Tuesday, June 14, 2011

FICKELL LOOKS TO LEAVE LASTING IMPRESSION ON BUCKEYE FOOTBALL

Luke Fickell
(AP/Terry Gilliam)
COLUMBUS — While speaking at his introductory press conference as the interim head coach at The Ohio State University, Luke Fickell made it clear that the Buckeyes are ready to move forward into the future.

“The 2011 Buckeyes will not be about comparing and contrasting what we’ve done before, but what we believe we will need to do to move forward,” Fickell said. “It will be about respect, toughness and being men of action.”

Though Ohio State is currently under NCAA investigation, Fickell made his attempt to rally the troops and boost Buckeye spirits in his first public statement since former coach Jim Tressel’s resignation in late May.

“Ohio State is so much bigger than any one team, one player, one coach or one situation,” he said. “We all understand that change is inevitable.”

Fickell was a four-year starting nose tackle at Ohio State from 1994-1997 where he holds the record for most consecutive games started at 50. But being the interim coach at Ohio State will carry immense pressure and scrutiny. And though he admitted the current situation that the Buckeyes face is a difficult one, Fickell, who has been apart of the Ohio State coaching staff since 2002, wasn’t about to pass on an opportunity that he’s been waiting a lifetime for.

“If you know me, there is no retreat. There’s never been any challenges that I wouldn’t accept, big or small,” he said. “I’ve had this dream, this plan, and I’m excited for it.”

Fickell was showered with support from former teammates, players and some members of the Buckeye coaching staff. Former linebacker and teammate Mike Vrabel was in attendance and said Fickell is more than ready to step into the spotlight of head coach.

“(Ohio State) has the right guy,” Vrabel said. “I’m happy for (Fickell) and I’m proud of him and I’m happy for Ohio State football.”

Vrabel said he expects the new Ohio State coach to bring the same intensity to the sidelines as he did on the field.

“One thing about Luke that people don’t realize is three days before the (1997) Rose Bowl, which we hadn’t been to in a lot of years, and he tore his peck muscle and goes out and plays 65-70 snaps against Arizona State,” Vrabel said. “He doesn’t say a word to anybody and if you’re not one of the defensive linemen or linebackers you have no idea he’s even hurt.

“That’s the kind of toughness — the physical and mental toughness that he had as a player that he’s going to have as a head coach at Ohio State University.”

Former linebacker Bobby Carpenter was also present in showing support for his old linebackers coach.

“Coach Fickell is a stern, no non-sense type of coach and that’s the way he was as a player and the way he is as a person,” Carpenter said. “He was a very difficult coach to play for as a position coach because he was very demanding but I thought I improved dramatically under him.”

With three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s sudden departure, Fickell said he’s very excited to find out which player will step up and take the reigns. Whether it will be Joe Bauserman, Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton or Taylor Graham remains to be seen.

“We’ve got four great guys who are going to be competitive,” he said. “We’ll put them out there and give them there opportunity for the reasons in which they came to Ohio State and to see who can raise their level of competition.”

Being a former defensive lineman for Ohio State, Fickell is sure to keep the same defensive-minded attitude as Tressel. But Fickell wants his team to understand that his goal is to turn individuals into a strong, collective unit.

“The unique thing for me is I want to make sure we all understand that it’s about one,” Fickell said. “We’ve talked about that as coaches, we’ve talked about that to our team with that all-in mentality.”