Fickell Keeps First Practice Close to the Vest
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell was not wearing a sweater vest Monday and there weren’t many “JT” wristbands going around—the University made certain of that—but Ohio State’s first practice had a strangely familiar feel.
With all the talent the Buckeyes lost in the off-season—including a 6-6 Heisman Trophy candidate—it was a 5-8 man long past his playing days who left the biggest void on the practice field Monday.
The man who led these practices for the last decade is gone, but not his mark on the program. New Head Coach Luke Fickell is the man in charge, but the 37-year old (almost 38) was not forceful about putting his own mark on the program
“Hopefully not a whole lot,” Fickell said when asked what had changed on the first day of camp from last year.
“Again, I’m not trying to compare or contrast anything from the past. We’re working on moving forward and not going back in there as a staff and compare and contrast what we did today to what we did last year. We’re going to focus on moving forward.”
That has been Fickell’s message since he took over the program back in May.
"It’s about action, and I think that’s the biggest thing we keep stressing to our guys,” Fickell said Monday.
“We’ve had enough talk. We see a lot better than we hear. So we just keep stressing to the guys, ‘You know what’s expected of you. Keep your eyes open, your ears open and don’t make a lot of talk about it.’”
There wasn’t a lot of talk going on Monday, outside of tailback Boom Herron, who was cheering on his with a towel-wave when he was not on the field.
Even though they weren’t in pads, players were flying around the field on the first day of fall camp, and the new boss liked what he saw.
“I think the attitudes were right,” he said after the morning practice.
“I think the tempo – obviously we can get better each and every day – but I think the attitudes were right. Guys were working together as a team. They understand it’s all about each other and I think they’ve got the right focus.”
Though he did not change much about the look and feel of practice at Ohio State, Fickell’s role was altered dramatically. A hands-on coach with background exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, Fickell spent his first practice as head coach getting acquainted with the process.
“I think it was unique. I had a plan to maybe bug some guys and say 'I'm going to be with you on this period, this period, this period,' just to make sure I had something to do as I figure out exactly how the whole thing works,” Fickell said.
“I was definitely busy. Hopefully I didn't step on too many toes. Again, trying to show that the actions are the biggest thing I'm trying through.”
So far, it seems to be working; especially with Fickell’s newest assistant coach.
“I try never to pay whole lot of attention to him,” a smirking Fickell said of linebackers coach Mike Vrabel.
“He fit in just fine, I’m sure. You could see that the guys take to him. The coaches have taken to him. But again we’re not trying to focus on any one person or any one player or any one coach. It’s not about me. We’re just going to continue to talk about the team.”
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