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DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL: CLEMSON v OHIO STATE


December 30, 2013


C.J. Barnett

Luke Fickell

Ryan Shazier


MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome.  We have the Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell joining us, and we have a couple of players up here with him.
We'll open with Coach Fickell.  Talk about being here one day, and kind of your experience to this point being in South Florida, very different, especially on the weather side from Columbus.  What's the first day been like?
COACH FICKELL:  We didn't notice much of a difference when we got in here.  A little rainy, a little cloudy.  Maybe it wasn't snow, but very fortunate.
Actually, I'm lucky enough to recruit down here.  I kind of had a little idea what to expect.  These guys do too.  Obviously, Ryan is from down here.  We're excited.  Any time you get to get out of your home, go down, have a good time, relax a little bit.  I think all these guys are excited about it.
For me, this is the first time I've been in the Orange Bowl.  I think I was fortunate enough to be in nine BCS games and never been to the Orange Bowl.
Really, really exciting for me, for these guys, I think, and for all of their families.

Q.  Coach, obviously, Coach Meyer dropped the news yesterday that Noah is not with you guys at this point.  Is there anything more you can add to that?  Is there any hope in your mind that he can still get down here and play in this game?
COACH FICKELL:  There's always hope.  Obviously, he's dealing with some things.  It's one of those things that we've got to move on.  These guys know that.  Kind of had some of those situations.  C.J.'s been around here a long time.  So he's been through a lot of these situations where something happens and the guy goes down, next man up.
Obviously, we love Noah.  We wish him the best.  We hope we get a chance to get him back down here.  For now, we've got to continue to move on.

Q.  Luke, obviously, you guys didn't play the way you wanted to down the stretch.  What have you done to fix the problem?
COACH FICKELL:  Just keep working.  I mean, that's the best thing we know how to do.  There's no magic to all the things that we do.  We get better at what it is we do.  These guys every day get better.  They work well together.
That's the biggest thing.  There's not one pinpoint thing where you can say we have to do this, we have to do this, we have to do this.  The reality is we all work together.  That's why football is the greatest team sport known to man.
People can point fingers and look at stats and say you're this and this, you're this and this, but the reality is there's 11 guys out there and they're all responsible to work together, whether it's pass, run, doesn't matter.
So the ability for us to continue to get better and work together, I think, is the biggest thing we've got to do.

Q.  You said repeatedly you'd rather be criticized than praised.  Given the way the defense has played, the criticism that you've come under, how do you deal with that?
COACH FICKELL:¬† We don't listen, to start with.¬† Sometimes ‑‑ my kids are at that age where I don't have to worry about it as much because they don't, but they're getting to that age where they start to ask you questions.¬† I've got my own son, Dad, maybe you should do this.¬† Maybe you should do this.¬† He's only 11.
The reality is you can't let those things affect you.¬† Like I said, for us‑‑ we talk about it all the time.¬† In Columbus sometimes, the hardest thing to handle is praise, and then criticism is just one of those things that makes you kind of bear down and work a little bit harder and make sure you're trying to fix those things.
If you let that stuff affect you and change your mentality and your outlook on what you're trying to do, that's when it's getting the best of you.
So when we've had problems, we address them.¬† We continue to work to get better, and we handle it on a day‑to‑day issue.

Q.  Coach, when you look at Clemson on film, do they remind you of anybody that you've played?  When you look at their athletes that they have on the offensive side of the ball, what do you think one key would be in stopping them?
COACH FICKELL:  Well, I don't know that we've seen probably as many as, I guess, outstanding receivers.  I don't know that we've seen a crew like that throughout the entire season.
Probably offensively, we see a bunch of that similar stuff to what they do maybe from our offense is probably the closest thing that we see.  Maybe not with as much of the vertical game and some of the size of the wideouts, but that's going to be a challenge to us all.
I think the tempo and those kinds of thing, the best picture we can get is probably from our own offense.

Q.  Ryan, you're from this part of the world.  Did you know about Sammy Watkins when you were in high school?  Did you guys ever cross paths?
RYAN SHAZIER:  Yeah, I knew about him a little bit.  We never crossed paths.  Being from this state, you always hear about some of the good players and always heard about him from not being that far in Ft.Myers.  So I heard about him a few times, but we never really met each other.

Q.  C.J., can you also talk a little bit about Sammy and if there's anyone else like him that you've faced this year.
C.J. BARNETT:¬† I don't think so.¬† I think he's one of the fastest guys in college football.¬† Great athlete.¬† Play‑making ability is out of the roof.
We'll have our hands full containing him, but I think our coaching staff will do a good job putting us in position to make plays.

Q.¬† Coach, when‑‑ everyone knows what Tajh Boyd can do, the stats, the numbers.¬† He makes all the throws.¬† He's obviously a two‑dimensional kind of a kid.¬† When you look at him, when you have a month to get ready for someone like that, do you deviate from how you would ordinarily prep for somebody of that nature when you have a month?¬† Or do you try to keep it as normal as possible, I guess, when you're putting together a plan for how to contain him?
COACH FICKELL:  The biggest, I think, deviation is the time that you have.  I don't know that you ever really go away from what it is that you do, getting better at the things that you do.  I guess you have a lot more time to evaluate him and to watch him and to try to think of the things that you can do to give yourself a better chance.
But the reality is you got to do what you do, and you've got to continue to get better at those kinds of things.¬† We know he's got all the ability to make‑‑ I mean, we recruited him too.¬† We know exactly who he is and what he is and watched him.
Sometimes when you have that much time, sometimes you start evaluating and trying to find too many things and then putting your guys in situations where you're trying to be perfect at what you‑‑ at every little thing.¬† When they do this, we've got to do this.¬† The reality is what it comes down to is guys going out there and playing ball, playing fast, understanding what they're going to do.
They've got a month too.  I'm sure you're going to see a few new wrinkles and some different things.  It's going to have to be that ability, in that tempo and in that pace, for our guys to look up, to get a good picture of what's going on, and then to react and play.
But as far as what he can do, I think these guys got a pretty good idea.  We face a guy that's similar in Braxton Miller on a daily basis.  So we know the threats of both the arm and the legs.

Q.  Coach, reports that Vonn Bell is going to be starting.  Can you elaborate a little bit more into the decision of why you guys might have gone with Vonn?
COACH FICKELL:  I think Vonn right now is listed as our nickel, just some injuries and some issues that we're dealing with.  He's been there all year really, just hasn't had an opportunity to play as much.
That's probably one of those things, when you've got some time and you've got a freshman guy that you can get in there and get more reps throughout those three weeks of Bowl prep, it's just a matter of time before that guy continues to get more and more playing time for us.
I think this will probably be the first time you'll see him get as much playing time as we like.

Q.  Luke, as a followup to the question you were just asked, is it an advantage at all for you guys in preparations  because your offense is similar to what Clemson's offense is?
COACH FICKELL:¬† I think it is.¬† It helps us.¬† There's some things we can do in practice that‑‑ you know, it's really tough to manage tempo of a lot of these offenses, Clemson, in particular.¬† But when your offense can go out there and give you that‑‑ maybe not the specific same plays, the same blocking schemes and things, but the ability for your guys to get a good feel and a good look at that tempo and those things that take you out of your rhythm, our offense can do that for us.
I think that's probably, hopefully, something that's really, really going to help us when it comes to Friday.

Q.  Luke, what is the status of Bradley Roby?  Is he full go, 100 percent, ready to go for the game?
COACH FICKELL:  He's still rehabbing right now.  We're not sure exactly how he'll be, and we kind of take it day to day.

Q.  Provided he does play, there's a potential for a fun matchup provided it works out with him and Sammy.  As a fan of football, is that something maybe you'd like to see a little bit, those two guys kind of going head to head a little bit?
COACH FICKELL:  Yeah, I'm sure that's what you guys would love to see too.  To be able to switch guys from sideline to sideline and match guys is really a difficult thing.  They're not just going to leave them on one side so we can maybe stick Bradley Roby or whoever to match up.
And then in those tempo things, it's really difficult.  There's a lot of matchups that are going to be out there that are going to be really exciting to see.  That obviously would be one.  Whichever side he ends up on, it's going to be an interesting matchup.

Q.  With the situation with Noah, you say got to move forward and guys have to step up.  In your mind, who are some of the guys you'd like to see, if he's not able to play, kind of step up and take over that role?
COACH FICKELL:  There will be two guys who have to help us right there in Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller.  Those are guys that probably haven't seen nearly as much action throughout the year, but they're guys who have practiced every single day, taken those reps.
That's a part of the game, whether we like it or don't like it.¬† These guys all know it.¬† What that does is puts a little more heat on your guys that are leaders to say, Come on, let's continue to move forward.¬† These guys are here for a reason.¬† They're on scholarship for a reason.¬† It's time for them.¬† When one man goes down, sometimes it's a chance for‑‑ you might find out a little more about those guys.
That's the exciting thing for those guys and ourselves.  It's an opportunity.

Q.  Luke, is Armani Reeves still the guy if Brad doesn't go?
COACH FICKELL:  Yeah, Armani has been the guy that's probably played the most for us.

Q.  And with Vonn at nickel, is Tyvis hurt, or is Tyvis moving to the other safety spot?
COACH FICKELL:  Tyvis is playing the other safety spot.  When you're fortunate enough you've got a guy like C.J. that's been here, what, six, seven years?  Feels like it at times.  He's been here five years.
But you can take some of those guys and put some more stuff on their shoulders, and say, Hey, we need you to play free, we need you to play strong, we need you to drop down and play mike linebacker in some situations.¬† When you've got guys like that‑‑ we didn't tell you about that.¬† That's going to happen today.
When you got guys like that, that you can put some heat on and put some pressure on because they've been there, that's a part of the game.

Q.  Has the Roby injury been more serious than you thought?  Does it involve surgery or anything like that?
COACH FICKELL:¬† I don't know.¬† You'd have to ask the doctors.¬† I mean, there's‑‑ there's a lot of injuries that‑‑ you know, it's not an exact science.
At one point in my life, I thought about going that route.¬† Maybe I'd be able to help you out a little bit better, but I bailed on that after about‑‑ after four years of college and said, I'm not going to go that medical route.¬† So I can't speak real intelligently on exactly what's going to happen and what he needs.
I always tell those guys, a mind is a powerful thing.  A doctor can tell you one thing or a trainer can tell you one thing, but what's in your mind and how well you can heal and what you can do is probably as powerful as anything.  So we don't really know.

Q.  The idea that you could be without Noah Spence, your best pass rusher, without Bradley Roby, against this offense, how daunting is that?
COACH FICKELL:  That's tough, but that's why you've got these other guys.  It's a part of the game that you don't always account for, but it's a reality.
In the NFL, you can go and get Jon Kitna at 41 years old off of waivers and get him out of teaching junior high or high school math and pull him onto your team.  For us, we can't.  We've got to develop that freshman kid like Vonn Bell that's got to go in there and play.  We've got to put more weight on a guy like C.J. Barnett and Ryan Shazier and Jamal Marcus and say, if the guy can't go, we've got to step up.
It's a part of the game.  We've got to deal with it.  We can't dwell on it.  We can't whine and complain about it.  Next man up.

Q.  This message could be for any or all three of you.  Tajh and Sammy get all the attention with Clemson, but when you look at them on film, are there any other players that kind of stand out to you and you say, yeah, you got to watch this guy and this guy and this guy on down the line?
COACH FICKELL:  I'll let him say it, but obviously, like I said, I don't know that we've seen a receiver corps as a whole the entire year like this.
C.J. BARNETT:  I agree.  Their whole receiving corps are threats.  They have another guy that plays, I think No.1, he's really a good deep threat.  Their running back is pretty shifty.  Probably one of the shiftier running backs that we've seen.  I mean, they have a cast of talented guys.
RYAN SHAZIER:  Yeah, I feel the same way.  I just want to say their running back is a pretty shifty guy, and they have a really good combo of receivers that can do multiple things.  I feel like it's going to be one of the better groups that we're going to face this year.
COACH FICKELL:  The combination of size and speed is something that's really intriguing.  Their entire, probably, receiver corps, really offensive skill positions in general.  The speed of Tajh, all those things, is what stands out to you.
Whether we've seen one like it all year or not, the reality is 6'5" is 6'5", and 4.3, 4.4, whatever it is, is fast, and the ability to manage those things is part of the game.

Q.  Luke, what has the effect been of Everett Withers taking the JMU job?  Has he been around fully, not been around?  What have you had to do to adjust at all during the Bowl prep?  And is there anything different for the game?
COACH FICKELL:¬† No, no.¬† Obviously, he was out there for a few days, three days or so, but it's a part of it.¬† He's got a lot of stuff on his plate as well.¬† So just making sure‑‑ with the time that you've got to prepare for a game, it shouldn't be a big factor for you, even though everybody's got more stuff on their plates.
There's a lot of things, when the season ends, that with a staff like you've got, that throw things onto plates, whether it's a guy taking a job or time‑‑ sometimes idle time.¬† Like someone asked, do you change up what you do because you've got more time?¬† If you do, you're probably not getting better at what you do.
You watched us play all year, and the reality is we've got to get better at what it is we do.

Q.  Has Christian Bryant been ruled out?  Is there any way he plays?
COACH FICKELL:  No.

Q.  He's not going to play?
COACH FICKELL:  Maybe in a small box.  I heard him say yesterday, if they get the ball inside the 5 yard line, I think I can do it, guys.  I think I can stay in this small box here and not have to go back very far and at least throw my head in there.
You love that attitude, but he would do nothing but hurt himself and probably hurt himself at some point.

Q.¬† I alluded to this earlier, but when‑‑ can you kind of evaluate how you think you did as the defensive coordinator with this team in terms of the progress of the defense?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Obviously, you guys‑‑ I guess outside people do their own evaluations.¬† We'll do our own evaluation when the season is done.
You know me.¬† I'm not going to sit here and make excuses and say anything‑‑ well, this hurt us.¬† The reality is we know we've got to play better.¬† We know we've got to get better at the things that we do.¬† By not changing up a whole lot, we give our kids hopefully a chance to understand what they're doing so they can go and be aggressive and make plays.
You can look back, and you can say whatever, but the reality is it's a whole unit.  Some people say, well, your pass defense has been this.  Well, you know what, that's on the pass rush every bit as much.  That's on the backers every bit as much to match things underneath.  Well, they don't help with the shots.  I know, but pass rush does.
It's a game played by 11 guys out there.  It's the greatest team sport known to man.  I say it over and over and over again.  We can't lose sight of that.  Our kids can't lose sight of that because we all tie together.
So it's not just a front seven that's in charge of the run.  It's not just the back four or five or back seven that's in charge of the pass.  We've got our hands full, but we're excited about the challenge.

Q.  Luke, your year as a head coach, what did you learn that year that has helped you be a better coach these last two years?
COACH FICKELL:  Persist.  You've got to try to handle the things that you really have control over.  I think that was the biggest thing throughout that entire year.  There wasn't a whole lot of breathing room.  There wasn't a whole lot of time to do a lot of things that you wanted to do, obviously, as a head coach, but the reality is there's things that are going to be thrown on your plate, and the ability to never be too high and never be too low, I think, is a huge factor when you're a leader.
Those things that come in and out, just like you ask about these guys or heard this guy's not here, what do you do?  Do you want to know if I lay awake at night?  Yeah.  But if you let those guys see you sweat over it and worry about it, what kind of leader are you?
I think that's the one thing that sitting there in that six, seven months, where you had guys in, guys out, this, that, and the other thing, the wave of‑‑ the roller coaster that you went through and the emotions that you went through, the ability to hold yourself together, to persist through those things and really try to focus on the things that you actually can control.
You can't control whether they're going to pull this guy.  You can't control whether Noah Spence is truly going to get back here.  You can't control whether that kid's knee is going.  You've got to move forward, and you've got to go on.  If you let your guys see you sweat over it and worry about it and things, what do you think they're going to do?
I think that's probably the biggest thing that‑‑ you know, that whole leadership idea that you got to do a great job and you got to watch being too high and too low at times.

Q.¬† I was wondering at linebacker, how are Curtis and Josh?¬† I know they were dealing with some stuff at the end of the season.¬† Health‑wise, how are they?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Josh is good.¬† I know he had surgery in the bye week on his finger, had some pins put in it.¬† So he actually got to‑‑ but it still, the last couple weeks of the season, he was in a hard cast or something, but he's been good.
Curtis is still dealing with a little bit of the back issue and the ankle.¬† So he didn't probably play in the last three or four weeks of the season and then played a little bit in the last game.¬† But just one of those things‑‑ one of those back situations that really limits him.

Q.¬† Luke, are there‑‑ when you‑‑ the last‑‑ the go ahead touchdown for Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, where the guy was wide open in the corner, are there still some communication issues that crop up sometimes?¬† Was a guy in a wrong coverage there?
COACH FICKELL:  Like I say, you don't point the finger at things.  It's a zone concept.  Everybody helps together.  You're bringing pressure, and the pressure doesn't get there.  It's one of those, little bit of those trick plays where the tight end kind of falls down and hides and then slips back across the back side.
Again, you would hope in a zone concept that you would have a guy that's back over there and has some awareness.  A little bit what happened to us in the Team Up North game.  They kind of slid, and the tight end falls on the ground and sneaks back to the back side, and you get overflow.
You see a team that tries to run and is as aggressive as we are, that sometimes they take advantage of your aggressiveness.
We've got to do a better job.  When you're in a zone, there's got to be somebody on the back side that has awareness of someone coming back across.

Q.¬† When you guys are in whatever kind of zone you may be in on a play, are the guys‑‑ are there times‑‑ it seems like sometimes guys are covering an area, but maybe they're not covering the guy that's in the area.¬† Obviously, in every zone, a receiver can find a hole and sit down in a spot where there's nobody there.¬† Do you feel like, when you guys are in those kinds of coverages, your guys are playing it pretty well, or are there issues sometimes where‑‑
COACH FICKELL:¬† Like I said, that's why it's on everybody.¬† It's not just the back end.¬† There's underneath coverage that has to match intermediate routes.¬† If you're playing a three‑deep zone, there's going to be some holes, and you've got to do a better job of matching those things.¬† With a good quarterback, it's tough at times.
Then you can get into man, and you can match everything and be on him.  So there's different ways of playing it.  I think we have all of it.  We've just got to get better at it.
So, yes, there are‑‑ there's definitely some match things that we've got to do a better job of.¬† But that goes with everybody.¬† That goes with pass rush as well.¬† That's why I say, it's not just on the back guys because of the pass coverage.¬† If a guy's got 3.5 seconds, somebody's going to come open.¬† Now, drop eight guys and he had 4 seconds, somebody's going to have a chance to come open.¬† We've got to tie that stuff together better.

Q.  Luke, you mentioned next man up with Noah, not being sure.  What do Steve and Jamal bring to the table?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Both‑‑ Steve's been around for a while.¬† The thing for Steve is he hasn't really been playing that spot throughout the year.¬† He's been playing more of the end spot.¬† He's going to have to be thrust into a situation where he's going to have to go over there and learn, and he's done it before, but he's going to have a little bit of baptism by fire here the last week to get some more reps and see what he does understand.¬† It's going to make us maybe have to limit some of the things we do.
As for Jamal, Jamal's been a guy that's been repping there.¬† The thing that's tough at times is, you know, Noah's one of those guys that doesn't get tired.¬† Sometimes you say you like to sub your D‑line, you like to play guys, and you do, but there's a few guys that don't get tired.
That's one of the great things about what he's done for us, but it's one of the things that hurts you in the development of the guy that might play behind him a little bit because they don't get as many reps.
Those guys have to step up.¬† Jamal can do it.¬† He's going to bring some aggressiveness and some twitch and some fire to the edge, I can assure you of that.¬† But it's just, again, it's that test of time in front of 75,000 people on Friday night that you got to‑‑ if you have a new guy out there, how do they really, truly react and respond in front of thatwith those lights on?

Q.¬† Would you say Tyvis seemed like a guy who was gradually making more things happen and showing up more kind of as the season progressed?¬† Did he‑‑ as a freshman coming along, did he make a lot of progress for you guys?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Oh, yeah.¬† Tyvis is one of those guys‑‑ Vonn Bell and Tyvis Power, they're two guys that have a really, really bright future.¬† He's playing a different spot.¬† He played the nickel most of the year, and now he's playing a free safety.¬† So there's obviously some things that are different for him in some situations.¬† I mean, he's been doing it.
That's what hopefully the three weeks really gives us a chance to do, and the same thing for Vonn Bell.¬† I mean, it's a lot of guys like that.¬† Curtis Grant went down and was‑‑ we had to move Joshua Perry in there.¬† He's a guy that has to play two positions and learn to play them and understand what it is that we're doing.¬† Sometimes has to bounce back and forth.
C.J. Barnett, he's playing strong safety, then he's playing free safety, now he's back to strong safety.  Those are things that you've got to be able to do when situations arise.

Q.  I think Coach Meyer mentioned at some point during the year Powell being a potential at safety.  I could be wrong.  Has he been practicing at safety before the Bowl practice?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Some. ¬†But, again, there's only so many reps‑‑ it's the point of diminishing return.¬† Do you get him 100 reps and now their legs are dead?¬† How fast and how strong are they when Saturday comes?¬† Or do you not get him enough reps and have they seen everything?¬† You know, where's the freshness line with the amount of reps you get.¬† So there's definitely a balancing act.

Q.  Luke, it's been two years since an Ohio State team took the field coming off a loss.  How has this team responded to that?  And what have you seen in preparations?  It it could probably go one of two ways off a loss.
COACH FICKELL:¬† Time will tell.¬† We've got a mature group, and we've got some seniors that can bounce and do those kinds of things, but the reality is you've got to see what‑‑ how they react and respond when the lights come on and the show starts.
From a work ethic, from an attitude, there's no let up.  That's the great thing about having your Jack Mewhorts and your Corey Linsleys and your Andrew Norwells and your C.J. Barnetts and those types of guys that you know they're going to be battlers.  You know they're not going to allow some guy to slack.
It's a big part of the game.  Sometimes we get spoiled.  Kids, all of us, we get spoiled.  That's why you play the game of football.  It teaches you life.  You get knocked down, and you get back up.  It's not a cliche.  It's the reality, and how you react and respond will be the key.
It's hardest when it's the last game because you have such a layoff to just let it linger and eat at you.  You'd like to have gone right back out there the next week and have the ability to play.

Q.  Luke, how would you describe Joey Bosa sort of just as a kid or as his personality or how he approaches things?  Is there anything about who he is as a person that has allowed him to play so well as a true freshman?
COACH FICKELL:¬† You know, I don't know.¬† He's like Noah, he doesn't get tired, and different than what Noah is, he doesn't get tired‑‑ he's so under control for a young guy.¬† It's like he doesn't get real emotion.¬† He'll get a sack, and probably the heart rate goes up to about 95 beats per minute, where a similar guy gets a sack, and probably his heart rate goes up to about 180, which allows him to continue to be under control, and a play you don't normally see from a young guy.
Outside of all the strengths and how strong he is, all those different things, and being around the game of football and having a father who was a first round draft pick and an uncle who was a first round.  He's been around the game.  But the ability to control himself emotionally, control his body, is something you don't see from a lot of young guys.
I mean, I compare him sometimes with Cameron Heyward.  Cameron Heyward came in and started eight games as a true freshman, started in the National Championship Game.  But different, much different, because Cameron was almost an out of control, where just Joey is a much more under control type of guy.  Similar size and some things, but different ways as well.

Q.¬† And that's‑‑ I mean, you've seen a lot of freshmen come through on defense at Ohio State, but I don't know, not many guys who contribute like this as a true freshman.¬† But that is unusual, in your mind, controlling yourself like that?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Very unusual.¬† Like I said, you go all the way back, and you talk about a Will Smith who played a bit as a freshman.¬† You probably remember back to there.¬† Cameron Heyward is probably the only other‑‑ a big guy.¬† I'm talking about a freshman defensive lineman.
You go back, there's been a few offensive linemen in my times that have been great ones that played.  Big guys don't normally.  Go back on offensive line, Korey Stringer and Orlando Pace are probably the only two that I can put a finger on.  We're tallking about putting somebody in high esteem.  As a big guy, it's really difficult sometimes.  I don't know, he's got that ability.

Q.¬† In your time at Ohio State, there definitely was a coaching philosophy under Coach Tressel that he would talk about a lot, don't put the defense in a bad position.¬† You were around part of great defenses here at Ohio State for a long time.¬† With this‑‑ under Coach Meyer, does the expectation level of defense, not in terms of winning and being successful, but maybe when you look at stats or you look at yards allowed or points allowed, is it any different because the overall team philosophy might be different?¬† Clearly, the team has scored more points than under Coach Tressel, so if the defense gives up more points, does that make sense?
COACH FICKELL:¬† There's no excuse.¬† I think sometimes, when you lay in bed, you think, well, it's different because‑‑ the reality thing is people are going to probably attack you.¬† The only difference is people are going to attack you different because they know they've got to score.
You talk to a team after you play them, and you say, what was your philosophy?¬† Why were you in a two‑minute situation in the first half?¬† Well, we know we've got to‑‑ in order to stay with us, we're going to have to take some shots and do some things because your offense is powerful.
And we've got to do a better job of understanding that, being able to manage that, and having a better idea as you move forward, how people are going to attack you differently because of as good and as powerful as your offense is.
But there's no different philosophy.¬† It comes down to having guys and put them in situations to be successful and making plays.¬† But reality is we've got to get better.¬† We'll get better.¬† But we know there's going to be different ways that people are probably going to attack you, whether you're playing 70‑‑ you can go back and say, well, if we played less plays on defense.¬† Well, if you get off the field, you play less plays on defense too.
So you can't allow yourself to sit there and try to find ways to why you haven't been as good as you should be, but the reality is you've just got to get better at what it is you do and do a better job of understanding how people are going to attack you and in what different ways.

Q.  Luke, just a question on a local guy.  Is Jayme Thompson back practicing with the team?
COACH FICKELL:  No.  He's back, but he's still not practicing.

Q.  What's kind of his status and just kind of your hopes for the future?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Just a guy that had surgery, another one that‑‑ who knows?¬† I'm sure it will be winter would probably the first time we get him back.

Q.  Does Bosa's emergence kind of give you a luxury to be able to move Bennett and Washington around and play a little bit of different spots and kind of take advantage of their skills?
COACH FICKELL:  Yeah, big time.  Like you said, going in as a freshman, do you really expect that?  We need it.  And it's allowed us to have those abilities to do that, to move Adolphus inside a little bit more, and Michael Bennett to be able to play a little bit different.
So that's one of those things you're going through right now just with some of the situations you're in.

Q.¬† How much‑‑ what were the discussions like during the season after Christian got hurt and trying to figure out if Vonn Bell might play more then?¬† Was it something that you talked about a lot, or was it more with a true freshman it just was not realistic to try to throw him in on a short prep week all the time?
COACH FICKELL:¬† Yeah, you know, hindsight is always 20/20.¬† We had some other seniors, and probably the short fix was to do what we did.¬† But it is not just that‑‑ when Christian got hurt, it's not‑‑ there's a lot of things that happen to you.¬† It's kind of like you've got to be strong up the middle in everything that you do, whether it's baseball or football.¬† You've got to be strong.¬† The middle linebacker, you've got to be strong at that free safety.¬† You've got to be strong at the inside spot.
His leadership and just the control of a lot of the defense, we thought, probably was best for C.J. to bump over to that spot.  Just in the heat of the moment, what we had to do.  So right now we've switched a little bit back.
That's one of the things throughout the season, you just don't ‑‑ how much time do you have?¬† How many reps do you have?¬† How much can you do with those types of guys, and how do you get your best guys on the field?¬† Freshmen are still freshmen, and you can give it to them, you put them in those situations, and sometimes they're not always quite ready for it.

Q.  What is the determining factor for Bradley?  Is it pain tolerance?  Is it movement?  In terms of what he's got to show the next couple of days to be able to play on Friday.
COACH FICKELL:  I don't know.  Pain tolerance, I'm sure, has a bit to do with it.  I'm sure structurally you need to know you're not putting yourself in harm's way.  And it's a big part of the mental game.
I mean, nobody can‑‑ like I said, doctors can't tell you exactly.¬† It's a lot to do with how he feels.¬† You don't know.¬† We don't know.¬† You can say, what's your pain tolerance?¬† Only he knows, and he's an intelligent kid.¬† That's what I've talked to him about.¬† You're an intelligent kid.¬† You know you want to play.¬† We know you want to play.¬† And the reality is if your mind's in the right place and you can, great.¬† If your mind's not in the right place and you can't, then that's the situation it is.

Q.¬† I mean, we‑‑ I remember the beginning of the year everybody was talking about all the starters that you guys are missing on the defensive side and you only had a couple guys back, and now to be here at the Bowl game and you haven't had Christian, and now you may or may not have Noah, you may or may not have Bradley.¬† Are you going to sleep at all on this trip?¬† Talk about laying in bed.
COACH FICKELL:  I'm going to go get a nap before practice.

Q.¬† But this‑‑ I mean, those are some‑‑
COACH FICKELL:  It's great.  It's great.  There's some good times.  If it wasn't for a great strong family that helps put you to bed.  You've got your wife to kind of lay there and your little daughter that can lay there.  The boys are nuts.  They're all over the place anyway.
You've got to have some peace in what you do.  That's what I said.  People are worried about Armani.  Armani Reeves is going to go out there.  He might not be able to match up height with that kid, but I'll tell you what, if he has to, he'll fight you to the end.  Steve Miller will do the same thing.  That's what you close your eyes knowing, these guys will fight for you no matter what.
And it comes down to the ability to make some plays and keep the ball in front of you, and we may have to play a little different.  That's part of the game.

Q.  Everett Withers, his situation leaving to go be a head coach, just did that kind of hit you guys sideways?
COACH FICKELL:  He's done a great job of handling it.  He miss aid couple of days, obviously, in the interview process and accepted the job.  It's a part of that too.
He's done a great job of communicating with us and knowing he's got a lot of stuff on his plate as well.  That's the beauty of what Ohio State is.  You love these kids.  You love this place.  You love this university.  You're going to come back and coach because you know it's the best thing for everybody.  It's an exciting time.

Q.  Have you and Coach Meyer talked at all about filling that job?
COACH FICKELL:  No.

Q.¬† Will it be strictly a safeties coach?¬† Will it be a co‑coordinator?¬† Any ideas?
COACH FICKELL:  No ideas.

Q.  Get through this week and figure it out from there.
COACH FICKELL:  Exactly.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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