Luke Fickell

Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan State AD returns from Cincinnati with no Luke Fickell

4 Comments

Michigan State is currently undergoing a search for its next head coach, which has naturally led College Football Twitter to tracking every flight possible into and out of East Lansing, Michigan. On Sunday, the plane trackers and super sleuths followed the updates and whatever images could be uncovered of Michigan State Athletics Director Bill Beekman as he flew to and home from Cincinnati. The speculation is Michigan State is locking in on Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. Fickell was set to interview with the Michigan State AD about the vacancy.

But images of Beekman returning to East Lansing suggest landing Fickell is not exactly imminent. Beekman’s plane returned home but Fickell was nowhere to be seen, unless he was just hiding in the overhead storage compartment.

If Michigan State did manage to get Fickell to agree to a contract, it would be pretty likely the Cincinnati coach would have been on the flight back to East Lansing. Of course, this is nothing but pure speculation and there is still a possibility Fickell will be the next head coach of the Spartans. So stay tuned.

On Saturday, Colorado head coach Mel Tucker took his name out of consideration for the job. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell (HERE) and Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi (HERE) have done the same as well. Fickell has long been considered one of the betting favorites to land the job.

Mark Dantonio resigned as head coach at Michigan State last week after 13 seasons as the head coach of the Spartans.

Cincinnati finishes off back-to-back 11-win seasons with Birmingham Bowl blowout of Boston College

Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images
1 Comment

There is just something about Boston College and weather delays in bowl games. At least this year, Boston College was able to finish the game. Given the result, maybe Boston College would have been content to pack things up early again and call it a day. No. 21 Cincinnati (11-3) overpowered Boston College (6-7) in the Birmingham Bowl, 38-6. The game was interrupted by a 92-minute weather delay midway through the first quarter.

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns to lead Cincinnati. Running back Michael Warren II also rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries. Cincinnati’s running game was too much for Boston College’s defense to handle. Although not having leading rusher AJ Dillon hurt Boston College, it may not have been why the Eagles took a lopsided bowl loss to close out the season.

The win by Cincinnati improves the American Athletic Conference to 3-3 this bowl season. The American is 1-1 against the ACC and 1-0 against the Big 12, but the conference is .500 against power-conference opponents due to a loss by conference champion Memphis in the Cotton Bowl. The ACC falls to 4-6 overall and will have a losing record this bowl season, but Clemson is still alive for the national championship. The ACC had a winning record against just the MAC with Pitt’s win in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Luke Fickell is the second coach to guide Cincinnati to back-to-back 11-win seasons. The only other coach to do so was Brian Kelly in 2008 and 2009. Kelly was hired away by Notre Dame following his second 11-win season with the program (Kelly actually won 10 or more game sin three consecutive seasons). Fickell will likely be a top coaching candidate for some power conference program in need of a head coach in the next round of the coaching carousel, especially if these results continue in 2020.

Fickell and Cincinnati will begin the 2020 season at home against Austin Peay on Sept. 5. The highlight of Cincinnati’s non-conference schedule will be a road trip to Nebraska on Sept. 26. Cincinnati will also host some key conference games with crossover division matchups against Houston and defending conference champion Memphis being played in Nippert Stadium in the fall. Cincinnati will play pivotal division games on the road at UCF and Temple.

Boston College will usher in a new era under head coach Jeff Hafley. Hafley’s first game as head coach of the Eagles will be at home on Sept. 5 against Holy Cross. Boston College will also face two power conference opponents with a road game at Kansas (which is actually a revenge game for the Eagles) and a home game against Purdue in back-to-back weeks to close out September.

West Virginia hoping to have new coach by weekend

Getty Images
12 Comments

In not so surprising news, West Virginia is hoping to have a new head coach for the football program within days. According to a report from MetroNews, the WVU Athletics Director Shane Lyons would ideally like to have a replacement for Dana Holgorsen, who was whisked away by Houston, by the weekend.

“We’re going to be thorough, but at the same time, we’re going to be swift,” Lyons said.

The good news for West Virginia fans is Lyons was able to get a jump on the coaching search process, which has now reportedly included formal interviews with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Troy head coach Neal Brown, and West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. This is because the speculation Holgorsen was going to leave the program for Houston was running rampant enough as Houston waited out the drop in Holgorsen’s buyout to fall to $1 million on January 1. Even though Lyons knew nothing could become official at Houston until the drop in the buyout and Houston took care of some formalities behind the scenes, Lyons was aware of the need to be acting on a search.

It can always be tricky having to conduct a coaching search this time of the year because the coaching carousel had mostly come to a rest, however, Fickell and Brown are intriguing candidates that are more than likely going to one-day get an opportunity to coach at a power conference. Fickell has had one year coaching a power conference program when he was named the interim head coach at Ohio State following the dismissal of former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and prior to the hiring of the now former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Fickell’s one season as a head coach at Ohio State was a challenge and the Buckeyes went 6-7, but six years later he got his first chance to become a head coach again at Cincinnati. In two years at Cincinnati, Fickell brought the Bearcats back to being one of the top programs in the AAC with a record of 11-2 this past season. Brown has just wrapped up his fourth season as head coach at Troy with a cumulative record of 35-16 and three straight bowl victories.

Cincinnati rounds out Luke Fickell’s coaching staff with Gino Guidugli as RB coach

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just days before Christmas, Central Michigan promoted running backs coach Gino Guidugli to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. Now, Guidugli is stepping back into the running backs coach position at another school. Cincinnati announced the hiring of Guidugli as running backs coach under new head coach Luke Fickell on Saturday.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to bring a young, talented coach back to his alma mater,” Fickell said in a released statement. “Gino is an up-and-coming offensive mind, has the reputation of being a strong recruiter and was an excellent quarterback at Cincinnati during his playing days. He helped build this program, graduated from this University and knows what it takes to succeed here.”

Guidugli returns to Cincinnati for the first time since his playing days. Guidugli was a Cincinnati quarterback from 2001 through 2004 and left school with a handful of school passing records. His playing career saw trips to the CFL and Arena Football League before getting started with his coaching career at Central Michigan in 2009 as a graduate assistant. He would go on to take on the running back coaching responsibilities and served as CMU’s recruiting coordinator. His brother, Ben Guidugli, also played at Cincinnati from 2007 through 2010.

Fickell appears set to deliver on his promise to restore the local recruiting power Cincinnati has strayed from under former head coach Tommy Tuberville, and adding Guidugli to the staff is designed in part to help in that area as well. Having a coach who played for and has an inner-working knowledge of the university and the recruiting territory to work with should help see Cincinnati boost its recruiting success in the region. While Cincinnati won’t be toppling Ohio State for the cream of the crop from within the state (as Urban Meyer is also dedicated to increasing the number of Ohio recruits that join the Buckeyes), Cincinnati should be in position to be a solid option for some good talented players in the state who want to play close to home. Among Group of Five programs, Cincinnati should be among the leaders on a regular basis.

Central Michigan is now without an offensive cooridnator, which means a job is on the market for the MAC program.

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 4 Ohio State

13 Comments

(It should be noted this preseason ranking was determined before news of Braxton Miller being lost for the season.)

2013 Record: 12-2 overall, 8-1 in Big Ten (lost to Michigan State in championship game)
2013 postseason: Orange Bowl (40-35 loss to Clemson)
2013 final AP/coaches ranking: No. 12/No. 10
Head coach: Urban Meyer (128-25 overall, 24-2 in two years at Ohio State)
Offensive coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd year at Ohio State), Ed Warinner (3rd year at Ohio State)
2013 offensive rankings: 5th rushing offense (308.64 ypg), 90th passing offense (203.3 ypg), 7th total offense (511.9 ypg), 3rd scoring offense (45.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 4*
Co-defensive coordinators: Luke Fickell (13th year at Ohio State), Chris Ash (first year at Ohio State)
2013 defensive rankings: 9th rushing defense (109.43 ypg), 112th passing defense (268.0 ypg), 47th total defense (377.4 ypg), 28th scoring defense (22.6 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (104,944; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2010 (2009, outright)

THE GOOD
In a season that once appeared to be all about making the playoff or bust, the Buckeyes still look to have a very good shot at making a run at a Big Ten title despite losing starting quarterback Braxton Miller for the season. Losing Miller cannot be understated for the fortunes of this season, but more on that in a moment. What Ohio State does have is a roster that has been built by landing the top recruiting classes in the Big Ten each of the past four seasons, so the talent on the roster is not much of a concern for the Buckeyes as far as the Big Ten is concerned. One fo the downfalls of Ohio State last season was the defense not being strong enough to hold off a balanced opponent like Michigan State or slow down a potent offense like the one owned by Clemson. When push came to shove, Ohio State’s defensive line was the one being shoved in the clutch. That should change some this season with a focus on toughening up the defense. New defensive line coach Larry Johnson (from Penn State) will have an impact with the play of the defensive line, which could be the best in the Big Ten, with Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa up front and Noah Spence scheduled to return following a multi-game suspension. Ohio State’s opening games may be more difficult now, without Miller, but the Buckeyes should still be able to remain one of the favorites in the Big Ten’s East division.

THE BAD
The loss of Miller is without a doubt a major blow for Ohio State. Miller was Ohio State’s, and the Big Ten’s, best player when healthy and his contributions to the Ohio State offense will not be easy to make up. Miller was not only looking to improve with his passing abilities, but he was also the team’s leading rusher returning this season (1,283 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013). Ohio State should still be able to run the football this fall, but the loss of Miller has the potential to make Ohio State’s running game much less of a threat to opposing defenses. That is, until we see just how redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett adapts to his new responsibilities under center.

THE UNKNOWN
Ohio State has plenty of talent, but now head coach Urban Meyer is challenged to find a way to make everything come together in a different way than he may have been spending all summer doing. Meyer is a really good coach — one of the best in the country — but can he manage to keep Ohio State among the favorites for a playoff spot at the end of the year after losing Miller and lead running back Carlos Hyde (NFL) with a lack of significant experience in the backfield? Throwing an extra challenge into the equation this season is Ohio State does not have as easy a non-conference schedule to allow these things to be sorted out without concern. Ohio State faces a decent Navy team in the season opener in Baltimore, and then hosts a Virgina Tech team that should be improved this fall. A home game against Cincinnati could present a challenge to before getting into Big Ten play.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Penn State
The road game at Michigan State is still the highlight of the 2014 Ohio State schedule, and the non-conference slate should help show just what Ohio State will be this season. A road game at Penn State, in primetime, could be the first real challenge for the Buckeyes though, despite the Nittany Lions being a thin team when it comes to depth and Ohio State blasting their neighbors from the east 63-14 last fall. If Penn State stays healthy, they could pose a threat to Ohio State at home in a revenge situation. New head coach James Franklin has sparked the program a bit, and playing in front of 100,000 fans not cheering for you could be a challenge for a young quarterback like Barrett. Win this game, and Ohio State will prove to remain a top threat in the East.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: WR Devin Smith
Braxton Miller would have been the easy pick here, but with the quarterback ut of commission this fall the next best offensive player may end up being wide receiver Devin Smith. Smith should be one of the top receivers for the Buckeyes this fall as Ohio State’s leading returning receiver with 660 yards and eight touchdowns last fall.

* Not counting injured quarterback Braxton Miller

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)