Luke Fickell

Ohio State officially introduces Luke Fickell as next head coach


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.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah