Fifty-day layoff's effect is yet to be evaluated



After media day on Friday, the team will be sheltered from the public until after the game.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
PHOENIX -- Beginning today, it gets serious.
The countdown to the BCS championship game is less than four days, and both Ohio State and Florida will be finalizing their gameplans in the few practices that remain between now and Monday night's game at University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale.
"The focus has been good, [the players are] anxious, the weather has been perfect," proclaimed Ohio State coach Jim Tressel following Wednesday's practice at Pinnacle High School, located north of Phoenix and about 35 miles from the site of Monday's title game.
One of the concerns for the Buckeyes has been their lengthy layoff following their 42-39 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18 in the regular-season finale. There will have been 50 days elapsed between that game and Monday.
"I don't know that anyone will be able to debate whether or not there was a layoff effect until they see how we tackle and they see how we handle the football when it's live out there," Tressel said. "To me that will be the measure of it. From what I've seen thus far I haven't seen an ill effect."
The Buckeyes will be working hard today and Friday on practicing the gameplan they've installed for Florida.
"We've been working on the gameplan for the last week and a half," Tressel said. "We went fundamentals for quite some time. Now we're really trimming the gameplan down. [Today] is truly the first pure gameplan day, then [Friday] is a pure gameplan day, then [Saturday] is polish day.
Tressel said this Buckeye team enjoys getting the gameplan because they are students of the game.
"There's so much that's in a gameplan, that you never know, sometimes you get from those guys, 'Oh, we'll never run that,' " Tressel said.
"I think guys like the chess game because they've seen so much football on TV, they've seen so much analysis, they come in here knowing so much more football than they did 20 years ago, I think they get into the chalk part of it."
Contact limitations
Tressel noted that not much hitting was done Wednesday.
"They do some fundamental work, but they're still not taking people to the ground and really splattering people like what will be going on Monday night," he said. "[Fundamentals like] body position, balance, knees bent, all those things, but the collision part of it won't be there until Monday."
Tressel is known for coming up with new formations and even some trick plays in bowl games, and Wednesday he didn't discount the possibility the Buckeyes will try something new Monday night.
"If you do [come up with anything new] it's only a few more," he said. "Late in the season you have all the ones you've done and rehearsed before and maybe even used and then anything new you saw on film that week.
"By the end of the year, you've got a load of them; it's just a matter of which ones can you rehearse, so you can't have too many more."
Tressel said he's impressed by Florida, particularly the collective speed of the team.
"From top to bottom it's the fastest team we've seen," he said. "You start talking about the specialty units, you start talking about the defense, both the front and back ends, you start talking about the offensive weapons, the numbers of them, that type of thing, there are more guys with speed."
Troy the best?
Tressel responded to a comment earlier Wednesday by Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, who believes he must lead the Buckeyes to a victory and the national championship to be considered the best quarterback in OSU history.
"The number one measuring stick of a quarterback is wins and losses," Tressel said. "Obviously, a championship plus the Heisman Trophy would make an argument that he's pretty fair. I think winning does validate."
The Buckeyes will practice again today -- part of practice is open to the media for the last time before the game. After media day on Friday, the team will be sheltered from the press and public until after Monday's game.
todor@vindy.com

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