Snyder, Ohio State's defensive coordinator since January 2004 and an assistant under Tressel since he arrived here in 2001, was introduced Thursday as the new head coach at his alma mater, Marshall.
The hiring was not a huge surprise, especially since Tressel made calls on Snyder's behalf to recommend him for the job.
So when it came to pass, Tressel made one phone call to former OSU defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, now with the Cleveland Browns. When Tucker said the time was not right to jump back to Ohio State, Tressel wasted no time: He elevated defensive line coach/assistant head coach Jim Heacock into the coordinator's role and declared that former OSU defensive lineman and linebackers coach Luke Fickell would be the co-coordinator.
Heacock has been a member of the Ohio State staff since 1996. He coached the defensive tackles his first four years before being given responsibility for the entire defensive front in 2000. He was named assistant head coach prior to the start of last season. Heacock is a native of Alliance, Ohio and a 1970 graduate of Muskingum College.
Fickell is in his fourth year at Ohio State. He joined the OSU staff in 2002 as special team coordinator. In 2004, he also took over the linebackers. Fickell is a native of Columbus and a 1997 graduate of Ohio State. He was a four-year starter at nose guard for the Buckeyes between 1993 and 1996 and started a school-record 50 consecutive games.
"This is an exciting day for Mark Snyder obviously," Tressel said. "He's got a chance to be a head coach at a Conference USA program. It's flattering for us that he would look here for their head coach, and Mark will do a great job.
"It's also an important day for us to decide what we had to do and move forward. In our minds, the most important thing was to make sure that we carry on and let this returning group on defense go like they've been going."
It was no surprise that Tressel made the call to gauge Tucker's interest.
"Really, we only looked in two directions," he said. "One was that maybe Mel Tucker would have some interest being back in college football, but he was just too committed to what he's doing there. The timing would not allow that.
"The other thing we looked at was the one that we did, which was to have Jim Heacock step up and take the coordinator position and Luke Fickell step up to take the co-coordinator position. And when we have a chance, we'll go out and find the best fourth person to be on our defensive staff."
Heacock was pleased with the decision.
"Jim Heacock's reaction was what it has always been, was that he will do whatever is best for the team," Tressel said.
"I'm happy," Heacock added. "I've been here nine years and worked with some good coordinators and some good players. I didn't really expect it. I'm really honored to get this opportunity. I'm excited and anxious to get started. We have a long way to go -- 218 days until Michigan. We've got a lot of work to do."
Fickell talked about the players' reaction to the moves.
"They know Coach Heacock and I don't care about anything (but winning)," Fickell said. "We care about them. We care about this program. I think that's what they really respect."
Fickell, who played on the defensive line for Heacock at Ohio State, said there has been no discussion of him moving to the defensive line spot.
"I'm a D-lineman by heart," Fickell said. "But the only thing I said was, `Coach, I'll do whatever you want.' People asked if I had this planned at this age. My only goal when I got into coaching was I wanted to be at Ohio State. That is still my goal."
It appears that the Buckeyes will wrap up spring drills with the Scarlet and Gray Game April 23 before Tressel gets to work on filling the gap on his coaching staff.
"One thing I've asked Jim and Luke and (secondary coach) Paul (Haynes) to do is think about some guys they have great respect for from the defensive standpoint," Tressel said. "I need to visit with (athletic director Gene) Smith tomorrow as he comes in and talk about ‘How are we going to go about these things?'
"Fortunately, we have attracted guys with a good track record. It's a little bit of a different time. We need to be sensitive to that and it has to be the right fit at that moment."
Tressel said that even Heacock agreed that the first call should have been to Tucker, who was the co-coordinator with Snyder this past year.
"The first time I talked to Jim about it, I said, `What are the things we should consider?' " Tressel said. "(Calling Tucker) was one of the first things he mentioned. He was just with the family a minute ago and we've been talking to him almost every other day about things in general – what he's been learning and what he can teach us. I always talk to my guys about what my issues are. I always say whoever ends up in the job was my first day."
Tressel discussed the talks with Tucker.
"We talked about what is the best scenario for all of us," Tressel said. "He is very committed to Romeo (Crennel) and Phil Savage and to the time. It was almost a thing where he said, `I don't think I can consider this at this time, so don't tempt me' type thing. I'm sure if Mel could get himself into two bodies right now he would love it. But that's not the way the world works. Timing is everything."
Tressel said the team's seniors were concerned about uprooting what could be a strong defense.
"It's been the last two or three days that we thought that was going to happen," Tressel said. "The players were aware. I always ask my guys for input. I don't know that I asked them for specific names. But I would say that the input and the feeling I got from guys like Bobby (Carpenter) and A.J. (Hawk) and Marcus Green was `We're not going to make a bunch of changes are we?' Of course not because we believe in what they do and what our coaches do."
Regarding the responsibilities for Heacock and Fickell, Tressel said, "We will try to divide up responsibilities and experiences, kind of like we did with Mark and Mel. We think for the organization that's been a good thing.
"We've got to be very aggressive, go after people and be great tacklers. We want to be the type of group where offense over there have to say, `What if they do this?' or `How are we going to block that?' We have to be a defense that understands that every week you'll face a different set of problems. We need a great ability to adjust."
Heacock was asked what his marching orders are as he takes this job.
"There's no question what my marching orders are," he said. "It's not like we need to change anything with the defense or with the staff. We just need to keep doing what we do. My marching orders are to continue doing what we're doing and hopefully get better. That's what we're going to try and do."
When asked if he will tweak the defense, he replied, "I think everything we'll do will be to play it better. We'll try to do it the right way, get back to some basics and fundamentals and run to the ball. Coach Tressel's philosophy on defense is to keep it simple and do things the right way and give great effort.
"This group certainly has the potential. We have a lot of work to do to get where we want to get and where our seniors want to get. I think it's important to our kids. They have a lot of things they want to accomplish. It's important to them that we don't make a lot of changes and change their philosophy or techniques."
Heacock said he may be the coordinator, but it will still be a team effort.
"Game day will be a little bit different," he said. "There is a little bit more at stake when your name is on it. The nice thing about Jim Tressel's football team is our staff has always been together and I've never felt like we have a coordinator, and I don't think we do now. We'll work together as a staff and hash things out and fight it out in that room and make decisions we think our best for the team. It's not like any one guy is more valuable. We're all just trying to do our job."
Heacock has been a fixture on the sideline during his OSU tenure. But he recognizes he may be most effective in the press box.
"That's something we would have to talk about. I think it's hard to call the defense on the sideline," he said. "Luke and I will talk that out. We'll try and do a good job of game planning and have a pretty good idea going in what the calls are going to be and try to get the calls in early so they can play football.
"You have so many multiple offenses now. It used to be two backs, a tight end and two wide receivers would run on the field. You'd line up and call the defense. But now everybody is running multiple offensive schemes with multiple personnel groupings. You may have one back, two backs or no backs. They may come out in a spread or in two tight ends. With all that change, you have to multiple game plans. You need to know who is in the game to make the correct calls.
"I think there is a lot going on down on the field. You need to be in a little bit of a setting where you can make decisions."
Heacock discussed what he and Tressel will be looking for in a new assistant.
"I think what we'll look for is the best coach we can get," he said. "There are a lot of things we could do with our staff. Luke could change and coach another position possibly. But I haven't given that a lot of thought. I know Coach Tressel will try and do is hire the best guy he can get, a guy who will come in and fit into our group and understand that we're a team and try to contribute to what we're trying to do."
Heacock admitted he was surprised that Tressel tapped him, even nodding when asked if he felt more like a draftee or a volunteer.
"I wasn't really expecting that," he said. "But when he said it, my reaction was `If you think it's best for this team, I'd be glad to do it.' It worked out and the timing was good. I think he did what he thought was best for this group of players. It's up to us to get it going."
More Notables, Quotables
* Fickell credited Heacock for going to bat for him to get him the co-coordinator title.
"Coach Heacock and Coach Tressel kind of made up this decision," Fickell said. "It was probably Coach Heacock getting me into the mix with this as much as anything. He hasn't mentioned to me what he wants to do.
"It made me feel good in the sense that Coach Tressel has some faith in me and Coach Heacock has some faith in me. Titles and things, like Coach Heacock said, we don't care about that. We all want what's best. Hopefully, we're all competitive and that will be what drives us."
* Where OSU has lost assistants to the NFL (Tucker and Tim Spencer) and other college head coaching jobs (Snyder and Mark Dantonio), Fickell believes he and Heacock are at OSU for the long haul.
"I think the biggest difference about us is this is where we really, really want to be," Fickell said. "That could be maybe because he is a little bit older and set in his ways. I don't think he has an agenda. I don't have an agenda. Personally, I don't have any desire to be in the NFL. This is where I wanted to be as a coach, to get here, and it's the best thing for me and my family."
* Tressel talked about sending his latest coaching protégé into the head coaching ranks with Snyder.
"He came on board with us at YSU when he was 23 years old and he was there seven years," the coach said. "Those are some real growth times in that first seven years of his coaching career. He then got to move to the Big Ten and I knew that (Glen Mason) would take him to the next level. We had a chance to bring him back here, and it was a no-doubter. Just to see him have the chance to reach one of what he always talked about as one of his goals – to be the head coach at his alma mater – it's like a storybook. I'm excited for him and he has been very special to us."
* Regarding spring practice, Tressel said wide receiver Santonio Holmes is slowly coming back from hamstring trouble.
"He's back in non-contact," he said. "He's not out there in team drills."
Any other injuries? Tressel: "Kyle Mitchum has missed some time. He had a little bit of a ding."
* Tressel revealed that Holmes, Hawk and Ted Ginn Jr. were all selected to the Playboy All-American team. They will fly to Arizona for a photo shoot this spring.
"Those are some of the top guys in the country, which is exciting," he said.
* Reporters asked Tressel why he decided to close Sunday's jersey scrimmage.
"There's some secrets going on," he said. "That wishbone that we put in, I just don't want you guys to get a good look at it."