Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TUESDAY ROUNDUP: BUCKEYES UNDERSTAND THEIR IDENTITY

Carlos Hyde
The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — As the Ohio State Buckeyes hit the road this week to battle the Purdue Boilermakers, head coach Luke Fickell seems confident that his team has found its identity.

"I think we understand (our identity)," Fickell said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. "I think our guys have realized the things that we put in front of them, that it's the effort, the turnovers, the toughness side of things."

That identity Fickell is likely speaking of is a fierce running attack. The Buckeyes are fourth in the Big 10 in rushing yards, averaging a little more than 200 yards per contest. But since Dan "Boom" Herron's return from suspension in a win over Illinois, Ohio State has found a cozy comfort zone by running, running and running the football.

In the six games without Herron, the Buckeyes averaged 169 rushing yards while going 3-3. With Herron suited up, Ohio State is averaging 275 yards on the ground and have improved their record with three straight wins.

It's safe to say that identity Fickell is speaking of is a fierce running attack that features a variety of skills — speed, toughness and power.

Covering the speed aspect is quarterback Braxton Miller. The true freshman displayed his dynamic ability with an 81-yard touchdown run, the longest in school history by a quarterback. Miller has rushed for 447 yards and 4 TDs, along with 547 passing yards and 5 TDs.

The toughness is brought to you by Herron, while sophomore Carlos Hyde has provided the power in the backfield. His 513 yards and 6 TDs lead the Buckeyes through nine games.

Although Ohio State has put up some very impressive numbers on the ground in recent weeks, the Buckeyes must improve their passing attack in order to create some sort of balance. Fickell acknowledged that the team must become more efficient through the air.

"We know we have to get better at (passing)," Fickell said. "We know if there's any chance for us to be where we want to be in the end we've got to do a better job obviously of throwing the football."

Don't get the head coach wrong, though. Fickell said he's not here to change the program's tradition of pounding the rock.

"We're not out there saying we're trying to set a new identity," he said. "This is Ohio State football. We've had an identity for over a hundred years. We have a great base for what we are and what we believe in. It's just a continued growth of that."

HALL'S RETURN QUESTIONABLE ... Running back Jordan Hall is still feeling the effects of an ankle injury he suffered in the win against Wisconsin last month.

"Jordan we're still kind of curious on," Fickell said. "Hopefully he'll be able to go. He'll be a little bit hesitant. We'll hold him out a little bit today. But we're hoping. We obviously have to wait till later in the week to find out for sure."

While Hall sat out last week's win over Indiana, Hyde reestablished himself in the backfield with 15 carries, 105 yards and one TD. But Fickell said Hall will be thrust back into the offense if he's ready to go on Saturday.

"If Jordan is fine, we'll get him back into the situation," he said. "I am sure he will get some touches whether it is kickoff or punt. We'll find a way to move that thing around, put him in positions that hey can have opportunities to touch the football."

PREPPING FOR PURDUE ... As the Boilermakers host the Buckeyes on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, there will be some Ohio State players that remember the previous trip to West Lafayette. In 2009, Purdue upset the Bucks 26-18. One player who admittedly doesn't remember that loss is senior safety Tyler Moeller.

"I don't really remember too much from that game just because I had a brain injury," he said. "I wasn't at the game. I don't really remember too much of that period of my life so it's hard to comment.

"Weak excuse, I apologize," Moeller said with a smirk.

Moeller was the victim of a brutal attack that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. He suffered subsequent brain trauma from an assault in the summer of 2009. Even though Moeller can't recall the specifics of the game, he said he never finds himself looking at past games to prepare.

"That's a different team. We're a different team," he said. "But I do know any team could beat any team and we have to do a good job of starting strong and finishing strong, too"