Cleaning out my reporter’s notebook after another week on the beat…
The head coach of the Buckeyes was happy only a couple of guys ended up cramping badly during the win over Akron. Meanwhile, almost 100 people had to be escorted out of the stadium with heat-related problems.
The offense played 79 snaps while the defense had only 49.
He said he was happy to turn on the film and find guys still battling in the fourth quarter. That was what he felt best about coming out of the game.
Both quarterbacks played well not just in the obvious ways people could see – completions, TDs, etc. – but also little things like decisions and demeanor and sideline presence. He liked their competitiveness and leadership and said Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller can expect a similar rotation to what they found last week.
Asked about how the various guys filling in for suspended players performed, he said quite well. He was especially happy with how the tailbacks stepped up with only two – Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith – available.
Fickell saw Toledo head coach Tim Beckman – who was on the Ohio State staff with him as cornerbacks coach in 2006 and ’07 – when he was helping with the Buckeyes’ summer football camps but hasn’t done a very good job of keeping up with him.
Asked if he has evaluated his own performance Saturday, Fickell said not really. He realized he needed to be careful how he balanced his involvement with the defense and keeping tab on what is happening offensively. He made some adjustments at times defensively and was part of the playcalling on defense while making sure he listened to what was being called offensively. He will work on trusting others to do their jobs.
He was glad they could get the freshmen some playing time because that shows them the coaches have confidence in their ability to perform. That’s a big thing for a young guy’s piece of mind.
He was happy with how Hyde and Smith played last week, although Smith must tighten up his ball security. Fickell will make sure they all continue to understand they need to master every task of playing the position, not just running the ball.
In terms of things his team can improve moving forward, Fickell identified tackling, takeaways and many technical things. He wants to see better pass rush as well. The effort was what he was looking for overall from the team.
He got lots of congratulatory messages after the game, and director of athletics Gene Smith gave him the game ball, but Fickell wanted to make sure everything continued to be about the players on the team and their efforts.
The players will be aware of Toledo’s status as a giant killer in the past, and they’ll know the Rockets have a good team that includes a dangerous receiver and kick returner in Eric Page. Fickell does not expect the Rockets to be in awe because a lot of them faced Ohio State two years ago. Toledo’s offense does a great job of keeping people honest, and it has more playmakers and a better offensive line than the typical MAC team.
Fickell said he didn’t watch any of Miami’s loss to Maryland on Monday night, but he did hear from one of the other coaches that someone was wearing “wild uniforms”.
He saw what he expected from Bauserman in terms of confidence and demeanor. Miller did a good job and handled the adversity he faced early in a way that made the coach feel good. Miller didn’t get made about the bad snap or the dropped pass or missing his chance for his second series to come in the second quarter because of when the Buckeyes got the ball back. Bauserman is still one of the guys despite being fairly older than all of them, but he might be the only one who owns his own house.
Someone asked him about the postgame exchange with Akron head coach Rob Ianello that supposedly became a bit heated, but Fickell downplayed it.
He was happy his guys heeded his edict to play hard for four quarters and ignore the score (implying that might have something to do with what could have set off Ianello).
Safety C.J. Barnett wasn’t surprised to see the guys filling in for suspended players play well because Ohio State only recruits good players. They got a chance to prove that.
Toledo is really good and has two good quarterbacks. They like to utilize the quick passing game, and OSU will need to be fundamentally sound. Tackling in space will be important. He knew Toledo beat Michigan a few years ago but wasn’t aware of much of the rest of their history of beating BCS conference teams.
His knee felt fine Saturday, and he even said he feels faster now than before he was hurt. Someone said, “Really?” and he said, “They hooked me up, man,” and everyone laughed.
He pointed out a lot of teams quick-pass them anyway to avoid their defensive line.
He was asked if Christian Bryant and Orhian Johnson were rotating at safety against Akron and said he thought that was the case.
Dominic Clarke also makes those plays in practice, so he wasn’t surprised to see him do it in the games.
Right tackle J.B. Shugarts was already aware of Toledo’s history of success against BCS schools.
He expects an active defensive front from the Rockets, who love to blitz and stunt and twist. They might blitz more than any other team they see this year. On the bright side, Mike Brewster is maybe the best center in the country at recognizing blitzes and making adjustments.
He disputed the idea this is a trap game with Miami coming up next. They know they can’t sleep on Toledo. He did watch Miami on Monday night and saw some good things. He thought they had some younger guys working hard to step up in a tough situation.
Jordan Hall is a great player who is explosive and makes great cuts in the open field.
Linebacker Etienne Sabino played with a pad and a wrap on his broken hand and figures to do that for a few more weeks. He didn’t notice it other than it makes it hard to catch.
The Buckeyes are closer than anyone can understand and they can deal with them.
Both Toledo quarterbacks are dual-threat type guys.
He doesn’t think they will overlook Toledo with Miami on the horizon. He’s been getting grief from Hurricane fans about going to Ohio State ever since he committed back in high school.
The young linebackers played great against Akron last week with Ryan Shazier making plays on defense and Curtis Grant wreaking havoc on kickoffs. He personally had a good game but there is always room for improvement.
The Rockets play at a fast pace and won’t be intimidated. They also have a wildcat formation.
Fickell seemed the same on game day as he did when he was linebackers coach. He was pretty laidback and told them they win with their preparation during the week. Saturday is just the time to let it all out.
He split time about evenly with Storm Klein at MLB. He’s not worried about where he plays as long as he is playing.
Nathan Williams played some Sam linebacker and that fits him well because he is a playmaker and just a natural football player. He could succeed at a variety of positions.
Left guard Jack Mewhort said the team is equally ready to follow both quarterbacks, Bauserman and Miller. They trust the staff to pick the right guy to be back there. Bauserman has stepped up his leadership this year and has a great attitude.
Running backs coach and special teams coordinator Dick Tressel said Jordan Hall will be available Saturday but Hyde will start the game. Hyde earned that with his performance against Akron and his work in practice.
Tressel expects Hall to play well once he gets his chance, but he is excited about what he saw from Hyde and Smith last week. They maintained their focus beyond their years.
He was impressed with the effort on special teams. They weren’t perfect, but the established a good starting point for the rest of the season.
Kick coverage has a big challenge this week in Page, who has a good feel for space and knows how to set up blocks. He can break tackles, too.
Nate Ebner brings a real joy to the field. He loves playing special teams, and you can tell by the neckroll he wears that he really wants to hit somebody whenever he’s out there. He’s a war daddy.
Jaamal Berry’s hamstring is 100 percent healthy, but they had to work this week on getting him game ready getting him as many reps as they can both with the offense and special teams. Fickell said the next day he should play.
All of the running backs worked hard in the offseason as if they were going to play. No one worked kind of hard with their eye on contributing just down the road, so that leaves them in a good position now.
Rod Smith turned it loose a couple of times against Akron. He is an excitable guy, and he has another level he could reach. Both Smith and Hyde did well on their assignments against the Zips. Hyde was 100 percent in pass pro and Smith was almost perfect as well.
Smith changed his number from 24 to 2 because they wanted him to cover kicks but 24 is the number Drew Basil wears. They gave him a choice of a few numbers, and 2 is what Smith picked.
Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said all of the corners are getting reps this week and will be needed with pass-happy Toledo on the horizon.
He is not sure who will start, but Dominic Clarke and Bradley Roby both played well enough last week to maintain their spots in the starting lineup even with Travis Howard back from suspension. They look at a lot of passes going in the air as a lot of chances to make plays. Tackling and discipline will be important this week.
Page is good because his confidence is through the roof.
Johnson figures his guys should all be on alert for attack because they are all young and/or inexperienced. He pointed out even older guys get attacked sometimes, too, such as Malcolm Jenkins… at least until teams figure out they shouldn’t do that.
Howard has had a great attitude since he got in trouble last week and since he returned.
Roby just barely edged Clarke for the starting spot in fall camp but there was not one particular thing that stood out between them.
Johnson talked to Beckman after Johnson agreed to take his current position, which Beckman vacated to become defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Johnson wanted to get to know more about the guys he would be coaching, and he considers Beckman a friend. They also coached against each other when they were at other MAC schools.
He expects Toledo to change personnel some and put the Buckeyes in their base defense at times. Plus, OSU will want to change up looks against them so they can’t get too comfortable, either. He doesn’t see much difference between the two Rocket quarterbacks. The team seems to believe in both of them.
Doran Grant worked his way into the depth chart by learning the system and showing he had the maturity to handle all the things they threw at him. Plus, he’s obviously talented or he wouldn’t have had all those scholarship offers.