August 8, 2011

Fickell runs first practice, talks QBs

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - It may have been Luke Fickell's first time formally running a practice as Ohio State's head coach, but he certainly wasn't a novice with how to get things done.

Though his predecessor Jim Tressel has been gone from the program for months, Fickell's first practice with the team looked a lot like it would have in the past.

The drills were the same, the periods were timed similarly, and the order in which things were done seemed fairly consistent.

Things are different, certainly, but Fickell wants to get back to the business of winning, something Tressel did consistently for the 10 years of his tenure. As he's said many times before, the foundation had already been set.

"I think it was unique," Fickell responded when asked how it was to be the head coach for the first time. "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.

"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."

Though Fickell has spent his entire career coaching the defensive side of the ball, it's likely the offense that will determine how successful the Buckeyes are in their first year under the new head coach.

In doing so, Fickell has made the effort to take an extra eye on the quarterback battle - perhaps the biggest question Ohio State must answer before taking the field for the first time in a matter of weeks.

Even so, Fickell maintained full confidence in Jim Bollman as the team's offensive coordinator. Instead, Fickell plans on focusing on what he does best.

"I'm going to stick with my strengths," Fickell said. "Those are the things I think are important. I've got all of the utmost confidence in Coach Bollman and everybody on that side of the ball. They've been doing this for a long time and know what they're doing. Again, we'll get together as a whole staff, but we're going to focus on where our strengths are."

Though Fickell will likely stay concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, he'll play in integral role in deciding which quarterback gives Ohio State the best chance to win.

On Monday in the camp opener, the quarterbacks remained in the same order they did at the end of spring practice, with Joe Bauserman getting the nod with the first team followed by Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham, and finally the freshman Braxton Miller.

Fickell wouldn't make evaluations on which quarterback looked the best in the fall camp opener, but he did say the team is taking things day-by-day. There's no conceivable window of time where the Buckeyes are planning on making a decision.

"We're going to let it play out," Fickell said of the quarterback battle. "We always have a plan for what we think but we're going to adjust as we go. We'll give everybody the opportunities to put themselves in a situation to show what they can do.

"We're just evaluating each and every day. How it works out, that's hypothetical. We'll let them guys determine that, not me and the media especially."

Ohio State lost quite a bit of talent from last year's team, whether that meant departing seniors or upperclassmen that are subject to suspension for the first five games of next season.

The burden of moving the football and keeping Ohio State competitive will fall squarely on the quarterback. Though he was vague, Fickell provided examples of what he's looking for out of the quarterback battle.

"To me it's confidence and leadership. You can lead in different ways," he said. "You don't have to be the vocal guy, but you've got to have confidence. You've got to exude confidence.

"Guys have to believe in you, and I think that's the thing we're trying to develop. They all have the ability. We've just got to make sure and see who's going to fit the program and what we do well the best."

Fickell had a busy first day as the team's head coach. The heavy lifting is still ahead of him.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at


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