have probably showed us probably the most maturity and are the most ready to play. But we're going to take a lot of them and that's fine. I think they'll be fine. This will be great for them to get into something like this. This is a great thing for those young guys to get into a situation where you're on the road, it's real hostile, very competitive, the pace will be real fast. It will be a great learning experience for those guys."
On Status of Offensive Line: "Todd (Bachert) didn't play spring football, so Dan Dicks got the call in spring football and really improved, really did a nice job inside there. We moved Nick (Newton) in there to guard and Todd wasn't ready at tackle so we felt we had to move Nick back outside. I just think we probably have more experienced people on the inside than the outside. Khalif (Barnes) and Nick give us two experienced tackles. But we'll play all those guys inside there, they will all play a lot of snaps, plus Brad Vanneman. We've still got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice to finalize some things with that group."
On Naming Starting Kickers: "I may not. That competition may go through pre-game warm-up."
On Defensive Tackle Status: "I think Jordan Reffett's ready to play and I think Tui (Alailefaleula) will be back so you've still got basically your two-deep. Where Mike Mapu is we have to see in the next 3-4 days of practice. It's not the scenario we thought we had in spring football. We thought we had a lot of experienced people, but you've got to have some kind of rotation in there and you don't expect four guys to go every snap in a football game, so we'll have some rotation. I think Donny Mateaki needs to get some reps and experience, maybe Brandon Ala and Stanley Daniels."
On Safety Competition: "We're going to go this week and see how that goes. I think Jimmy Newell and Owen (Biddle) and Evan (Benjamin) and James (Sims Jr.) can all play so they'll all play a lot. Jimmy has had a great camp and, knock on wood, he's going into a game healthy. I'm excited about him going to a game healthy. But those people between Evan and Owen are very interchangeable."
On OSU's Running Attack: "They pound it off-tackle. And then they pound it some more and then just about the time you think they're ready to throw one they're going to pound one in there again on you. They really run the power play as well as anyone in college football and they just wore people out with it last year. That's not to say their quarterback isn't a good thrower because he is and they have great athletes on the outside. But in the Miami game the leading rusher in the game was the quarterback running quarterback power. So they run quarterback power, tailback power; everybody gets to run the power play there. They're physical. They play a style of play where you screw up a little bit and drop the ball a couple times, you'll have difficulty ever getting it back."
On Avoiding Mistakes: "You've got to be able to stand in there and handle the power play. You've got to have an answer for that. They have real skilled athletes on the outside so when they do throw they can be very effective. So what you can't do is you can't fumble and you can't throw interceptions and you can't get into that kind of game with them. They are so prolific at holding the ball and keeping it away from you that it will limit your opportunities. Not turning the ball over and playing well in the kicking game is huge, which it will be every week. But this is a team where you have to keep from losing the game and by that I mean you have to hold onto the football and not throw interceptions. And those things also would play right into the crowd."
On Coach Cozzetto's Impact: "He's a hard-nosed coach. He takes a real hard-nosed approach to everything he does, which is good. But I think he's a fine coach, a demanding coach, a hard-nosed guy and ... in the long run he'll pay great dividends. But we still haven't gone out and run the ball on anyone's defense yet either."
On Experience Gained From Michigan Game Last Year: "You hope it gives our guys some confidence. We've been to the Big Ten and played a perennial power. I don't know that Michigan's stadium, although it probably holds a few more people, is as noisy a facility as Ohio State's. We also screwed the game up, too, in some instances. We didn't run the ball very well. The things that jump out at me at Michigan was that the second play of the game their tailback went about 60 yards for a touchdown and we came back the very next series and fumbled one and gave them another very short field. So before that game was too far along we're behind 14-0. I think we were in the game and obviously had a chance to win it but we certainly didn't really play a great football game. We're going to have to play a lot better this time around because this team beat Michigan last year and is defending national champion."
On Ohio State's Offensive Balance: "They'll come out and throw it a couple of series and back you up and then come out and pound on you. You have to be able to defend everything you do, but most of all you have to be able to defend the run to beat them. They have a talented offensive line. They have 10 of 11 starters back on offense. You know they're going to have another fine tailback just waiting to get his chance. That style has been very effective for them. Now I know they threw 88 or 89 passes in their spring game working on the passing game. The tailbacks did not play. So they spent some time on their passing game and I think like us they want to be more balanced. They probably felt like the run was great for them, but that maybe they want to be a little more balanced, like we felt passing was great for us but we want to be more balanced with the run. Maybe they're feeling the same thing. But obviously the running game last year helped them go 14-0 and win the national championship."
On Offensive Formations: "Last year we probably got real heavy in the three wide receiver/one back set before the season was over. That became the number one personnel group. But that was also a very experienced group with Pat Reddick and Paul (Arnold) along with Wilbur Hooks, and then you put Charles Frederick and Reggie Williams there. This year we have more experience in our two back group with Adam Seery and Ty Eriks having played, and we think that Ben Bandel is as far along as, say, Joe Toledo was last year for two tight ends. So we probably would like to balance those three groups as opposed to getting way, way out there with three wide receiver sets."
On Rich Alexis's Training: "I think he was disappointed in how he came in and performed in the conditioning tests. And then he was put on an extra duty regimen that lasted all the way through our time here and all the way through our time at Evergreen. He took it all and did a great job with it. I think it was good for him. His weight's down. He looks trim and fit. I think his quickness is back. I think he has confidence his shoulder is right. He worked hard in training camp and we weren't easy on him. We put him at fourth because of the condition he came in at and let him work his way up through the depth chart. I don't know that he ever did that before, you know, he kind of came in here as the number two guy starting in 2000 and he's been number 1 or 2 since. And he came in what we didn't think was great shape and did not do well in the conditioning tests and we listed him fourth. He was the fourth tailback for the first seven to ten days of camp."