Luncheon Day Notebook: Fickell Feeling More Confident
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell is getting the hang of things.
Photo by Jim Davidson
In the first press luncheon of his, albeit brief, foray into head coaching, Fickell stood tall and looked confident at the podium. He spoke with authority, but also an understanding of the situation he is stepping into as the 23rd head coach in Ohio State history.
“I knew this was where I wanted to be. This was my goal when I started coaching,” Fickell said during Tuesday’s press conference.
“Then as I got into coaching and I realized I wanted to be a head coach, obviously this was my lifetime goal.”
The 38-year old Fickell is the sixth former OSU assistant coach to assume the head-coaching job and the fourth former Buckeye player to ascend to the top job in Columbus.
Putting Trust in Bauserman…OR Braxton
One of the most important decisions Fickell will have to make in his first year as head coach is how to handle the quarterback situation. Ohio State’ first depth chart lists senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller as co-starters, but Fickell has an idea of who will start the game against Akron.
“I'm not sure listed there how it is exactly with the ‘or,’” he said.
“If we were taking the first snap right now, Joe would probably take the first snap.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bauserman is a fifth-year senior, but had very limited game experience as Terrelle Pryor’s backup, which is why the coaches want to see how both guys will respond when the lights finally go on and the games are live.
“Just talking with those guys, talking with the offensive staff, we know we're going to need them both,” said Fickell, who experienced a two-quarterback system first-hand as a player at Ohio State.
“The whole idea is we want to make sure that we can put them out in front of 106,000 and see how guys respond.”
It might be a good idea to ease Miller slowly into that transition rather than throwing him head first into the water, but the coaches aren’t worried about him being ready when they call his name.
“We know he can do it. We know he has the ability to do it. Being able to handle all the situations is what's important,” Fickell said.
“We don't lack confidence in what he does; I can tell you that. That's why he's listed as an or.”
Berry Out of Action
Photo by Jim Davidson
Outside of their suspended players—DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and Mike Adams—the Buckeyes should have most of their offensive weapons available for the season-opener against Akron.
One guy who might not be on the field Saturday is tailback Jaamal Berry. The redshirt sophomore out of Miami, Fla. has been battling a hamstring injury this fall and could be forced to miss the season-opener.
“Jaamal has not practiced this week. Right now he's still got a little bit of a hamstring, so we'll see,” Fickell said.
“He is questionable, probably, still to this date.”
If Berry can’t go Saturday, receiver Chris Fields would likely replace him on the kick return team while redshirt freshman Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith slide up a spot in the rotation behind Jordan Hall.
“To me, we've got some talent. We've got some depth. We're going to have to see. Those guys are going to get opportunities,” Fickell said of the running back rotation while Herron is out.
“How you take advantage of your opportunities will determine how many more opportunities you have. We'll see how that all works out. We don't have it laid out and scripted exactly. But we know we've got a lot of opportunities for guys.”
Offensive Line Depth an Issue
It seems like all fall we have been talking about the lack of depth on Ohio State’s offensive line, and it appears Fickell has been listening.
“Depth-wise that's obviously always a concern,” he said Tuesday.
“When you have some injuries and you have guys that are going to be out, you have worries, not unlike other positions as well. So we have a depth issue right there.”
The Buckeyes actually haven’t had many injuries up front this fall, but that makes it all the more concerning that Ohio State’s entire second-team offensive line is made up of walk-ons and true freshmen.
“We have an idea,” Fickell said.
“Sometimes you have five guys and you have two other ones that could play some different positions. That's, I think, what Coach (Jim) Bollman's done a great job of. He's always had guys that could go in and bump him around, and not just to say because you're listed as the back-up right tackle, that if the right tackle goes down the next guy goes in, no, the best guy goes in.”
Two of Ohio State’s seven “best guys” will not be available Saturday. One of them is Adams, who is suspended for the first five games of the season. The other is Corey Linsley.
“Corey will not be available for the first game,” Fickell announced.
A redshirt sophomore out of Youngstown Boardman, Linsley had been repping with the first-team offense at right guard in the spring. He spent the fall backing up Marcus Hall at that position with the knowledge he wouldn’t be available until the third week of the season.
“I don't know that he'll be available for the second (game) as well,” Fickell added.
While he’s out, the Buckeyes will need one or two of their young freshmen to learn on the fly.
“I'm not going to lie, we're a little thin,” center Michael Brewster said.
“But once we get Mike and Corey back, that will help a lot. But we've got some young guys that are trying to step up. It's just hard. Offensive lines are very hard positions as a young guy. There are so many things you have to think about, and when you're thinking, you can't play as fast and you can't use good technique.”
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