Tressel joins OSU question-and-answer session

Published 12:25 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

COLUMBUS — Three games into the season, there’s no question Ohio State is searching for answers.

Coach Jim Tressel was practically a one-man news conference Tuesday, asking himself rhetorical questions 38 times during his 40-minute news conference on Tuesday. He used the word ‘‘question’’ seven more times.

Think he’s consumed with questions?

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A 35-3 loss to top-ranked USC — in addition to ongoing questions (that word again) about Chris ‘‘Beanie’’ Wells’ tender right foot and a percolating quarterback controversy — have created doubts in and around the Buckeyes heading into Saturday’s game against Troy.

‘‘I think that’s fair to say that there’s a lot of questions about this team,’’ punter A.J. Trapasso said.

Tressel was almost a game-show host he asked so many questions.

‘‘How will we handle this football game? How will we handle getting better at the things we need to get better?’’ he said, back-to-back, at one point.

The most troubling queries facing the 13th-ranked Buckeyes (2-1), who fell eight spots in the rankings after the landslide loss, come at the two most important positions on offense.

Boeckman is a fifth-year senior who some were trumpeting as a Heisman Trophy contender after his first 10 games (all wins) as a starter last season. But then he strung together three bad games in a row — the Buckeyes lost two of them, including a crushing 38-24 defeat to LSU in the BCS title game — to plant seeds of doubt in Ohio State fans’ minds heading into this season.

So far, he hasn’t been awful, but he hasn’t been great. He also hasn’t gotten much help.

Adding to the intrigue is the rise of freshman Terrelle Pryor, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound bundle of speed and agility who is just happens to be the most acclaimed quarterback signing ever at Ohio State. Pryor has been a quick learner.

He has played himself into a battle for the starting spot with Boeckman. Where Boeckman is relatively immobile, but experienced and respected by his teammates, Pryor is a sprinter who makes moves that awe the coaching staff. It remains to be seen if he can read defenses, take a hit, stand in against a fierce rush or even throw a pass longer than 10 yards. He hasn’t done any of those things in a game yet.

Against USC, he was at quarterback for 25 plays, Boeckman for 39. The Buckeyes averaged 5.1 yards on Pryor’s plays, 2.8 on Boeckman’s.

Tressel is contemplating playing Pryor a lot more than he did against USC. This week in practice, Pryor will get 65 percent of the snaps with the first team, to Boeckman’s 35 percent.

Tressel dodged the question of who would start against Troy, but he did say that he expected each would play half the time — sometimes alternating plays, sometimes alternating series.

Boeckman was picked off twice, fumbled once, sacked four times and was knocked down at least another dozen times.

Tressel was asked if he had lost confidence in Boeckman, whether the offensive line didn’t protect him, or none of the above.

He answered with several questions of his own.

‘‘Or none of the above?’’ he said. ‘‘Is it disappointing that we had a couple turnovers? Absolutely. Is that a problem? Yes. Do I think he (Boeckman) is capable of not having those turnovers and doing what we need to do? Yes. Are some of those things in part because we weren’t as good as we could have been on the offensive line? Yes. We weren’t as good as we could have been out wide? Yes. And everything in between.’’

Tressel asked reporters what they thought about Pryor.

‘‘Did anyone think that he looked shook out there?’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t.’’

As for Wells, he has yet to take part in a full-contact practice since injuring his right foot in the season opener against Youngstown State. For that matter, no one from Ohio State has ever disclosed the nature or the severity of the injury.

Without him last week, the Buckeyes rushed for 71 yards on 34 carries.

Tressel said Wells is listed by medical staff as questionable for Troy. He has done some conditioning drills, but has not put much stress and strain on the foot.

Someone wondered if not having Wells was a distraction against USC.

Tressel said he didn’t think the Buckeyes were shocked Wells didn’t play.

Then he added, ‘‘Would you like to have Beanie? Of course.’’