Presser Notes: Penn State Week

By Chris Lauderback on October 22, 2008 at 7:00 am
Anyone seen my little go-cart? (Photo: OSU)

Before jumping into Tressel's weekly presser notes I have to get something off my chest...

Am I the only one who thinks colleges look stupid when they plan lame events like white outs, black outs and now, Scarlet Fever? Seriously, I was hoping OSU was cool enough to not participate in such hoopty-ness but I stand corrected.

Places like OSU and Penn State don't need to organize these ridiculous things and they do absolutely nothing to impact the opposing team. Ensuring students are close to the field, having everyone stand up and raise hell when the opponent has the ball (not punishing them because Ma and Pa Kettle can't see) are how you create a home field advantage.

I wasn't even going to bring this up until I laid eyes on Tressel doing his best Shriner Jim impression in support of said Scarlet Fever and going so far as to remind everyone to bring scarlet ponchos in case it rains and they need to cover their scarlet sweatshirts. Enough. Seriously.

On to the presser...

Putting a bow on the destruction of Sparty, Tress appropriately propped Small for his work on punt returns (minus the near lost fumble) and noted six players on each side of the ball recorded winning grades.

The weekly Player of the Game awards went to Spitler (special teams - saved Small's fumble), Animal, Beanie, Boone (Jim Parker) and Homan (Attack Force).

Tressel made sure to comment on not only Beanie's running but especially his blitz pickup on the Pryor to Hartline 56 yarder. That block was huge. The senator in me wonders if Tress didn't make special mention of that just to give Beanie some love after his back-handed comment about Beanie voicing his concerns over play calling to the media after the Purdue debacle.

Shifting gears to Penn State, Tress discussed Daryll Clark's impact on the offense with his ability to both run and throw and how he had designs on Clark out of high school but academic issues got in the way:

someone asked me on the Big Ten call just a few minutes ago what do I see as the difference between their team from this year and their team from a year ago and I think the fact that Daryll Clark has taken over as quarterback, he adds that dimension of excellent passing like the Penn State quarterbacks always do, but he gives you that run dimension like Michael Robinson did for them a few years ago. I think he gives an excellent leadership dimension. He's a guy that he's put his work in and he's waited for his opportunity and he's made the best of his opportunity and you could see that in the second half of their bowl game. I think they were behind in their bowl game and he took over and got them a victory in their bowl game and I think that began their momentum and he's got a lot of weapons with him, veteran wide receivers who seem like they've been starting for four years.

And on his recruitment:

REPORTER: How much did you look at Clark when he was in high school?

COACH TRESSEL: Oh, yeah, we knew Daryll real well.

REPORTER: He had some challenges academically.

COACH TRESSEL: Well, he was a good football player. Look at him a lot more right now than I looked at him that I can remember five years ago. I think he's a success story. He's a guy that was patient and committed and here he is leading an undefeated football team. To me, that's a great story.

The Vest also spent a good deal of time talking about Penn State's dangerous return game with fast cats like Derrick Williams planning to give me three and half hours of heart palpitations Saturday night:

Their kickoff return is ranked number one in the Big Ten and Number two in the country. Their return men, obviously, are scary. Williams has two kickoff return touchdowns, he has a punt return touchdown. Great acceleration. He's an up-the-field guy. He's not a guy that's going to run around you, while he could, though, with his speed, he puts his foot in the ground and he goes north and he's very, very dangerous.

Slowing Williams on returns is gonna be key. Luckily, I feel much better about the OSU kick coverage this year thanks mostly to guys like Sabino, Lane and Rolle. Those three seem to be on every tackle. I'm too lazy to look for the stat proof but it definitely feels like this year's kick coverage units are superior to last years.

Moving to the offense, I thought Tressel's comments about the game plan, specifically simplifying it with a focus on improving the o-line play were interesting. Of course, he was right to point it out how Beanie and Pryor can make any line look good (especially when they're staging a stiff arm contest on helpless defenders):

I thought our guys did a good job of understanding what they were going to come at us with, their preparation, learning it. I thought the coaches did a good job of perhaps scaling down conceptually what we were trying to do. And then we got out there and they were doing what we thought they'd do and we were executing a little bit more in sync with 11 guys at a time. I think you get a little bit of confidence, and it doesn't hurt when Beanie breaks a couple tackles and those kinds of things or Terrelle runs around a guy who's -- you know, Michigan State had the right defense on and they had a guy assigned to him, but Terrelle was faster than the guy assigned to him. You know, that helps too.

Tress also discussed how the coaches prep for an opponent and during film steady they see all these plays other teams ran that worked against that week's opponent and how it's difficult to not try and jam all those ideas into the game plan. He's got a pretty good rule to make sure it doesn't get out of hand:

Sometimes you get excited about these big games and you want to have 90 different -- oh, man I saw this, Illinois did this and Wisconsin did that and Purdue did this and Coastal Carolina, they had this one little -- all of a sudden you're there. We always say anything we put on the board past 10:00 at night probably won't work. And we were there past 10:00 last night, so we had to erase anything we put on there past 10:00. We have to have the right amount and I think that's key.

How much would you love to be able to attend those game planning sessions to see what it's really like?

Quickly jumping back to Small on returns, I loved how Tress defended Small's decisions to catch the ball and accurately pointed out how just because you have a rule not to catch the ball inside the 10, it's difficult to know exactly where you are when the punter gets off a booming punt that backs up the return man. Just as important, he notes how sometimes those boomers are highly returnable because the coverage is outkicked:

The hard ones are when you're up on the 18 or the 20 and the guy hits it over your head and the last thing you have time to do is look down and see what yard line you're on. Sometimes we put into effect that seven yard line rule that you just invented or the five-yard line rule or whatever, but that's hard. But when a guy kicks it over your head, if you're at 42, 43, wherever we have them, if a guy kicks it over your head and you happen to catch it on the seven, chances are there's a little separation because he's kicked it so far, but 10 yard line is the rule, but go back there and try to catch a punt and look down.

Apparently not understanding the obvious, the reporter went back for more asking if he addressed Small for catching (then fumbling) the punt at the 7 yard line:

No, because again, that's a no-win situation. Oh, Coach, now you want me to look down while I'm looking up? So, no, it wasn't addressed by me. I hope it wasn't addressed because it's not a bad decision. It's not like he caught it three yards deep. I hope he could understand if he went from 18 back to five yards deep, he could tell that he's gone a ways, but from the 18 to the 10, 18 to the eight, how do you know the difference when the ball is hanging up there, so I thought he did good job. If he'd have hanged on to the ball he'd be special teams player of the week because he did a great job.

No way I could summarize the presser without at least one of the Pryor questions and the most notable was with regard to how TP is coming along as a passer:

Where is he from a passer standpoint? I think he's in the midst of growing in his understanding that you first find out where our guys are going and so you throw against air. But later you find out the passing game isn't about where the receivers are going, it's about the defenders. And that's the evolution that's so different because those defenders can break on the ball so much more quickly than the defenders he threw against a year ago, so the biggest change from high school to collegiate quarterbacking is the speed of the defense.

Pretty interesting point about how it's more about knowing where the defenders are versus knowing where your receivers are.

It was also nice to hear Tress say he thinks Pryor is coming along as a passer and that he intends to use Pryor both in the pocket and on the run to keep the offense diverse. I'm not sure we've seen exactly that, but at least it appears to be the goal:

The thing you like for your offensive scheme is to never be at the same launch point. We can't say, okay, they're going to be back there at seven yards and here comes Penn State's defensive ends and defensive tackles and linebacker blitzes because they know where we're going to be standing. You have to change your launch point. Penn State does a great job of changing their launch point. Do I like them one place or the other better? No. Early on in preseason, I wasn't sure he was throwing the boot leg kind of thing as well as maybe I thought he would. Three weeks later, you could see his evolution because maybe he hadn't done as much of that. So his growth in becoming a guy that can throw it from every action, it's coming.

Lastly on Pryor, Tress was asked if he'd be comfortable with TP attempting 25-30 passes in a game and he said he absolutely would. Not sure I believe that. You?

I think that covers the main points besides the injury updates. On that topic, Boom is back, and Checkwa should be but Tress was less committal on that saying the Tuesday report was that he'd be ready but they've got three days of practice to see if that's true. Nicol and Spitler are expected to be even healthier than last week.