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July 28, 2011

Luke Fickell


THE MODERATOR: Our next coach is Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell. We'll have coach make an opening statement and then take questions.
I just want to start by honestly saying how honored and grateful I am to be up here representing the Ohio State university, a place I know, love and respect as much as anything in my entire life.
As you can probably imagine the last few months have been nonetheless a whirlwind, exciting, crazy, emotional, but yet very productive as well.
I think from day one, the biggest thing that I've tried to do is focus on our leadership as well as trying to pound home the culture that we believe is important in moving our program forward.
I believe as we talk a little bit about our players, I think the foundation has been set. I'm really excited about growing and continuing to grow upon that foundation that has been set. I know our focus needs to be on our young guys that will be obviously joining us and helping them to develop and mentoring them along and learning our foundation.
I think and believe the number one most important thing for our program right now, as well as for me, is the stability that we've had in our coaching staff. The experiences that we have had as a staff over the last eight, nine, ten years is invaluable. I think this alone will allow us and help us to move forward and allow us to focus on what we need to do to be successful on and off the field and do it now.
That's where we are with our program. Obviously it's a time right now where we haven't had a whole lot of interaction in the last two months that I've been a part or in the position I've been in, but really excited about getting ourselves to August 6th and 7th.
I guess we can open it up for questions now.

Q. Can you give some insight on the quarterback battle? Does one guy have the edge?
COACH FICKELL: That's going to be an interesting question. Again, I think our focus is going to be on a competitive nature. We have four obviously very capable guys, one being maybe a 25-year-old senior and one being an 18-year-old freshman and everywhere in between. We refer to all of this them as being young.
We're going to put them in situations where we think they can be successful. Each one is a little bit different in his own right. As we move along in camp, really focus on who we think gives us the best opportunity to win as a team.

Q. Staying on quarterbacks, coach, a couple years ago Ohio State was able to put in Pryor as a true freshman. Do you think you can do the same with a player like Braxton Miller this year?
COACH FICKELL: I hope so. I think he has a lot of similar qualities in what he can do as a football player. Again, we're excited. Obviously we had him through the spring practice, but excited to see how he can continue to grow and how he can put our football team in the best position to win.

Q. You mentioned at the top it's been an emotional and crazy time. Could you elaborate a little bit on the things that are going through your mind from a personal standpoint as far as expectations, and also just how you go about doing this with all the focus on the program.
COACH FICKELL: I think, like I said, it starts from day one. Everything happened pretty fast. The greatest thing I guess I could say is I had no time to sit and think. I had no time to feel sorry of any sort, to have a whole lot of emotion. The situation arose and obviously I had to stand up.
I think that's what's been best for me, not to have the ability to sit down and think about the situation that's ahead, but hit the ground running, do what I know how to do best, and that's compete, obviously learn along the way.
It has been exciting, challenging. But I think that's what you get into this field for.

Q. Coach, you mentioned some of your younger players. One of your young runningbacks Rod Smith, he had a pretty good spring game. What potential do you see in him? Do you see him working into your offense?
COACH FICKELL: Obviously Rod is a guy with great size, great running abilities. The thing obviously about the runningback position, they will have to take a lot of load off of some of the things we do having a young quarterback.
The thing about that, we have a stable of guys that can be very successful at the runningback position. It will be who can develop and come along and do all the things that we ask him to do, run, block, catch. There's a lot of things that obviously we have a few young guys that are going to get a lot of reps at it.

Q. Have you had much contact with Jim Tressel? What is the best advice anybody's given you?
COACH FICKELL: No, I have not had a whole lot of contact with Coach Tressel. I know he has been very supportive. He loves Ohio State and wishes us nothing but the best.
Again, I think in the short period of time, there has been a lot of people I've talked to, a lot of advice I've gotten. To a T, I'd say probably the best advice from several people would be, Be who you are, do it your way, make sure you're not trying to be somebody you're not. That's probably the best thing that I've got.

Q. You made a new hire to your coaching staff, hiring your former roommate, teammate. What will he bring to your coaching staff?
COACH FICKELL: I think Mike was obviously a very good fit for us. It was a situation that I think as we sat down as a staff, we talked about what do we need, the number one thing we need. We came to we need somebody who is going to fight for us, never going to look over their shoulder, who is competitive, who is going to be loyal to Ohio State and to me. I think those are the things he brings: the loyalty, the competitive nature, obviously the experience is through the roof.
But there is a growing curve. It's exciting to see it already starting to happen.

Q. You mentioned no communication with Jim Tressel. Have you talked to former Ohio State coaches, Coach John Cooper and Coach Earle Bruce?
COACH FICKELL: Yes. I actually played for Coach John Cooper, and have had communication with him, as well as Coach Bruce.
Again, everybody has some insight for me. I'm trying to soak it all in, take it all in. It is a unique situation. You take a piece of each and every person. Just like as a coach, you become a lot of who you've been around. You take a piece of each person that you have been around and each person that has taught you some things.
I've done kind of the same thing with all those guys that have been former coaches at Ohio State or guys that have been in similar situations to where I am now.

Q. Coach, have you had any implication, real or implied, from the administration to avoid contact with Jim Tressel?
COACH FICKELL: No, I have not. Just out of obviously respect and what Coach Tressel believes in and the respect for the entire team, what we're doing, we know we need to be who we are and continue to move forward and focus on the things we have, not the things we do not have anymore.

Q. I know you haven't been on the field yet, but can you get a sense of the players and mindset, how resilient they're going to have to be going forward?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, I think that's the foundation we talked about being laid. We have not had nearly as much contact as you would like. It happened maybe we had a week of workouts before we went to the summer break.
But all indications show that the group has really come tight together. They say the right things. They're doing the right things. But we keep referring to them and trying to remind them when we have the opportunities that we see a lot better than we hear. We're anxious to see that come August 6th and 7th.

Q. Do you think the players feel like they have anything to prove going into the season?
COACH FICKELL: I mean, every year going into a season, I don't care what team you are, where you're at, especially at Ohio State, you're out there to prove what you can do. Our seniors, the way that we've been in the past, it's a senior-oriented team and a focus.
They know they're going to be remembered on their legacy. They are always out for their senior year to prove what they can do.

Q. Coach, I know this might be a bit of a tough time for you coming into a new coaching position. Looking at the entire conference, seeing there are a lot of other new faces coming in, Indiana, for example, is it at all a little bit easier for you knowing you're not the only new face in the crowd?
COACH FICKELL: I don't know if it's any easier. Obviously it's an exciting time. I don't know how much you get to know those guys throughout this process. I think maybe it might have been, if it had happened at the same time, maybe the day it happened in your January time frame, so you could share some ideas and pick some brains of guys going through similar situations that you are.
But knowing the time frame and I had to hit the ground running, I don't think that's something that has been as good of a factor for me today.

Q. Is it difficult going into the season not knowing about your own future beyond this year? Do you do anything this season to sort of make an impression with your own administration about your ability to do and keep the job?
COACH FICKELL: Again, our focus is on what we can control. I think that's been from day one, from that leadership ability. Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than me. So all the outside pressures are things that obviously you deal with. But the pressure you put upon yourself I think is greater.
What is the future? We know that we're excited about getting on the field, proving what we can do, focusing on what we can control, and everybody else will make those decisions for themselves.

Q. I was wondering how the last few months have affected recruiting in your mind? Has it made it more difficult not only with the NCAA stories, but also your own status being uncertain in the future?
COACH FICKELL: Summer is always a unique time in recruiting anyway. I don't know that we've seen a big backlash of any sorts. Again, we always, since I've been at Ohio State, focused on the history and traditions of what Ohio State has brought. It's bigger than any one person, any one coach, any one coach or era. I truly believe that Ohio State will always attract top-notch student-athletes around the country no matter what.

Q. Coach, you and Brady Hoke will be starting a new era in the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. How does that feel coaching along a new coach in that game?
COACH FICKELL: As you know, that's an exciting time, no matter what. If that starts hopefully a long rivalry as some of the ones in the past have had, that's what it's all about. Nobody will overlook that. I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.

Q. You had something like eight offensive linemen in the spring game that were healthy. How is that shaping with having to break in a new quarterback?
COACH FICKELL: Again, it's a difficult situation. We all understand, and hopefully we have emphasized to our players, that we know the game starts and there's one up front. We are thin. We understand that. Like we said, that's one of the big reasons we have to focus on them young guys coming in, getting them to grow, mentoring them in the process because they will be counted on at some point in time in this season.
It is something that obviously we're aware of. We've got a plan for it. We're going to continue to move forward with it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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