Aug. 30, 2011
COACH FICKELL: This is my first time at this, so go ahead and throw some questions at me.
Q. Real quick, why game captains? Why did you go to that format?
COACH FICKELL: It’s something different, I understand that. I think that for me it was something I think the coaching staff, we kind of talked about it, thought about it. We’ve got obviously some different changes and some different things that obviously a group of seniors, some here, some not here, some in, some out.
But for right now I thought it was what was best for our team. Sometimes you elect captains and those are the guys that are just by nature the ones that stand up in front of the team. We always talk about it. It’s about the whole group of seniors.
I thought for right now, this year, it does a good job bringing a whole group of senior leadership to the forefront; doesn’t put anybody specifically to stand up in front of guys because they were elected or because whether it was a popularity vote or something. It also gives time for some of our younger guys to really get a chance to see who these guys are before we ever vote on a captain.
We will eventually have captains. That will probably be done before the end of the year, maybe the banquet of some sort. But for right now, us as a coaching staff thought what was best for this team is to try to truly encompass the whole entire senior class to make sure they understand we need every one of them, that we’re going to switch up and go game captains every week.
Q. You’ve got an “or” at quarterback. Could you talk about your thinking that went into that and who will take the first snap on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: I’m not sure listed there how it is exactly with the “or”. If we were taking the first snap right now, Joe would probably take the first snap.
Just talking with those guys, talking with the offensive staff, we know we’re going to need them both. The whole idea is we want to make sure that we can put them out in front of 106,000 and see how guys respond.
There are a lot of things that don’t say “or” on that depth chart but are “or”. I know the one you care about is the quarterback position. But we’re trying to create competition. We’re trying to see how this team gels together, what the team needs, what the offense needs. I think we’re just trying to bring a light to both of them.
We understand we need both of them. We sat down with both of those guys and made sure they understood that that throughout this entire year we’re going to need you both; and how we work together as a staff, offensively, defensively, special teams, probably will be the focus will be on the quarterback spot. But we need to make sure that all of us are working together.
Q. With your third and fourth guys handling it, when do you narrow it down to two?
COACH FICKELL: I haven’t seen any negative effects. I know that deep down in communicated with each of those guys they expressed how they felt and that they were going to continue to battle and compete, so I felt good about that. I felt good about those guys handling the situation and the role.
It’s something that obviously naturally happens at every position. The thing is it’s just a little more visual at the quarterback spot because there isn’t as much rolling and as much substitution, but it happens everywhere.
So you’re concerned with all of those guys that look up and they’re third team and maybe doing some scout or some exchange situations. But how we handle those kinds of things will determine how this team really gels together.
Q. Hard hitting question, but fans seem to be curious about this: What are you going to wear on game days?
COACH FICKELL: Whatever my wife lays out. You know what, that’s not something I’ve put a whole lot of thought into. We’ll be doing signals from the defensive side, so usually we’re wearing something black to make sure that the guys that are signaling are distinguished between the other guys and the sideline.
Q. Will it be something consistent that you wear each week?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, I would imagine. I think if you look back through the years what I’ve worn has been consistent. I know it might be just like the quarterback position. All of a sudden it may be a little more of somebody’s focus, but not mine to be honest with you.
So whatever Lou has for us that the defensive staff will be wearing or the guys that might be signaling, you know, I’ll wear on Saturday. You know, Nike determines a lot of what you do and what you wear, so I’m sure they’ll have a little say in whatever that is.
Q. What was it about Joe’s performance that caused you to give him the nod?
COACH FICKELL: What nod is that?
Q. At quarterback?
COACH FICKELL: The top of the “or”?
Q. The top of the “or”.
COACH FICKELL: You know, it’s leadership. It’s leadership. It’s also just what this team, where we were at the time. You know, I think he’s done a good job. He’s done a really good job through camp. I’ve been impressed with the things we’ve asked him to do and what he’s done. Doesn’t mean I’ve not been impressed with Braxton as well. That’s why we’ve been impressed enough with him to list him in the “or” category.
But, again, the whole idea is we want to continue to create competition, and to make sure those guys understand by saying “or”, that we need both. I think that’s to me the most important thing because there are other guys that aren’t listed as “or” on there, but we want them to understand they’re “or” as well.
Q. Do you have a breakdown in mind (Inaudible)?
COACH FICKELL: We’re in on that. I’m not sure we’re ready to say exactly what it is just yet. But those guys understand the situation. They know how to handle it. They know that there’s going to be some rolling and some substitution. Most importantly is how you handle those things.
Everything’s a test, we tell them. How you handle those things whether it’s Saturday afternoon, how you handle the blitz, how you handle the rolling situation, how you take advantage of the opportunities you’re given.
Q. What is the status of Jaamal Berry, and how do you see the running back rotation going out this first weekend?
COACH FICKELL: There are another few “ors” right there. Jaamal has not practiced this week. Right now he’s still got a little bit of a hamstring, so we’ll see. He is questionable, probably, still to this date. And again, those running backs, we’ve got to me, we’ve got some talent. We’ve got some depth. We’re going to have to see. Those guys are going to get opportunities.
How you take advantage of your opportunities, I’m sure you’ve heard me say a million times, how you take advantage of your opportunities will determine how many more opportunities you have.
We’ll see how that all works out. We don’t have it laid out and scripted exactly. But we know we’ve got a lot of opportunities for guys. Sometimes everything is, like I said, it’s a test. Nothing goes unnoticed. How you perform on special teams is maybe the second tailback will determine maybe how many more carries you might or how many more opportunities you might get at the tailback position.
We know we need every single one of them. How many times they carry the football, we’re not going to sit there and dwell on that. But how many times they run down on the kickoff or something else is where we’re focused.
Q. Luke, the second team offensive line on the depth chart was walk ons and true freshmen. Just where do you feel about the depth of the offensive line at this point? And specifically, what is Corey Linsley’s status for this game?
COACH FICKELL: Depth wise that’s obviously always a concern. When you have some injuries and you have guys that are going to be out, you have worries, not unlike other positions as well. So we have a depth issue right there.
We have an idea. Sometimes you have five guys and you have two other ones that could play some different positions. That’s, I think, what Coach Bollman’s done a great job of. He’s always had guys that could go in and bump him around, and not just to say because you’re listed as the back up right tackle, that if the right tackle goes down the next guy goes in, no, the best guy goes in.
We’ve said that several times on defense. If the middle linebacker goes down, does that mean I go in? No, the next best guy goes in. We treat it as a scheme and a system, so that we can have some people that are interchangeable.
Yes, that puts more pressure on guys to make sure they understand not just memorization of a position. And Corey will not be available for the first game.
COACH FICKELL: I don’t know that he’ll be available for the second as well.
Q. Lot of people around the country will be watching this game wondering what they’ll see in light of all that’s gone on this off season with the football program. Is there any kind of message that you want to send with the team’s performance on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, that our actions will speak for us. I think every week we’re not looking at it any different. Every week, no matter what year it is, there are a lot of people watching Ohio State. That’s the beauty. That’s what the history and tradition has brought of this place.
We haven’t focused on any more people watching or any other thing than what is normal. The thing we focused on, hey, we’ve had a lot of talk. We’ve had time to talk. There’s been a lot of talk, but talk is that. Our performance will be what we want to define us.
Our actions, our performance on Saturday afternoon, to me, is what we want people to talk about. Whether we talk about it after the game, we have to do those things. We understand that. But we’re hoping that our performance and our actions speak louder than what we say as words.
Q. Players can practice their position and their techniques. How does a head coach prepare to be a head coach on game day? How do you go about putting yourself into strategy decisions and those kind of game day decisions? How do you prepare in getting ready for that?
COACH FICKELL: There’s a lot of things you have a hard time preparing for until you actually do them, and I think this is one of those things. But the best situations that I’ve been in is it’s pretty much since I’ve been there it’s been a collaborative issue. That’s coach’s way.
There were a lot of decisions that were made over the top of the headset where he’d come on and say, hey, defense, what do you guys want to do in this situation? And you were all in it together, you kind of talk about it on Thursdays before your games. You talk about it on Friday nights how you’re going to handle certain situations.
But ultimately, until you’ve made those decisions in that split second, I don’t know that you can practice them. You can play some video games or watch some film or do those kind of things that you would think. But when the heat is on, the pressure’s on, the decisions have to be made. Until you do them, I don’t know any other way of practicing.
We say the same thing to quarterbacks. You can practice all you want, but until you get in front of 106,000, how are you going to perform?
It will still be a collaborative issue. Obviously, there is a lot of great experience on our staff, just like there always has been. When situations arise, obviously you have some time to communicate with them. But ultimately, when it comes down to it, you’ve got to make a decision.
Q. You’ve got 13 freshmen that are listed on the two deep, three of them are red shirt, a whole bunch of sophomores too. Can you speak of the youth on this team? You keep mentioning seeing it in front of 106,000. Is there a curiosity factor in your mind to get a look at a lot of these guys under a game light situation?
COACH FICKELL: I think every year there’s a curiosity factor. But I think it’s a tribute to the freshmen class, to those guys, to be honest with you. I think they have performed.
Now obviously they’ve been put in a situation where they have to because of maybe depth issues. But I don’t know that it’s unlike that many other years. I think it might be a little bit different, little bit more of an issue because you lost 24 seniors last year, guys that have been here a long time, a lot of fifth year seniors.
But I don’t know that it’s unlike that much of other years. But I think it’s also a great reflection on who those kids are. The maturity they’ve had to be able to get where they are, whether they’re a red shirt freshman or a true freshman.
Now does that mean I feel better going to bed on Friday night thinking one of those guys might be starting? I’m not saying that. But we’ve all been in those situations. I’ve been in that situation as a player; and we didn’t bring them here to sit on the bench.
So you might sleep a little better if you didn’t have to stick them in on that first play, but that’s all part of it. We’ll do what they can do best and give them the opportunity.
Q. You don’t know what you’re going to wear to the game yet, but past that, what do you want people to what will be the Luke Fickell stamp on this team? If this team plays the way you want them to play, what will be the stamp?
COACH FICKELL: Well, first it’s the Ohio State stamp. It’s our program. It’s our team. It’s not Luke Fickell. That may be what they write about, that might be what they talk about.
Just like they always said, they’re going to put the blame and pressure on the head coach and the quarterback, but the reality of it is it’s a whole program and a whole team. So that is the number one thing that I want to make sure we understand and the team understands.
But I think the three things we talked about. We want to see when we turn on the effort, the turnover and the toughness. We’ll put on a fourth quarter, and we’ll put on a special teams. That’s what I told them.
Come Sunday morning, the first thing I do when I come in is I put on the special teams reel and I’m going to put on the fourth quarter. I want to see what your body language is like, your competitive nature is like. I don’t care if you’re a third team, a first team guy. If you’re on special teams, I want to see how you compete. I want to see your body language looks like in the fourth quarter whether you’re up 35 or down 35, whether it’s a tie ball game or not. Those are the things we want to see.
When we see the action that’s we’re looking for, then we think, hey, we’ve got the guys with us. Doesn’t mean we’re going to be successful in every situation, but we’ve got the right attitudes and when we’ve got the right attitudes, we’ve got enough talent and the right mix of people that we’re going to have a chance to win. But those are the things that we’re looking for.
We’ve talked to them, and we’ve told them about that. Now we’ve just got to make sure we see it. Like I said, nothing goes unnoticed, that won’t go unnoticed.
Q. There is an incredible want by this fan base to see Braxton Miller play a lot and play well. With that, comes pressure. How has he handled fall camp? And obviously well enough to be an “or”, so that’s got to be a pretty good thing. What has impressed you most about the way he’s played in this camp?
COACH FICKELL: Obviously, his abilities have impressed us all, and that’s why he’s here. Until you do it and perform, we’ll keep our judgments to ourselves. We know he can do it. We know he has the ability to do it. Being able to handle all the situations is what’s important. We don’t lack confidence in what he does; I can tell you that. That’s why he’s listed as an “or”.
But in order to do it, we’ll hold our judgments and hold our comments until we continue to do it. But I just actually saw him this morning and told him to make sure he understands that we have the utmost confidence in him, and that is the biggest thing.
I want to make sure he understands is you’re going to walk out there and you’re going to be on the field. It’s going to be 106,000 people and they’ll be looking at you. But what is the difference? What is the difference from last year? Yes, the guys are bigger, and faster, and whatever. But you do what you do. Don’t get wrapped up in that. Don’t let that overwhelm you.
It’s on us as coaches to put you in a situation to let you do what you do well, but we expect to see you do well, and we’ve got enough confidence in you that we’re going to put you out there.
Q. He’s done it already?
COACH FICKELL: He’s done it. He’s done it. Even in camp, so it’s still camp. It’s been hard too because you haven’t been able to hit him. So how guys react and respond to those different situations, we’ll wait to see.
But if he hadn’t done it in camp, he wouldn’t be listed on there. And I don’t know how much more you talk about it, but you understand that he’s listed as an or because we believe in him.
Q. With everything that’s happened over the last ten months, is there almost a sense of relief? How would you describe it for you and your staff and also for the players that the games are here now?
COACH FICKELL: Well, yes, it’s a relief, but it’s excitement more than a relief. I don’t know that I’m that kind of guy that I ever say anything’s a relief. I’m never satisfied with what we’ve got and where we are at the time to be honest with you. Is it an excitement? I think that’s the way I’d categorize it. It’s an excitement for me and everyone one of our staff members.
We’ve got a new guy that’s never coached in college football. We’ve got a guy that’s in Stan Drayton has been around college football incredible amounts, but never been at Ohio State, grew up here. He had butterflies in his stomach. He told me the other day when we went in the stadium just for rehearsal.
So the excitement is the thing. I think every one of our players is the same way. However they want to categorize it, but I think the excitement, whether it’s the first game of the year, the adversity things, we’re going to look at it as an exciting time.
Q. Does it help to push the negative as side both in their minds and also the public?
COACH FICKELL: I think that’s one of the things that we’ve done a really good job of. I don’t know that those guys now, what they’re truly thinking in their head is always the question. You know, we tell them we evaluate, we watch, we try to read body language. We’re doing everything we can to see what they might truly be thinking.
I think they’ve done a good job. They’re excited about the situation and playing the games. Is that just to get moving forward and have some positive things? Yeah. But I think it’s more the excitement. They’ve done a good job of focusing on moving forward and what we can control.
Q. You spent some time at Akron. What did you get out of that, and how important was it to get you where you are? Also, your impressions of that program as they try to come in here on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, I spent two years at Akron, and to me it was one of the best situations for me ever. I got to it made me appreciate where I had been so much more. Obviously, I grew as a coach with Lee Owens gave me my first opportunity to coach.
But I think the biggest thing that I realized was the appreciation for what this place is really about, how much support, how much on our guys are given. How much they truly have in support and things like that. It was a great opportunity for me. It was a great time for me. It was a great learning and growing experience to go away and to be able to come back.
I think if you look at the program in the last couple years, yeah, last year they had a down year. But with the facilities and different things that have gone on campus, they’ve got an indoor facility now and probably the best stadium in the MAC. Any time a new coach comes in, I think there are some growing periods.
If you look at them throughout last year, they obviously had a lot of growing. But if you look at their last three games, they probably performed a lot better. I’m sure that’s what they have to grow on as a program.
But I think that whole idea between what they’ve done there in the last couple of years just with facilities and different things, there is an excitement behind them. There is an excitement behind that program.
Now they have to obviously probably do a little better job and continue to grow with that on the field. Sometimes that’s the growth of a new coach and a new program.
Q. Verlon Reed is listed as a starter. What’s he done to impress you and win that job?
COACH FICKELL: I think we’ve said it a couple times in interviews or after practices. The wide receivers have done unbelievable. They’ve been as impressive a group as I think throughout camp. Maybe that’s a little because we knew we had a lot of young guys and we didn’t know what to expect from that group of guys.
But Verlon has done an amazing job. From the way he blocks, the way he practices, the way he carries himself, he has really done an unbelievable job from the winter on, and it’s shown on the field, which is why he’s in the position he’s in. But he has a ton of ability. And I don’t mean that just as catching the football and doing the thing that’s you might notice or the stats might notice, he’s got a ton of ability of doing a lot of the other things that sometimes go unnoticed to the people in the stands.
COACH FICKELL: An athlete’s an athlete. To me, sometimes it comes down to what they believe they need to do to be successful in the position they’re in. He came in here with the right idea that he wasn’t a quarterback, and if he had the opportunity to play quarterback, maybe he’d do that.
Was there a learning curve? Yeah, at some things. But any wide receiver that comes from high school to college, there is going to be a giant learning curve. It’s what you believe is important to be successful at that position is what’s most important.
Coach Drayton has done an unbelievable job at that. They know here at Ohio State, yes, you’ve got to catch the ball and do some things like that, but you better do all the other things too. And that’s where he’s been every bit as impressive.
Q. What is Sabino’s status, and can you talk about Shazier? He’s had a good camp, and he’s on the two deep. But Sabino and Shazier?
COACH FICKELL: Etienne will be available. He had surgery a week ago or week and a half ago on his hand, but is fine. He’ll have a little bit of a cast on it and stuff, so it will keep him out of a little bit of practice last week. He’s back in repping now. He’s got to get his feet back under him and make sure he’s comfortable with his hand.
Ryan Shazier has done a really good job. In the spring he didn’t get a chance to practice much because he was hurt. He had two or three practices in the spring. But when he went out there in the spring game you could see when the lights were on and he knew what he was doing. He had all the ability in the world. I think we moved him inside a little bit more this camp, and he’s done a really good job. He really has. He’s picking things up. He’s a natural football player.
To me, sometimes, the greatest thing I told him this morning as well, you’ve got to continue to learn from the guy in front of you. Sometimes coaches talk until they’re blue in the face, but unless they can see it, I don’t know that it sinks in nearly as well.
So Andrew Sweat has done a good job putting him under his wing, and a, not just teaches him what we’re doing defensively, but teaches him how to practice, how to study, how to do all the intangible things to make a great player.
Q. You said consistently this isn’t about you, but I’m wondering if you’ve had any time at all I know he you’ve been busy but I wonder if you’ve had any time at all to reflect on the fact that you’re going to be standing on the sidelines, you’re going to be the guy that’s following Woody Hayes and Paul Brown, and all these guys’ footsteps. Have you thought about that at all that you’re going to be the guy?
COACH FICKELL: No, you forgot Earle Bruce, too. Coach, I don’t know what he was thinking, Coach.
Q. That goes without saying.
COACH FICKELL: Thank you. You know what, I have not. I won’t allow myself. Maybe Coach Hancock brought it up to me about a month ago or something, and I just shook my head and kept going, because that’s not what it’s about, and I don’t you know, I’ve probably said it several times.
I like criticism and those kinds of things a lot more than to sit here and compare myself to guys that have won a lot of football games. Obviously in the same shoes, maybe, but I just want to stay focused on what I’m doing.
If I allow myself that time, I probably would worry a lot more. I don’t know that you can truly fill the shoes of a lot of those people that have come before you.
Q. You were talking about how you don’t really know how to do it until you’re out there and actually you’re on there as head coach and making the decisions. You’ve got guys that have been head coaches on your staff. You’ve got a lot of have you talked to anybody about that or looked for support from other people?
COACH FICKELL: I didn’t say I didn’t know how to do it. In my mind, I know how to do it. But until I actually do it and prove it, it’s just in my mind. I have confidence in doing it. I don’t talk about it because I haven’t done it.
But, yes, I do use and Coach Hancock’s always been a guy that’s been close to me. He’s probably as much as why I’m here than anybody. He’s the one that called me ten years ago and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to Ohio State. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never known Coach, and he probably would have never known me.
I refer to him a lot, and just after practice or call him up and just bounce some things off him because we’ve had a relationship. He obviously coached me, I coached with him and under him for a long time. And you have some other guys out there that you know well.
But I believe that sometimes you’ve got to be able to do it yourself. You’ve got to have some people that you can bounce some ideas off of. But when it comes down to it, you’ve got to make decisions. That’s why I feel confident on Saturdays about making a decision, because, you know, I didn’t call a bunch of people in to say, what do you do in preseason here? Send me your schedule here. What do you do with this?
I’ve had guys that have offered their experiences and I’ve listened, but I’ve kind of said, hey, you know what, I think we’ve got enough wisdom here. Doesn’t mean we can’t use more, but ultimately there are a million different ways of doing it. And as long as you’re doing it your way and what you’re confident and you believe in, I think others will follow.
Q. Luke, you gave your overall impression of Akron. But the team itself, they only have 30 upperclassmen on scholarship. It’s their first game. What do you expect from the Zips on the field?
COACH FICKELL: I don’t know that I would get into what I expect from them. To me, we’ve talked to our team and we’ve said it a bunch, nothing arrogant. We’re focusing on us. We’re focusing on ourselves and what we can do. We’ll worry about how we perform.
Yes, we have ideas and as a scouting report of what we expect to see from them and plays to see. But I’m not here to say what I expect from them. I’m here to say what I expect from our guys. What we expect from our guys is great effort, great toughness, and great discipline and those kinds of things. We’ll continue to focus on what we need to do to be successful and not talk as much about what others need to do.
Q. Mike Brewster’s a guy who was a starter here since his freshman year and he’s standing over there. He’s made some preseason All American teams. What did you see from Mike on and off the field during camp as he gets ready for this senior season?
COACH FICKELL: Mike’s been one of those guys like you said that probably has to handle this game captain thing as well as anybody, because he’s the guy that you would expect to have been right up there in the mix and been one of those guys. But he’s done an unbelievable job of handling it, and understanding the situation, and what we need to do for this team to be successful. We expect big things.
You don’t have to close the door on him. He knows I expect huge things from him. He knows I expect him to carry the weight of the quarterbacks on his shoulders. How he talks to them, how he communicates with them, you know, you need leadership. You need leadership.
I’m not opposed to telling them that we need leadership from them in helping control other guys. We’re going to put the weight on some of those guys shoulders that we know can handle it, and they know our expectations for them to handle it.
Q. Especially when you have whoever the quarterback is going to be out there is going to be inexperienced. Does a veteran center, can they really help an offense, do you think?
COACH FICKELL: I hope so. I think a veteran anybody can help just in talking to them and taking some control and making sure he has a voice. Just like this, when I sit there up my first view times in a team meeting, sometimes I like to look out there, and if I get guys that are looking at you and that feeling that they’re nodding at you, and you feel like you know what, they’re listening, they’re behind me.
That’s what that quarterback needs. He needs to get in that huddle and not see that body language of his All American, or that body language of his starter. He wants to see them, and that’s what we’ve talked to Mike about doing. You don’t have to say things to give guys confidence, you just have to look at them. You have to show that you have confidence in them.
When you have confidence in them, they’ll have more confidence in themselves. To me that’s what we need, not just from Mike, from J.B., from our entire line. I want that guy, whether it’s Joe or Braxton or whoever it is to stand in that huddle and have those guys looking at him and nodding and knowing that they’ve got confidence in what he’s doing whether they’re tired or not.
To me, that’s that whole body language, that’s that whole what are you thinking? We want those guys calling the plays to make sure the guys in front of them are thinking they don’t have any worries.
Q. I know in the past that you’ve had some very specific statistical benchmarks you need to reach to be considered a successful game. I’m sure there are there certain kinds of experiences you want your players to get this week. What other than a win do you need to get out of this game?
COACH FICKELL: I don’t know that we’ve ever set any true statistical. As a defense we might say, yeah, we can’t have 100 yards rushing or as an offense we might say we don’t say we got to have so many sacks or this or that. We’ve got to win and make sure we’re growing every time we go out there.
To me, for us it’s about being sharp and fast. That’s been our motto for this week and as we started. We don’t know what we’re going to get. We don’t know what to expect. That’s why we’re going to focus on ourselves.
The most important thing is we’re sharp, we’re fast. And that we’ve got 11 guys out there that know what they’re doing. It’s not going to be about the call. Is it a perfect call? I don’t know. If there are ten guys in the box, make two of them have to tackle you. Don’t mean we’re going to check out of something right now. We’ve got to be good at what we’re doing.
Obviously, we’ll be smart. That comes on more the coaching side of things, but we’ve got to be sharp and we’ve got to be fast, and those are the statistics that we’re looking for. Other than that, the efforts of turnovers and toughness, I’m not concerned about a whole lot of statistics.
Q. How does this week one compare to you when you were in Columbus for the first time as a player?
COACH FICKELL: I’m not quite sure. Obviously, any time you’re a player, I think it’s different. And that is the thing that you learn initially. I think that’s what Coach Vrabel learned kind of initially. As a player, you could say, hey, it’s about my team, but you’re still making sure that you’re doing your job. You’re going to bring people with you by your actions and things.
But as a coach, whether you’re the head coach, I’m seeing a different side of things, you know. You’re concerned about so much bigger, so much bigger group.
As a player, you get one play under your belt and it’s playing. Those nerves and those butterflies go away after that first play. As a coach, you can’t go out there to talk a shot to get rid of your butterflies. You’ve got to make sure it’s a focused thing. But that knot in your stomach stays the entire game. As a player, it’s gone after one play, so it is different.
Q. Was there a point as you began to rise up the ladder here from co-defensive coordinator, assistant head coach, and as you maybe turned down some other opportunities like at Notre Dame to be on that staff, when you said I’m staying here, I’m digging myself in, and I’m going for this thing?
COACH FICKELL: Was there a question? I didn’t get the question.
Q. Yeah, was there a point, and maybe it was when you left here as a player, that you wanted to be a head coach or you made the conscious decision to stick it out?
COACH FICKELL: A lot of decisions are made for different reasons. I knew this was where I wanted to be. This was my goal when I started coaching. Then as I got into coaching and I realized I wanted to be a head coach, obviously this was my lifetime goal.
But a lot of those decisions, like you said, were made along the way. This is an unbelievable place, and it’s a hard place to leave.
But a lot of those decisions were not just made because of Ohio State, but made because of my family as well. With those two things in mind, to me, it was a no brainer. Whether I had opportunities or I didn’t have opportunities, whether I looked or I didn’t look, to me it was just a growing thing.
But when I really came down to it, the two greatest factors are that this place is an unbelievable place that is almost impossible to leave, and my family is every bit as important to me as anything in the world. Them being here and them being comfortable is worth more. There are no money, no titles or no things like that that can match having that, having family and them being comfortable where they are. Thank you. Appreciate it.
Q.You’ve been asked this before, you lost seven starters on defense, but there seems to be a lot of confidence in that unit. Can you talk about where that confidence comes from and how good you think this defense can be?
John Simon: Yeah, I definitely think we lost guys who we’re really going to miss. But the confidence definitely comes from having guys who you know you can rely on and trust out there on the field. That’s what defense is about, everyone doing their job, everyone doing their 1/11th. So far during camp and during this week, I think we’ve done a nice job of that.
Q. Does playing a game help push all the negative stuff back a little bit further now? Now that you’re dealing with games and you don’t have to listen to all the other stuff?
John Simon: I would say the negative has become a positive in our locker room. We’ve really come together and done a nice job throughout camp and everything. Having a nice week of practice so far. But it’s definitely enjoyable having something to look forward to, which is this Saturday. So we’re ready to go.
Q. What’s it like to be a player right now given the off season and the grind of training camp and can the lights at the end of the tunnel that it’s a game and opener? What’s it like to be a player at Ohio State now?
John Simon: This off season has really gone fast. Just being with guys every day who are very enthusiastic and passionate about what they. It makes it very enjoyable. Just coming into practice every day or lifting or meetings, it makes it fun, and time flies.
Q. What’s it mean to you to be one of the team captains for this opening game where you guys are expected to sort of make a statement, so to speak, about how things have gone on and what things will be like from here on?
John Simon: It’s a great honor. I found out this morning. We have many guys that are capable of that job. But to be put in this position, I’m very grateful for that. I’ll do my best this Saturday.
Q. Could you talk a little about Akron and what concerns you most about their offense? And if you could tell us a little bit of a scouting report? We haven’t heard much about them.
John Simon: They have a lot of weapons on offense. They’re a very good offense. They’ve got a lot of linemen back who have seen game experience. They’ve got a great quarterback starting for them.
You know, they have so many weapons, we’ll have to defend them all. And just working on that this week, just scheming everything up, playing together, and we’re going to have to go out Saturday and execute.
Q. With your senior class, just talk a little about the rotating captains idea. You this week, and I mentioned you’ve got a big group, a lot of leaders. What are your thoughts about the idea of rotating it?
John Simon: I mean, Coach Fickell thinks it’s best, and we’ll follow him. I think that’s best for us, too, because a lot of young guys don’t know the seniors as well as we do and things like that. We just have a great senior class.
I think throughout the season you’ll see the true leaders will step up and things like that. Then at the end of the year, the younger are guys will have a better idea who they feel the captains on the team are.
Q. We saw Michael Bennett as a true freshman make the two deep. What have you seen from him during camp that’s allowed him to move up the depth chart?
John Simon: Michael’s got great athleticism. He’s great with his hands and everything. But the best thing about Michael is he’s willing to learn and he’s got a little fight to him. That’s what it means. He’s definitely he picks up the plays fast and things like that, but when he’s out there, he’s going to fight. Just having a guy on the field like that is great. He’s doing a nice job for us.
Q. You’re used to seeing Coach Fickell on your side of the ball. But how has he handled this month? Have you noticed what you’ve seen with him, or is he the same old guy?
John Simon: He’s the same old guy. He’s being himself is. He’s done an amazing job leading us, and we’ll follow him wherever he takes us.
Q. There is a lot of youth behind you guys on that first team offensive line. How much of a leadership role have you tried to take with these young guys that if somebody gets down, they’re a playa way from having to play. Are you confident that if something does happen injury wise, those guys can fill the gap that would be left?
J.B. Shugarts: Definitely through camp those guys have done a great job trying to learn and working hard. I’m trying to be there as an older guy that’s been through it and knows what it takes and try to help them out and get them to learn everything faster, because we don’t have a lot of depth on the offensive line. So those guys got to get ready to play in case something happens.
Q. Is the offense game ready?
J.B. Shugarts: Definitely. I think we’ve been working extremely hard. And just practicing against our defense every day is only going to make us that much better. Everyone’s excited and ready to go.
Q. The quarterback is bracketed as, you know, Joe Bauserman or Braxton Miller. Talk about what those two guys bring? Coach Fickell said they’re both going to play on Saturday. What are you expecting from them, I guess?
J.B. Shugarts: They’re both great competitors. Great leaders out on the field. And you know, Joe’s an older guy. He’s been around. He knows the system a little bit. But in terms of experience, he’s right there with Braxton, really.
But, you know, Joe’s got a pocket passer. But he’s got a lot more credit to get out of the pocket. We know Braxton can make plays on his feet once he has to scramble and step up. They’re both going to do a great job, and I’m excited to see how it goes.
Q. You’re not concerned at all about possibly having a freshman quarterback out there with you? And if not, why not?
J.B. Shugarts: Not at all. He’s been here since the spring. So it’s not like he’s just been here for a month in camp. He’s been doing a great job. He’s extremely poised for a freshman quarterback. I think he’s ready to go and he’s been working hard and waiting for this day all his life.
Q. Obviously, Coach Tressel had an incredible hand in how the offense was run. How has it been different? Who has stepped up? Which coaches are the ones that are leading the offensive charge right now? Have you seen a big difference in Coach Bollman?
J.B. Shugarts: Coach Bollman’s doing a great job. It’s not too different. We’re coming with a well balanced attack. We’ve got to run the ball good, and control the clock and keep the defense fresh.
Q. We know what Tressel ball was. What is Fickell ball? How would you define it?
J.B. Shugarts: He’s an intense guy. He tries to simplify stuff more. He’s always talking about effort, turnovers and toughness. And that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to be tough and give everything we’ve got an extreme amount of effort. We can’t turn the ball over on defense. We need to create turnovers.
I think Fickell’s ball is a little less complicated, maybe, and it’s a physical game, and that’s how he approaches us to play it.
Q. You said that the offense is game ready. What is it that you’ve liked and you’ve seen about the Buckeye offense in camp?
J.B. Shugarts: I think we came together really well just with some guys out and some new guys in. And you know just with some of those guys that got in trouble and they’re stepping up and helping a lot of young guys, getting them ready to play, which some people might have had some questions about.
I think a lot of our young receivers have stepped up. They’ve made a lot of plays in camp against a really good defense. And on the offensive line, I thought those guys that stepped in there, Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort, and Marcus Hall have been working really good.
They’ve been getting ready to play and learning some stuff on the run. They played in some big games before too. They’ve got some experience. Our running backs too, we’ve got a stable of backs that can get out there and make some plays. So I really think we’re ready to go.
Q. With two quarterbacks, is it hard for a line to prepare for that maybe in their rotating? Do you have to do anything different? Is it hard for you to adjust?
J.B. Shugarts: Not really because we’re running the same offense, running the same plays. So not much at all. It’s really just who is going to be calling the plays, and that’s not a big deal at all.
Q. You’ve gone to game captains instead of season captains at this point. Were there some of those guys, the guys who were sitting out the first five games that you would have voted for for a captain if it was a permanent deal?
J.B. Shugarts: All those guys have great leadership skills. You know, they had that even before they were seniors, even when they were sophomores and juniors. They all work extremely hard on and off the field. But I feel honored just to get this opportunity to lead this team out on Saturday and I can’t wait.
Q. There’s been a lot of effort made by former players by boosters, by fans to really lend support to this team. I know there is going to be a Tunnel of Pride. You’ve put out a video saying how important it is and what Ohio State means. How important is that to you as a player that the former players are reaching out for the Tunnel of Pride? And how important was it for you as a leader to put out to the fans the message that this is what we’re about?
MIKE BREWSTER: Yeah, the Tunnel of Pride is going to be pretty amazing. I think it’s only been done one other time outside the final home game of the season against Michigan. And I won’t get a chance to be a part of that.
So this is kind of cool for me. This is kind of my senior Tunnel of Pride. It’s awesome. Players are showing support not only for the team. But Coach Fick, it’s a stressing week for him being the first game as a head coach at Ohio State.
In the video, we really didn’t know what that was. Coach asked us after practice to stay around, and that gentleman has done videos for us, senior parent videos, he does an unbelievable job.
We got to watch it last night, or Sunday night, and it is really awesome. I didn’t know it was on YouTube and stuff, so I’m glad the fans get to see it as well.
Q. One follow up for you guys you’ve been used to not having Jim Tressel around here. But for fans the first time perhaps they’ll feel it is Saturday. Have your thoughts at all wondered about Coach Tressel the last month and about him in game week?
MIKE BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean Coach Tressel will always be with us, the values he’s instilled in us. The things he’s taught us, the coaching staff. Coach Fick tells us we’ll have little senior meets and he’ll say about what Coach Tressel used to do, and he calls him coach. He’s always going to be coach to us. And I think the good thing is he left us in very good hands and he’ll definitely be with us on the field.
Q. I guess you guys are going to be the captains for the game. What’s that mean to you? And right now there are no set captains?
MIKE BREWSTER: Things are different this year. It’s Coach Fick’s decision to make everybody a part of it, and I think that’s great. We need everybody this year. It’s not about a few people or four seniors, it’s about everybody.
We’ll rotate. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I’m honored to be part of the first game. I don’t know if I’ll get another chance or this is it. But I’m going to enjoy it, and make the best of it.
Q. Coach talked about Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller not having a lot of experience, he was talking about you being a senior that’s played a lot. What do you see your role in terms of helping those quarterbacks as they dive into their first really significant action?
MIKE BREWSTER: Yeah, I can’t do too much for them, but the thing I can do is make sure they’re protected. Make sure I’ve got the line all on the same page. Make sure that I am picking up the blitzes with different calls and putting them in a position to be successful. By doing that, I think it will make them feel more comfortable in the pocket, give them more time, and let their receivers do what they need to do.
Q. J.B. was in here a moment ago and he mentioned that the offense was less complicated right now. Was it more complicated last year? Were things too complicated for you guys?
MIKE BREWSTER: You know, the offense is hard to learn here. It’s very complex. I would imagine more complex than most college programs. I think the thing Coach Fick said this week is he wants us to be very sharp and play very fast. Doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simple, but we need to know what we’re doing and do it well.
I think he’s done a great job in camp making sure that’s what we’ve done. But we’ve been doing some different things on offense, and it will be good to do it on Saturday.
Q. Any disappointment on your part with this being your senior year and not having the opportunity to be a team captain for the whole season?
MIKE BREWSTER: It would have been cool, but it’s not about me. It’s not about any individual this year. I’m more worried about the team. Like I said before, I’m here to make sure this team moves forward and help Coach Fick any way I can. We’ve been staying strong through camp, staying pretty healthy. We’ve got some guys nicked up. But I think overall it’s about the team and about this 2011 Buckeyes.
Q. For the first few games with Mike Adams out and Corey Linsley, the depth chart shows a lot of inexperience behind you on the offensive line. Just talk about what you’ve seen from those guys that are backing you up? Do you feel like you’re thin up front or do you feel those guys will be okay?
MIKE BREWSTER: I’m not going to lie, we’re a little thin. But once we get Mike and Corey back, that will help a lot. But we’ve got some young guys that are trying to step up. It’s just hard. Offensive lines are very hard positions as a young guy. There are so many things you ever of to think about, and when you’re thinking, you can’t play as fast and you can’t use good technique.
We’re trying to get them up to speed as best we can. And I’m not sure who is going to play on Saturday as far as some of the younger guys, we’ll see who can handle it and go from there.
Q. Going into the season you lost your head coach, your quarterback’s gone, you’ve got three guys on offense, starters who can’t play. Lot of people looked at it and would think you all would be sort of fractured right now. But once gives you the sense you all aren’t?
MIKE BREWSTER: Camp was awesome. Lots of energy, lots of emotion. It’s the first year in camp. Guys get mad and angry and are hitting the same guys every day, but no one was fighting in this camp. I just feel like it’s a really tight brotherhood. We’ve been through a lot together, and I think we’re going to use that to our advantage.
Q. In the past you’ve had very specific benchmarks you wanted to reach each game. I believe it was 300 yards passing, 200 rushing, zero turnovers. Anything like that this year? What are your goals as an offense?
MIKE BREWSTER: We have quite a few goals for an offense as far as what Buckeye leads we can get. There are a ton of them. I couldn’t really run them off right now. But thing is run consistency, pass consistency, short yardage, goal line type stuff. So our goals haven’t changed on any level.
I think that’s been good that the coaches have made sure to make sure we know that.
Q. You’ve got a new head coach, new quarterback, but will people notice any difference from the offense from a year ago to this year?
MIKE BREWSTER: It’s pretty much the same. We are doing some new things. I’m sure you’ll see soon enough. So I’m excited about it. I think it adds to our offense and it should help us.
Q. You mentioned in camp that you’ve practiced with a lot of emotion. That can be dangerous too. How do you make sure that when you’re playing on Saturday and really every Saturday going forward that the emotion is in check and you were able to play at your highest level?
MIKE BREWSTER: Yeah, the emotion, Coach Fick just didn’t want us to be flat in camp. It gets hard with two a days, you’re tired and you’re sore. I think it helped us pick us up and even just playing a little music during practice sometimes helps.
But on Saturday I’m sure a lot of emotions will be going through me and through all the guys. I think we’re just kind of anxious to get out there.
Q. What are you most curious to see Saturday?
MIKE BREWSTER: It’s funny you ask because people ask me, are you scared for this season? Are you nervous? Are you worried? I’m none of those. I’m just anxious. I’m anxious to see what young guys are going to step up. Brown had a great camp. I’m anxious to see if he’s going to be a play maker this year. I know he’s got the ability and he’s going to be showing it during camp and what running back is going to step up?
We have all the talent. It’s just exciting to see who is going to take that role.
More Player Quotes from Tuesday
Jake Stoneburner, redshirt junior tight end
On motivation for this season
“We are trying to prove everyone wrong and fighting for the same reasons. We’re going to show how great of a coach, Coach Fick[ell] is.”
On how excited Coach Fickell is for his first game as head coach
“Who wouldn’t be excited for your first game as head coach of The Ohio State University? I’m sure coach will be nervous, but we are going to give it our all and fight for him.”
C.J. Barnett, redshirt sophomore defensive back
On his play this fall
“I feel like we, the defense, try to get to the ball as soon as possible to get big hits and make the ball carrier feel it. During camp I’ve been doing what my coaches want me to do.”
On if there have been any differences under Coach Fickell’s guidance
“Not really. We’re still Ohio State. We still stand for being great and trying to be great. There are expectations for us to meet just like any other year.”
On the young defensive backs
“I’m still young myself but I try to lead by example and what the coaches want me to do. We still have to practice and do the right things to get noticed. I try to live up to the Silver Bullet history at Ohio State. It’s a little brotherhood between many of us. We continue to strive to be reckless and relentless.”