Appearing at his first Big Ten Media Days as head coach of the Buckeyes, Luke Fickell was admittedly nervous, but ultimately stuck to the message. That message being the past is out of his control and he can only look towards the now.
Appearing fourth after Zook, Bielema and Hope, Fickell opened with a statement expressing his gratitude to be coaching the school he loves:
I just want to start by honestly saying how honored and grateful I am to be up here representing the Ohio State university, a place I know, love and respect as much as anything in my entire life.
As you can probably imagine the last few months have been nonetheless a whirlwind, exciting, crazy, emotional, but yet very productive as well.
Fickell went on to stress the importance of the stability in his staff:
I think and believe the number one most important thing for our program right now, as well as for me, is the stability that we've had in our coaching staff. The experiences that we have had as a staff over the last eight, nine, 10 years is invaluable. I think this alone will allow us and help us to move forward and allow us to focus on what we need to do to be successful on and off the field and do it now.
He then opened to questions and the first one had to do with the quarterback battle. Fickell seemed to imply that it was a two-man race, which might be news to Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham:
That's going to be an interesting question. Again, I think our focus is going to be on a competitive nature. We have four obviously very capable guys, one being maybe a 25-year-old senior and one being an 18-year-old freshman and everywhere in between. We refer to all of this them as being young.
Fickell was then asked about Braxton Miller, specifically:
I think he has a lot of similar qualities in what he can do as a football player. Again, we're excited. Obviously we had him through the spring practice, but excited to see how he can continue to grow and how he can put our football team in the best position to win.
Fickell would go on to say he hoped Miller shows he is ready to handle playing as a freshman quarterback, which I took as a tip of his hand, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
When asked about what's been going through his mind from a personal standpoint, with the regime change, Fickell discussed how being busy has been a good thing:
I think, like I said, it starts from day one. Everything happened pretty fast. The greatest thing I guess I could say is I had no time to sit and think. I had no time to feel sorry of any sort, to have a whole lot of emotion. The situation arose and obviously I had to stand up.
I think that's what's been best for me, not to have the ability to sit down and think about the situation that's ahead, but hit the ground running, do what I know how to do best, and that's compete, obviously learn along the way.
Later, he was asked if he'd had any contact with Jim Tressel:
No, I have not had a whole lot of contact with Coach Tressel. I know he has been very supportive. He loves Ohio State and wishes us nothing but the best.
There's a part of me that imagines he's trading texts with JT on a regular basis, but we have to take Luke for his word here. A follow-up asked if he had any implication, real or implied, from the administration to avoid contact with Tressel:
No, I have not. Just out of obviously respect and what Coach Tressel believes in and the respect for the entire team, what we're doing, we know we need to be who we are and continue to move forward and focus on the things we have, not the things we do not have anymore.
On a day when some questions were head-scratchers (across the board and to all coaches), I thought this was an excellent question. Luke was later asked if he had talked to Earle Bruce or John Cooper:
Yes. I actually played for Coach John Cooper, and have had communication with him, as well as Coach Bruce.
Again, everybody has some insight for me. I'm trying to soak it all in, take it all in. It is a unique situation. You take a piece of each and every person. Just like as a coach, you become a lot of who you've been around. You take a piece of each person that you have been around and each person that has taught you some things.
I've done kind of the same thing with all those guys that have been former coaches at Ohio State or guys that have been in similar situations to where I am now.
As you would imagine, Fickell was asked about his first hire:
I think Mike was obviously a very good fit for us. It was a situation that I think as we sat down as a staff, we talked about what do we need, the number one thing we need. We came to we need somebody who is going to fight for us, never going to look over their shoulder, who is competitive, who is going to be loyal to Ohio State and to me. I think those are the things he brings: the loyalty, the competitive nature, obviously the experience is through the roof.
Fickell was then asked whether starting in the conference with other new coaches (Wilson, Kill) made things easier. Here's his answer, which you, or anyone, really, could have guessed:
I don't know if it's any easier. Obviously it's an exciting time. I don't know how much you get to know those guys throughout this process. I think maybe it might have been, if it had happened at the same time, maybe the day it happened in your January time frame, so you could share some ideas and pick some brains of guys going through similar situations that you are.
When asked if it was difficult going into the season with an uncertain future:
Again, our focus is on what we can control. I think that's been from day one, from that leadership ability. Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than me. So all the outside pressures are things that obviously you deal with. But the pressure you put upon yourself I think is greater.
What is the future? We know that we're excited about getting on the field, proving what we can do, focusing on what we can control, and everybody else will make those decisions for themselves.
Asked if the last eight months had affected recruiting, Fickell said it hadn't really, though to be fair, that's the only answer he could have given there:
Summer is always a unique time in recruiting anyway. I don't know that we've seen a big backlash of any sorts. Again, we always, since I've been at Ohio State, focused on the history and traditions of what Ohio State has brought. It's bigger than any one person, any one coach, any one coach or era. I truly believe that Ohio State will always attract top-notch student-athletes around the country no matter what.
The requisite UM question came next when Fickell was asked how it felt to be coaching along a new coach in The Game:
As you know, that's an exciting time, no matter what. If that starts hopefully a long rivalry as some of the ones in the past have had, that's what it's all about. Nobody will overlook that. I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.
Finally, Fickell was asked about the lack of depth on the offensive line and he stressed the need to ramp up the new guys as quickly as possible:
Again, it's a difficult situation. We all understand, and hopefully we have emphasized to our players, that we know the game starts and there's one up front. We are thin. We understand that. Like we said, that's one of the big reasons we have to focus on them young guys coming in, getting them to grow, mentoring them in the process because they will be counted on at some point in time in this season.
It is something that obviously we're aware of. We've got a plan for it. We're going to continue to move forward with it.
And that was it for Fickell's 15 minutes in Chicago.
In a breakout interview in the hall (video coming soon), he continued to stress building on the foundation in place with the staff and also confirmed that linebacker Jonathan Newsome is still in school -- but wouldn't say whether he'd be on the 105-man roster.