August 30, 2011

Fickell tips hand toward Bauserman

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Four days from the opener vs. Akron, Luke Fickell all but named Joe Bauserman his starting quarterback.

At his first weekly media luncheon as head coach, Fickell strode to the podium in a white Ohio State dress shirt and calmly addressed a bustling press corps. It was reminiscent of a pre-national championship game press conference instead of an in-state foe coming to town. The standing-room only crowd quickly got to the main talking point of the week: Who will be the starting quarterback?

"If we were taking the first snap right now, Joe would probably take the first snap," Fickell said.

It will be Bauserman's first career start and just the second time he's taken significant snaps. The two-quarterback system Fickell alluded to last week appears to be a reality, though.

"Just talking with those guys, talking with the offensive staff, we know we're going to need them both," he said. "The whole idea is we want to make sure that we can put them out in front of 106,000 and see how guys respond.

"We understand we need both of them. We sat down with both of those guys and made sure they understood that throughout this entire year we're going to need you both. And how we work together as a staff, offensively, defensively, special teams, probably will be the focus will be on the quarterback spot. But we need to make sure that all of us are working together."

The theme in the locker room this offseason has been unity and leadership. In discussing his reasoning as to why Bauserman is the guy, Fickell spoke of those exact qualities.

"It's leadership," he said. "It's also just what this team, where we were at the time. You know, I think he's done a good job. He's done a really good job through camp. I've been impressed with the things we've asked him to do and what he's done. Doesn't mean I've not been impressed with Braxton as well. That's why we've been impressed enough with him to list him in the 'or' category."

Injuries, suspensions keep players out of opener

Compared to years past, injuries were down during fall camp. However, the Buckeyes were not able to eke out 100 percent healthy. Battling a hamstring problem for the better part of three years, Jaamal Berry's playing time has never materialized. And 2011 isn't starting out how he envisioned.

"Jaamal has not practiced this week," Fickell said. "Right now he's still got a little bit of a hamstring, so we'll see. He is questionable, probably, still to this date. And again, those running backs, we've got, to me, we've got some talent. We've got some depth. We're going to have to see. Those guys are going to get opportunities."

Running back is the lone position on the offensive side of the ball where an injury might not be a big issue. Jordan Hall will take a majority of the hand offs, but Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith will see plenty of action and are capable of being the starter as well.

An already thin offensive line will be missing Corey Linsley on Saturday. A sophomore, Linsley is rumored to have broken unspecified team rules. Fickell said he would not be available this week and also alluded to him being absent from the Toledo game.

"Depth-wise that's obviously always a concern," Fickell said of the offensive line. "When you have some injuries and you have guys that are going to be out, you have worries, not unlike other positions as well. So we have a depth issue right there."

The glimmer of hope Ohio State received on the injury front involves junior linebacker Etienne Sabino. The starter broke his hand during the jersey scrimmage Aug. 21 but intends to play against Akron.

"He had surgery a week ago or week and a half ago," Fickell said, "but is fine. He'll have a little bit of a cast on it and stuff, so it will keep him out of a little bit of practice last week. He's back in repping now. He's got to get his feet back under him and make sure he's comfortable with his hand."

Silver Bullets

  • [db]Michael Brewster[/db], [db]J.B. Shugarts[/db] and [db]John Simon[/db] will serve as this week's game captains.

  • Ohio State has defeated its last 42 in-state opponents. Fickell and Simon, though, were having none of it and talked Akron up as if they were Oklahoma.

  • A black shirt will be the dress wear of choice for Fickell on the sideline.

  • Fickell said Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham handled their elimination from the quarterback competition with class.

  • It was a lifetime goal for Fickell to coach at Ohio State. He said Ohio State is an unbelievable place, and it's hard to leave."

  • When asked to compare his emotions leading up to this first game as a player and now as head coach, Fickell said it is always easier as a player. Once you get hit, he said, the knot in your stomach goes away. It stays there throughout the game as a coach.

  • Jim Heacock is the man responsible for Fickell being an assistant at Ohio State. When he was an assistant at Akron, the special teams job opened up in Columbus and Heacock alerted Jim Tressel. As they say, the rest is history.

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