Fickell Not Expecting Many Changes

With preparations for a season-opening contest with Akron nearly complete, Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell met with the media one more time Thursday to give injury updates as well as talk about what traditions he expects to continue this season.

What Luke Fickell will wear when he leads the Ohio State football team onto the field Saturday at Ohio Stadium against Akron remains a mystery, but the head coach of the Buckeyes confirmed fans can look forward to most of the traditions they are used to remaining intact.

That includes the relatively new tradition of signing the school alma mater in the south end zone with the marching band and fans. The practice is the brainchild of former head coach Jim Tressel and began in 2001.

"The seniors did speeches and the coaches did a speech like the seniors do in our camp, and my favorite Buckeye tradition is singing ‘Carmen Ohio' at the end of the game," said Fickell, a Columbus native who played defensive line at Ohio State from 1992-96. "I told them I don't think I knew any words to it when I was in school other than ‘O-hi-o', and (now) everyone of my kids can sing it from probably the time they are 4 years old on.

"It's been one of my favorite traditions not only to be with the players but with my family as well."

With the team coming off a tumultuous offseason that included Tressel's exit in the wake of an NCAA scandal, a reporter wondered if this will be an extra emotional opener when the Buckeyes on the Zips, but Fickell said no.

"Our emotions have been good. Our energy has been good. Focus is something we're always going to harp on them about, but these guys are extremely excited," Fickell said. "I don't know that it's any more than any other year, but I know that with all the other things that have gone on they're excited to go out and perform."

The Buckeyes head into the noon contest relatively healthy. While sophomore running back Jaamal Berry (hamstring) remains questionable, linebacker Etienne Sabino (hand) is expected to play.

"There are still some guys who are on that bubble of ‘probable', the same ones as Tuesday, but I don't think there is anything new," Fickell said.

There are no potential academic casualties on the horizon, either.

"This is the first time in a while we haven't been worried about anybody summer-school-wise that anything could pop up," he said.

While there has not been much talk about the NCAA problems during preseason camp, practice observers noticed vocal contributions from some of the players facing suspensions to start the year - DeVier Posey, Boom Herron, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting. Fickell said he has been impressed with how they have handled themselves.

"I think those guys have been able to rally together," he said. "They have really done an unbelievable job in helping us out and doing what we've asked them to do."

They will be allowed to spend Friday night with the team at the hotel but cannot be on the sidelines for games.

"Friday nights we have freshmen, guys who aren't on the travel list - it's pretty much open," Fickell said. "Not that it's the team meals, but at the hotel, watching a movie at night, that's pretty much open to anybody on the team."

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