September 2, 2011

Additional suspensions just another distraction

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The latest suspensions to come down on Ohio State - Corey Brown, Jordan Hall and Travis Howard - shouldn't have a dramatic impact on Saturday's game.

Akron is not expected to give the Buckeyes much of a challenge. And if any position could afford starters to miss action, running back is the one. Ohio State has a full stable, though that stable is now down to two, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith.

[db]Jaamal Berry[/db] is doubtful because of a hamstring injury.

Dominic Clarke, who battled Bradley Roby for one of the starting cornerback spots, is a capable fill-in for Howard. "Pittsburgh" Brown is a reserve.

Where difficulties could arise is if they are suspended multiple games. Toledo comes to Ohio Stadium next week, and they will provide a legitimate challenge. With Biletnikoff Award candidate Eric Page at wide receiver, missing a starting corner could prove costly.

More than anything, the suspensions come as a huge distraction. Just when the team, fans and media had put the NCAA penalties behind them, it all comes flowing back.

FOCUS FACTOR: Luke Fickell will run out of the Ohio Stadium tunnel as head coach of his alma mater for the first time on Saturday.

Don't expect him to soak in the moment. Fickell said he has no recollection of running out for his first game as a player.

"I told somebody the other day, everyone was talking about the first time they ran out of the tunnel and they were saying, 'I was on cloud-nine,'" Fickell said. "I don't remember feeling that the first time I ran out of the tunnel. Maybe it was because I had the fortune of being able to play.

"The first time I ran out there, I was more focused and worried and understanding of what my job was. I didn't get to absorb the atmosphere and look around. I assume it will be very similar come Saturday."

Fickell's first game as a player came against Louisville in 1992. The Buckeyes, 17-point favorites, squeaked out a 20-19 victory when the Cardinals failed on a two-point conversion with 33 seconds remaining.

"Do you know who I was playing with?" Fickell asked the media. "Big Daddy (Dan Wilkinson). We were rolling every three plays. Do you know why? Because they (coaches) didn't know he was Big Daddy yet. It wasn't until the end of the third quarter when Coach (Bill) Young came over and said, 'You know what, we're going to leave him in there. Don't roll every three plays.' I was wondering when you were going to figure that out. And the rest is history."

GO WITH THE FLOW: Quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller will be used in accordance to the flow and pace of the game.

Bauserman, a pocket passer, and Miller, a duel-threat quarterback, will both play Saturday.
"I would assume the flow will dictate how we handle things," Siciliano said. "We've always tried to do what we thought our quarterbacks could do. That hasn't changed. It's the same gameplan for both of them. Some things Joe might do better and some things Braxton might do better."

Siciliano said he did not know if Kenny Guiton or Taylor Graham would see any action.

WHAT TO DO?: Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock indicated that the coaches have not yet decided who will redshirt this season.

On his radio show Thursday, Fickell said it will be a week-by-week evaluation. If someone is the next best guy in line, he will play regardless of age.

Two players of interest are Curtis Grant and Steve Miller. Grant came to Ohio State as the No. 2 recruit nationally, according to He has struggled with the change of pace in the college game, though, leading many to believe he would not play this season.

"I think Cutis is going to be an outstanding football player," Heacock said.

Miller's problem is depth. The defensive line is the deepest position on the team leaving him without a spot in the rotation.

If either plays, it will likely come on special teams.

MOVIN' ON UP: After five seasons of watching the game from field level, Siciliano will take in the action from the press box.

The move comes because Dick Tressel, who's taking over special team duties, needs to be on the field.

"We just felt like it was a change to make with the different role Doc has with special teams," Siciliano said. "Doc felt more comfortable on the field."

Tressel is also the running backs coach. He takes over special teams this season after the unit struggled covering both kickoffs and punts.


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