The 37-year-old head coach mentioned late last week that his true happiness was finding himself out on the field with his team preparing them for the opener that now looms only weeks away.
There's a lot going on in fall camp this month, whether it be the intense quarterback battle or the vast amount of talent the Buckeyes are in need of replacing.
Ohio State kicked off its second week of fall camp this Monday and BSB was at practice Tuesday morning to take everything in.
Following is a breakdown of observations and notes from the Buckeyes' latest practice session.
Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller separate from group — Fickell may have a defensive mind, but there's no question he understands that his success as a first-year head coach will likely hinge on who wins the quarterback battle. Who Fickell and the rest of the coaching staff feels comfortable leading the team this year seems to have gotten clearer this week, as both Bauserman and the highly-touted Miller received the majority of the reps at quarterback in practice Tuesday morning.
Bauserman continued to work primarily with the first team — the place in which he spent the entirety of spring ball — and threw some impressive passes through coverage. Though Bauserman has suffered with the consistency of his throws this fall, he asserted himself with a confidence he hadn't often showed in the past. Perhaps the biggest thing that keeps Bauserman a viable option, aside from the fact that he is the oldest quarterback on the roster, is that he's somewhat mobile and can avoid incoming rushers. Though he still has quite a ways to go to hold of Miller, the coaching staff made a statement by keeping him in the position with the apparent shift in the quarterback hierarchy.
But the biggest testament to the move is definitely where Miller is practicing, particularly because he jumped over two quarterbacks that have been in the program for more than a year. Miller proved that his ability was more than just fan-far and hype, as he's incredible elusiveness and ability to make plays with his legs have him in a position to potentially be the first freshman quarterback to kick off the season as the team's starter at Ohio State since Art Schlichter. Like Bauserman, Miller showed a confidence in calmness in the pocket that wasn't quite as vibrant last week.
The battle is still premature, and Taylor Graham and Kenny Guiton aren't quite out of the picture, but the battle seems like Miller has all the momentum and Bauserman is in the position to try and hold off the talented freshman. One thing's for sure — the coaching staff needs to make a quick decision and it looks like they're on their way.
What is holding back Graham? — It's quite possible that Graham has the strongest arm on the team. And from what we've heard about him during the summer, the redshirt freshman has a vast understanding of Ohio State's intricate playbook. However, he took the least amount of reps on Tuesday and that's likely because he is by far the most incapable of avoiding pressure.
Much like former quarterback Todd Boeckman did in his final season with the Buckeyes, Graham has all the tools you'd expect out of a successful quarterback. But given Ohio State has three other options at the position that are capable of moving to a certain extent, Graham unintentionally forces the Buckeyes to change their philosophy when he's on the field. The son of former Buckeye quarterback Kent Graham, the redshirt freshman seems to be falling behind the pack. The only good news is that he's still young and could find an opportunity down the line if this year isn't his chance.
Orhian Johnson not going anywhere — It was a popular pick during the summer for a position battle upset — Johnson losing his job to Christian Bryant. However, Johnson has seemed to take the next step with this team in terms of his role, which seemed to start in his inclusion on the trip to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days. While that wasn't an indication of how he plays, there seems to be a confidence in Johnson that has lacked in the past.
Johnson now has the mentality of a veteran with experience and he has led the defense as such. Though Bryant was on the field for a good portion of time on Tuesday at the star with Tyler Moeller out with a minor injury, Johnson is coming on strong and is the favorite to hold his job. He is a different type of defensive back — long, rangy, and completely improved in his coverage skills. That difference from the other bodies in the defensive backfield makes him an attractive option for the Buckeyes. Johnson may have had his best practice as a Buckeye Tuesday and Bryant may need to find the field in a different avenue.
Storm Klein hanging in the battle — When Ohio State is in the base defense, Etienne Sabino moves over to the strongside linebacker spot and Klein stays at middle linebacker. When the Buckeyes are playing in the nickel — the defense the program runs roughly 75 percent of the time or more — Sabino rotated with Klein as the one who stayed on the field.
Though Sabino took a redshirt year last year to continue to grow mentally, it is quite possible that he could be beaten out again — this time by the promising Klein his cracked the two-deep as a freshman. Either way both linebackers are set to start in the base, but Sabino hasn't quite won the job of staying on the field when Ohio State is in its nickel package. That's a battle to keep an eye on.
Carlos Hyde making a statement — Going to high school in Florida, Hyde had access to the beach. Ironically enough, it was his time training in the sand this summer that may be the biggest key to his ability to crack the running back rotation. With his incredible progression with his speed, Hyde is running just as well — if not better — than any other back on the team at this point. He continues to run the ball with authority, but his newfound elusiveness could be the step he needed to take. Whatever he did in the summer is paying off, as he's stood out just as much as anyone this fall.
— Today there were two new additions to the group working off to the side with injuries - Tyler Moeller and Nate Williams. They didn't look to be particularly hurt in terms of seriousness, but both were off to the side with yellow jerseys. Jeremy Cash and Solomon Thomas also were still off to the side with the group as well.
— Senior wide receiver DeVier Posey was wearing a yellow injury jersey, but he was still partaking in the drills. He didn't participate in other contact drills.
— DerJuan Gambrell got somewhat banged up during practice and he limped off to the side. Again, it didn't seem like anything too serious.
— Perhaps the most impressive defensive lineman today was big Johnathan Hankins. Though defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said after practice that he needed to drop some weight, I think it is clear that people are having a hard time blocking him.
— Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke continued to rotate with the first team opposite Travis Howard. Didn't see much of Dionte Allen, though. Howard seemed to tweak his ankle and was held out for a portion of the second half of practice.