Buckeyes Face an Uphill Recruiting Battle

By Alex on June 2, 2011 at 6:00a
Fickellball has arrivedFickell could be the key to saving Ohio State recruiting.

The beginning of the end has passed, but the trouble is far from over for the Ohio State Buckeyes' football program. Jim Tressel has stepped down and Luke Fickell has been named interim coach for now, shouldering a responsibility only a few of us can even imagine.

Not only will Fickell have to try to steer the ship that is the Scarlet and Gray throughout the 2011 season (while fighting for a job of his own nonetheless), but he will also have to put his best efforts forward in the area of damage control, where the blood life of college football, recruiting, could be the most at risk of taking a big hit thanks to the events that have transpired in Columbus this week.

Fickell passed the first test when he spent an hour on the phone with and persuaded Kyle Kalis to remain committed to the Buckeyes when the star tackle's intentions were to de-commit upon calling the new OSU coach after Tressel resigned Monday. That was likely the first of many similar conversations Fickell will have with the eight current players committed to Ohio State for the recruiting class of 2012, as well as the many high school sophomores and juniors that are still considering the Buckeyes as their future college choice. 

Fickell's job in the recruiting world is not only difficult because of the mess the school currently finds itself in, but also because his title of interim head coach leaves a tremendous amount of uncertainty when it comes to the future in Columbus. Both of these issues will be on the minds of the recruits that still have OSU in mind, a reason why things may drag out more than ever before on the recruiting trail during the next six months or so.

Adding to the burning pile is the fact that this year's class of Ohio players is possibly the best of all-time, all the more reason the Buckeye coaching staff needs to be on its "A game" when it comes to recruiting strategy during the upcoming football season.

The 2011 class is going to go one of two ways. The first possibility is that Luke Fickell can weather the storm and keep distractions out of the locker room, en route to another successful year for the football program. Assuming a 10-12 win season, OSU might take the "interim" tag off of Fickell and the recruiting front will most likely its their course.

While Ohio State won't likely snag any big time out of state players this year, they are sure to re-gain the trust of players in their backyard who likely would have committed by now had Tatgate never exploded. It would take some time for the Fickell-lead staff to gain the same national respect that Jim Tressel has built up over the last few years, but winning cures everything and if the new regime can reflect a winning aura, then they will be back in good shape with the top talent from around the country in no time.

The second scenario is one where Gene Smith, or whoever the decision maker is at the time, decides Fickell is not the guy they want moving forward, and hires an outside coach in late December or early January after a national search. In this situation, the Buckeyes are in a tough spot, as all the players who have currently committed are likely to at least temporarily backtrack on their pledge, and the new coach will have to win back their hearts, as well as finalize the remainder of the class with very little time.

SAVE US URBIE-WAN KENOBIDelightful 80s Buckstache via Our Honor Defend

National Signing Day is the first week in February and we have seen far too many times how this strategy has impacted recruiting for the year at hand (looking your way, Rich). Obviously, a superstar coach like Meyer or Gruden would likely be able to turn things around for the better, but from a recruiting standpoint, you don't want to be in this position if you don't have to.

The bottom line in both scenarios is that things won't be easy for the Bucks on the recruiting trail this upcoming year. They face an uphill battle in that the program is at risk of getting slapped with sanctions and the coaching staff will probably have some lame ducks within it. In either situation things can turn for the better or for the worse, but once again the fear of the unknown is baggage on the recruiting trail.

That same unkown is the reason why you aren't likely to see much activity in terms of verbal commitments from now until a final decision is made on Tressel's permanent replacement. It was nice to see Tyvis Powell go with his heart yesterday, but don't count on that happening too often as many of the recruits left on the board don't bleed Scarlet and Gray the way he does and will wait until the dust settles to make a decision on the Buckeyes.

I personally feel that if Fickell successfully holds the team together through this season and proves that he is capable of running a program like Ohio State's for years to come, he should remain the head coach. I think this would be the best possible scenario for recruiting, as he was already OSU's best recruiter, would have the trust and respect of the players already on the roster, would have the support of the 2012 verbal pledges, and most importantly would bring stability to the position that was lost on May 30, 2011.

The positives won't mean much if the administration decides to clean house, even if that staff is headed by a coach with a successful track record, like Meyer. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the second half of 2011, as the future is uncertain but the events that transpire during that time are indeed certain to have a long lasting impact on The Ohio State University and the lifeblood of the program that is recruiting


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Carolina Buckeye's picture

A concern my friends and I keep discussing is that Fickell has been around since 2002.  He was this past season probably  Tressel's #2b behind Hazell.  If any more shoes drop as far as allegations of improper benefits and the university is hit with a lack of institutional control charge, Fickell isn't long for Ohio State, nobody on staff (sans maybe Eric Lichter) will be retained.  That being said, I REALLY don't hope that happens.


I am so pumped for Coach Fickell.

Doc's picture

I think Gene Smith and possibly EGG are going to get caught up in this mess too.  Maybe not EGG, but I'm sure Smith's days are numbered.  A new A.D. will want their own guy.  I think Fickell won't last long either.  I'm not wishfull thinking here.  I like Luke.  He was a player when I was in Dental school.  I got to meet him in May of 2002(I stupidly didn't get is autograph;(.).  I think given the right circumstances he can be successful.  These are just not those circumstances.

I think he has the oportunity to "win" the job with 10 victories.  I think he will open the playbook a little more and be more aggressive offensively.  The defense should still be the same IMO.  The biggest question mark is the offense.  I don't think we will see TP under center at all this year.  So the onus is on Miller to produce right out of the gate.  If we can get some good solid line play and some guys can step up at receiver we will be alright.

The other thing in my mind is who do we want as head coach?  Do we really want a Meyer or Gruden?  A big part of me would love to see a "Big Name" coach like Urban Meyer get the job.  It would be exciting, for one thing.  It would also get a lot of positive press secondly.  OSU needs all of the good press it can muster right now.  Hiring a big guy like that would give us just that.  But, on the other hand, how long would they stick around?  Meyer could re-re-retire again after two or three seasons.  Gruden could jump back to the NFL or broadcast booth after the same time.  Lastly, a big name doesn't necessarily gaurantee success on the field.  So, obviously I'm torn.  Picking Luke Fickell to be the head coach would be the safe bet.  If he wins and is successful he could be in C-bus for a very long time, he is only 36.  My gut tells me he will be back as a coordinater next year at this time.



CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

LeeNorthbrook's picture

My hope is Luke keeps the job and a multi year deal is announced before the season is over. If that doesn't happen and somebody new is brought in I'd take a hard long look at the TCU coach.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I'm seriously thinking Archie Griffin gets the AD job soon.

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

buckeyedude's picture

I have a couple of questions:

1.) Does the NCAA have the authority to ban OSU from the B1G championship game? If not, I wonder if Jim Delany & Co. would do it anyway, if OSU were banned from a bowl game this year?

2.) Is Dick Tressel toast too? I would think so.

And a couple of comments: I believe if Luke can get 10 wins, they would have a difficult time not giving him the job, FT. I think the next OSU HC should be a guy who looks at the job as a final destination, a dream job, and NOT a stepping stone the the NFL. If not Luke, I would love to see Urban Meyer as HC. We know he knows how to win NCs, he can recruit(Florida especially), and OSU would be a dream job for him I believe.



Doc's picture

I agree Dude, that we need a long term coach.  If Fickell is the guy and can be successful he could be here a very long time.  So could Meyer.  He is my number one choice right now, if I had to choose between the two.  He is a known commodity.  My fear with him is his staying power.  Would he jump ship after 3-4 years for something else?  Also, how would his coaching style translate to the B1G?  His last year at UF he was mediocre.  No Teblow to run his "offense" it sputtered.  Unfortunetly there are no guarantees no matter who you choose.

Coach Fickell, win 10 games this year, including pounding TSUN, and make our fears go away!  We are behind you!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

BTwrestle04's picture

You're forgetting that he also won the National Championship (against us) with Chris Leak, who was by no means an amazing quarterback...

GoBlu's picture

Mattisons defense at UF beat you, not Meyer and chris Leak.

Wobble in our Shoes's picture

I think a "bowl ban" is actually a Postseason ban, meaning no B1G Championship game, etc. I thought I had heard when the USC business went down that if they would've made it to the PAC 10 Champ. Game, they forfeited their spot and it went to #3. That's just what I think though.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Liking the banner.  Think Luke pimps a vest during a game or games?

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I would love that.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

741's picture

I love JT, but it is time to banish the sweatervest (and white tennis shoes with gray slacks) to the dustbin of fashion history... forever.

Denny's picture

Feel like we ought to start a 'Luke Fickell on the sidelines in a three-piece suit with scarlet/gray striped knit tie' movement. Classy.


Is it Saturday Yet's picture

When do we see the Sacred Brotherhood, "ShockTheWorld" or "#ShockTheWorld" tees?

poop's picture

I think Luke is about to puke in that picture. I feel the same way with Pryor getting questioned by the NCAA and no end in site to the stream of bullshiat coming from the media.

stewart371's picture

JT is solely responsible for the off the field behavior of 100+ players (tats, cars, selling stuff ) and Luke (who is a great guy) had absolutely no knowledge or responsibility of this situation and therefore should be head coach?? Really??? Is it possible a position coach would have more information regarding the behavior of their small group compared to the entire team? Hmmmm.


Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Not trying to get into politics here, but Reagan once said something about the Iran-contra affair (which I'm too young to really remember) happening on his watch, therefore ultimately making it his responsibility.  I love Tress and will defend him whenever I get the chance, BUT it happened on his watch and as the head football coach it makes it his responsibility. 

Colin's picture

I copied my response from the poll yesterday because it is relevent...

Ultimately though, as head coach Tressel most likely had final say about the actions taken. If an assistant, such as Fickell, got wind of something shady going on and approached Tressel about it and Tressel said to not worry about it or he had it taken care of...what's he supposed to do then? Taking into account what we recently learned in the SI article, Tressel evidently has a history of covering stuff up and it seems he is probably the one at fault.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture


"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

BWells's picture

If Ohio State does choose to go with somebody other than Fickle after the season is over, what are the chances that the new coach would keep Fickle on the staff as a coordinator or position coach?  Fickle has proven to be one of the best assistants in college football and I would hate to see him leave tOSU.  Keeping him around would also make it so there is at least some consistency on the coaching staff and somebody who the players and recruits are familiar with at the school.

JozyMozy's picture

*Fickell. Make sure you get that right. normally a typo is no biggle... but misspelling his name "fickle" means 'to be wishy-washy about making up one's mind'. NOT A GOOD TRAIT FOR A BUCKEYE BALLCOACH AMIRITE

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

How'd I miss the Fickellball shirt? Well done.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

And the classy "thanks tress" one too. I don't even remember hearing these get announced, but there goes another $25+ for some swag. 

GoBlu's picture

OSU is better off keeping Fickle until the sanctions are done and over with. No big time coach or big recruits will come to OSU with USC style restrictions on bowls and scholarships. The buckeyes will reload in 4-5 years.

USAFBuckeyefan's picture

Looked around and didnt see it anywhere else so I'll ask the question here.  With the strong class of recruits coming out of Ohio next year, how much does the interm HC tag hurt TOSU?  Will the top players allow themselves to be tempted by other schools until we lock down a HC?  

Buckeye in Athens's picture

I'm thinking Luke's extended interview will last throughout the season unless we start losing pretty badly early in the year. I wouldn't be surprised if the AD put out informal, initial "feelers" at the top candidates, but nothing more. If Luke is able to bring any kind of stability to the program - in terms of winning and disconnection with recent scandal - then I think we won't hear anything about definite about coaching for awhile, as the initial resignation info from OSU suggested. I think that'll definitely impact recruiting. In all likelihood, this'll be a slightly down year for us recruiting-wise unless we come out and DO win the first 5 games and avoid a post-season ban. It'll be those two factors - the perception of program stability and bowl games - that'll win or lose us our recruits IMO.

Having Luke Fickell talking to recruits certainly doesn't hurt either (i.e. Kalis). It'd be nice to see some sort of unifying message from Luke sometime after we all can fully process Tress not being there anymore.