(For personnel updates, check BuckeyeSports.com)
For about the 100th time, he said they know the offense needs balance and they have to figure out some more ways to move the ball through the air to keep pressure off the running game. The game situation compounded troubles last week as they had to go into the wind to start the game, but they have to deal with it, whether that means more short throws, screen passes or draws.
Youngsters are usually resilient and the team seemed upbeat Sunday after the loss. They showed passion to improve.
Asked about the tight end’s role in the offense, he seemed to be referring to the passing game as a whole when he said sometimes guys have to get open and other times the quarterback doesn’t see them when they are open.
He wouldn’t say if DeVier Posey will start this week with his suspension over, but he acknowledged they hope to get a mental boost from his presence in the same way Boom Herron brought something extra to the huddle. The team seems to respect the way he handled himself during his time out. He hopes the rest of the huddle can feed off his confidence.
Fickell can’t control how the crowd will react to the players who were in trouble with the NCAA when they are acknowledged on senior day, but he hopes they will praise them. They paid the price and handled themselves well, even if not all of that is seen by the public.
Ryan Shazier did a good job filling in for injured senior linebacker Andrew Sweat last week. He ran around and made some things happen even though he made some mistakes.
He said to judge the Ohio State seniors playing their last game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday by their body of work, not just their final season even though he told them earlier that everyone is remembered first by their senior year. There will be time to worry about legacies later. They have battled through a lot and he has a lot of respect for them. They have handled everything the coaching staff has asked of them in the past six months.
Asked about the coaching staff considering its own fate, he acknowledged it is not easy operating within such uncertainty but no one said life is fair. As an example, he pointed out former quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels is fighting cancer, something he certainly never did anything to deserve. Adversity is part of life and they have to continue to move forward.
He brushed aside a question about his thoughts on playing Penn State without Joe Paterno or Jim Tressel at the game.
He thinks since joining the Big Ten it has been a big bonus to play Penn State every year thanks to all the history and great fans and huge alumni associations of both schools. They are similar on the field, too.
Penn State’s defense excels against the pass and brings pressure with its front four. The whole front seven does a good job of setting the tone for the group. They are always sound and won’t do much to try to confuse anyone.
The Nittany Lion offense is based off being able to run the ball. He was later asked about what different looks each quarterback brings to the game and said they’ll prepare for both the same (PSU subsequently indicated Matt McGloin is the full-time guy for them).
The key for Ohio State to improve its third-down defense is to make plays, but it would help to make sure they can stay out of third-and-short. Tackling is still the No. 1 issue for the defense. They want to put their best 11 tacklers on the field regardless of what positions those guys play. Working on tackling does get tougher later in the season when they have less contact in practices. The staff has to continue to focus on having the defensive players do what they are comfortable with and not more. They have to play hard and be put into situations in which they are most likely to succeed.
He said he has never had the intention of putting his stamp on the program but just planned to stay true to what it has always been about and what is best for it.
Boom Herron said it is kind of sad he will be playing his last home game, but he always gets emotional when he plays at Ohio Stadium.
He said Posey is definitely a leader on the team. It will be good to get him back with the rest of the guys. He expects Posey to jump right into the mix and make plays. It will be hard for him to hold back everything he is feeling.
Someone asked if the punishments the guys have gotten have been fair, and he just said they learned to make smarter decisions and think before they act. They learned from what they did and were man enough to take the penalties. The length of the penalties are what they are. They can’t be changed now.
He can’t imagine what it would be like to be out so long as Posey has been.
Defensive end Solomon Thomas said the players taped a video message Monday for fans to be respectful to the Penn State players and fans when they are here this weekend. He feels for them and does not wish adversity like that on anyone. He recalls a lot of the Ohio State players having a lot of respect for Joe Paterno and wanting to shake his hand on the field in 2009 when the Buckeyes were at Happy Valley.
PSU tailback Silas Redd is a shifty back who is good at seeing cut-back lanes. He’s patient and reminds Thomas of Evan Royster.
Senior Day is going to be amazing for him. His mother will be in from San Diego and it will be her first football game. She doesn’t know anything about the sport.
He is amazed by what Michael Bennett is able to do as a freshman considering how long he has personally had to wait to be a contributor. Bennett reminds him some of Cameron Heyward. He has a knack for rushing the passer and getting to the football.
If two freshmen are starting on defense – Bennett and Ryan Shazier – that won’t bother him. They can handle it.
Center Mike Brewster said his career has been a great journey even with the hard times this year. He would not do anything different.
He hopes to get J.B. Shugarts back on the field this week. He practiced some Tuesday. Jack Mewhort did a good job filling in for him at Purdue.
Running into a stacked box is a challenge but they have to grind and figure out how to make it work anyway.
Penn State is having a good year on defense, so the Buckeyes need to be on point.
His heart goes out to the people who have suffered in the Penn State situation.
He was asked if it would be easier to run from the spread and replied he wasn’t sure. (Odd question because they’ve run the ball fine in the power sets. It’s the passing game that’s been a problem…)
Purdue had a safety as the extra man in the box, something Penn State will probably do, and he hopes Posey can be a presence who helps them get that to change.
Safeties coach and assistant defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Penn State is always physical and wants to establish the run. They have good wide receivers and a quarterback who is playing well. The receivers are big and have good speed. The safeties have to maintain eye control to avoid giving up the big play to a guy like Derek Moye.
He thinks the Nittany Lions will feel comfortable once they get on the field and be ready to play, not overwhelmed by emotion from the scandal taking place there.
He is not worried the planned pregame handshake could take some of the juice out of the team like some think it did before they played Navy a couple of years ago. There should be plenty of emotion because the teams play regularly and have developed a rivalry. Penn State is always a big game, and the Buckeyes could be more focused coming off a loss.
The OSU players do not feel added pressure because of the unknown future the coaches face. Once they are in the football facility, it is all about work. The players might hear it outside the facilities, and that might be hard, but overall it’s not a big deal. They’ll play their best football regardless.
The loss of five scholarships over the next three years probably won’t change their general approach to recruiting. They’ll see down the road how they have to adjust things.
They will miss Andrew Sweat’s leadership on Saturday, but he has been helping Ryan Shazier, who will start in his place at linebacker. Shazier is a playmaker, and he flashes a lot when he’s out there. He is fast, but he needs to get bigger for the position. he is electric and they expect him to know what to do and be productive.
Haynes said Johnathan Hankins should be ready to go this week after suffering a knee injury last week at Purdue. Hankins is important to the defense because he is a playmaker like John Simon. They can dominate up front, and that’s where games like this one are won.
He thinks the presence of DeVier Posey could change the way Penn State approaches them defensively.
Penn State will try to lull a team to sleep with the running game then hit a big play over the top.
He is discouraged to see the pre-snap miscommunication that led to an open receiver on the third-and-12 that set up the Boilermakers’ game-winning touchdown in overtime last week. It was hard to take because he preaches about it all the time. Being young is no excuse. It is an unfortunate learning experience. They need to match up with the WRs when the quarterback scrambles.
Tight ends coach John Peterson said defensive linemen Devon Still and Jack Crawford are good players for them. Still is powerful and explosive, a bona fide Big Ten defensive lineman who can cause havoc inside.
OSU offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts has practiced this week, but his playing status remains unknown.
Braxton Miller has been very careful with the ball as a freshman starting quarterback, and they understand his game will expand as he understands more. Peterson recalled seeing Miller throw the ball all over the place in the state championship game last season in the snow in Canton.
He hopes the seniors have learned a lot in their time at Ohio State and can leave with a degree and some rings.