Yet the first preseason practice of the 2011 season had a different feel with a new man in charge. Luke Fickell presided over his first practice as Ohio State's head football coach Monday morning after struggling to get to sleep the night before.
"That's not normally a problem for me," Fickell said of getting to sleep. "but (with) this excitement and this anxiety I definitely was (struggling)."
Nervousness aside, Fickell was happy with a rather typical first practice. The majority of the team was on the field and took part in drills, with the notable exceptions of freshman linebacker Conner Crowell (recent surgery) and senior defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (dressed in a yellow limited participation jersey). Fickell was also impressed by the attitudes of his new charges.
"Guys were working together as a team," Fickell said. "They understand it's all about each other and I think they've got the right focus."
Fickell played the role of a social butterfly during practice, working his way around the different position groups and spending time with each. He called his first practice in his new role a unique experience.
"I was definitely busy," he said. "Hopefully I didn't step on too many toes."
Unsurprisingly, Fickell was asked about the quarterbacks during his nearly 10-mintue talk with the media following practice. The rotation went by class eligibility, with fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman taking first reps, followed by sophomore Ken Guiton, redshirt freshman Taylor Graham and freshman Braxton Miller.
Each of the QBs had moments that were worthy of a first practice, but Fickell said he was not going to make any snap judgments, especially on the first day of camp.
"I think they hustled around," Fickell said. "They probably were doing what they were asked to do. We'll continue to evaluate them as they go."
As for what he and the rest of the staff is looking for with the quarterbacks, Fickell listed confidence and leadership as the main traits.
"You can lead in different ways," he said. "You don't have to be the vocal guy, but you've got to have confidence. You've got to exude confidence. Guys have to believe in you, and I think that's the thing we're trying to develop.
"They all have the ability. We've just got to make sure and see who's going to fit the program and what we do well the best."
Fickell was also asked about his newest assistant: former Fickell teammate at OSU Mike Vrabel, the Buckeyes' new linebackers coach. The three-time Super Bowl champion was among the most vocal people on the field, making his presence known right away to his new linebackers.
"He fit in just fine, I'm sure," Fickell said. "You could see that the guys take to him. The coaches have taken to him.
"But we're not trying to focus on any one person or any one player or any one coach. It's not about me. We're just going to continue to talk about the team."
Sticking with the linebackers, Fickell was asked if he had any concerns about depth at that position. In addition to losing Crowell, the linebackers were without Jonathan Newsome and Dorian Bell. Newsome recently transferred to Ball State, while Bell was suspended for the entire season during the offseason and was also rumored to be leaving Ohio State. Bell was not listed on the fall camp roster given to the media.
"We're going to go with the guys we've got," Fickell said. "I wouldn't even be able to tell you how many exact scholarship guys there are out there. There's guys that aren't on scholarship that I think have the ability to do some things and help us out. We'll go with the guys that we've got and we're excited about those guys."
Finally, Fickell briefly addressed the absence of wide receiver James Louis, who is reportedly looking to transfer. Louis did not check into the team hotel during the weekend and was not at practice.
"Louis is not here right now," Fickell said. "Anything beyond that we'll figure out when it's all cleared up."
The Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic product is reportedly transferring and is looking at four schools in Florida as potential destinations.
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