With Frost Out, Nicol Moves To Starting Role

Sophomore tight end Rory Nicol was a popular interview subject at Thursday's Ohio State media day. Nicol is projected to move into the starting lineup in the wake of the one-year suspension to starting tight end Marcel Frost. Click this link for more.

Reporters huddled around Ohio State sophomore tight end Rory Nicol at Thursday's media day.

The reason? The one-year suspension to listed starting tight end Marcel Frost announced on Wednesday suddenly made the 6-5, 250-pound Nicol the apparent starter.

Nicol, who missed last season with a broken foot, said Frost's suspension caught him and the rest of his OSU teammates by complete surprise.

"We had no inclination," Nicol said. "Marcel was in meetings with us. Coach Tressel addressed the team and his statement was close to what he released to the media, that it was a violation of athletic department policy and he wouldn't be with us.

"It's tough. For me, I get bumped up, per se. But for me, it's a loss. It's competition that's not here any more. I don't know that this is something I'm happy about."

Nicol, a native of Beaver, Pa., caught a handful of passes as a true freshman in 2004. He was Ryan Hamby's backup at that time. Now, everybody is looking to Nicol to be the go-to guy at tight end.

"I'm a lot more confident on the field running with the first group," he said. "I feel stronger than I have ever been and I feel lighter than I have ever been at the same time. That experience I had as a freshman can only help me. I'm just looking to get better every day and use the talents I have to free up some guys outside. We want to be a dominant running offense as well."

Nicol discussed some of his attributes as a tight end.

"I think I'm pretty well rounded," he said. "I'm average size. It's not like I am a 270-pound guy who can't run. I take a lot of pride in blocking. The glory of catching the ball and scoring touchdowns is nice as well. I think my game can be increased dramatically. I have a lot of room to grow."

Nicol's first career touchdown catch came against Iowa in 2004. The throw came from Troy Smith, who went on after that game to nail down the starting quarterback job.

"Troy and I have always had a close bond," Nicol said. "Troy's tough on me. He's a great leader and he does not accept mistakes. I'm in that role where mistakes are not acceptable at this point. For me, personally, Troy has been great."

In the spring, there was talk that Nicol and Frost would play in some two-tight end sets. Nicol was asked if Frost's absence will impact the offense.

"I don't think this will change anything dramatically," he said. "We may have thought we had that type of talent to (play two tight ends). But with the explosive weapons we have, we have guys who are incredible. For us as tight ends, we just need to be more of a factor. We need to be involved in the receiving game and help those guys outside."

Nicol said he worked hard to come back from the foot injury, so he is confident in his conditioning as he faces this challenge.

"I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders when I got hurt," he said. "Is it added pressure? No, not really, because I think I have worked hard to get back and I feel like I had a great summer. It's not going to change anything I'm going to do. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

Nicol is joined at tight end by sophomore Brandon Smith and a pair of true freshmen, Jake Ballard and Andy Miller. He said the coaches have not moved anybody in to the tight end spot yet to compensate for Frost's loss.

"We haven't moved anybody," he said. "We're confident in who we have right now. Maybe that will happen down the line, but nothing has changed."

Nicol said the newcomers, Ballard and Miller, have come in ready to play.

"Ohio State is an offense that loves to run power," he said. "Those are big kids. Obviously, right now their heads are spinning. They're getting back into the groove with football and the coaches are throwing a lot at them. When get out there and they play, they have a lot of heart. They are big kids who can block. Once they start to understand concepts in the receiving game, they have both shown athleticism to say they will be involved."

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