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September 13, 2011

Luke Fickell

COACH FICKELL: Obviously thanks for coming. We are definitely excited to obviously get out of last week with a win. Probably the most important thing.
But I really don't know that I said it enough after the game that I really want to give a lot of credit to Toledo in the way that they came in and played and the job that they did preparing. I think they did a heck of a job. But we're excited to move on, get back kind of here this week, Tuesday, Wednesday, make sure we focus back on the fundamentals, getting better offensively, defensively, special teams, making sure that's the key each and every week we get back to practice on Tuesday, but we are excited obviously to travel, to go down to Miami. Obviously they present some new challenges but I think our guys will be excited for the challenges that they present. So open it up.

Q. What's the status of Hall, Howard and Brown and why do you think last week -- last Tuesday, that they would be able to play against Toledo?
COACH FICKELL: That's what I was pretty much informed, that they would be. And don't want to get into a whole lot but then I was informed on Friday that they would not be. So right now we are still pending and waiting. We are not going to make any jumps to conclusions I think maybe right now. But we'll wait and see and hopefully we'll hear something soon.

Q. How hard is it to not know and have this indecision?
COACH FICKELL: I guess it's a part of the game. I can't let that affect us, and we just have to continue to move on and deal with it however it comes but hopefully we'll hear something soon and just so that we can most importantly prepare ourselves mentally, those guys mentally and everybody else as far as team-wise.

Q. If y'all look back on Saturday, the decision not to play Braxton, was Braxton actually maybe even dinged up or was that part of the deal or do you all regret not getting him in the game and does he figure in your plans this week?
COACH FICKELL: We don't have any regrets. I don't think we are going to look back and regret it. Obviously you look back every week, and try to find ways that you can get better, but Braxton was dinged up a little bit, practiced more so on Thursday and a little bit on Wednesday, but you know, we had a plan going in that maybe it didn't quite happen exactly how you do.
You've kind of got to adjust on the run. And you know, we are not going to look back on it. We know that most importantly, we'll make sure that those guys mind are right and they understand the situation we are in. We communicated with them so that there's no guesswork involved and to me the most important thing is that they can stay focused and move forward and not dwell upon the past.

Q. What is Nate Williams' status for this week? Do you expect to have him back for this game?
COACH FICKELL: We still don't know. There's obviously a few guys we are not positive on. We'll find out a little bit more hopefully today. See how he can move around and run around today. So you know it's still a little bit too early to tell.

Q. Corey Linsley, will he definitely be back this week?
COACH FICKELL: Corey is back this week, and you know, hopefully we'll get him back in the mix here real soon and create some more competition up front there offensive-line wise and give us some more depth.

Q. Just to clarify on Braxton, his health did play a role in the decision on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: I didn't say. That I said that he was dinged up a little bit early in the week and we had a plan going in, maybe we adjusted the plan a little bit, but most important thing is that, hey, we're all moving forward with it. We understand it, those guys understand it. You have a plan going into the game and as long as you communicate with them, we'll make sure we all handle things the right way and most importantly we have to do what's best for the team.

Q. And when you looked back at your run game offensively, did you see things, were you pretty happy with, did you feel like Toledo was maybe making things difficult inside on you guys or how do you think you dealt with Toledo's difference with your run game?
COACH FICKELL: I thought they did a good job of twisting and doing some things, that's something that they have done in the past; and maybe knowing that they wouldn't just stand there and beat you up physically at times. But keep you on your toes and keep you off balance a little bit.
Obviously we have to do a better job. We have to block it better. We have to run it better. But sometimes it is like pounding your head against a brick wall when there's ten guys in there. So there's a lot of things that we have got to do better and I that's one of the hard on ourselves and critical of ourselves in every aspect. There's ways that we can get better improvements and eventually you just have to be able to do it at times, too.

Q. With freshmen quarterbacks, especially, there's always that time of it needing to click, the game needing to slow down. How comfortable are you with where Braxton is with that, with the progress mentally with team things and making reads? Secondly, how will that play going forward this week in terms of playing time?
COACH FICKELL: You never know exactly how until once you get in the game. He's done a good job. He prepares well. I think he's had a very good attitude about everything. I think he understands the situation, and is obviously excited about his opportunities to become more and more. But you know, we are still going to focus on what's best for this team and what's best for this program.
But getting him involved and getting him more in there is something that we want to do and we are going to have to just see how that happens as the whole next few weeks unfold, and a lot of that goes with preparation and I think each and every week, hopefully we can get a little more preparation, see a little bit more and have a little bit more confidence in everything that we are doing offensively with him or without him.

Q. How difficult has it been to not allow the suspensions to be any kind of a distraction?
COACH FICKELL: We are not going to. We can't allow our guys to. I don't know that it is, really I don't. We don't talk about it. We don't dwell upon it. When things come up, I think, you know, they can be a distraction for a minute. I think when you get things late, it makes it harder on you, but that's no excuse and we understand that.
We hope and we think that this is what the game is all about, to be able to handle adversity and we believe it's going to make us stronger in the long run, and as long as we continue to handle it in the right way, and communicate better in every aspect that we can, but it comes from the top down. We can't let it affect me so that we can't let it affect them, as well.

Q. How do you assess -- how do you assess how Joe played in the game and where do you need him to grow at the quarterback position?
COACH FICKELL: Ultimately that's a position that gets criticized and critiqued the most. I think maybe eventually he's going to have to do some other things and maybe take some more shots and everybody can look back at plays and say, oh, we gave one away, there he was open. But I thought Joe did a pretty good job in the things we asked him to do. You know, he didn't take some chances in some situations where maybe the people in the crowd or even as you look back and think, oh, he really could have taken a chance and try to snake it in there. Maybe that's something he's done in the past that sometimes we think throwing the ball up there in the sixth row stands is not always a bad decision.
We know there's things we are going to have to do moving forward, but I think Joe did a lot of the things we asked him to do. He was careful with the football. We are always going to be hard upon ourselves in that room over there behind those walls to find ways that we can get better. But I think he's still continue to go grow. The offense is continuing to grow. And I think he's still making good decisions for us.

Q. When you evaluate -- including the starting quarterback, how do you take in studying that tape, knowing it may not reflect what you see in the game on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: You do the best you can. You have to obviously assume some things and try to do your best at figuring out at what might change for them and what they have and what they don't have.
But how much time can you spend doing that? You know, you take a peak at some of the spring stuff maybe they did and things like that. But you know, there's one game they have got for us to see on film with the new staff.
So there's a lot of different ways you can try and go back and search and look around for what you think they might do, where the other guys have come from and different things. Sometimes you've just got to make sure you're better at what you do fundamentally and sometimes we are not going to know exactly what to expect.
How will they change? I don't know. Only they will know that. But we have got a plan. We have got an idea, and we are going to continue to prepare in the best way that we can.

Q. Jamal came back last week from his hamstring injury. Where does he factor in the plans at tailback going forward?
COACH FICKELL: You know, again, the thing about that is we are always going to have tailbacks and they understand that, and the more you do outside of just playing tailback, the more opportunities you'll get probably at playing tailback.
So the more Jamal does on kick return and the more he does on special teams will be the more opportunities he gets on the field to show things, the more opportunities he'll get at tailback.
So we know that we have got a few guys, that we have to have the ability to get them the ball and give them some opportunities, but you never know -- you never know when your opportunity is going to arise and you have to be ready to handle it and take full advantage of all the opportunities that you get.
Again, we'll continue to move forward and he's still an option for us, and you know, I think the most important thing is how he handles it and when he does get those opportunities, he's ready to take them.

Q. There's been a lot of second guessing of the on-field communication with Braxton when he's not on the field. How do you address those second-guessings, and what is the lessons learned for the coaching staff after game two?
COACH FICKELL: I'm not sure what you mean by "second guessing." I haven't --

Q. Well, the communication does --
COACH FICKELL: I haven't second-guessed anything.

Q. As far as communicating, listening to the realtime play being called as a strategy --
COACH FICKELL: Are you -- I'm not sure what you are speaking of. The communication with Braxton I think has been good. I think the way he's handled it has been readily good. Did he not have a headset on in some situations? Yes, because we want to just give him the play, as opposed to him hearing all of the other mumbo-jumbo that's going on at times.
You know, to me, I think it's important for Braxton to grow. He's continuing -- we want him to be visual inches anything on the sideline. To me, that's how most of those guys learn, the more you can stress them to be a visual learner. That's what I think they are used to. We are really trying to push them along visually to see what we want them to see, as opposed to just listening here and sometimes when you listen here, you know what's going to happen, so you stop paying attention at times and really processing it in your head.
It's a lot of that. I think his growth is still continuing. The attitude has been good. The opportunities didn't arise. And you know, I think how he handles that is a big factor and how he continues to glow.

Q. And then the players always learn things between week one and week two. What are the lessons learned for the coaches after the second week of the year?
COACH FICKELL: Again, it's about fundamentals. I think that's the most important thing. We learned something about our guys, that they -- regardless if things are happening good or bad, you know, they are going to fight for us and they are going to continue to battle. They are not going to hopefully allow the outside things to really affect them, and allow them to make excuses.
That's probably the thing that we come away with in this game as much as anything. Things were tight, things were -- you know, hairier there in the game, but afterwards we didn't have anybody making any excuses. We didn't have anybody that had their head really down. We are continuing to learn from it and I think that's -- we have got a young team, and you know, I think this is a great learning lesson, so we'll see how all of those lessons pay off here in the next few weeks.

Q. First road game, you've seen ten years of how it's done here, if you could supply specifics, what are you going to do differently, how are you going to do it differently, and a follow-up would be, what's the most important thing in your estimation of going on the road, accomplishing what?
COACH FICKELL: I think it's our focus. I think that's probably one of the things when you go on the road, it is different. Your surroundings are different, all of the -- the hotel is different, your routine is different.
You know, but you can't allow those things just like we said, all of the little things we have had in the past few weeks, things brought to you at 4:30 or 5:00, you can't allow those things to affect and you that's the same thing going on the road; whether the plane is late, whether the meal is different, I think that's probably one of the biggest things that we are just going to talk about is, hey, when we go on the road we talk about having great focus; we need even greater focus. Because there are going to be things that come up. Maybe the plane is late, different things like that. And you have to be able to handle those situations.

Q. What about routine? Anything that you're going to do differently than Jim Tressel did?
COACH FICKELL: I mean, I don't know that we could rebuild the planes or anything like. That I think those are pretty much set way in advance. A lot of the plane times are pretty much locked in a year in advance.
There's not a whole lot difference. You know, there will definitely be some little things for the team internally that we do different that we might not have done in the past. But nothing that's earth-shattering that's going to say, hey, I'm going to put some special stamp on what we are doing. We are going to continue to preach to them about being focused and make sure they are rested up and well ready to go come 8:00.

Q. Can you talk for me preparation, defensive standpoint of the defensive challenges of playing two different quarterbacks in a different week?
COACH FICKELL: You mean for us this week?

Q. No, for last week and for this week.
COACH FICKELL: Again, it's all those little things that sometimes if you think they are two different people, then you have to have maybe a little bit of two different ideas of how you play them. You know, obviously if you've got the threat of a running quarterback at times, you have to be much more aware of where he's at. If you've got a pocket passer, you've got to be much more aware of the different things that he can do.
But it definitely causes some preparation, just like some different tailbacks can cause different preparation, different personnel groups cause different preparation. So all of those things I think can add into it, can be a factor as a defense and how you prepare.

Q. Is your experience coaching the defense, does that make you lean towards not being afraid to do it?
COACH FICKELL: Again, I think the most important thing is we are trying to figure out what's best for us in this program, and how that offense pretty much can come together. As you move along, if you can handle, Toledo has done a pretty good job where they were at handling two quarterbacks and I'm sure people will ask and guess them it about whose quarterback it should have been at the end of the game but I think it's a part of the game. If we have got two guys that we think are very capable, we are going to continue to try to see how we can make that part of our system.

Q. Last year, against Miami, you guys gave up two returns for touchdowns and then last week against Toledo gave up a lock punt, how much emphasis are putting on special teams?
COACH FICKELL: We always put emphasis on special teams. That's where we know we have to get better. We are going to focus each and every week. We want to see improvement. I think that's -- our guys understand that's how we go about it and we want to see improvement from week-to-week. And sometimes you don't see the improvement, because you see missed tackles and some different things, but there's improvement. And you know, there definitely is, and we are going to continue to do that.
Is special teams a focus? More so on the road but we have to do a much better job of making sure that fundamentally we know what we are doing so that we can go out there and play relaxed and play fast.

Q. What's the status of Philly Brown (ph), do you think you'll get him back this week? And following that, have you been -- what's been your take on the rise of those other receivers? Verlon Reed and Chris Fields and now you're leaning on those guys a little bit. And then following that, since I won't get it back, just what's your general view of Jacory Harris, what does he bring to the table?
COACH FICKELL: I'm not positive on Phil yet, it's Tuesday, so hopefully we'll have a better understanding after today. I don't know that he looks great right now but we'll see.
I think that the young receivers, you know, obviously they are being thrown in the mix. They really have to step up. I think sometimes you don't see the little things that they are getting better at and understand the scheme and what we are asking them to do, not just catching the football, but all of the other things we are asking them to do, the different things each week that they have to be able to identify.
I mean, nobody plays the same defense from week-to-week, and those are some things I think as a young guy, maybe in high school, you didn't have a whole lot of those. You were pretty much told to either run a post or run a dig or do some different things like that.
So understand how you fit in the run game is every bit as much as important as how you fit in the passing game. I think they are doing a good job. They are going to continue to get better and that's one of the things we are talking about as a young team, we need to see improvement each and every week and the things that we are talking about improvement wise are not the things that come up in the stat book and that's what we are going to continue to focus on.

Q. And then Jacory Harris, what do you remember about him in preparation for last year and what does he bring that makes him unique?
COACH FICKELL: I think he can do it all. Not that he's out there running around and doing some quarterback run stuff but he definitely has the athletic ability to do. That he can definitely spin the football. He throws it very good down the field as well. So he's a guy that has been there for quite a while, and has taken a lot of snaps. I'm sure he's well in tune to what they need him to do offensively. Any time you have a fourth year guy starting or playing a lot, there's a lot of positives that he brings to the tables. Obviously getting him back is something that I'm sure the whole team and offense will be able to rally around.

Q. How concerned are you about Drew Basil's struggles on field goals?
COACH FICKELL: You know what, I would be more concerned if I thought Drew wasn't handling it the right way. You know, obviously we have got to get him one. I think -- just get his confidence back completely. But in practice and camp, Drew had done a great job, and then when Drew misses one, you know, it's not like he's mentally seems to be in trouble.
So obviously we want him to be able to put him in a situation where hopefully he can have one and get a little confidence underneath his belt. But his head, his mind is right. I think it's just a matter of time. So hopefully he'll find that little stroke here.

Q. When you look at the kicks, is there anything technical he's doing wrong?
COACH FICKELL: I'm not going to sit here and speak a whole lot technically on what the kickers are doing. Everybody has got a little bit of opinion. But it's not going right down the middle. It's a little bit -- probably he knows what he needs to do. He can do it. He's done it every day in practice. He's done it in the kick scrimmages and through camp and stuff.
I think it's just a little bit of that confidence factor, just making sure he's comfortable with where he's going.

Q. Back in the 80s and 90s, Miami was probably one of the most dominant programs in college football and they were very polarizing, people either hated them or loved them. You were a player during that era, where did you fall in this? Did you think, wow, that's really a cool program or, boy, I like the way those guys act or what did you think?
COACH FICKELL: I would probably like to watch them, I really did. I can remember a little bit about it, but you know, probably not a ton. Again, I might have been watching and thinking about the programs that had both wrestling and football, so I don't know that it was something that was quite as polarizing to me.
But definitely liked watching the stories and seeing the uniqueness to how they did things in the 80s and 90s. I remember as a g 8 playing them when they were first coming back and probably on more of their second run there in the late 90s.

Q. You and Al Golden are both in similar situations in that you're first-year coaches who are dealing with some things off the field that happened before you became the head coach. Can you just maybe add some understanding or empathy for what he's going through, because there's probably not a lot of coaches in the country who could understand that as well as you do right now.
COACH FICKELL: I'm sure if I sat down and had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him, we could share some serious ideas, but I don't imagine he's got a whole lot of time to spend on worrying about what's going on here at Ohio State, and I really don't have a whole lot of time to sit down and think about what's going on there. Obviously we have to take care of our own programs and hopefully here in the off-season we can make share some ideas on how you go about handling some of those situations.

Q. Just another question. Tyler Moeller is a guy we have seen in the past be a playmaker on defense. He doesn't seem to have had maybe many opportunities or just has not maybe been as explosive the first two games as we have seen in past years with him. Do you see anything with Tyler physically or anything, or is he on track in your mind?
COACH FICKELL: No, he is. I think that obviously last week was a situation where you know, we couldn't do some of the things we have done with him and I think we have got to do a better job of making sure we are getting him involved in some things that, you know, can be a spark. I think that's as much of game planning and coaching as anything.
But you've still got to be able to do what the team will allow you to do, and last week was probably a more difficult time to have Tyler do some of the things that he's done in the past.
So I see him coming along. He's going to be fine. And you know, I'm sure he gets frustrated with those things, but again, we are not just focused in on just those little stats or those big stats that come up. There's a lot of little things that he's doing that is a lot better in his game than maybe as a young guy he didn't do.

Q. I know that you've been asked about how nice it was to see your team tested last week, but did you also have to show a little bit more than maybe you wanted to heading into the Miami game? Did you have to tip your hand at all because of the close score?
COACH FICKELL: No, we don't hold things back. It's not like we are sitting here waiting on some things. We are going to go out -- this is a young group, we need to make sure we are getting better each and every week and to sit back and think we are going to hold something special, no, that's not who we are. We are going to continue to focus on what we can continue to do to get better.

Q. What do you expect to see from Miami this week that you have not seen in your previous two weeks?
COACH FICKELL: I would imagine you are going to see some bigger -- bigger more physical guys up front. I'm not saying they are that much bigger than what Toledo has been. You are going to see some more speed at the wide-out; not that -- not that Paige (ph) was every bit as fast as we needed to see, but I think maybe you'll see more depth at those things.
I think you'll see a very mature quarterback that has been playing a long time. And the other thing I think you might see more than anything is a big, physical offensive line, that to me, it might be one of their strengths of their entire team.

Q. You talked after the first game about having only one turnover. And then last week, one turnover as well -- obviously is that a bit frustrating, or is there something you can to do kind of grease the wheel and take the ball away from other teams?
COACH FICKELL: Again sometimes they come in bunches, and you know, we need to just find that bunch. But no, it's something that we thrive on defensively. And just haven't got as many as we need to get. You know, I mean, am I going to sit here and harp on it and say we are not putting focus on it? No. Are we going to over-emphasize it?
Sometimes you'll do things that you over-emphasize and sometimes you'll start missing more tackles. We will just continue to do what we do and keep talking about it and harping on it and we have those opportunities, because you look back in the game and there are some opportunities for us to get a few more, we just have to make sure we get those plays.

Q. You've recruited pretty well in Florida, will the ten kids -- can they have an impact talking to the other guys or just having a feeling for what Miami is all about?
COACH FICKELL: I think that it's going to be an emotional thing for them. I think that was one of the things, obviously, when you go down there and recruit them, that you had those guys on the schedule, and it was something that they had been excited about for a couple years knowing that they had a chance to go home.
Even in a home at home -- it will be an emotional time for those guys and it will be important for them to control their emotions so that they can handle and go out on the field and play football and make sure their actions and what they do on the field that people remember.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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