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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 6, 2011
COACH FICKELL: I'll start off by saying thank you obviously to all you guys that were there, not just us, but the whole crew that was there Saturday, from the officials to the people in the stands to probably the ER crew that I think we had our first-ever almost 100 people that had to be escorted out and taken and handled with the heat. I know we lost two officials before the game really even got rolling.
One guy went down before the game started, and the head, the ref went down about four minutes into the first quarter. So for those who stuck around and stayed with the 130 degree heat down there on the field I appreciate it. I thought our guys battled hard.
We weren't as affected by it as much as we might have thought. I think we had two guys that really even cramped up. We can't remember the last time we had to play in a game where the field was 130 degrees. And I know our offense played 79 snaps. That's a lot of snaps with 130 degrees. Defensively, a lot better off, probably only played 49 snaps. To them, not just them, but our trainers and everybody who prepared our guys to handle that, I want to thank them, too.
Q. Do you expect to get the three guys that were suspended last week back this week? And number two, when you watched the video, like you said, first thing you were watching was the fourth quarter and special teams. What was your impression Sunday as you went over that?
COACH FICKELL: Yes, those three guys will be available for us. I thought the last thing I did when I came on was put on the kickoff. 42-0, six minutes to go in the game. I wanted to see how we ran down what kind of enthusiasm we'd have. 130 degrees, some guys going down their seventh or six times, however many times each one took, but I was impressed. There was some excitement about it. There were guys that weren't lagging behind. Some guys got knocked down and got right back up and there were some battles.
To me that's what we wanted to look for. We wanted to look for things that don't come up in normal stats that maybe you all recognize, or even anybody before I get the stats after the game, before even watching the film you don't see a lot of the things we're looking for.
So that's what to me I felt best about on Sunday morning when I had the ability to watch not only that last kickoff but the effort in the fourth quarter.
Q. Could you, after looking at the film, assess the play of the quarterbacks and where that situation stands?
COACH FICKELL: I thought they both played well. Like you said, a lot of things go unnoticed. Touchdown passes and long completions don't go unnoticed. But the way they handled themselves on the field, on the sideline, the enthusiasm, the things that they showed I think was what I was most impressed with.
I didn't have a lot of worries that they wouldn't be successful at doing the things we were asking them to do, throwing the football and managing the things that we were asking them to manage.
But I was impressed to see some of the emotion. To see some of the competitive nature, to see those kinds of things come out, that leadership ability. And also how they were on the sideline as well.
Again, we're going to continue to keep those guys both in the fold and figure out how this team comes together and what's best for it.
Q. You had to come up with replacements for three players, two starters and a backup just in the last 48 hours before the game. First of all, could you talk a little bit about how those players played, the three that stepped in right away. And also just replacements for the other suspended players that -- I mean, you knew you had lost seniors from a year ago. But you've had to kind of adapt and replace a lot of other guys who have been suspended. Could you talk about how they played?
COACH FICKELL: We had two corners, really one was a redshirt freshman that started Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke who started on the other side. And because Travis wasn't there. So either one of those two guys were going to be new. Both of them played well.
I thought they were poised. They made the plays when they came their way. Obviously we're always going to be critical and find ways we can get better with them. But out there on the field, there wasn't a lapse there.
I think they both had great confidence in what they were doing. I think -- I'm trying to think who else filled in. Durant was the third corner. But I mean, he probably didn't get into it until a little bit after. But, again, all those guys showed up. They stepped up. They didn't dwell on it. They weren't worried about the guys we were missing, and they stepped forward, just like the tailbacks, without Jordan Hall being there, the difficult thing going into the game we only had two guys available to us.
We didn't even have a third guy that had been a scout team tailback that could take a snap.
So we had two tailbacks and three full backs that's all we had going into the football game. Those guys shared the load. I thought they stepped up. Not that I didn't expect them to, whether we had three or four tailbacks playing in a game, to me I wanted to see the same exact things whether they got six carries or they got 12 carries.
But I think to me the most important thing is the attitude. The attitude that the guys had that obviously weren't with us. The attitude the guys had that did have to step up and take their spots that nobody batted an eye at it. Nobody worried, nobody whined. To me that's more of the things that I wanted to see.
Q. Could you talk about your relationship with Tim Beckman, how often do you guys keep in touch and what's it like coaching against somebody who has been in the Buckeye family?
COACH FICKELL: Sometimes as coaches you get so busy you don't stay in touch as much, we're probably like the young men on our teams we text more than we even get to talk to guys on the phone. But obviously Coach Beckman was with us for two years. Got to know him and his family very well.
So they were down here all summer for our camps and things and we got a chance to spend some time then. But just the whole, your chances to really stay in touch, week-to-week, are a little bit more difficult, as busy as everybody is.
But obviously anytime you're playing somebody you know, there's a familiarity. But it's just like if I was playing my brother. Sometimes I'm not sure that that doesn't make you even want to do it even a little bit more. That you know who that is and your competitive nature and you know what kind of competitive nature they are.
And that's the exciting thing about it. But you know they're great people. He's not the only one we know from that staff. I think there might be four or five guys that have been here at one point in time, whether they were GAs or guys obviously that have all worked our camp.
We know them very well and know what kind of great people they are, what kind of great program they've run.
Q. Last week you said that you didn't know how you were going to respond how you were going to do certain things until you actually did it. You had a chance to do it this game Saturday how do you evaluate yourself from the first game from start to finish and how big a moment was it to run off on the field as a head coach. What does that rank at?
COACH FICKELL: I don't let myself try to get into those things where I think about how exciting it was to run on the field and where does that rank at what kind of moment is it for me? To me, you said it, it was a focus. Yes, it was great. To me I was more focused on -- I was more excited to see what kind of effort our guys would put on the field than how I would feel running out on to the field leading the team.
That will be some time maybe think about it, look back at it. If they have it on film, they have everything on film, I'm sure. That's not something I've thought about a whole lot. How we made some decisions in the game, it was just flopping back and forth between the offense and the defense and want to make sure that you're much more involved with the defense and calling stuff on defense that you're communicating a little bit better with them at times.
So sometimes I had to stop myself and get from getting caught up into between series let's go back draw on the board, this is what I want to see from the defense hey you gotta be there and be on the headset and make sure offensively we've got our game plan and we have gone through it on Thursday and Friday night about some of the situations of what we wanted to do.
But to really be there on the headset to reiterate it to them, that was the only thing that I was fighting myself to make sure I wasn't all of a sudden getting back there and drawing up things on the board when I needed to be out front just making sure that in case the offense had a question or needed anything and they knew what the situation was that I could communicate with them. So balancing those things out, I think that's the whole thing. I think I was just asked that. The more difficult things about to me about me learning to be a head coach is truly trusting everybody else to do their job. And sometimes that's where you just, you gotta do a better job at hey I trust -- Coach Bowman doesn't need me on the headset or need me to tell him to run the football or throw the football down here. Coach Heacock and them they can get the adjustments and all that do that on the side. You gotta make sure your mind is focused on the whole picture.
Offensively, no, I didn't call any plays offensively. Defensively, we do a lot of things collaboratively.
Q. You played a ton of freshmen in this game and several played very well Evan with the great catch and Devin touch down and Braxton and Michael got a sack too. Obviously a lot is expected from the freshman class, when you look at films did they exceed what you thought was possible for them in week one?
COACH FICKELL: No I think they did a good job. We knew we were going to be in a situation where we would need them to step up and play. Regardless of who we're going to play, we're going to need those guys. I think they've done a good job. They've shown that throughout camp.
Sometimes shoot we go through camp and you're like I'm not sure how good this guy is or how he's going to show out in front of 106,000. But you forget he's been going against great people all across him in camp. I think that was the first time for them to show a little bit and all of a sudden they're not going against Mike Adams or somebody like that, hey, he's good, just because they're a freshman.
I think getting under their, letting them get their first time out there knowing we have enough confidence in them I think is a big thing. Because I think freshmen or whatever, confidence level is something just showing that you believe in them that you'll put them out there and it doesn't -- I think that's the best thing that happened to us, we add adversity of 7-0 in the first quarter and 130 degree temperature. That was the adversity and we needed to see our guys respond whether they were freshmen or seniors. I think they did a good job and we're going to continue to push them to grow, though.
Q. Couple of tailback questions. One, do you think Jamal Berry will be back this week. And rod Smith's fumble, was there anything on the film you saw. And how did you think Rod came back after that early mistake, with Jordan being back can you get good amounts of carries from three guys this week or do you expect it would be more two guys again? It's all in the same group.
COACH FICKELL: Yes, yes, and yes. No, I mean, again the more the merrier. I think that creates competition. I mean, what can you say. You have the ball on the ground and we didn't recover it. We have to do a better job holding on to it.
Were there some fundamental ways, yeah, but we have to make sure we get better at those things. That's the number one focus for us both offensively and defensively is turnovers, and we've talked about it every single day. So it's not like it's not something that's stressed. We'll get better at that. He'll get better at that.
I don't want him to lose confidence in what he does. And, hey, I try to get him back, get the ball again to make sure he knows we have confidence in him.
Now, we've got to see it. See him continue to hold onto the football. But I think those guys can all co-exist. And I think that's something that we're going to have to make sure like you said there's a lot of things in the stats that don't go noticed.
And those are the things that, where the media might not notice them or the normal fan might not notice them, we're going to notice them as coaches and making sure we're pointing them out so those guys know what we think is important.
It might not just be carries, it might be blocking, cutting the edge, doing some of those things that take a toll on you. So you can't just put a guy in there to, okay, this is the blocking back and this is the guy that's going to carry the football.
You gotta be able to do it. All. So we expect them to be able to do that and we'll continue to push them and make sure that they know we need them all to co-exist.
Q. Do you think Jamal this week or probably not?
COACH FICKELL: I'm hoping. Again, I'm hoping that we get Jamal back, and it will be another addition for us.
Q. You had a couple of guys leave the game, Underwood and Philly Brown, any update on what their availability might be this week?
COACH FICKELL: Don't know just yet. Today's a good practice. We'll get a little better feeling for how they are today.
Q. Luke, specifically will Jordan Hall and Travis Howard move back to the No. 1 spot this week in the depth chart situation, just how are you going to handle that deal?
COACH FICKELL: It's only Tuesday. So we don't know. I mean, there's three practices ahead of us. And we're going to make sure those guys are competing. Those guys stepped in there, did a great job.
They've got to come in and beat those guys out now. So I think we all understand the situation.
Q. There's the old adage that teams improve, from weeks one to week two. Based on what you saw on Saturday, where do you need to grow? You win 42-0. So things obviously went well. Are there areas that you look at with the critical eye of a coach that you think, hey, this is better team this week, we need to do this better? What jumps out at you, I guess?
COACH FICKELL: There's a lot of areas. We've got to be better on special teams with our coverage making sure we've got contained and tackling. Because we're going to see a much better guy. Probably all-American returner this week. So we'll truly have to do a better job there.
Turnovers on both sides of the ball. We didn't win the turnover margin, and that's a critical, critical -- that's one of the number one things we talk about every day. We know we have to do a better job at that. We have to create them on defense and make sure we don't have them on offense.
But there's tons of things just technically with how we run the football, how we stop the run, getting some more pressure defensively is something that when we got a chance we missed too many tackles, their big plays are things that came from a breakdown in our fundamentals.
We're definitely nitpicking. Definitely going to make sure those guys understand we're never satisfied where we are. We're happy and we're proud and praise them for their efforts but we have to find ways to get better and those are the ones that stand out the most.
Q. I know you don't want to make this about you at all, but it was your first win as a coach of the Ohio State football team. Did you do anything significant to mark the occasion? Did you save the ball? Did you get any memorable texts or e-mails from people congratulating you on that? Did you hear from Coach Tressel, for example, any of those things?
COACH FICKELL: No, a lot of nos, texts yes. But nothing that's memorable. They did give me a game ball, Mr. Smith gave me a game ball afterwards. But I made sure I stood up there and told the guys this is not about me. This is a game ball for the 2011 Buckeyes. The coaching staff and the players. I want to make sure that's where our focus continues to be at.
Yes, it is something that is a first, but I'm not going to sit and dwell on it. I don't want our guys to dwell on it. I don't want fans to dwell on it. I don't want the team to dwell on it.
So I'll just continue to move forward. No.
Q. Toledo has a reputation of knocking off big teams, beat Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, Pitt when they were in the top ten. Is this anything you would broach with your team? Or do you kind of just ignore and worry about it yourself?
COACH FICKELL: No, you want to make sure they know who their opponent is. You've got to know your opponent every bit as much as you know yourself. And knowing their history is a big part of that. They're not going to come in here and be in awe by any means. That comes from the top down, from Coach Beckman and the job that he does and he's not going to allow them to be in awe of walking in here 106,000.
And a lot of those guys have been here and seen that. We played them a couple of years ago. There's a lot of the same faces. Now obviously it was in Cleveland stadium. I think it's very important for our guys to understand who it is exactly they're playing and know that what they see on film they're probably going to get a lot better, just because of the bull's eye that is out there.
So it does -- there's nothing that goes unnoticed and there's nothing that doesn't go talked about and knowing that they're a bit of a giant killer at times is definitely something that our guys will know.
Q. The other thing about Toledo, they scored 58 points against this New Hampshire team. One double A team but as you looked at the film they played two different quarterbacks. Put up a bunch of yards just as a defensive coach that's got to keep you concerned. What were some of the things you saw out of Toledo that offensively could translate for you guys?
COACH FICKELL: They do a great job. They do a great job keeping you honest in everything you do. I think the thing you noticed the most is they've got playmakers, that you might not see from some of the teams in the MAC or even teams you played early in the season at times. They've got guys all over the field that can make plays, tail backs wide receivers and quarterback. But the thing you don't talk about is them up front. I think that's where it starts for them. They have athletes that move the ball around. Two quarterbacks that do a good job at running the offense, both very similar in what they can do, but up-front-wise, I think that's where they're a little bit probably a lot better than a lot of teams in their league. That's where it's going to start for them.
So they pose a lot of different problems offensively. I think they average over 40 some points a game last year.
Q. Did you take a peek at Miami last week, does your concentration drift at all?
COACH FICKELL: I walked into the locker room saw to grab a cup of coffee about 10:30 and I saw somebody said there's some wild uniforms on TV. But other than that I didn't see a single snap.
Q. As you watched Joe Bauserman play Saturday, was he a different player with the starting job, with the lights on, et cetera? What did you see about him that maybe was different to you, or did you expect him to play as he did?
COACH FICKELL: You hadn't seen him truly play. I think the only time he's been in there was Illinois last year. I mean, this is really his first go around at it.
And I think we saw what we thought we would see. I was impressed more so with his demeanor and his way, the way he handled himself. The emotion he showed. The leadership, the confidence, every bit as much impressed with that as the stats or whatever ended up being. That's what I think we need most out of the quarterback.
Q. The guy behind him, Braxton goes 3 and out on his, one, two not necessarily his fault. Doesn't come back until the second. When he does come in plays pretty well. He talks about afterwards about going to three reads on the touchdown pass by Devin. As you looked at the film, they way he handled the play in the second half, what did you come away with?
COACH FICKELL: I thought he did a good job. But again I tried to evaluate the other things. I thought the best thing that could have happened sometimes is he went into the first time, got hit pretty good on his first one.
Guy drops the ball in the second one and the third one he gets a snap from all-American center that's on the ground. So to me I'm not sure that wasn't something, that wasn't decent to see to see him come off the sidelines to see how he handled it and see him still hold his head up, not be really mad at it, not going into the next series.
I'd like to see -- that's what I want to see. I want to see how you handle being able to pop in and out and all of a sudden not getting that next series, which maybe we had planned in the second half, just the way it fell to two-minute situation and see if you could still keep yourself together and come out the second half and be able to perform. To me that's what's most important.
Q. With Joe, do you think it ever is or ever has been sort of weird for him being older than the other guys and is there anything in the way he handles himself, the way he acts that you can tell he's 25 and not 19 or 20 or 21?
COACH FICKELL: He might be older than a couple of coaches. But we've had that before with some of our kickers. I don't know. I mean, Joe's -- he's a guy -- he's out there playing racquetball with them or basketball in the off season. It's not like he's a 25-year-old that's got a wife and two kids or anything.
I think he's still a college kid. Is he more mature than maybe some of the others at 25 years old, I hope so. But there's nothing that you notice that that's completely different. He might be the only guy on the team that truly has his own house.
But other than that, you know, I think he's just like the other guys.
Q. Have you ever been to his house?
COACH FICKELL: No, I haven't. I've seen a picture. He put up a fence, he showed me.
Q. There's been a little bit of attention paid to your meeting after the game with the Akron's coach. Was anything said there in that meeting and did you second-guess any decisions that you made in your first game as a head coach?
COACH FICKELL: I didn't say anything, and no, I didn't second-guess it.
Q. Did he say anything, their coach?
COACH FICKELL: Maybe good luck or something.
Q. (Question off microphone)?
COACH FICKELL: We told them we wanted to turn the scoreboard off not concentrate it so when you were running down there 42-0 and it's the last kickoff, to me I don't want you focused on that. The hard part, we had decisions to make. We had only had two tailbacks. We hoped we had some walk on guys that were still available that could have taken in some good snaps, but we didn't have them.
So we're going to continue to try and prepare our guys best.
Q. How much more opponent-specific can you get this week than you were last week against Akron when you had to use a lot of base?
COACH FICKELL: Not sure what you mean. You mean opponent-specific because we've seen them play a game this year? Again, the good thing about good teams from year to year they don't change a whole lot. I think that's what you see from Toledo. They haven't changed. You saw that first game this year. You saw the games last year. Their offense is still the same offense. That's the sign of a good program and a good team. So can you get more specific on what you do, yeah. But they're still going to develop.
Q. Can you talk -- you addressed Braxton Miller's demeanor on the sideline and said you liked what you saw in him. Can you address specifically what you saw in his body language and whatnot that you really like?
COACH FICKELL: I'm sure you probably saw it on TV. I said I liked that he was still into the game. That those guys worked well together when they came off the sidelines, because there's a lot of positions that need to work well together. So to me the big thing is how any group of guys work together when they come off the sidelines.
If they can take good coaching from each other, to me that's better than getting it from a coach.
Q. To clarify you get Jordan Whiting this week?
COACH FICKELL: Yes.
Q. The three players suspended a week ago, are they in the clear? Or is this something that's still up in the air whether they will be available in the future after this week?
COACH FICKELL: They're available. That's all I know. So we're going to continue to move forward with guys that are available and something comes up, something comes up.
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