New Staff Has Fickell Out of His Comfort Zone and He Likes It
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Routines are healthy. At least when things are going well. When they aren't, however, routines can easily be classified as bad habits.
All good plans come with routines which are executed with care and precision. The results then are intended to be beneficial to those who designed the blueprints. Successes have worked this way forever.
When things are less than successful, that is usually the result of a less-successful plan or less-successful execution. While mistakes will happen in every walk of life, the real mistake is in allowing the same plan to produce the same disappointing results over and over again.
For the Buckeyes, that could describe their defense over the last three seasons. Familiar mistakes being made by familiar players, and familiar excuses for those mistakes following the games.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has been at the helm in each of those three seasons, and fairly or not, he has received the bulk of the criticism for those mistakes.
Photo by Dan Harker
Things haven't always been so difficult for Fickell and the Buckeyes, however. In fact, these last three seasons have been the exception, and not the rule.
Looking back at his time at OSU, Fickell admits to maybe growing a bit too comfortable with what he is doing, and now it appears that is about to change.
"I've always had a little bit of a comfort level since I've been here with the people that I've known," Fickell said.
"And then even having Coach Vrabes, not that he'd been here a long time, but a guy that I had a comfort level in there that you always knew. That's one of those things that Coach Meyer likes to challenge you to do, is get out of your comfort zone. Having some new guys has made me do that and has made me broaden the things that we do."
From the sideshow stuff of everybody outside of the Woody Hayes complex wanting to know who was actually in charge of the defense – Fickell or new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, to the actual goings on now with the Ohio State defense, any comfort level that Fickell once had will probably have to be regained a little further down the road.
That doesn't mean things are going poorly, however.
"It's been great," Fickell said of the addition of Ash.
"It's been a great transition, to be honest with you. And I know that we haven't had the real stressers and the things in the reality of a season, but we've battled through a lot of things in the last month or so. It's been a great growing experience for me."
The ability to grow is crucial for coaches in any sport, and when that growth is stifled it is often because somebody has grown too comfortable. Urban Meyer is trying to keep that from happening to his staff, which is one reason he has said in the past that this staff needed some new voices. Perhaps everybody had grown a bit too comfortable, Meyer included.
Photo by Jim Davidson
For Fickell, he sees the addition of Ash as nothing but a positive.
"For me, it brings that ability to broaden yourself," he explained.
"When you've done some things a certain way for a long time, there's a bunch of different ways, and if you really look back at it here at Ohio State, we've probably played about every kind of defense, and every style of defense. We've tweaked and turned in the 12 years here. But he brings a different perspective from some things he did, whether it was in the SEC or at Wisconsin or Drake where he went to school. It's not one particular thing.
"The thing of it is, I think we bring together – and just like having Larry [Johnson], he's obviously done it for a long time and brings some confidence and calmness to your room – but I think the thing is how well the four of us mesh together. It's not about one, it's not about two, it's not about three. I think that's the most exciting thing that I've had probably in the last four or five weeks."
By creating a little bit of discomfort, Meyer has also created some excitement. The plan now is for his defense to do the same.
Fickell, for one, is expecting exactly that to happen.
"It's been a great growing experience for all of us and I think it's going to show," he said.
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