Ohio State officially introduces Luke Fickell as next head coach

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Exactly two weeks after Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, Ohio State has finally gotten around to making their next (interim) head coach available to the media.

Fickell, who becomes the 23rd head coach in the school’s storied history, was introduced by athletic director Gene Smith, who spoke of shifting the focus of the beleaguered football program back onto the field.

“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

As expected, Fickell did not address the myriad allegations swirling around the program, but their were a few noteworthy nuggets tossed out during the presser as to what the OSU faithful can expect with the former Buckeyes player and long-time assistant in charge:

— Needless to say, the first question involved NCAA issues, with Fickell claiming that he had no knowledge of  violations allegedly being committed by football players.

“I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge.”

— Fickell said that he had not spoken to Terrelle Pryor since the day after Tressel’s resignation because of the hectic and unexpected nature of the situation.  The quarterback, of course, announced last week that he would be foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility, probably for a shot at the NFL’s supplemental draft.

— There is an opening on his coaching staff, and Fickell said that situation will be addressed in the coming weeks.  When a coach is added, it will be on the defensive side of the ball.

— Given his lack of experience with the unit, Fickell confirmed that long-time offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will handle play-calling duties, although Fickell will certainly have input into the game plan as its formulated in the days leading up to kickoff.  Additionally, there will likely be no major changes to the offense.

— Reiterating what he stated in a sit-down interview with the Big Ten Network prior to the press conference, Fickell said that “[o]ur goal is to lead the nation in these categories: effort, turnovers and toughness.”

— In the hours after Tressel stepped down, Fickell spoke to his former boss.  Tressel’s advice?  “Be yourself”.

–Fickell’s two-year deal was amended to reflect his rise to interim and head coach and he will make $775,000 in 2011, with bonuses that could push that figure to over $1 million.

It had been announced on March 30 that Fickell would serve as the team’s interim head coach as Tressel served his five-game suspension.  Shortly after Tressel’s resignation on Memorial Day, the school announced that “Fickell will serve as interim head coach for the 2011-2012 football season” and that the “[r]ecruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”

We said it before and it deserves reiterating when it comes to Fickell’s chance at becoming the full-time coach at his alma mater: The former Ohio State player will be in charge of the football team from now until the end of the season and will certainly be given the opportunity to state his case that the “interim” tag should be stripped from his current title.  Some have already begun to dismiss the possibility that Fickell could be a long-term, permanent fix on the sidelines; I haven’t, and I won’t.  Fickell is a helluva football coach and will be leading a major Div. 1-A football program at some point in the next five years.  Hopefully, he’ll be given serious consideration by those who will ultimately make the decision.

Unless, of course, Urban Meyer says yes to the overtures that are certain to come at some point in the future.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.