Athletic director Gene Smith could have gone with Jim Heacock, OSU's longest-tenured assistant coach and the architect of some of the most dominating defenses in school history the past six seasons. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman also has loads of college and pro experience, while Tressel's brother, Dick, serves as running backs coach and has plenty of experience as a head man at the Division III level.
Instead, the Buckeyes went for the rising star – and it appears the players are all-in for the hiring of Luke Fickell as the coach for the 2011 season.
Considering Fickell's relative youth and intensity – and his presence on the team for the past nine years as an assistant on Tressel's staff – it should come as no surprise that many of the players were pleased to see the 37-year-old appointed Tressel's replacement for the 2011 season.
"He's a leader," senior defensive back Nate Oliver said. "He's very enthusiastic. He's very passionate about what he does, and you can tell whenever he speaks, guys listen and guys get into him. Anything Coach Fick wants us to do, tells us to do, guys do it. We're going to work hard for him and do what we need to do."
Fickell, who has turned down other high-profile positions in college football to stay at OSU, also has instant credibility in the locker room because of his background, specifically the fact that he donned the scarlet and gray. Playing the demanding nose guard position that required him to battle offensive linemen on every play, Fickell still managed to start a school-record 50 straight games from 1993-96.
"He's part of the sacred brotherhood," senior Michael Brewster said. "He's been here. He's played. He's started 50-some games in a row. You can really relate to him. He knows exactly what we're going through at every second. I think that's pretty cool."
Unfortunately for Fickell, he hasn't had the most chances to put his stamp on the program up to this point – and won't until fall camp. He has talked a few times about how NCAA rules, including those banning on-field coaching during the summer, have left him unable to fully put his thumbprint on the team since taking over.
The good news is there's already a familiarity between the players and their new coach.
"The only thing you really have to get used to is Coach Tressel not being here," Oliver said. "Coach Fickell has always been here, so it really didn't take that much to get used to. I mean, everyone is still there, so it really wasn't that hard of a transition."
Even though Fickell hasn't been able to be completely hands-on, his reputation – including his honor as the 2010 American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year – has earned him plaudits from players.
"He's a great guy," Brewster said. "He's a Buckeye through and through. He's been here. He's played here. He's been in the trenches. He's a great leader. I have a lot of confidence in him and I'm very excited about him being the coach.
The players also expect Fickell to bring a more outwardly intense approach than Tressel, one befitting of both a defensive coach – Fickell spent the past seven seasons as the team's linebackers coach – and former champion prep wrestler.
"I would say he brings a little bit of fire to work and I think that'll help us out," defensive end Johnny Simon said. "I think he's really going to instill that in the team and that'll be good for us this coming year.
"He's a very emotional guy. He'll get you very passionate. It's been rubbing off already. You can tell in the locker room. It's going to be a fun year for us."
The appeal carries over to the offensive side of the ball.
"I love Coach Fickell," senior quarterback Joe Bauserman said. "I think he'll be good. I think he'll be good for the program. With his type of attitude and toughness he's going to bring to the table, he gives us another advantage."