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February 3, 2016

Luke Fickell

Columbus, Ohio

Q. Luke, I know that you were at Malik Harrison's announcement today. I know he's your guy?
COACH FICKELL: Our guy. He's part of The Ohio State University program. I recruit that area, yes.

Q. What was it about him that made you feel like he was a fit? I know there were some comparisons for what you did for Darron a few years ago in getting him an offer and why did you feel the need --
COACH FICKELL: Malik deserved the offer. And I probably know more about him than anybody in this class and oftentimes the guys that are closest here and the guys in the state of Ohio you know more about. And that's a positive and negative at times, too, because there are different -- there's different things that those guys that are local, different challenges for them.

So he's a kid that, man, his ceiling is who knows where and reality is we bring him in here as an athlete. He could walk in tomorrow and try a wide out, try a tight end, try at defensive end, try at linebacker. What he is he's an explosive athlete with some length and a really good character kid that we're going to really enjoy having as part of this program.

Q. Is there anybody because based on an area that you find this guy deserves an Ohio State number, he deserves to be here, how much leeway and trust does Urban have in you that if Luke says we should take this guy should offer him what's the process like in a situation like that?
COACH FICKELL: I think that we trust all these guys. I'm sure Coach has -- obviously the longer he's known people their track record may so to speak. But they wouldn't be here if he didn't trust them. Ultimately in recruiting it does come down to a lot of that. Guys fighting for guys what they truly believe and knowing what can be successful in this culture and in this environment. And he's one of those kids I believe can truly, truly not just survive here but thrive here in the culture and the environment that we have.

Q. Luke, with some of the defensive linemen in this class, whether it's Jonathan Cooper or Nick Bosa or whoever, we know you have some holes on the defensive line. How realistic is it for a true freshman to come in, you know that position, to come in and try to compete for realistic playing time at that position?
COACH FICKELL: I think it's difficult at times. There's the biggest -- I think the biggest difference in the high school game to the college game has got to be in those big positions, whether it's a defensive lineman, whether it's an offensive lineman. The good thing about defensive line as opposed to offensive line there's not really truly as much to learn it comes down a little more to the battle. But guys physically developed I would say have the first and best chance to come in and be able to compete at that level right away. And obviously Nick Bosa would be one of those guys that you would say physically coming in would have an opportunity to be able to challenge Malik Barrow a guy coming off surgery as well I'm not sure whether physically he could step in there tomorrow and battle with some of the guys.

And then you'd say maybe a Jonathan Cooper it might be a little bit on the edge where you might not be as physically dominant on the inside. But it is difficult. But, again, we recruit those guys with the idea that we think that they can come in and give us an opportunity to compete and vie for some playing time, especially if you're playing nine or ten guys up there.

Q. On signing day we talk about the guys and guys that redshirt you forget about them for a while but specifically on the offensive line thinking about the groups the guys we redshirt talked about a year ago Cornell or aller buy, how ready are some of those guys do you think?
COACH FICKELL: Some of those guys are coming off injuries as you spoke with some of those guys are coming off injuries make it a little bit more difficult, which is why spring is so big. Guys like Jashon and some of these guys even Dre'Mont who had an opportunity to compete a little bit more in bowl practice are going to be a little bit more prepared. Bowl practice really is like another spring ball. We'll have as many practices in bowl as we did for all of spring.

So it was great for them. It was a great opportunity for them. They won't be freshmen they won't be sophomores. We like to look at it as basically they're in their second year. Looking at big things from Jashon, from Dre'Mont and a bunch of those guys because it's going to be a little bit by committee until we can figure out really who we can count on.

Q. Urban when he was talking about Bosa he might be ahead of where Joey was as a freshman, A, that's probably exciting for you guys. B, it could be a lot on him. How do you view it? What did you guys see for him coming in?
COACH FICKELL: Again, we think we know. And you're not obviously ever for sure on guys that are committing as far as how ready and more so mentally the things they can handle. But the great thing you can say about probably Nick as well as Joey is that they grew up around it.

And I kind of refer back a little bit to a guy like James Laurinaitis, obviously not as highly recruited as those guys. But a few things about James, just that confidence level. I try to attest it to him growing up in that environment. Obviously his dad was a big-time wrestler in that environment of competition and always in the stressful and tough environments. And really to look at it, the Bosa family, Joey with his dad playing, he had big shoes to fill and obviously high expectations.

So I don't know that it's going to be anything different for Nick. Nick is a mature kid that I don't think will bat an eye coming in whether he wears the number 97, whether he looks like Joey or walks like Joey. The reality is he's Nick. He's grown up with it his whole life. Went to St. Thomas Aquinas and followed his brother and had a successful career.

I don't think anything on the mental pressure side would be my guess would affect him.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
COACH FICKELL: Maybe he'll come up with something of his own. But Zeke kind of stole that once Joey left that game. Maybe it's now Zeke's kind of thing.

Q. Urban was just in here talking about Keandre and kind of thinks he's going to be a high impact guy. As his position coach now, what did you guys like about him and also I assume that probably wasn't a coincidence that he committed on the same day as two other guys in his class?
COACH FICKELL: I mean, all those things all kind of come together. And like we say if you build it they will come. But the reality is, he was a guy that we had targeted probably after his junior year that on film was a guy that was very dynamic, and I guess maybe you'd say the Sam backer position, the prototype of what we're looking for. You could kind of bottle up Darron Lee and say this is a hybrid type of guy we really want an athletic guy that can blitz that can cover space out there.

From all the recruiting, watching all the film going into even before the senior year, junior year, he was probably the one guy we targeted to say wow that guy fits exactly the mold of what we want. We didn't have that opportunity to start with. Maybe he was committed to the local school and this that and the other thing and how things happen and go.

But the reality is when we had an opportunity, when things started to come open, when all of a sudden Darron Lee was going to leave and did leave, it opened up an opportunity for us. And we took that opportunity, knew what we wanted and we're just fortunate enough that we had the good fortunes obviously to put a lot of things together to get maybe one of his good buddies and do a great job at landing a great football player.

Q. Last year's signing day was about a month after the title. So this was the first recruiting class where you had a full year as defending champions. Did you notice that it was any easier because of that for you all to get into some doors or recruits were more receptive?
COACH FICKELL: That block O opens all the doors you needed. National championship and all those things, but the reality is that that block O and the history what it's done not just over a short period of time but a long period of time in my 14 years of recruiting, 20 years I say of being here, you know, it's always going to open the doors for you, if job that Coach does and the way motivates us and obviously the emphasis he puts on recruiting and him doing it himself is what really sells.

But the opportunity, whether we won a national title, whether we were 12-1 or whether we were 12-0 for the years before that, the reality that block O, that Ohio State opens the doors for us now. It really takes great guys to be able to go in there, get the job done.

Q. Did you have a vision of a Darron Lee-type player before Darron Lee became that guy, or did he --

Q. Did he become that guy?
COACH FICKELL: No, really we did. And I can go all the way back to the Orange Bowl to be honest with you, for probably that year and the eight years prior to that, we had played about 70 percent nickel defense. 75 percent nickel defense.

We call ourselves a 4-3 but in reality we play a 4-2-5, 75 percent of the game. After that game specifically knowing all the lateral plays and handing the ball to Sammy Watkins and blocking a nickel back on the edge the ball running over the edge laterally, sat down, said we're not going to have that again. Now, obviously there's some give and take with having a nickel guy out there as opposed to a linebacker and we said this is what we need and this is the route we're going to go.

Now, were we fortunate, did we know exactly what we had in Darron Lee? No, we didn't have a crystal ball, but he was the type of guy we were looking for, a guy that you could say what is he? Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? Is he this? Is he that? No but he's athletic enough to play in space we know darn well we'll put him out there limit all lateral plays and all bubbles and all things that are going to make sure they try to force the field make us cover 53 and a third. The reality with having that guy out there the piece we're looking for that we're going to try to shrink that field and have to play one-third of the field.

Q. Who else on this group right now of linebackers you've got fits that mold in your mind?
COACH FICKELL: We walk out there tomorrow and Chris Worley is going to be that guy. But that goes without saying. We're going to find a way to get our best 11 guys out there. You're going to see Jerome Baker have an opportunity to go out there. And you're going to see guys that are going to come in Keandre Jones are going to have an opportunity to go out there. But we're going to move them around, find the guys that give us the best opportunity to be able to do those things.

And all you've got to do is look back at the one play Darron went out one play in the Illinois game, guy took a shot in the chest the very next play they come out throw the bubble out in the field balls we put a new true freshman out there they were going to come challenge that thing right away. Believe me we bring it up often to whoever is going to be able to fill that spot.

Q. Like Urban said, he wants to play -- get maybe 18 of these guys the 25 from this group on the field next year and stuff. Do you feel that urgency, but also do you see the opportunities that these guys need to fill?
COACH FICKELL: I think, yes, I think we've got to have that vision, because you look at a guy like Darron Lee and there's a guy that leaves after three years. For one year he sat himself on the bench.

You could go back to Shawn Springs guy who redshirted and leaves with another year of eligibility. Anthony Gonzalez was the same. There's so many of those type of athletes you know what you have to do you have to discipline yourself to go ahead and put them out there. And that's the most difficult thing because we play at such a high level, there's no ground for somebody to say, okay, well he's not quite good enough so let's put him on this special team.

He's just growing. No, no, we expect them to be grown men, act like grown men, play like grown men. For us we've got to discipline ourselves to be able to put them out there and give them an opportunity to prove it.

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