Who will call plays in Tressel's absence?

As the Jim Tressel saga continues to unfold, much of the focus is on big-picture issues that could have an impact well beyond the 2011 football season.

  • What will the NCAA decide after its investigation into Tressel?

  • How will Ohio State respond to potentially severe penalties and public pressure?

  • Are Tressel's days numbered at the helm of the Buckeyes, or will one of the most dominant coaches in Big Ten history survive this mess?

We'll have plenty of time to debate these questions and others, but as Ohio State kicks off spring practice this week, it's time to (briefly) turn the focus back to football and the upcoming season.

Let's start with this: Who calls Ohio State's offensive plays during Tressel's suspension this fall?

Tressel always has maintained the Buckeyes' offensive play-calling is a collaborative effort between himself and his offensive assistants. The Vest always has had final say on what the Buckeyes run, and he remains very much in control of the plan throughout games. Ohio State has an offensive coordinator in Jim Bollman, who contributes to the scheme, but Bollman lacks the play-calling carte blanche of, say, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst or Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Receivers coach/assistant head coach Darell Hazell appeared to become more involved in offensive play-calling the past two seasons.

Still, if you had to put a name next to title "Ohio State offensive playcaller," you probably would go with Jim Tressel. But Tressel won't be making any calls on the first five Saturdays this fall, and possibly longer.

Hazell might have been the perfect solution for Ohio State. As the team's assistant head coach, Hazell likely would have handled most of Tressel's duties on Saturdays, possibly including final say on offensive play calls. Turns out, Hazell will be a head coach this fall -- for Kent State.

That leaves five Buckeyes offensive assistants:

  • Bollman, offensive coordinator/offensive line

  • Nick Siciliano, quarterbacks

  • Dick "Doc" Tressel, running backs

  • Stan Drayton, wide receivers

  • John Peterson, tight ends

Bollman and Doc Tressel, a former head coach at Division III Hamline University, look like the top two options for offensive play-calling. Drayton is entering his first season at Ohio State and will be working with receivers for the first time. Siciliano and Peterson haven't held coordinator posts.

How will the offense change with Bollman and/or Doc Tressel calling plays? Keep in mind Ohio State also will be dealing with a new starting quarterback for the first chunk of the season.

Make no mistake: Jim Tressel will strongly influence the scheme as long as he's allowed to participate in game week. But another coach will have final say and make in-game adjustments, which could have a significant effect on the first half of Ohio State's season.