Fickell Never Spoke With Pryor Before He Left
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell officially took over the duties as acting head coach of the Ohio State football program on Memorial Day following the resignation of Jim Tressel.
The 37-year old Fickell will guide the Buckeyes through what could be a tumultuous 2011 season, and he will do so without Terrelle Pryor at quarterback.
Already suspended for the first five games of the season, the three-year starter decided to leave the program last week in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation, but he never had a chance to run the decision by his new head coach.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I have had no interaction with Terrelle Pryor as of Tuesday night of our team workout,” Fickell said during his introductory press conference Monday in Columbus.
That was the day Pryor decided to forgo his senior season in Columbus to pursue a career at the professional level. He attempted to contact Fickell before going public with the decision, but it does seem strange a decision this big would be made without at least sitting down with the head coach.
“Everything happened kind of fast in the way in which it was. He tried to contact me and the situation didn’t work out that we had a chance to sit down and talk,” Fickell said.
“When I do talk to him I will encourage him. I will say we wish you well in your endeavors and continue to encourage him to finish his degree.”
During his three years in Columbus Pryor led the Buckeyes to a 31-4 record as a starter. He won three Big Ten championships and quarterbacked the team to victory in consecutive BCS bowl games. It won’t be easy replacing a player who finished his career with more wins and more touchdowns than any quarterback in school history other than Art Schlichter, but Fickell is excited about the challenge.
“Each and every year we lose kids. Cam Heyward, boy we would love to have him back. Ross Homan, Brian Rolle. That’s what we prepare for year in and year out,” he said.
“That’s why these kids come here so these kids have an opportunity to show what they can do. We’re going to continue to focus on the future and worry about what we have control over.”
Losing Heyward, Homan and Rolle to graduation is a little bit different than losing Terrelle Pryor in the middle of June just before his senior season. Then again, Pryor did not practice in the spring because he was recovering from off-season foot surgery.
“It is different, but again, we’re going to embrace all the expectations and all the situations and focus on moving forward with the program,” Fickell said.
With Pryor now officially gone, the Buckeyes will turn their attention to the four remaining quarterbacks on the roster. That includes senior Joe Bauserman and sophomore Kenny Guiton along with redshirt freshmen Taylor Graham and true freshman Braxton Miller.
One of those four will start the season-opener this fall against Akron, but who that player will be may not be decided until after the 29 preseason practices in the fall.
“That’s the exciting thing about this whole situation. Every year guys are going to graduate or leave early. That’s the exciting thing about fall camp,” Fickell said.
“We’ve got four guys who are going to be competitive and we’ve got opportunities to put them out there to see who can raise their level of competition and compete and who we can count on.”
Fickell and his coaching staff, which will include a new defensive assistant yet to be announced, will be counting on the four remaining suspended players to return in week six of the season against Nebraska. They are hoping that no further suspensions will be levied on any Buckeyes following other allegations made by Sports Illustrated and ESPN, but they won’t cross that bridge until they get to it.
“We’re going to spend our time worrying about the things which we know,” Fickell said.
“As things arise, we will handle them abruptly, we will handle them aggressively and make sure we handle them thoroughly.”
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