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August 31, 2015

Luke Fickell

Columbus, Ohio

Q. Luke, in your career, as is the case with Virginia Tech, you've had to prepare for a team that you didn't know which quarterback is going to start, what's the challenge for a defensive coordinator getting ready for that game?
COACH FICKELL: Usually the first game is sometimes the toughest because you're watching everything. I think that's a tough situation. You look at every game last year as opposed to maybe a four or five-game breakdown because you have the time. You spend a lot of time in the summer. Again, it makes you jump through a lot of hoops, makes you think about a lot of what-ifs. It makes some things difficult.

Q. Luke, can you give us some insights on depth at corner. Looks like you have a very good top three. But who's going to round out the two deep at corner? I know Marshon Lattimore is still --
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, we've got to get some of those guys healthy. This will be a big week to see what those guys can do, some of those freshmen. You've got the two guys, Gareon and Eli. Damon Webb is a guy that's played a lot in there, or played last year for us. So he'll be the next guy. Marshawn, we've got to see how he can do this week, and a couple of those young freshmen guys.

We've got some different plans based on whatever would happen, but we'll have to kind of wait and see throughout the next seven, eight days just to see who we think is ready and what plan we'll be able to go with.

Q. If you need one of those true freshmen, who will it be, guys like Denzel Ward or Eric Glover-Williams?
COACH FICKELL: I think off the bat maybe Denzel. Speed-wise, straight speed-wise, he's a guy you can stick out there and feel comfortable with. But we'll have a couple of different plans based on who that could be. If we have to move guys around, we could.

These next eight days just finding out how Marshon will be and Damon and things like that, we'll have to kind of wrestle through as a staff the next few weeks.

Q. When you face a tight end like 6'5" Bucky Hodges, who does that put pressure on on your defense? Is it the D-line because they need to get enough pressure to keep him in blocking? Is it your linebackers? Just what is the challenge of facing a tight end like Bucky Hodges?
COACH FICKELL: I think any time you've got a guy with versatility, it makes it difficult. I think you're seeing it all over the NFL. That's one of those unique positions that those guys have -- they're not just protection guys, they're not just block guys, they're not just pass guys, they're guys that can kind of do it all. He's one of those guys. They're a little bit of a matchup nightmare at times. You've got to know where they are, him being a little bit more in particular as one of those big go-to guys.

So they pose some problems in the matchup category. But that's just kind of par for the course. They'll do a good job of mixing up their personnels and leaving them in the game where there's a wideout, where there's a tight end, where there's a fullback. Just gives you different things you have to prepare for and know where he's at.

Q. We asked Ed Warinner how far his offensive line was ahead of where you guys were last year. For you, how far is your defense ahead of where you were last time you faced Virginia Tech?
COACH FICKELL: You've got to wait until you actually can be evaluated. That's one of those tough things. I think we feel, at least through camp, we've had an ability to work on our scheme and the things that we're going to do throughout the entire year as opposed to having to prepare for Navy.

So I think we feel like we're ahead of where we were with the ability to not just prepare for Virginia Tech, but prepare ourselves for the entire season for the body of work that we'll have to do. But obviously, the test will be Monday night.

Q. I'll ask you the same question I asked Ed. How much did you watch tape of last year's Virginia Tech game in light of the fact that you guys obviously didn't play very well?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, it's definitely something. Again, you learn from that stuff, and you learn from the history. You're not just watching to harp on the negative things to show our guys how well we did not play, but also to watch what it is that they did. Obviously, they had a game plan, and they executed their game plan better than we did.

So it's something that we spend a lot of time evaluating, but, again, we're not going to sit there and harp on the negative stuff. We're going to make sure our guys are ready to play, promote the positives and those kinds of things, but make sure we learn from the history of what happened.

Q. On the defensive line, is Sam Hubbard still ahead? What's the status?
COACH FICKELL: That's one of those things, we've got eight days left. We're talking about two young kids, and every day is important. It's a constant battle. Every day we're trying to evaluate exactly what it is we see from both of them. Both of them are going to play. Both of them have to play. We need them to play, and we need them to play well.

So it's going to be a bit of a committee kind of guy. And who will get the nod? I think we've still got a few days to figure it out for ourselves.

Q. Coach, two springs ago, Chris Worley and Darron Lee were kind of neck and neck to try to get on the field, and then Darron Lee had the progression he did now and is a potential first round draft pick for next year. How does Chris Worley handle maybe being the guy in the middle between some pretty fantastic freshmen and somebody he was neck and neck with? Is Chris Worley somebody that's really good but just not quite as good as Darron Lee?
COACH FICKELL: I think, again, if you're going to talk about a specific person, Chris has had as good a camp as anybody has had on the defensive side of the ball, to be honest with you. Not just me as a linebacker coach, but everybody has noticed his ability to play football and do the things we ask a guy in his position to do. We've got to find different ways to get guys like Chris on the field, and there will be opportunities for him, not just subbing Darren, but really, truly opportunities to find ways in some other packages to get him on the field and show some of his talents.

He's the kind of guy that understands the game of football. He can make plays, but he has to be put in those situations. Sometimes that is tough when you're playing behind a guy who's as talented as what Darron has and what Darron has done for us on the field. As coaches, we put a little pressure on ourselves to find ways to get guys like that on the field to give them opportunities to make plays.

Q. You noticed that he's been a sport about being in this situation, and do you think he kind of understands the reality of, hey, maybe in a few years he is going to have --
COACH FICKELL: I think they all do. That's one thing that Coach does an unbelievable job every single day, talking about competition and how you make yourself better, and that's competing with one another. I know in our room we're always talking about how we're going to push each other and have the ability -- there's nothing greater than competition.

Whether a guy's a great player or not, for his ability, to have that knowing that someone's right on his heels and someone could go in there and do the job that they're doing and, if they have the opportunity, they might do it better.

So that competition has been created. We saw it last year with Curtis Grant. It increased his productivity and his playability, just having Raekwon McMillan right behind him. And always that -- not the fear of somebody else going in, but the ability that you know there's someone else behind you who's going to push you every single day.

Q. Luke, you played on some pretty good teams here with really high expectations. Obviously, the expectations are sky high this year. Have you drawn on your experience as a player here and maybe shared that with some of our units or your assistant coaches as you get ready to climb this mountain?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, we do. We're always trying to look for things that we can compare to. Sometimes you look back at -- I try to bring it up. I haven't done it a whole bunch just yet with our guys, but as a staff, we've talked about it, the transition from 2002 to 2003 with having a lot of guys coming back and maybe a more talented team coming back than you did the year before when the same kind of things happened, where you had obviously great success and a National Championship.

But learning from those kinds of things, you know what it's really about. It's not about talent. Every single year, sitting in these seats, there's going to be enough talent, as Coach always tells you. It's the ability for those guys to gel together, for those guys to come together, to find out how they're going to handle those adverse situations.

Last year, hindsight looking back at it, might have been one of the greatest things that happened to us, to have something like what happened last year at that time, have those guys' ability to pull themselves together and to grow from that and to build from that. That's not what we're asking for again, but the reality is Coach has done a great job in camp at trying to find those situations where he can put their backs against the wall to see how those guys will gel and grow together as a unit, as a team, as a defense, and as an offense.

So the expectations are always big, but really people think it's about scheme and different things like that, but the reality is it's really how those guys all come together. It's what they truly believe deep down in their hearts, how they handle those adverse situations, and can they stay together and handle the human elements that all the hype and things bring to the forefront?

Q. Would you guess that, because of what you went through personally as a player, that you might have a little edge on picking that up before it gets to be a problem?
COACH FICKELL: Well, we're always looking for it. I think the unique thing is having the ability to play here and be here for so long, you know a little bit more of what's out there. I mean, obviously, the attention that those guys get. I tell them all the time, it's harder to handle praise than it is criticism. And we've got to make sure we're handling those things the right way, watching those things, and not allowing us to have those things affect us in a negative way.

When we say negative way, we mean in ways where all of a sudden show up in little things and little things add up. If there's anything that Coach Meyer does and Coach Mick does, they're watching those things very, very close because sometimes we get a little bit clouded with the things that we're doing on an everyday basis. So they're brought to our attention pretty much every day.

Q. Luke, as you all move into a game week, Joey Bosa can't play in the first game. I remember a couple years ago when Carlos Hyde couldn't play in a couple of a games, and you all actually used him on the scout team, from what I've heard. Will you use Joey in the same way? Ho do you keep him involved, et cetera, this week?
COACH FICKELL: It's a unique situation because he's out for one game. It's not like something where you can completely take him out of the mix because obviously we're preparing for the entire season. It's a journey. This is where the next eight days really become important to us.

You asked about the development of Sam and Jalyn, and that's one of those big things. Hey, now it's game week, and we have to have the ability to put those guys in, take Joey out of the mix. Whether he goes down to the scout team or not, that's going to be a little bit of what Coach and them need down there from the scout units, taking him off on the side and make sure we're preparing him and keeping him in shape and those kinds of things for the rest of the season, yeah. But now it's kind of a little bit more of a focus for us as coaches, the guys that are going to go with us down to Blacksburg, and focus on those guys, making sure we know who it is, what it is, and what's the plan we got for those guys.

Q. What have you seen from Joey specifically on the field from the standpoint of keeping his focus? There was a report last week or so about someone seeing him being detained by the police and whatever. I don't know if that -- obviously, you all would know about that and stuff, but nothing happened from that. What have you told him? What have you seen from him from a focus standpoint?
COACH FICKELL: It's been a little bit humbling, and you can see. Again, whether it's what has happened or another year of maturity, I can seriously sit here and tell you that Joey Bosa is a different kid, a different player than he was last year. In what ways, it's the ways you see him on the field, the way he goes about practice, the way he went about camp. He has definitely matured.

Again, you're talking about a guy who's 20 years old. Every year you're going to see some things in that growth, and that's really what you're looking for. Do you continue -- obviously, his play speaks for itself. But us as coaches that are around him every single day -- Larry Johnson is with him every single day. He can tell you the maturity process that he has had.

Obviously, he's in an accelerated program for one of those guys that has the levels and the ability and who knows how many years they're here. You have to accelerate their process, and it's really, I can tell you that he's definitely a different practice player than he was a year ago, the way he goes about his business and studies the game.

Q. One other quick one. Virginia Tech has professed to be a little more wide open, a little more spread, whatever you want to call it, through the off-season. Who knows how much it's smoke and mirrors. What do you guys kind of expect from them from an offensive standpoint in general?
COACH FICKELL: That's one of the things of a first game. I think, even when you watch some of those -- I said to one of the coaches the other day, do you think they'll ever come up with a preseason game for colleges? You know, you go home and see some of these preseason NFL games, and guys legitimately get to go out there and play and play against somebody besides their own players, and you actually get to see what you got.

So it's a little bit difficult for us. Just like preparing for the first game, you can hear a lot, you can see a lot, and you can talk about what they did in the spring, but the reality is I'm sure they're kind of searching and trying to find different ways that they can improve what it is they did, enhance what it is they did.

You kind of prepare for everything, like we talked about, whether it's a two-quarterback system or not. You're watching not only 12 or 13 games from last year, even peeking back at what guys did in the past based on their personnels. So it's a lot of that chasing and finding those hidden things, those ghosts you might be chasing, but you're prepared for about everything in that first week. You've got to go out, and you've got to play.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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