Monday, November 14, 2011

BUCKEYES NOT BEING BUILT TO COME BACK IS THE FAULT OF THE BUILDER

Luke Fickell
The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — "This team isn't built to be a team that comes from behind ... "

Those were the words uttered by Ohio State head football coach Luke Fickell following the Buckeyes upset loss at Purdue on Saturday afternoon.

It's a quote that has stuck in my head ever since it came rolling off Fickell's tongue two days ago.

It's a quote that speaks the truth ... and one which should spell doom for the head coach at Ohio State.

The truth of the quote is that "this team isn't built to be a team that comes from behind." The 'doom' is that Fickell's completely at fault for it. He's the one building said team.

Fickell's job performance, to this writer, is incredibly surprising.

As a player at Ohio State, Fickell was ferocious. He had no fear. A no-holds barred gridiron warrior, relentless, determined, willing to take chances in order to exalt his team to victory.

However, as a head coach, Fickell is a man running scared, unwilling to allow his men to venture too far from the vest.

His mishandling of true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller still continues after ten weeks. Instead of evolving the offense into one which spotlights his quarterback's multi-talents, Fickell instead wants to put his head down and pound it into the wall until it falls or his team suffers a concussion. It seems that all Miller is used for is bailing the offense out on third down, which he has done with pretty decent success in recent weeks.

Granted, there isn't one guy in the building who truly understands how to groom a young quarterback, to nurture him through the process. That can be blamed on former head coach Jim Tressel.

What can be blamed on Fickell, though, is not putting together a scheme that's player-friendly. Instead of employing a system that has Miller throwing quick, high efficient passes to hot receivers — allowing him to develop some form of comfort and consistency — Fickell simply drops him back into the pocket in hopes he can read through his progressions as if he was a four-year seasoned veteran.

Fickell depends too much on Miller's athleticism and improvisation skills. Remember, he is still a freshman. He needs to be groomed, nurtured ... not put into a system that's only outcome for a freshman is inefficiency.

Miller isn't the only player Fickell has dropped the ball on. Tailbacks Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde are two names which immediately come to mind.

Hyde is the team's leading rusher this season, toting the rock for 525 yards (5.4 avg.) and six touchdowns. And yet, he is currently third on the Buckeyes' backfield depth chart. It is almost criminal that Hyde has less than six carries in four games this season.

It seems as if there is no reward for effort and performance under Fickell.

After rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the road against Nebraska, Hyde was rewarded the following week at Illinois with three carries — and the next week against Wisconsin with zero totes. Following a 105-yard, one touchdown performance against Indiana two weeks ago, Hyde was rewarded with four carries at Purdue on Saturday.

Hall is used as the primary backup at tailback in Fickell's system, even though he has rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns less than Hyde has this season — on just three less carries. Hyde is a big, tough runner, a perfect compliment to the smaller, shiftier starter Daniel Herron. Hall isn't a compliment to Herron, but more of a clone.

Hall's greatest abilities are out in space, i.e., slot receiver — something Fickell and staff had ran him at in fall camp practices but have yet to consistently unveil in game situations. Hall caught three passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns against Purdue.

Fickell and staff also possess one of the best tight ends in the country in Jake Stoneburner, and yet, they have no packages in place to help Miller get him the football efficiently and effectively.

Again, mishandling of a player and an unwillingness to adapt on Fickell's part.

Back to the quote ...

Saying that "this team isn't built to be a team that comes from behind" is, in fact, the truth. They are certainly not up to code to perform such tasks.

However, the Buckeyes' shortcomings certainly aren't because they're lacking the proper materials and building blocks.

The real fact is, the Buckeyes just don't have an architect in place with the vision and nerve to put forth such a proper design.