Monday, August 8, 2011


AP/Terry Gilliam
COLUMBUS — The Luke Fickell era at Ohio State has officially commenced.

The new head coach stepped onto the practice field for the first time as the Buckeyes' mentor on Monday morning, leading the team in its first session of fall camp at the Harmon Family Football Park in Columbus.

Fickell admitted that his excitement for the first practice Monday prevented him from getting much sleep the night before, as if he were a child awaiting Christmas morning.

"That's not normally a problem for me," Fickell said of his brief bout with insomnia. "But with this anxiety and excitement it definitely was (difficult to sleep)."

There certainly hasn't been a shortage of anxiety and excitement this off-season in Columbus.

Former head coach Jim Tressel retired in May after withholding information of player violations from the NCAA. A week later, senior quarterback Terrelle Pryor — who was suspended the first five games of the regular season for receiving improper benefits — quit the team.

Last month, the school put itself on probation for two years and vacated all of its wins in 2010, including their 31-26 victory in the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas. The university will go in front of an NCAA committee on infractions this Friday to see if they will receive any further punishment.

It's definitely easy to understand why Fickell was a little anxious to get things rolling Monday morning.

"You know, it's been a long time coming I guess you could say, a couple months," Fickell said. "So the biggest thing was just the excitement. About 2:30 in the morning you're ready to go.

"I bet a bunch of the guys felt that way."

It certainly appeared as if the team was fired up to get back out on the field. Although they were only in helmets and shorts, the team seemed sharp for the most part, especially with it being the first time out. The tempo was fast and the attitudes were upbeat.

The Buckeyes didn't look like a team that's been dragged through the mud the past nine months.

"I think the enthusiasm is up," Fickell said. "I think everybody's excited. It's been a long time waiting. Now, you don't win it all in the first day, but you can go out there and get hurt and have some problems in the first day and I think we got through it really nice."

MAY THE QUARTERBACK DERBY BEGIN ... Even with Fickell replacing the popular Tressel, the hunt for Pryor's successor under center is perhaps the biggest question on the minds of Buckeye fans.

If Monday's first practice is any indication, it may be a while before it is answered.

All four of the Buckeyes quarterbacks — senior Joe Bauserman, sophomore Kenny Guiton, redshirt freshman Taylor Graham and true freshman Braxton Miller — took snaps with the first team on Monday and each had their ups and downs.

Bauserman, a 25-year old senior, naturally seems more knowledgeable with the offensive play calls and scheme, moving the team in and out of the huddle more smoothly than the others.

However, Miller was by far the most impressive of the group from an athletic standpoint. His passes were on time, accurate and crisp. His great ability to run with the ball was apparent as well.

On one play, during 11-on-11 drills, Miller flushed left and galloped for about a 15-yard gain. He seemed to be running at about 50-percent effort ... and was still pulling away from defenders.

Fickell said one practice isn't enough time to evaluate a player, though. He's content on just letting them compete and see where the chips fall.

"I'm going to let it play out," Fickell said. "We always have a plan, and adjust as we go, giving everyone opportunities to put themselves in situations where they can show what they can do."

PLAY(S) OF THE DAY ... There were actually three plays which deserved recognition in Monday's practice. The first came on an interception by sophomore starting safety C.J. Barnett, who stepped in front of a Graham pass and raced about 35 yards for a score. The second was another pick-six, this time by junior safety Zach Domicone, who swiped a pass from Guiton and went 25 yards to paydirt.

The final 'play of the day' came late in the practice, when true freshman receiver Devin Smith leaped high in the air and snagged a Miller pass in heavy traffic. The catch drew a big cheer from the offensive sideline.

RUNNING WITH THE FIRST TEAM ... Philly Brown and Verlon Reed lined up with the first team at wide receiver, while Jordan Hall played the slot position. DeVier Posey, who will be suspended for the first five games of the season, also saw action with the first-team offense Monday.

Dan Herron — who will also be out for the first five games — lined up as the first-team tailback. However, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith each saw reps with the first unit throughout practice.

The first-team offensive line consisted of Mike Brewster at center, Andrew Norwell (left) and J.B. Shugarts (right) at the tackles, and Jack Mewhort (left) and Marcus Hall (right) at the guards.

Defensively, the starting front four consisted of Garrett Goebel and Johnathan Hankins at the tackles, while John Simon and Nathan Williams lined up at the ends.

Senior Andrew Sweat and junior Etienne Sabino lined up as the starting outside linebackers, with junior Storm Klein manning the middle.

Junior Travis Howard played at the left cornerback spot, while sophomore Dominic Clarke and redshirt freshman Bradley Roby split time on the other side. Barnett and Orhian Johnson were the starting safeties, with Tyler Moeller playing the nickel.