Withers, Fickell Share Similar Paths

Ohio State co-defensive coordinators Everett Withers and Luke Fickell already share a common bond having gone through similar situations during the course of the past six months. That bond, Withers hopes, will be the perfect start to what turns out to be the rejuvenation of the Buckeyes defense.

Everett Withers was formally introduced as Ohio State's new co-defensive coordinator Thursday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, a rather non-dramatic beginning to a new job when compared to what he went through at North Carolina during the previous year.

Withers had just completed a year as the Tar Heels interim head coach, guiding the team to a 7-5 regular season record after Butch Davis was fired during an NCAA investigation into the program.

Given Ohio State just finished 12 months with similar circumstances, a reporter found it relevant to ask Withers about the rigors of taking over the job two weeks before the commencement of the regular season.

"Eight days," Withers interrupted.

Promoted to head coach for the first time in his career, Withers, 48, found himself in the same boat as Luke Fickell over six months before the two knew they'd be united as colleagues on Ohio State's defensive staff.

Fickell, who took over at Ohio State on May 30 after Jim Tressel was fired for his role in NCAA scandal, also was unexpectedly promoted to head coach. Like Withers, it was the first time Fickell had been anything other than a defensive assistant in his career.

Fickell, revered for keeping the program afloat in perhaps the darkest year in Ohio State sports history, went 6-6 during the regular season. Revered by Buckeyes fans for keeping the program afloat after being thrown to the fire in the last minute, Fickell had nearly two months more than Withers to prepare for the opportunity.

"I learned for 18 months that kids are resilient," sad Withers, reflecting on what he learned during his brief tenure as a head coach. "They are just looking for somebody to coach them and love them and teach them how to be good people off the field."

Perhaps the real testament to resiliency is what Withers and Fickell have gone through.

They would lying if they said they didn't hope to remain in the positions they held after seasons with the interim head coach tags, but instead they'll share the title of co-defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Staying true to his word, Meyer assembled one of the most impressive defensive staffs in the country with Withers and Fickell – head coaching candidates at other programs – presiding over the Buckeyes defense.

Withers has no regrets for the way things eventually turned out. As far as he's concerned, he landed back on his feet after one of the most trying years in his 24 seasons as a football coach.

Fickell assuredly shares the same thought process.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity to actually being in a meeting room and coaching," Withers said, already moving on from the experience at North Carolina. "I don't know all the circumstances that Coach Fickell went through, but I have to imagine there were some similarities in all of it.

"I thought he did an unbelievable job this year and when you look at someone who has done it and you've gone through it, obviously there's a bond in there. One day when we get some down time we will have an opportunity to talk about it I'm sure."

The focus for the defensive coordinators now is to hit the recruiting trail for the next three weeks with the hopes of finishing off Ohio State's 2012 class strong. Then it is directly to the drawing board to keep the tradition of a bruising defensive unit at Ohio State alive.

Withers isn't concerned with differences within the defensive philosophies, saying the things he is most concerned with – stopping the run, playing well in the red zone, and coming up big on third downs – are values shared by Fickell.

"I am just trying to add ideas to what is being done here and to be able to help being another guy with creativity in a room," Withers said. "I think creativity is good on a staff.

If there is some way to get us off the field on third down that maybe Luke hadn't done in the past, I don't feel bashful about bringing it up. Whether we use it or not will be seen, but just the opportunity to bring other ideas."

The major differences Withers sees at this point is communication and language within the defensive scheme, something he can't wait to iron out with Fickell once the recruiting season comes to a close.

Withers sees Ohio State's base defense as a 4-3 like it has been in the recent years, but it will remain flexible with the LEO position that allows the Buckeyes to revert to three down defensive linemen for better coverage in pass situations.

"We have a lot of similar ideas," Withers said, "As we met a while back when I had a chance to sit down with him, there are a lot of similar philosophies. I don't think it is going to be hard at all. We will be up and running really fast."

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