Fickell Ready To Get Offensive

Since entering college, Luke Fickell's background is almost primarily on the defensive side of the football. Now as the interim head coach at Ohio State, how does Fickell plan to handle being in charge of the offense as well?

For nearly as long as he has been a member of the Ohio State program, Luke Fickell has concerned himself with the defensive side of the game. Monday, during his first press conference as program's interim coach, the former nose guard and linebackers coach stressed his commitment to players on both sides of the football.

"It's just going to be about making sure that the kids understand that I'm all with them," Fickell said. "I'm not just a defensive guy. I'm not just working with the linebackers. I'm here for everybody."

After his playing career ended, Fickell joined the Buckeyes as a graduate assistant for the 1999 season. The team's media guide that year describes the baby-faced Fickell as being responsible for helping out on the defensive side of the ball.

Since then, Fickell has exclusively been a defensive coach save for a two-year stint as OSU's special teams coordinator from 2002-03. From there, he was promoted to linebackers coach in 2004 and co-defensive coordinator the following season.

Although Jim Bollman has been the team's offensive coordinator for the past decade, former head coach Jim Tressel was highly involved with the team's offensive plans. A quarterback in college, Tressel had always served as either an offensive assistant or head coach.

As the Buckeyes have continually posted one of the nation's most prolific defenses during the past 10 seasons, Tressel went as far as to tell reporters that he did not even know where the defensive coaches met.

Fickell said that the offense will remain in Bollman's hands but that he will have a presence.

"Yes, I will obviously be much more involved defensively than I will offensively," he said. "The most important thing is I don't want the coaches on the offensive side of the ball or the players on the offensive side of the ball to think I don't care every bit as much about them as I do about the special teams and defense."

Last season, the Buckeyes finished fourth nationally in total defense and 20th in total offense. The latter figure marked the best such finish during the Tressel-Bollman era, which dates back to 2001. Since that season, OSU's average national finish in total offense has been 61 and the defensive average has been 13.7.

Which coach actually called the plays has been a source of speculation for several years. Although Bollman is listed as the coordinator, former wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell – now the head coach at Kent State – was thought to have final say in the calls from time to time while Tressel always had veto power.

"Coach Bollman has been our offensive coordinator here for 10 years now," Fickell said. "I don't see anything changing. I know that they do an unbelievable job over there, making sure that they're focused on their talents and using them in the best way possible. I promise you that they're going to continue to use their talents in the best way and we have the utmost confidence in Coach Bollman and the entire offensive staff."

When it was pointed out that many believed Bollman has not been calling plays during the past 10 years, Fickell smirked.

"He was our offensive coordinator the past 10 years and he will continue to call the plays," he repeated. "There's a fine line between reality and perception."

The Buckeyes remain in the hunt for a position coach to fill Fickell's vacated spot. The interim coach said it will be a defensive coach, but he said that final coaching responsibilities for the season are still being finalized.

Bobby Carpenter, who was a linebacker under Fickell's watch from 2004-05, said his former coach will be sure to embrace each member of the team.

"I think he's definitely going to have a hand in what's going on to make sure that these are the expectations we have (and) everybody is held to them," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're the starting quarterback at Ohio State or the third-string punter, this is how it's going to be. You're a part of a team and we're all in this together."

Under Tressel, the Buckeyes were known for molding the offense around the talents at hand. Fickell said that figures to remain the same this fall.

"We are going to play to our strengths," he said. "It's not much different defensively. If we have three tailbacks, we'll put three tailbacks out there. We're going to play to our strengths and we'll find out what those strengths are come fall camp.

"I've got the utmost confidence in the offensive staff and Coach Bollman as the offensive coordinator. I just want to make sure they understand more so for the kids that I care, that I have a presence and that I care what's going on with them. It's not about me calling a play or asking to do something different."


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