On September 13th, 2011, Luke Fickell, head coach of the #17 Ohio State Buckeyes, took questions from assembled media in the Alumni Lounge of Ohio State's Fawcett Center.
The Miami game was inked with the intent it would be a key out-of-conference clash for both teams' national title hopes. While it is still a big game for both teams, it probably won't have the national impact that the history of these two programs would have you believe.
Still, the Buckeyes are 2-0, and despite the week-two turbulence, this season is unfolding as many have come to in recent years for Ohio State. So, with the national media sharpening their battle-axes of of wit, ready to unleash witty puns on names for this game, what was on the mind of the media this week?
... Coach Fickell was under the impression Corey Brown, Jordan Hall, and Travis Howard would be available for the Toledo game. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. He couldn't comment on their status this week and mentioned that it was "part of the game" in dealing with this dragged-on process. (Earl Bruce surmised earlier in the week that the NCAA won't be satisfied until Ohio State loses a game).
... There are "no regrets" with not playing Braxton Miller, who Fickell said was "dinged up" a little bit. (Later clarified that his health didn't affect him not playing). He said he wants to make sure both his quarterbacks have "their minds right" going into the Miami game and don't dwell on the past.
... Nate Williams' status appears to still be up in the air. It's "too early to tell." Corey Linsley, however, is back in the mix. Fickell hopes this creates "competition" on the offensive line.
... Fickell said that they have to get better in all facets of the rushing game, but he did mention as an aside that there were "ten men up there [in the box]", alluding to Toledo wanting the arms of Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller to beat them.
... The QB plans remain the same, but Fickell mentioned that a lot of it depends on the flow of the game. This is what I suspected with the Toledo game... that it unfolded in a way where Fickell simply didn't feel comfortable putting a true freshman in to marshall the troops.
... Fickell refuses to take any bait on the suspensions being a distraction. In fact, he seems to think the adversity is good for the team.
... Joe Bauserman, Fickell said, "may have to do a few more things... take a couple more shots", but he says "throwing the ball into the sixth row of the stands isn't always that bad of a decision." He said Bauserman did a lot of things the coaches wanted him to do and that he took care of the ball well.
... Fickell said they'll have to "do their best" given the limited tape on Miami. He mentioned they could look at spring tape, or "where some of their guys come from and what they do," but he says they have "a plan" and "an idea" of what they will do against the Hurricanes.
... The more Jaamal Berry does during kick-offs and returns will dictate the chances he gets at running back. This has been a thread in all of Fickell's conferences... whoever is making the most of their chances (in all facets of the game) will get their chances toting the rock.
... Fickell seems pleased with the progress of Braxton Miller, although he admitted his "opportunities didn't arise" during the Toledo game.
... Nobody was hanging their head after the Toledo game.
... When asked how he might alter the road-game routine for Ohio State, Fickell again brought up "focus." Mentioning how the hotels, restaurants, or routine may be different--they can't allow those things to affect their focus on the goals of the week. When specifically asked if he'd alter any of Tressel's traditions, while he joked he couldn't re-upholster the plane, there may be "some little things" altered. There will be no "Fickell Stamp", which Fickell has avoided on placing anything on in the wake of Tressel.
... With giving up two punt returns to Miami last year (and one to Toledo last week), it was asked how much emphasis will be brought to special teams. "We put emphasis on special teams every week," Fickell said.
... No status update on Philly Brown. "He doesn't look great," Fickell said. As for the young receivers, Fickell says there's little things--which he constantly harps on--they're getting better at every week. He says they'll continue to get better, and as a young team, that's what you need to see: improvement every week.
... Jacory Harris "can do it all," says Fickell. He has the athletic ability to run and "spin the football." Fickell noted his down-the-field ability. "There's a lot of positives he brings to the table." ("For both teams," Fickell failed to add).
... Fickell would be more concerned about Drew Basil if he "wasn't handling it right." (Though he did mention, "it would be nice to get him one"). "His mind is right," Fickell said, "it's just a matter of time." When asked about Basil's technical approach, Fickell declined to comment on it, but did say, "He knows what he needs to do."
... Fickell admitted he "liked to watch" Miami in their hey-day. He liked the "uniqueness" of some of the things they did in the 80's and 90's.
... Does Fickell empathize with Al Golden, since both are first-year coaches at programs with NCAA troubles? He admits if they sat down, they probably would, but "we have to take care of our own programs."
... Fickell admitted last week the OSU defense couldn't do some of the things they wanted to do with Tyler Moeller, but said "he's on the right track." He again took time to mention "the little things" which Moeller is still doing.
... Fickell says they're not holding things back on offense. "That's not who we are," he said. (No clue if he was saying this simply to be ironic).
... Fickell says they'll see "bigger guys up front... more speed at wide out... and some more depth" than they have the last two weeks. Fickell specifically pointed to Miami's offensive line, "which may be the strength of their team."
... When asked about the lack of turnover creation, Fickell seemed to think it was more of not seizing opportunities than it was anything dealing with schemes.