Tressel's Hopefully Prepared For Anything

Buckeyes coach weary of Perrilloux and possibly armed with a secret weapon of his own

Jan. 4, 2008

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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One of the biggest concerns Jim Tressel had before Ohio State embarked on its trip to New Orleans had nothing to do with LSU.


Rather, it was the long layoff the Buckeyes had to endure from their season finale to the BCS Championship game for the second straight year that had the Ohio State coach a little unnerved.


But it wasn't so much the number of days between his team's last game and Monday that has caused Tressel to fret. You'd think that would be the case, considering the 51 days between the team's regular season finale and last January's title game with Florida was thought to be a prime reason why Ohio State was plastered by the Gators. And this time around, the Buckeyes have to wait 50 days from their win over Michigan to their matchup with LSU.




But Tressel's just fine with that. The number of days between games weren't bothering him as much as they were his players.


"The thing I worry about are those long preparation times is you bang into each other so much you get people hurt," Tressel said.


Smacking into the same person practice after practice gets old fast, and that's when players get bored and lose focus. Fortunately for Tressel, the Buckeyes managed to escape practice in Columbus relatively unscathed and you'd like to think as well prepared as any football team can be for one game. After all, with 50 days to prepare -- technically 36 once Ohio State learned who they'd be facing Dec. 2 -- the Buckeyes know the Tigers as well as anyone.


"LSU is a physical football team," Tressel said. "My initial thought was how tough they were both mentally and physically. And as you watch all their films that really comes through."


Tressel can readily list the many ways the Tigers have impressed him.


There is their toughness, their ability to overcome injuries, their impressive talent level and the notion that their secondary covers better than any other unit Tressel has seen in a long time. It's high praise from a man who has been coaching championship-caliber football for quite some time. 


"They're what you would think a team would be in this position," Tressel said.


And just like the team he faced last year in the title game, Tressel has been preparing for a pair of LSU quarterbacks who bring drastically different skill sets to the table.


With Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux, Tigers coach Les Miles can throw two very different quarterbacks at the No. 1 defense in the nation in hopes of keeping them off balance.


Flynn and Perrilloux split time throughout the season with Flynn taking the majority of the snaps, but the combo helped LSU average a school record 38 points per game, about 28 more than the Buckeyes gave up on average this year.


Flynn, who should get the start Monday, is the more traditional drop-back passer of the two and much more accomplished at throwing. He can run with the ball when necessary, but he doesn't do it with nearly the kind of skill and grace that Perrilloux does.


"Perrilloux's a young talent that scares you to death," Tressel said.


Considered one of, if not the top high school quarterback in the country before signing with LSU, Perrilloux has been stunted by some of his own dumb decisions resulting in suspensions and run-ins with the law. But when he's on the field and utilizing his considerable athletic ability, most especially running the option, he's an offensive weapon for the Tigers that few have had an answer for.


At 6-foot-3 and 225-plus pounds, Perrilloux's a big body who has completed 68 percent of his passes this season (albeit on just 75 attempts). But he's an even better runner that will most certainly see plenty of snaps Monday. His SEC Championship game MVP performance practically guaranteed that back on Dec. 1.

It's the change of pace that Perrilloux provides and different looks he brings to the table that could make all the difference for LSU against Ohio State. The Tigers don't run the kind of spread attack that Florida ran last season, but there are some similarities and we know what the Chris Leak/Tim Tebow-led Gator attack was able to accomplish against the Buckeyes last year. And don't forget how Ohio State had problems stopping Illinois' Juice Williams, a quarterback who's much more polished running the ball than throwing it, in its only loss this season.


While Ohio State's two shocking losses the past two seasons probably didn't teach Tressel any new lessons, they have certainly made him rethink his ways a little bit after seeing the Leak/Tebow combo work wonders and watching other teams fold this season upon losing their starting quarterback.


"You better go in with two quarterbacks ready to win, especially in a championship game. And that's one of the great things LSU has," Tressel said.


And it's one of the things Tressel has worked on developing with his own team with all the time off they've had. Perrilloux is the kind of player who can provide a big spark for an offense and Ohio State just might feature something similar against the Tigers.


Tressel has been working backup quarterback Antonio Henton as his second stringer during the past month's practices, elevating him on the depth chart over former No. 2 Rob Schoenhoft. With the increased reps in practice and some limited game action following a seven-game suspension, Tressel has hinted that Henton could see some snaps Monday, adding another dynamic to the Buckeyes' offense and one more thing that the Tigers have to prepare for.


"So that's what our intention with all of these practices was, to get a second guy ready to maybe give you a jump-start here or there," Tressel said.


Fifty days gives you plenty of time to fiddle with your team and your schemes, maybe even revamp things. Look at what Auburn was able to do, incorporating a new spread offense only a couple of weeks before its Chick-fil-A Bowl victory New Year's Eve.


If Tressel does have any tricks up his sleeve, maybe what he was really concerned about most was Henton's health during those extra practices. And if Henton does provide the kind of spark Tressel's hinted at, chances are, you won't hear too much negative talk about that long layoff.