July 31, 2011

Fickell has 'plan' for suspended players



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CHICAGO - Luke Fickell has a plan on how he'd like to handle four prominent suspended players for the first five weeks of next season. The intricacies of it, however, have yet to be determined.



But Fickell knows what Ohio State's plan won't be - a five-week season where the team is hoping to escape each game counting down the weeks where DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas can return to the playing field.



"We've got a plan," Fickell said at Big Ten Media Days late this week. "They're going to be asked to do a lot of things to show their level of commitment and I have no worries about that one bit. We haven't completely laid it out on paper, but we have a plan on how they can best serve the team.



Those aforementioned players won't be permitted to play in Ohio State's first five games for their involvement in a tattoo scandal where they sold memorabilia given to them by the university for money and extra benefits.



As it turns out, Ohio State's offense will have a lot of new - and potentially young - faces in positions that would've otherwise been filled by a seasoned veteran known one as the class of the conference.



And the first five games are tough, as the Buckeyes travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes in a pivotal non-conference matchup before facing Michigan State in the Big Ten opener. Both games the Buckeyes will be without those players.



In the meantime, Fickell isn't quite sure what he'll do with the players, who have become staples of the first-team offense for multiple years.



Scout team participating will likely be the answer, but the development of the guys playing will be his sole focus - at least for the first five weeks of the season.
"That will not be our focus," Fickell said. "We're going to take it game-by-game, day-by-day. We don't want guys looking ahead saying 'Well wait till game six when we can get these guys' - No."



The thing about game No. 6 is that it's at Nebraska, perhaps one of the most important games on Ohio State's schedule. Having already played Michigan State, the outcome of the game against the Huskers could go a long way in determining if Ohio State will be in the hunt of a seventh consecutive Big Ten title.



Depending on how the players filling in for proven playmakers such as Posey and Herron remains to be seen, but Fickell said he doesn't want those looking over their shoulders for their positions.



"I think the greatest thing that could happen is everything will be going well, and guys will be competing, and all of a sudden you've got game six and, 'Are you just going to throw DeVier Posey in there, because (Corey) Brown has done a great job?'" Fickell said. "Well, no, we're not. He's going to earn it. We're going to see who is best for the team. That's the hope that you have."



Plans for integrating the suspended players back into the team could be a harder process given the way reps in practice will likely be spread out. Upon week six, Fickell acknowledged just throwing those players in with the first team may be tough.



The controversy of how the suspended players will fit back into the team, however, has become a lot less complicated with the departure of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who would have also been one of the suspended players.



Fickell would agree that acclimating positions like offensive tackle, running back, and wide receiver would be exponentially easier than changing the quarterback position - particularly if Ohio State had been successful in Pryor's absence.



Having not to solve that problem, Fickell seemed confident that the players will rejoin the team and help Ohio State achieve more success on the field. He was just adamant that they'd have to earn it.



"We're going to ask them to earn everything they're going to get," Fickell said, "and I think they understand that. The communication has been good."




Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.








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