Grid Staff Moves On To Position Discussions

Now that the class of 2009 has been signed, sealed and delivered, the Ohio State coaching staff moves on to decide where each of the 25 players will play to begin their Buckeye careers. The debates, sometimes spirited, aren't always easy when recruiting a class that had so many players experience such success on each side of the ball.

Now that the war of recruiting the class of 2009 is over, the real battle for the Ohio State coaching staff begins.

In fact, it started last Wednesday when the fax machine started to light up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. As the Buckeye staff collected signatures that signified success after months of hard work, the next question started to pop up: Where are they going to play these guys?

A number of the prospects played on both offense and defense in high school, meaning that discussions amongst the coaching staff on which side of the ball those players will play have already begun.

"The first thing you look at is where they can play most, where they can most help the team," said linebackers coach Luke Fickell. "And then you have to look and see where their heart is because if their heart is not in playing linebacker or their heart is not in being a fullback, they're not going to be as successful as they want to be."

Over the years, certain trends have emerged as the coaches have tried to figure out where to best put their newest athletes.

The most pronounced of those trends includes the movement of players from defensive back to wide receiver, which has earned wideouts coach and assistant head coach Darrell Hazell the reputation as one of the biggest poachers on the staff.

Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez were among the star wideouts who came to Ohio State as defensive backs.

Part of the reason Hazell has earned that reputation is because of how the staff approaches the position.

"We like to have our corners and receivers come in and play a little bit of both in preseason and find out where they'll be, kind of like Gonzo and Teddy and Chris Gamble and those guys," head coach Jim Tressel said. "We'll see what fits them and what our needs are."

This year, a couple of players that fit the bill could be going either way. Corey Brown of Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway enters as a defensive back after starring at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a receiver, so his future could be on either side of the ball.

Hazell does welcome in three wideouts in the class, but two decommitments in the secondary late in the game could mean that one of those receivers – Tressel mentioned Painesville (Ohio) Harvey star Chris Fields by name – could swap sides of the field.

If Tressel's words are any indication, the liveliest discussion so far took place between Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman over early enrollee Adam Homan, who excelled at both fullback and linebacker at Coldwater, Ohio.

"I had to separate Coach Fickell and Coach Bollman this morning as they were having a spirited discussion about Adam," Tressel said while showing the media film of the former state champion on signing day.

Tressel's brother, Dick, made his feelings known about the situation later.

"Coach Fickell is greedy," the running backs coach said with a smile. "He's going to be a fullback. Mark my words."

Other players who could be undergoing a switcheroo include linemen Adam Bellamy of Aurora, Ohio, and Corey Linsley of Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman, who enter as defensive and offensive linemen respectively, and linebacker Zach Boren, who could be a fullback if the need arises.

Those are just speculation, though, because Bollman wouldn't elaborate when asked which players might have their futures discussed in the team meeting room.

"I probably shouldn't because I don't know if some of those guys know if it's been under discussion," an animated Bollman said between guffaws. "I probably shouldn't help you in that regard because I don't want somebody to read the paper and say, ‘Did you see what Coach Bollman said?'"

The responses of Dick Tressel and Bollman show that the coaching staff doesn't take the whole situation too seriously, and of course, the player himself has some say in the matter.

"Most of the kids' hearts are in playing," Fickell said. "We're much more into the idea to give them a little bit more of the say and see where their heart lies. A lot of the time where their heart lies, they have a better attitude and a lot more energy."

One thing the team will try to avoid is moving guys simply for the sake of moving guys unless injuries or other personnel matters force their hands.

"You can't decide whether a guy can do it or not too quickly," Dick Tressel said. "You want to put them in a line where they can get the most practice repetitions, let them get on the field and do something so you can see what they do best, and then it usually works itself out."


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