Jim Tressel spoke with reporters earlier today as part of the Big Ten's Spring Football and although limited by time to just six questions, there are some choice nuggets in his responses. If you're in a TL;DR kind of mood, things are going well, the team has avoided injuries, Terrelle and his knee are fine, Tressel will go along with whatever comes out of the expansion talks and he's a fan of Cameron Heyward.
We're nearly at the midpoint of spring practice, we've had seven practices thus far. We have practice number eight this afternoon. We've been pleased with a number of things. Obviously we have a long way to go in a lot of areas. Spring practice is that moment when you try to see if you're going to have some depth after graduating a group of good kids that were excellent leaders and led us to the Big 10 championship and also we lost Thaddeus Gibson out early to the NFL. There are certainly holes to fill, depth to be created. I think the personality of our team is in the midst of being formed. I don't know if you know the total answer to that until you're thrust out there in actual competition. Thus far, seven practices, pretty solid. No horrible injuries.which I think coaches -- when spring ends, if they remain fairly healthy, they're pleased with that and knock on wood so far, it's been pretty decent from that standpoint.
Can you give us an update on the progress of Terrelle and how he's progressing this spring based on how he finished last year in the Rose Bowl?
We did a little bit of a midseason evaluation by position and talked a little bit about where we thought guys have improved during this spring practice and where we need to focus attention for the last 8 practices. As I think back to what Nick Siciliano, Jim Bollman, Darrell Hazell and those guys have talked about in Terrelle's case is that he really has done a good job of working on his feet. He's done a good job of keeping his feet patient and as he's grown to experience more and learn more about how people try to defend us and so forth, he's done a good job of keeping his feet in sync with that thought process. I think he's also done a good job of having a lot better recognition and understanding for the progression of receivers all the way down to the check-downs. I think when you're young as a quarterback, you try to memorize who was my primary read and those kinds of things and the older you get, you know as you watch the defense who may be number one, two and three and where do you find that guy in case everything is covered down the field and you need to check it down and I think he's done a good job of growing in that area. I think just in general, his calmness and command has improved through the course of these seven practices and i think it really began heading that direction during the month long bowl practice. I think the back half of the spring and then on into that time in between spring practice and preseason, we have to get a little better with our timing and that just takes more time spent with his receivers and getting in the same rhythm as the receivers, growing to understand more and more what we're doing and managing our tempo I think will be a critical thing. I think the other thing Terrelle will continue to work on and it's going to be important for this team is to have him continue to emerge as a leader. I think the better you do your craft and the more confidence you have in your craft, the more you have a chance to be a leader.
How is Terrelle's knee?
His knee is fine. He's doing everything and he trains exceptionally hard. Honestly the thing I think you have to worry about with Terrelle is over-training. I think he likes to work so much, you see him coming in at 6 in the morning, making an appointment with the strength coach to work on this or that and yet we've got a practice later in the day. I think he, in his excitement to become as good as he can, I think sometimes we have to pull his reins in a little bit, but his knee and everything is fine.
Is he where you thought he'd be after two years?
Well, I don't know that I expected him to, after two years, have been the starting quarterback for two Big Ten championship teams and taken us to two BCS games. I don't know that I thought oh boy that's just going to be a walk in the park to do that. Am I surprised you know that he's been able to be a part of that, no. I don't know though, that I just thought that that would be an automatic. In terms of his development, you never know what the experience level of a guy is going to be. You don't know how he's going to be health-wise, you don't know if he's even going to get into the lineup and get those repetitions one needs to get better and better and better. But you know, he's been fortunate to get opportunities to play and he's remained fairly healthy and to have a number of games under his belt at this point in his career is pretty good. Now, he's a junior and the expectations here raise a little bit. Here meaning within the walls of the folks that are doing this everyday. Obviously, the people outside have had expectations from day one, but our expectations are certainly rising.
What is your latest personal feeling on expansion and whether that relates to what you think will happen (Ed: St. Louis area writer angling for some Mizzou love)?
Well, I would say this: coaches really aren't in that level or echelon that gets involved in many of those discussions at the conference level, so I've been in no discussions with anyone, whether it's been with my AD or the commissioner's office in terms of expansion. Now, what do I sense? I sense that in collegiate athletics as in most things, status quo does not last forever. There is constantly change, there's constantly tweaking to find out what would be a better way to do things. The minute you think everything is fine and it's going to be that way forever is just when someone else passes you by. So I would expect there would be significant discussion about expansion and I think the Big Ten sits in an enviable position, quite honestly. We have a little bit of a central location. I'm sure there are people to our west, people to our south and people to our east that might have interest in being part of this group. In my mind it's the finest group of academic institutions in the country and so obviously anyone would want to be a part of that as an institution. I think that the fact that we have the Big Ten Network that has proven to be so successful, I think that's obvious something someone would want to be a part of. I think when it comes down to it, those decisions will be made at the presidential level and the commissioner level and perhaps the athletic directors will have part and parcel to it, but major decisions like that happen well above where I'd sit.
Any personal feeling about what you'd like to see happen?
No, not really. Typically when things are brought forward and there's a rationale made and it makes sense, I'm on board, whether it's a rule change that the NCAA makes and they say "Hey, here's why we're doing it. I know it's going to be a change for you. I know it's not what your used to, but here's the good reasoning." Hey, if it makes sense, let's go. And the same would be in the case of expansion. I assume that if we would expand, we'd end up with a championship game. I'm sure that the public opinion is that at one point we'd like to evolve to some sort of further extension of deciding who the national champion is and so forth. I don't sit around on a napkin and say "Hey, here's the way we ought to line things up and here's how a tournament ought to be." I have too many other things I will have some impact on as opposed to the ones that I won't have an impact on, so I'm sure whatever rationale they come up with, we'll be on board and we'll get excited to be a part of it.
With the depth on the defensive line, how much will you rely on Cameron Heyward for his senior year (Ed: Rittenberg on this one. SMH)?
You know, Cameron Heyward is a great player and he's a great kid and he's going to be a great leader for this team. Obviously we will count on him a lot on the field. I think he has a good knack of helping bring other people along and that's just the type of person he is and he's a real inclusive guy. He knows we lost a great deal of personnel on that defensive front through graduation plus losing Thaddeus early, so he's at the front of the room encouraging those guys, at the front of the line in practice encouraging those guys. His performance will be crucial for us, but his leadership will be just as important.