Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TUESDAY ROUNDUP: BUCKEYES USED TO HAVING TARGET ON THEIR BACK

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell, right, leads his team on the field during Saturday's 42-0 win over Toledo. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Having a bull's-eye on its back is nothing new to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

That target has been magnified with a "giant killer" in town for a showdown between the 15th-ranked Buckeyes and the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Head Coach Luke Fickell said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that he wants his players to know their opponent as much as they know themselves.

"I think it's very important for our guys to understand who exactly it is that they're playing and know that what they see on film they're probably going to get a lot better just because of the bull's-eye that is out there," Fickell said. "There's nothing that goes unnoticed and there's nothing that doesn't get talked about. Knowing that (Toledo is) a bit of a giant killer at times is definitely something that our guys will know."

Coming off a season-opening victory over Akron — one that saw Fickell become the first Ohio State head coach since Woody Hayes to shutout an opponent in his debut — the Buckeyes must now turn to a Toledo team that has defeated five BCS teams in the past five years.

"Knowing (Toledo's) history is a big part of that," Fickell said. "They're not going to come in here and be in awe, by any means."

Even with Toledo's history of upsetting Big Ten opponents on the road — Michigan in 2008 and Purdue in 2010 — the Buckeyes have some history on their side, as well. Ohio State has won 55 consecutive regular season non-conference home games against teams outside of the AP Top 25. And in two games between Ohio State and Toledo, the Buckeyes have outscored the Rockets 87-0.

SUSPENDED FOUR SET TO RETURN ... Fickell confirmed that three players who were suspended for the Akron game will return to the team this week. Running back Jordan Hall and cornerbacks Travis Howard and Corey Brown were suspended for the opener after receiving improper benefits at a university fundraiser. Linebacker Jordan Whiting, who was suspended for the first game back in December, will also be available Saturday against the Rockets.

Rod Smith
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
With Hall's suspension and running back Jaamal Berry's injury, the Buckeyes were handcuffed with only two healthy and eligible tailbacks against Akron. Both sophomore Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith combined for 167 yards on 37 carries and one touchdown.

"I thought they stepped up," Fickell said of his running backs. "Not that I didn't expect them to, whether we had three or four tailbacks playing in the game, to me I want to see the same exact whether they got six carries or they got 12 carries."

Howard, a junior who was listed as the No. 1 cornerback on Ohio State's depth chart, returns to a defensive backfield that saw redshirt freshman Bradley Roby and sophomore Dominic Clarke play up to par, according to Fickell.

"Both of them played well," Fickell said of last week's starting corners. "I thought they were poised and they made the plays when they came their way. Obviously, we're always going to be critical and finally we can get better with them, but when they were on the field there wasn't a lapse there.

"Those guys all showed up, they stepped up. They didn't dwell on it. They weren't worried about the guys we were missing."

Joe Bauserman
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
FICKELL IMPRESSED BY QB PLAY ... Although both senior Joe Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller were both listed on the depth chart at starting quarterback, Bauserman saw much more of the field than Miller in the opening half against Akron last week. Fickell still has the two signal-callers listed as starters for the Toledo game and the first-year head coach said he was impressed by how both quarterbacks have handled themselves.

"I thought they both played well," he said. "The way they handled themselves on the field and on the sideline, the enthusiasm ... But I was impressed to see some of the emotion, to see some of the competitive nature."

Both quarterbacks looked impressive in the opener as Bauserman threw for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns on 12-of-16 passing, and Miller completed 8-of-12 for 130 yards and 1 touchdown. As of now, Fickell is set to keep two starters at quarterback.

"We're going to continue to keep those guys both in the fold and figure out how this team comes together and what's best for it," he said.

Andrew Sweat (42)
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
SWEAT FINDING COMFORT ... Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat put together quite a game against the Zips last week. The Pennsylvania-product strung together six tackles (two for a loss), one interception and a forced fumble in a little more than one half of football. Sweat, who was moved to the weakside after spending most of last year on the strongside, said he's much more comfortable as the WILL position.

"It felt great being on the weakside again," he said. "I feel most comfortable being in the WILL linebacker spot. Last year, I primarily played the SAM spot, but I feel more natural at the WILL spot and it felt good to go out there and hit someone other than your own teammates."

Sweat said Toledo's offense uses various ways to move the ball and the Buckeyes will undoubtably be ready.

"(Toledo does) a lot whether it be the run or the pass game," he said. "They'll spread you out, run screens. You have to be on your toes every play. They'll attack you downfield. I think they'll do a great job, so we need to be prepared and ready for them."