Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Notes from Tressel-Fickell news conference
By Adam Rittenberg
Many of you who watched Ohio State's news conference today might have thought, "There's an hour of my life I'll never get back."
Jim Tressel talked about his roster, but said little about the ongoing NCAA investigation of his program.
There's a reason why Jim Tressel is called The Senator, and he delivered one heck of a filibuster today in Columbus. Ohio State made it clear that Tressel wouldn't comment on the ongoing NCAA investigation, and the coach filled minute after minute breaking down positions entering spring practice. Yes, even the long snapper.
There was some news that came out of Columbus. As many had expected, co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell has been promoted to assistant head coach and will serve as interim coach during Tressel's five-game suspension at the start of the season. Tressel dismissed rumors that he would be stepping down as Buckeyes coach, saying, "I never had that thought."
Tressel also apologized again for violating NCAA rules by not coming forward with pertinent information about players selling memorabilia items to a local tattoo parlor owner under federal investigation.
"The toughest regrets you have is when you disappoint," he said. "When you disappoint as a parent, that's tough. I suppose when you've had good fortune to have leadership roles, that's even harder. ... There are things I need to do better."
Other nuggets and observations:
Ohio State's offensive play-calling procedures during Tressel's absence are still to be determined. Coordinator Jim Bollman likely would have final say on plays, but those issues still are being worked out. "We don't have that many plays," Tressel said. "I don't think it's that big a deal."
Tressel on missing five games: "I've always felt that what I owe Ohio State is 24/7. This year [for 5 games] it may be 24/6."
If you're looking to learn more about Fickell, here's his bio. The former Buckeyes nose guard is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and most likely the only in-house candidate who could succeed Tressel when The Vest eventually steps aside. Fickell said he was "humbled and excited" by the promotion but made it clear that "this is coach Tressel's team. ... We’re fully invested in coach Tressel."
Asked at the end of the news conference if he thinks his self-imposed five-game suspension will stand, Tressel said, "That's the last thing I could talk about." It's the biggest question facing Ohio State going forward.
Asked about the HBO "Real Sports" report where a former Auburn player who verbally committed to Ohio State said he received sexual favors at Ohio State during the recruiting process, team spokeswoman Shelly Poe said the allegations would violate school and NCAA policy but Ohio State can't comment until more information is known.
Tressel on the long-term effects of his violations: "I don't know that there's a universal standard as to how anyone is evaluated, by the evaluators. ... I don't have a lot of control over that."
Tressel acknowledged the support he has received from Ohio State's administration, fans and players, especially the five serving five-game suspensions this coming season. Those players assumed a leadership role during Sugar Bowl preparation and will continue to do so this spring.
Depth issues at several positions, including offensive line and receiver, could prevent Ohio State from having a full-blown spring game April 23, Tressel said. The Buckeyes might hold a jersey scrimmage instead like they do in both the spring and the fall.
Fickell said he and Tressel have not discussed how Fickell will approach his game-day duties, preferring to focus on spring practice. They will discuss game-day issues closer to the season.
Tressel said quarterback Terrelle Pryor could get out of a walking boot by the end of the week. Pryor, who had foot surgery in January, will be limited this spring.
Tressel thinks Mike Brewster is the nation's best center and added that left tackle Mike Adams had his best offseason.
Ohio State coaches made several visits this winter to swap ideas with colleagues. Their stops included: LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
That should be enough to hold you over.
The Fickell move makes sense. He's a rising star, popular among Ohio State fans and will follow instructions from Tressel. If he can keep the pieces together on Saturdays, he'll certainly improve his stock.