Conference Coaches Weigh In On Fickell

There are several ways to look at the challenges facing new Ohio State head football coach Luke Fickell. While the former OSU player and assistant coach has the benefit of being a familiar face to his players, he is dealing with having to prepare for a season in a short time span and after the departure of Jim Tressel. Still, many conference coaches believe Fickell will be up to the challenge.

In some ways, Luke Fickell might have the easiest task of the five Big Ten head coaches who made their first appearance at the conference's annual media days in Chicago last week. In others ways, his challenge might be the most difficult.

Fickell is certainly in a different situation than Michigan's Brady Hoke, Indiana's Kevin Wilson, Minnesota's Jerry Kill and Nebraska's Bo Pelini. Hoke, Wilson and Kill are all new head coaches at their institutions, and Pelini's Cornhuskers are entering their first year in the conference. Fortunately for Fickell, he has the benefit of already knowing his conference's foes and venues and – more importantly – he was already established at Ohio State as a former player and longtime assistant coach.

That doesn't mean Fickell's job is easy. In fact, Kill said he couldn't even image what life might be like for Fickell since he took the job on May 30 when Jim Tressel resigned amid a NCAA investigation.

"I imagine he hasn't even had a chance to breathe yet," Kill said. "He may not have slept yet since he's gotten the job. I couldn't even imagine (what it's been like for him) because I know what my life has been like at the University of Minnesota during the last few months.

"His life has got to be overwhelming in every aspect."

Kill took over as head coach of the Golden Gophers in December and said every day has gone by like the snap of one's fingers. He, along with Wilson and Hoke, has had to spend time getting to know players, donors and fans.

"It's a challenge," Kill said. "It's almost like you've already coached one season. Now we're getting ready for another."

Fickell may not be an unknown commodity at Ohio State, but time has not been on his side. He has not had the benefit of having much time between taking over as head coach and the start of start of the season, which will take place Sept. 3 when Ohio State hosts Akron. That obviously makes his task more difficult, but several head coaches voiced their opinions that Fickell will be successful in the end.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was one of those coming out in support of Fickell. Dantonio knows what it is like to be a new head coach. After helping the 2002 Ohio State squad to a national championship as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator, Dantonio spent three seasons as the head coach at Cincinnati from 2004-06 and is entering his fifth season as the leader of the Spartans. Dantonio is also familiar with Fickell. The two were both on Ohio State's coaching staff from 2002-03 when Fickell was the Buckeyes' special teams coordinator.

Dantonio, who called Tressel a "tragic hero" Thursday during his time with the media on the event's first day, also had some advice for Fickell when the two first spoke after Tressel's departure.

"I just told him to be himself and make sure he takes a vacation," said Dantonio, who also called Fickell a very good friend. "A lot of things will cross his plate and he'll have big decisions to make. … I think he'll do a great job."

Pelini also said Fickell will do a great job. The Ohio State grad also gave Fickell some advice that echoed what Fickell has often said was the No. 1 piece of advice he has received since taking the job.

"Be yourself and just do what you do," Pelini said. "Do the best possible job you can."

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