Tressel, Buckeyes feeling loose before bowl

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The term "loose" doesn't seem to fit a guy whose trademark outfit is a sweater vest, but Ohio State's Jim Tressel might be the more relaxed head coach come Monday night.

His Texas counterpart, Mack Brown, thinks so.

Brown admitted this morning that Texas has more pressure heading into Monday's matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m.). The Longhorns are heavy favorites who can strengthen their argument for a national championship with a win against the Buckeyes, a team most are counting out.

"You'll see a loose Jim Tressel who's going to go for it," Brown said.

Tressel sounded fine with that assessment.

"Oh, I'm loose," Tressel said. "I think about the opportunity, especially for our 28 seniors, you do want to let it all hang out. You're not going to hold anything in reserve."

Compared to the charismatic Brown, Tressel was fairly reserved during his pre-bowl news conference. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Buckeyes freshman defensive end Nathan Williams will face some playing-time penalties after being charged with shoplifting last month. Williams pleaded not guilty Dec. 16 and faces a pretrial hearing March 16. Tressel also responded to a question about whether starting wide receiver Brian Hartline would face any discipline for a possible team rules violation during the week in Arizona. "We may have some discussions as we go," Tressel said, "but for the moment, Brian Hartline is going to have a great part of this football game."

  • Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells appeared to leave the door open for a return in 2009, but Tressel, who has said Wells is ready for the NFL, maintained that stance. "He is feeling as if he doesn't want to do anything to distract from this moment, because it's a special moment," Tressel said. "I have felt all along that with his talent and the position he plays and those kinds of thing, that [going pro] may end up being the best thing, that he move along. But we haven't had that discussion." Translation: It would be shocking if Wells stayed in school.

  • Third-string running back Brandon Saine hasn't done much in pre-bowl practice because of an injury and likely won't play against Texas. He will dress for the game. Freshman reserve tackle J.B. Shugarts has practiced and will be available Monday before likely undergoing postseason surgery.

  • Like Brown, Tressel emphasized the importance of special teams in Monday's matchup. Ohio State has been excellent on punt and kickoff coverage and ranks 14th nationally in punt returns (12.9 YPR), while Texas ranks third nationally in net punting and has blocked six kicks, four by freshman cornerback Aaron Williams. Return men Ray Small (Ohio State) and Jordan Shipley (Texas) are both capable of going to the house. "When you have depth like they have on defense, you're going to have great speed in your special units," Tressel said.

  • Tressel doesn't seem concerned that Ohio State's recent big-game losses will place an added burden on his team, but he acknowledges he's more excited about this bowl than he has been in a while. The team's 28 seniors have something to do with it. "Why is this one? Why do I feel that way? There has been something awfully special about this group of kids," Tressel said. "Maybe it is because it is today, I don't know. They have been very unselfish. They have prepared extremely hard. They care about one another. They have fun with one another."