Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TUESDAY ROUNDUP: FICKELL ISN'T WORRIED ABOUT JOB, JUST BADGERS

Ohio State will wear Nike pro combat uniforms
to commemorate 1961 national championship team.
( Photo courtesy of OSU)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State head football coach Luke Fickell fielded an array of questions during his weekly media luncheon on Tuesday in Columbus, ranging from grooming a freshman quarterback to facing an upset Wisconsin team to the uniforms his Buckeyes will be sporting this Saturday night.

However, the biggest question he faced Tuesday was about his own job security, something many feel at the moment isn't too ... well, secure.

"No. We're focused on what we need to do day in, day out, week in, week out," Fickell said, when asked if he ever thinks about his future as the Buckeyes' coach past this season. "Those are all things that will take care of themselves someday. If we waste our time worrying about something like that, we're not giving it all to those young men, this team, this program ...

"Again, it's day-to-day. My focus is those men, this program, this team. Everything else will take care of itself."

Avoiding looking toward next season may be a wise move for the Buckeyes' boss being that his team is facing a Wisconsin squad on Saturday night that is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State.

The Badgers, who were unbeaten and ranked No. 6 in the nation going into their showdown last weekend in East Lansing, lost to the Spartans on a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired.

Fickell said such a loss will have the Badgers looking to take out their frustrations on the Buckeyes this Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.

"I wouldn't expect them to be down one bit," Fickell said of the Badgers. "Obviously it's hard. What's harder? I don't know what you could say is harder. Whether you have a 21-point lead, end up getting rolled, or whether you have a last-second play on the last play of the game.

"A loss is a loss and it's hard no matter how they happen. The sign of a good program is getting back up and continuing to battle. I think that's what you'll see (from Wisconsin). Sometimes that's a wake-up call and burns that fire in your belly a little bit more."

Obviously, in order for the Buckeyes to counter the Badgers' fire they must be able to complete more than just one pass in the game — as they did in their victory two weeks ago at Illinois.

Fickell said that true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller's passing game was a major focal point during the bye week, and the coach said that he's seen improvements from his young signal caller on the practice field.

Hopefully for the Buckeyes, that will translate to game action Saturday night.

"We worked on things all week," Fickell said. "We think we're seeing a lot of growth, we really do. Until it shows up on Saturday afternoon or Saturday night, it's still just talk ...

"He's done a very good job. I think he's learned each and every week. We look forward to seeing him continue to grow."

Ohio State will be sporting highly advanced Nike uniforms on Saturday night in commemoration of the Buckeyes' 1961 national championship team.

Fickell, who has made it known many times that he isn't into fashion design, said the different uniforms are something his young men enjoy to wear from time to time.

"I think a few years ago coach (Jim Tressel) brought it up to me. I was against it," Fickell said. "I said I'm not a guy that likes a whole lot of change. I've seen how the young men, the guys like it, the team likes it. I think it's a part of our culture now. I'm sure there's a lot of traditionalists that don't.

"I think it's a good thing. I really do. It brings some excitement, different things, whether it's a marketing thing or a recruiting thing. Our guys enjoy it.

"We enjoy it."

BERRY A SUSPECT IN ANOTHER ALTERCATION ... Buckeyes junior tailback/kick returner Jaamal Berry — for the second time in the past month — has been named a suspect in an altercation.

According to a Columbus police report, Berry allegedly struck a man in the face at around 2 a.m. last Friday in downtown Columbus. No charges have been filed as of yet.

"We're looking into it and taking it very seriously," Fickell said Tuesday. "There's nothing we don't think about that's much more important in this entire group than how we represent this team."

In late September, Berry was involved in another altercation on the OSU campus and had to be admitted to the hospital to undergo medical testing.

OSU director of athletics Gene Smith stated that if charged, Berry will face suspension by the university.

Berry — who has just three carries for five yards on the season and seven kickoff returns for 150 (21.4 avg.) — certainly isn't a stranger to off-field troubles during his time at Ohio State. In fact, Berry was arrested just days prior to his arrival in Columbus back in 2009, when he was arrested for possession of marijuana in his hometown of Miami, Florida.

GUITON GETTING THE MOST REPS AT NO. 2 QUARTERBACK ... Buckeyes sophomore quarterback Kenny Guiton has been getting a lot of run with the second-team offense during practice the past couple of weeks and looks to have edged past fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman for the backup job to Miller.

"Kenny gets a lot of reps," Fickell said. "He'll probably get more of the two reps than Joe does. But we still have the ability to have Joe, as well."

Guiton has yet to see action this season under center.

GRANT COULD SEE TIME AT LINEBACKER THIS SATURDAY ... True freshman linebacker Curtis Grant has been getting more reps these past two weeks at the strong side spot and could see some action this Saturday night against Wisconsin.

Grant — who was one of the most highly touted prep linebackers last season out of Virginia — has certainly caught the attention of Coach Fickell.

"Curtis has started to come into his own," Fickell said. "Has been a guy getting a lot more reps with us. Sometimes the personnel dictates that. That's probably why you see a little bit more of a switch with him, getting a lot more reps on the defensive side of the ball."

The Buckeyes may use quite a few linebackers this week going up against a power running team like Wisconsin.

QUOTE OF THE DAY ... When asked if he had been working on his passing game during the bye week, Coach Fickell responded ... "No, I did not work on my passing game.

"I did throw at home with the kids all weekend. Maybe my passing game is a little better."