OSU Finds Clarity, Focusing On Football

The Ohio State football team's sub-par results on the field in 2011 came after focusing on other things off of it. With the hiring of Urban Meyer and the newfound clarity of the future, the Buckeyes admitted it is nice to finally be able to focus solely on football.

Ohio State wasn't the same place in Michael Brewster's final season, even if he wasn't willing to admit it while it has happening.

In Friday evening's practice, the Buckeyes' first preparation for the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl against Florida, things started to feel more like they used to in Brewster's first three seasons with the Buckeyes.

"I feel like maybe at times, even for myself, it was very tense this year and there was a lot of pressure," Brewster said. "I felt like today (in practice) it was loose, guys were flying around. We have nothing to lose and we are just laying it on the line."

The mood was likely altered because the uncertainty of the program's future no longer remained with the hiring of Urban Meyer, who had addressed the team long before the Buckeyes took the field to prepare for the bowl.

For the first time in almost a year, Ohio State could focus solely on football.

"You always want clarity," said Luke Fickell, who will remain on Meyer's staff after serving as Ohio State's coach this season. "The young guys, the most important thing for them is to have some clarity. When you've got some clarity of what the future looks like, you can start to move forward."

Though Meyer has already began the hiring process – he brought in former Iowa State assistant Tom Herman to be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach – Fickell will remain Ohio State's head coach through the bowl game.

That provides some stability for a Buckeyes team that has grown used to playing for Fickell, even if there still some uncertainty for which assistants will stay through the bowl or leave for other opportunities.

Off-the-field distractions that plagued Ohio State for months, whether it was Fickell's uncertain job security, pending NCAA sanctions, or even rumors of potential candidates to take over the program are no longer a relevant.

"You can stop listening to the rumors and you can stop having your mind wander," Fickell said. "It is still not an easy situation because there are a lot of great people that aren't going to be here, but that's a part of life.

"I think for our guys, you can see it out there (in practice). They want to get back out there. They want to play football. They're excited about what there is to come."

With just two over two weeks remaining in the seniors careers, all that's left is the opportunity to win one final game as a Buckeye.

After enduring six losses this season, which Brewster admitted was a hit to his ego after becoming accustomed to winning the Big Ten and advancing to a BCS game, Ohio State has one final opportunity to leave a winning legacy.

Senior tackle Mike Adams said it feels good to finally devote his entire attention to the game.

"We are really excited about the game," Adams said of the Gator Bowl. "You have two great teams, traditionally, that didn't have the seasons we hoped to have. It is going to be intense and getting a win in this one would be a good way to go out here."

Dating back to Brewster's recruiting process he always said he wanted to leave Ohio State a better program than it was before he ever became a Buckeye.

In his first three seasons – all of which were capped off with conference championships and two BCS bowl wins – he looked to be on track. In his final season, however, that hope seemed to be in question.

With a win in the Gator Bowl and the future with Meyer, Brewster feels as if he can leave Ohio State having kept his promise.

"He is a great coach and he has proven that everywhere he's been," Brewster said of Meyer. "He's won, and that's how you're judged - wins and losses. It is weird seeing him around here after seeing him in Florida, but I think at heart he has always been a Buckeye.

"I think the program is in good hands. It can only go up from here."

Extra Points

• Fickell said he wasn't sure which assistants would remain on staff through the bowl game, especially because there are other pursuable opportunities for staff members that won't be retained by Meyer.

Andrew Sweat said he was close to healthy. He got fitted for an elbow brace and will wear it Monday when he practices in a full capacity. Sweat said his head is completely back to full health and it would have been good enough to go against Michigan, but in practice he suffered an injury to his elbow and finger within an hour of one another.

• Fickell said he the expectations he had in place for this year were very high. He said he didn't get it done and understands there is change because of it.

• Fickell wouldn't address what his position will be under Meyer. Whether he will be named the defensive coordinator is up for Meyer to say. Fickell said they've had great conversations when on the road recruiting. He also said he's felt comfortable with where he is with Meyer and that's why he is here.

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