Jim Tressel has consistently placed The Ohio State University in the top 10, defeated that team up north, and brought top notch talent to the flag ship of Ohio. Several years ago these accomplishments had given the “good guy” of Buckeye football a nearly unassailable place at the helm of the scarlet and gray, but after a few nationally televised losses—and now one shocking upset—that position is under fire.
There clearly is a problem, and it is not with his conservative play calling. The problem is much deeper. He may be heralded as the good guy of college football, but this problem begins with Jim Tressel’s character.
I committed a cardinal sin. Instead of thinking for myself I went along with what everyone said. Tressel is a big character guy. When athletes come to Ohio State they learn how to play football, and how to be a man.
I’d go along with it just as much as the next guy, while not a thinker, I was a believer. Then the Texas game rolled around and Tressel said something so fundamentally wrong it shook me out of my sinful ways.
In an interview before the game, Tressel was asked if he felt any professional pressure to win. He responded no.
There is nothing more detrimental he could be teaching these young men. To say that it is OK to fail, that it is alright to not be successful at your job, that is crippling. Engineers, factory workers, and business men all have clear perceptions of the job they are paid to do and if asked whether they feel pressure to succeed you can bet your bottom dollar they will reply with an incredibly definitive yes.
Tressel’s job is to win football games, that is what he is paid to do. A days wages for less than a days work is stealing. If he doesn’t feel any pressure to successfully accomplish the job he is paid to do, his character isn’t in question, it is shameful.
With his reputable character failing, something else became apparent. Tressel is obsessively controlling. No one on that coaching staff has the ability or prestige to question him.
Unlike other contenders, Ohio States staff is void of anyone worth mention because that could bring Tressel’s power into question. It is ridiculous to say there are no big time coaches who want to come be an assistant for a team with such incredible athletes and facilities.
The Buckeye players are not in positions to be successful because of Tressel’s inadequacy. Pryor is not a perfect quarterback. Neither is Pike, Tebow, McCoy or any other player in the NCAA. He is has strengths and he has weaknesses. Tressel needs to start utilizing the first and masking the second. But before that can happen, Tressel needs to dedicate his team to success and allow other coaches to contribute.
Pryor isn’t a great decision maker, he’s proven that. So Tressel sits him in the pocket with five wide. That means the reads are complicated, quick and difficult. Why not simplify things for him by giving him fewer reads. That makes the reads less difficult and gives him more time to make them as he typically would have more blockers to slow down the rush.
Pryor’s best plays are characteristically his rush attempts, so why is Pryor being told to sit in the pocket? Design boots, get Pryor moving so he has more time to make decisions. Force defensive backs and linebackers to dedicate themselves to his legs so they have less to devote to his arm.
Pryor does not have the best arm in the league and while talented, Saine isn’t the best running back in the NCAA. Tressel asks both of them to do things the best of the best would struggle with.
When a wide receiver is uncovered and only one safety is deep because so many defenders have been dropped into the box, no running back is going to encounter success.
The very next play, two safeties are deep and spread to the outside of the field. Every single receiver is covered by a defensive back, not a linebacker. That is going to be a very difficult pass for the best arm in the league. For Pryor that is an incompletion or sack.
The Buckeyes handed the ball off to Saine on the first play listed above and lost a yard. The second play Pryor was sacked.
There is no reason Pryor can’t make such simple audibles. Coach him to do it. It is naive to play directly into the defensive strengths, and embarrassing that Buckeye tendencies are so strong coordinators can anticipate offensive play calling to perfection.
The Ohio State line is less than dominant. Yet Tressel continues to try and go deep and Pryor continues to get sacked. Start mixing the plays up and calling shorter pass plays and the Buckeyes may actually be able to pass the ball.
Adjustments during a game are crucial, they are also difficult. There isn’t a coach in college football that can make them alone. That is why they hire talented coordinators. Instead of stubbornly turning the other cheek in the second half, adjust to what the other team is doing. Converse with coordinators and get the opposition figured out so the Buckeye players are in a better position for success.
Tressel is a world class recruiter, and the Buckeyes wouldn't be where they are without him. He has the ability to be a great coach as none of these changes are difficult. But they all require a dedication to success, above all else, and he is going to have to loosen his death grip on the control of this team.
The Buckeyes are talented enough to be undefeated right now, and that talent isn't going to disappear after one upset. They still can win the Big Ten and make this a season to be proud of.