Fickell Plans to Make Suspended Players Earn Spots
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — One of the trickiest tasks Luke Fickell will have to handle in his debut season as a head coach is managing the four suspended Buckeyes while they sit out the first five games of the year.
In the case of Solomon Thomas, he was likely going to be a backup even if he wasn’t suspended, but the other three players are returning starters and key members of Ohio State’s offense.
Photo by Jim Davidson
There is no blueprint for Fickell on how to handle the suspended group—which includes starting tailback Boom Herron, starting wideout DeVier Posey and starting left tackle Mike Adams—while they sit out or even when they return, but the OSU coaching staff has a plan of attack heading into fall camp.
“They're going to be asked to do a lot of things to show their level of commitment and I have no worries about that one bit,” Fickell said during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
“We haven't completely laid it out on paper, but we have a plan on how they can best serve the team.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Part of that plan will include serving on the scout team during their 5-game suspensions, something Herron hasn’t done since his redshirt freshman season in 2007. However, Fickell knows it’s also important to make sure the guys on the other side of the ball are getting the best look they can.
Posey and Herron accounted for over 2,000 yards of offense and 23 touchdowns last season, which is significant considering the Buckeyes also lost team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“That will not be our focus,” Fickell said.
“We're going to take it game-by-game, day-by-day. We don't want guys looking ahead saying ‘Well wait till game six when we can get these guys (back).’”
Photo by Jim Davidson
When Ohio State opens the season on Sept. 3 against Akron, the most productive player in the lineup will be tailback Jordan Hall, who has totaled less than 500 yards of offense and four touchdowns in his career.
The Buckeyes will also be breaking in a number of new names on the both sides of the ball, including guys like Corey “Philly” Brown, who served as the No. 3 receiver last year, but also Jaamal Berry, Rod Smith, Chris Fields and T.Y. Williams.
Fickell doesn’t want those guys looking over their shoulders at DeVier and Boom.
“I think the greatest thing that could happen is everything will be going well, and guys will be competing, and all of a sudden you've got game six and, ‘Are you just going to throw DeVier Posey in there, because Philly Brown has done a great job?’” Fickell said.
“Well, no, we're not. He's going to earn it. We're going to see who is best for the team. That's the hope that you have.”
As it looks right now, it’s hard to imagine that the best thing for Ohio State would not include having Posey, Herron and Adams on the field as soon as possible.
“I’d say they probably step back in. They’ve proven themselves to this point so they’ll probably be safe when they get back,” said center Michael Brewster, who came to Ohio State with Posey and Adams in 2008.
“They’re going to have to play well when they get back too though, but they will. I’m not worried about that.”
The Buckeyes appear to be loaded at running back, but Herron is coming off an all-Big Ten season in 2010 where he ran for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns. Posey and Adams would seem to be clear upgrades over whoever takes their spots while they sit out, but they know nothing will be handed to them because of what they did in the past.
“We're going to ask them to earn everything they're going to get,” Fickell said in Chicago.
“And I think they understand that. The communication has been good.”
So has the preparation.
They won’t be on the field until week six, when the Buckeyes travel to Nebraska for one of the biggest games of the year, but that hasn’t stopped Posey and the others from taking on a leadership role in their groups.
“They’re all good. They worked really hard this summer. It wasn't even like they were missing any games and we didn’t look at them any differently,” said Brewster, a 4-year starter and potential captain.
“We don’t really talk about it any more. We know it’s going to happen and we just kind of leave it at that.”
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