Mailbag, post USC loss and pre-Toledo game

With Ohio State football at the quarter pole, and given the fallout from the 18-15 loss to USC, we’re going to make the Buckeye Ford Beat a collective effort and allow you to get the answers you want regarding Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes.
Send me an email at and, while I won’t guarantee it will be included here, I’ll try to get to as many as I can.
Here’s a sample of what flooded the email inbox this week:

Q: from Jim — Do you think #2 is thinking he should have gone to The “U” instead of signing up for 4 years of Tressel ball???? How many OSU QB’s are starting in the NFL right now, let alone on an NFL roster?? It was just good to see that a Sophomore QB can actually make plays when he is working with a real Off. Cord. and not a stubborn head coach trying to stick around peg in a square hole.
A: Zero OSU QBs are starting now in the NFL. That’s never been a strength at OSU, developing NFL quarterbacks. As for an offensive coordinator, don’t hold your breath. Jim Bollman has the title, but JT calls the plays and will continue to do so. He said this week, he doesn’t want to be a coach with his feet up on the desk, reading the paper. He wants to be involved. Of course, he could be involved with a new guy who has been somewhere other than Youngstown State or Ohio State, someone who might be able to say in a meeting, “Coach, when we played Oklahoma (or Florida State, or Miami, or any other big-time team), this is how we did it.” There’s no one on the staff who can do that now. They all owe their careers to JT.

Q from Jack — I, like most people, think Jim Tressel is a terrific person and certainly an outstanding head coach. But I do not think he has found “true north” on his offensive compass. What I mean is that he is enigmatic. For example, he has both Pryor and Boeckman in the Texas game last year and uses the athletic talent of Pryor to score a TD as a receiver — yet Coach T restrained use of Pryor’s athletic ability in the USC game by not using his option skills and apparently having Pryor mentally clamped into not running the ball when the field was wide open for him with the result that Pryor had to throw a pass that he instictively (you could tell) did not want to throw because he either saw or peripherally sensed the opening was there for thim to take off. The great coach that Tressel is surely must know that if Pryor has to think too much or be shackled by the called play, he will become robotic and ineffective (even when he does run he seems “controlled”). So, Coach T is a mystery to me
A: The slot receiver appeared open a lot against USC. The key word is, appeared. USC often rolled its coverage to that guy once the ball was snapped. Maybe they were baiting Pryor, or maybe he missed opportunities for easy 5-yard-or-more gains. Clearly, TP doesn’t read the field as well as he perhaps will when he’s more experienced. JT said this week that at this point in their careers, Troy Smith, Vince Young and others weren’t starting or shouldering the responsibility TP does. What he didn’t say was that TP has a full year as a starter under his belt. He should be better at a lot of things he struggles to do.

Q from Chris: We’ve seen numerous coaches completely transform a team within 2 years. I think what is so frustrating, is that it’s obvious that what Tressel is doing isn’t working. Why is it taking so long for a relatively MINOR change?Whether that means with his coaching/teaching philosophy, offensive philosophy, new offensive coordinator, etc… whatever. Fans have given him plenty of time to make the minor change and we’re seeing what appears to be the SAME philosophy that continues to not work. We’d just like to see more obvious adjustments to show us that they are trying SOMETHING.
A: Getting Jim Tressel to give up control of the offense is far from a minor change. He, like all coaches, are control freaks. Last year, he said he couldn’t envision giving up play-calling responsibilities because “my ego wouldn’t let me.” JT doesn’t open up the window to his soul too often. That time, he did.
Q from Dan: It’s comical how well Tressel is at never answering any questions, but thanks for pointing out that he is beginning to become condescending in the face of due criticism. For starters I’m not even sure that I believe he does care about losing, but I certainly don’t care how upset he is about losing to 6 or 7 straight top 5 teams because I don’t feel upset, I feel embarrassed

A: My comment on The Big Show about JT sometimes being condescending referenced his point that “I don’t know what I have to gain by addressing (reporters) every week. Why does he have to gain from it? It’s his responsibility to talk to the press, because that’s how the fans get answers. He, of course, makes the call on what he answers. But it’s not appropriate for him to insult reporters for asking USC questions late in the week before the Toledo game. A good reporter asks questions fans want answers to. My guess, even with Toledo coming up, most fans wanted answers to numerous issues that arose against USC.

Q from Benjamin: I normally support Tressel and his conservative game management approach, I think it wins games. But folks, the fact is that he abandoned his core philosophy when it mattered most in this game, and no one seems to have noticed. Why is no one focusing on our last possession of the first half, it was inexcusable and inconsistent with Tressel’s whole coaching strategy, and that is the main reason people have a right to be upset with him. It’s OSU’s ball with 1:49 left, 10-7 lead, USC has no timeouts. Repeat, USC has ZERO TIMEOUTS. What do we do? I’ll tell you: Pass incomplete on 1st down . Seven yard run on 2nd down. Pass incomplete on 3rd down. Punt to USC on 4th down, leaving them 0:55 in the half. That’s right, we didn’t even run a minute off the clock! Everything else I can forgive, but USC’s field goal as time expired on the 1st half was totally preventable, and the resulting 3 points were the difference in the game. Run the ball on 3rd and 3 in your own territory against USC with a 10-7 lead (that you earned in on the first play of the quarter by kicking a field goal on 4th and goal from the 1) with 1:00 left in the half when USC has no timeouts. And we lose 18-15, imagine that. UNFORGIVABLE!!!!
A: No argument from me on that one. The series at the end of the half was a head-scratcher. Seriously, has Terrelle Pryor shown he can move the team down the field throwing the football in the hurry-up offense? It was a high-risk attempt to score, without a percentage reward for the risk. What hurt OSU was the failure of its defense to bottle up Stafon Johnson on a first-down run when USC was clearly trying to run out the clock. When he made it to midfield, Pete Carroll went all-in with his true freshman. You could look at it like OSU was fortune not to give up a touchdown on that series. The fade route to David Ausberry was there, if not for Ausberry starting his route too close to the sideline.
Q from Angela: If we had been down most of the game and had not dominated throughout 3.5 quarters (minus 2 minutes before the half), and we had finished 18-15, Tressel would have gotten a pass from fans. But because we dominated the entire game on defense and should have won the game by most views, Tressel takes the heat because the same thing happened in the last 2 minutes vs. Texas last season in the bowl game. When you have dominated and have the game won and you go safe rather than trying to seal the win, and your defense falls apart AGAIN in the last couple of minutes, then fans get frustrated. Tressel doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. When you have a 6’6” Qb and you didn’t get the 1 yard you need on 2nd down when you ran the tailback up the middle, then maybe you should use that QB to try and get the yard.
A: That’s an interesting observation. After winning close against Navy, most OSU fans expected USC to dominate. I think they would have accepted an 18-15 score before kickoff. But the way it transpired really ticked them off. As for running TP on short yardage, I am mystified why a guy that big and supposedly talented as a runner isn’t used on the goal line or when a tough yard is needed.Why not roll him out on a quarterback sweep and let him use his athleticism to go for the mark?Maybe because JT has no faith in his O line to keep a defender from shooting the gap and making a tackle for a loss. I understand if that’s his fear, don’t you?
Q from Kyle: One thing I have not heard a lot of is in order for Tressel ball to work you have to have a lock down defense. This years defense is not that type of defense. In order for them to win a big one is score 21 then play D. Just my thought.

A: Good thought. You’re not a lockdown defense unless you can lock down when it counts the most. The OSU defense has shown a troubling knack for allowing a big game-deciding drive against Illinois in ’07, Penn State and Texas in ’08 and now USC in ’09.



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