Tressel Says Freshmen Still Have To Prove Themselves
July 23, 2002 at 8:49 PM EST - Updated June 29 at 11:30 PM
By CHARLEY GILLESPIE, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Having one of nation's top recruiting classes is not enough to make Ohio State coach Jim Tressel feel comfortable about the freshmen that will report to practice Monday.
"We have never seen these kids on a college football field," Tressel said Tuesday. "The biggest adjustment is the speed at which everything happens. Can they handle the speed?"
Tressel, in his first full year of recruiting, signed seven of the top eight high school seniors in Ohio, a class that finished in the top three nationally.
The Buckeyes' top recruits include All-Americans Maurice Clarett, Derek Morris and Mike D'Andrea.
Tressel said he will overload the freshmen during the first couple days of camp to see how they respond.
"We got a bunch of guys we are anxious to find out about," he said. "It depends on the kid, some can adjust quickly. The roller coaster ride begins now."
The preseason will be even more important this year because freshmen make up almost a third of Tressel's roster.
"We have a large number of new guys coming in," he said. "I think it is going to be fun for our coaching staff to figure out the right formula to bring them along to where they should be."
Tressel said it won't take long to find out which players are ready to step up.
"We will find out quickly how some guys handle being overloaded," he said. "It is always fun to see which guys it doesn't bother and which guys get paralyzed."
Tressel said veteran linebackers will give Justin Zwick, the highly touted quarterback from Massillon Washington, a crash course in speed.
"He is not used to playing against linebackers with the speed of Matt Wilhelm," Tressel said. "He is not used to the savvy of Wilhelm reading his eyes and being a half a step quicker off the ball."
He said Zwick also will have to adjust to how quickly defenders get to the ball.
"In high school, the speed in which people break on the ball you throw and try to knock it down is what it is," Tressel said. "In college it becomes much quicker. ... In the NFL nobody is ever open."
Tressel said if the season began today, redshirt junior Craig Krenzel would start at quarterback. He started the Buckeyes' victory over Michigan last season.
"For a quarterback to be capable of winning the Big Ten he must have a clear focus of what he needs to do," Tressel said. "Krenzel knew what was needed to win."
Tressel said he expects several freshmen to play this year.
"How quickly they will step into this environment and be ready to help is where these next 33 practices can make the difference," he said.
Because the Buckeyes have 13 games this year, Tressel won't be quick to redshirt a freshman.
"You got to make sure you force yourself to play guys early," he said.
Tressel said he will need a lot of players -- including freshmen -- for Ohio State's season-opener at home against Texas Tech on Aug. 24.
"It will be very hot and there will be a lot of rushing the passer," he said.
Tressel said his coaches have a lot of work to do to just to find out who will be lining up against the Red Raiders.
"We all know the preseason is a crucial stage of the season," he said. "You have to focus on this moment to be good at the end of the season. As soon as you start thinking about the end, I don't know if you are going to progress."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)