December 6, 2009

Notebook: Westward Ho!

There really was no surprise when the announcement finally came down that the Buckeyes would play in the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Ohio State has been sitting in the clubhouse since its win against Michigan two weeks ago and knew its opponent since Thursday night in the de facto Pac-10 championship game. But before the Buckeyes can really sink their teeth into Ducks and try and figure out what makes them tick and how to stop them there is obvious excitement about playing in the Rose Bowl.

It has been more than a decade since Ohio State has headed out to the Granddaddy of them all and even in the days of BCS Championship games the thought of playing in the Rose Bowl is not lost on these players, especially the seniors who are getting to go out on one of the grandest stages in all of college football.

"It feels a lot different because I have never been to the Rose Bowl," wide receiver Ray Small said. "Obviously the Rose Bowl is a big thing for the Big Ten and I grew up watching the Rose Bowl with my family and my father and just to be playing in it great. And with my family there watching me in there playing is even better."

But not every player has a lot of memories about Ohio State's epic battle with Arizona State when Joe Germaine hit David Boston in the closing moments of the game. And even if there are memories believe it not every player may not have been invested when they were still in grade school.

"When I was little I was growing up in a suburb of Dayton so it wasn't all about Ohio State, there were people that like Ohio State, but as for me I wasn't really paying attention to Ohio State," Ballard said. "But I do remember we were at Disneyworld when the Rose Bowl was and my dad and his buddies were watching it and were going crazy the whole time but I really wasn't into it because I was like nine years old."

Change in plans?

There is an old saying that a zebra can't change its stripes and in a lot of regards that holds true regardless of the arena you are saying it in. The Buckeyes have seen their rushing game come on as of late with the last five games having them eclipse the 200 yard rushing mark per contest. But that doesn't change the fact that the passing game has been more of a token offense and not a mainstay.

Most fans and observers were glued to their televisions on Thursday night to see the Ducks take on the Oregon State Beavers and saw some moments where the Oregon secondary didn't perform up to championship caliber. Is there any chance that the Buckeyes may really change things up and try and change their stripes to a certain degree?

"Just knowing Tress not really," Small joked. "He is not really going to change anything and we are just going to go out there and play smash mouth football. At the end of the day bowl practice is like camp so we are going out there and are going to grind just like it is camp."

Bowl practices are a welcome thing to coaching staffs but there isn't a single coach in the game who will admit that it is long enough to really make any wholesale changes and Tressel stayed in that line when asked about any sorts of potential changes.

"We wouldn't in this short window change a whole bunch conceptually," head coach Jim Tressel said. "We are not going to all of a sudden start doing different types of things. I just think we have to get better at what we do."

Pettrey on the mend

Aaron Pettrey saw his season take a terrible turn toward the end of the year after a freak play against New Mexico State sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. Of course that did set up some late game heroics for walk-on Devin Barclay but Pettrey is aiming to be the one out there providing big points when the team heads to Pasadena (Calif.).

"In my head I am planning on playing and hopefully I will get a week in practice in," Pettrey said. "Right now I have just recently started kicking and doing minor stuff but I guess it really depends on how these next two weeks go."

Rehab has been a slow process and at times has been borderline unbearable.

"I just started out in the pool and simple things and that was boring," Pettrey now. "Now I am getting to run and cut and some other stuff. It has been four weeks and it is a six to eight week recovery but right now it looks like I might get back in five or six (weeks)."

But the senior leader has been a vocal member of the team and had some sage words of advice for Barclay before his big kick and even played a role as a soothsayer before the game with Iowa even kicked off.

"I told everyone before the game that people were going to know who Devin was after he kicked the game winner because I knew it was going to be close," Pettrey said. "Before he went out there I kind of talked to him and told him to be the hero."

The marrying man

Offensive lineman Jim Cordle has taken some big steps during his Ohio State career. The senior lineman has played just about every position on the offensive line, learned that he can snap the ball with either hand and has overcome adversity with injuries.

But during the annual football banquet the Lancaster (Ohio) native took another big step in his life when he proposed to his longtime girlfriend in front of a packed house. For a guy who plays under pressure conditions all of the time he was obviously a little rattled when it came to affairs of the heart. How did his head coach grade him out on Sunday afternoon?

"He extended our banquet by 15 minutes because he kept rambling and thanking all these other people and hesitating," Tressel joked. "But no, he did a great job once he pulled the trigger."

While the announcement may have been a surprise for the future Mrs. Cordle it had been bantered about the halls of the WHAC and many players were equipped with camera phones to capture the big moment. Did coach Tressel know about this in advance?

"I knew about it but he didn't ask for my permission or anything," Tressel said with a smile.

Out of the nest

Coaching vacancies are a big topic right now in college football and while national searches are in place for jobs like Notre Dame and Kansas there are plenty of regional jobs that are open as well. The Ohio State coaching staff has been fortunate with very little turnover through the years. But that isn't for a lack of encouragement from Jim Tressel for his staff to explore opportunities.

"It will start rolling this week I think because a lot of the teams around the country now truly are done and some of the people they want to talk to from those teams," Tressel said. "I would think our guys… I would hope they would get opportunities to at least find out if they are interested in some head coaching opportunities."

Luke Fickell's name has been mentioned for the vacancy at Akron among places. Has there been any sort of advice given to the current co-defensive coordinator?

"I advise all my guys this, get it offered to you and worry about it later if you want it," Tressel said. "Go for it, you can decide later if you don't want it or if it doesn't fit you. Or they can decide that they might not want you so go for it because it is the only way you can get in the hunt."

On the way out?

Coaches are not the only ones rumored to be on the move and every year in college football there seems to be attrition as some players look to make a move to get into a better position to play and showcase their talents.

Those conversations have been around the Buckeyes with potential moves from players like Taurian Washington and Lamaar Thomas. Has either of the wide receivers talked to their head coach about the possibility of moving on after this season?

"I haven't heard anything about that from them," Tressel said. "I have heard some people asking me the same question."

So obviously there has been some discussion somewhere out there but at this point it is rumor and the process has not been put into motion at least from an Ohio State side of things.

"I think that is natural discussion whether it starts with the player starting the discussion or someone sitting in a room saying, 'I wonder if so-and-so is going to leave because he didn't play this year,'" Tressel said. "As soon as it gets three places it is 'they said it'."

We will follow this story closely and only time will tell how things shake out.

Who's the Heisman?

Does anyone want to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy? There have been some great individual performances in the season but it almost seems if nobody can bring it week in and week out. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel does not have a Heisman vote but was asked about who would make his ballot if he did.

"That is a tough one," Tressel said. "I like it when it has to do with how the team did so I suppose that we would have to talk about the two teams that still have a chance to be the best and Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram would probably be my two and I would probably have to flip a coin because they have been impactful."

With those two potentially topping the ballot that leaves room for a third player and one player came to mind very quickly after a dominating performance on Saturday night.

"But that defensive lineman from Nebraska has been something," Tressel said.

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