Fickell Starts First OSU Camp

More than two months after Luke Fickell became Ohio State's head coach, the day he -- and his 103 players at camp -- have been waiting for has arrived. Fickell said he's not sure if his first fall camp as OSU's coach will be all that different from years past, but there could be some changes as practice begins this morning.

If Luke Fickell has spent the past few years dreaming about being Ohio State's head football coach, he either hasn't spent much of those daydreams thinking about the details of the job or he's not telling the media.

Either way, when asked if he had any grand plans to make training camp – which starts this morning ahead of the 2011 season at OSU – any different than it was under former coach Jim Tressel, Fickell didn't have a whole lot of specifics on the matter.

Instead, Fickell said the biggest change will likely be the tenor with which work is done given the dichotomy between his outward intensity and Tressel's more calm demeanor.

"Obviously the personalities are different," he said. "The best advice I've gotten from most people is to be who I am. The structure won't be a whole lot different. I really believe we had a good foundation. A lot of things have been very, very good. Our focus is going to be a key thing."

Fickell's charges wouldn't expect anything less from the 37-year-old former wrestler, nose guard and linebackers coach.

"Coach Fickell is going to be Coach Fickell," said one of his former linebacker protégés, Andrew Sweat. "He's intense, he's passionate and he's a great leader. He's going to demand your best each and every day. I think that's something he's going to bring to the whole team. He's going to force that upon them, and I think he's going to do a great job."

A couple of changes have already taken place, though. In past seasons under Tressel, all 100-plus players would arrive on the same day, but this season, the true freshmen reported Saturday while the team's veterans checked into the team hotel a day later.

In addition, the team has moved from the University Plaza hotel to the new Hyatt Place in Grandview, although a team spokesman said that change was in the works before Tressel's departure. Media access has also been loosened in Fickell's first campaign, starting with comments from the coach after this morning's practice.

If there are any other changes, they could be the brainchild of the players, some of whom were given the chance to have their voices heard by Fickell during the offseason.

"He brought all the seniors in individually and talked to us for a half hour or so and asked us what we thought, any suggestions for camp or what we didn't like from previous camps or what we'd like for this camp," senior center Michael Brewster said. "He really takes into account what we have to say."

For example, Brewster suggested the elimination of any field trips, such as last year's visit to spend a day practicing at the Athletes In Action facilities in Xenia, Ohio, a trip that was panned on Twitter by numerous players.

The Floridian is interested to see if anything else changes in the 18-day fall camp, which runs through Aug. 26.

"I'm actually kind of anxious to see how that goes because I know he's not going to try to be Coach Tress and do everything the exact same," Brewster said. "For three years everything has pretty much been the same in camp for me. I knew everything that was going to happen, so it'll be good to maybe check out something new and get used to that."

There will be some other differences players will notice. First of all, there will be a quarterback battle for the first time since 2007 when Todd Boeckman beat out Robby Schoenhoft and Antonio Henton after the offseason departure of Terrelle Pryor.

There will also be two new position coaches in wideouts coach Stan Drayton, who was hired from Florida to replace new Kent State head man Darrell Hazell, and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, a three-time Super Bowl champion who retired to join his former linemate's staff.

Ohio State will also have to deal with the fact Fickell and university administrators will have to trip to Indianapolis on Friday – the first day the team will practice in full pads – to meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Add it all up, and it sounds like big changes have been made, but Sweat did point out one crucial fact.

"We're still going to have pads on," he said. "It's still going to be football. I don't think it could be that much different."

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