No other coach is facing nearly as much adversity as former Buckeye player and current head coach Luke Fickell. The situation he inherited at Ohio State was not ideal to say the least, and while he did accept the job (and its substantial pay raise) gladly, he has certainly been left for failure in a number of ways. I have reason to believe that one day Fickell could become a great head coach but as for now, several factors are preventing his potential.
Imagine going to your job everyday and constantly looking over your shoulder, trying to figure out how secure your future at that employment is. Imagine constantly hearing the murmurs and whispers of your possible successors with every decision you make.
Now if you imagine this not effecting you, then you need to bring yourself back to reality. Luke Fickell has to perform this already difficult task with the constant uncertainty of his job security, which in turn affects every decision he makes.
Fickell has to try to win a Big Ten title while he hears rumors of a real estate purchase that possible candidate, Urban Meyer, made. This instills extreme pressure on an already inexperienced coach. Some of the biggest news around the program right now is the possible candidates the university could pull in to run the program next year.
This job uncertainty also severely hampers Fickell as a recruiter, which is one of the most important aspects for a program's success. This year is supposed to be Fickell's audition but no one can really assess his recruiting ability because recruits love stability at the coaching position. Without a guaranteed contract Fickell won't be able to recruit to his full potential.
The Ohio State head coaching job is easily one of the top five positions in the nation. A coach who attains this high honor normally has taken his bumps and bruises in a smaller setting and at a much smaller school. The pressure of being a head coach of the Buckeyes is immense and there is no way to learn on the job.
Buckeye nation expects a polished and confident leader that knows what he's doing at all times. Unfortunately, Fickell doesn't seem ready to run a program of this magnitude and OSU fans are not ready to watch a coach learn from his mistakes. In big games, Fickell has obviously been in way over his head. For example, his struggles with game management and usage of timeouts are absolutely unacceptable at such a prestigious program.
Coach Fickell has also struggled greatly when overseeing the offense. Fickell was a defensive player at Ohio State and has worked exclusively on the defensive side of the ball throughout his coaching career. Of course head coaches all over the nation have origins from the defensive side of the ball but Fickell has no idea what to do on offense. He has no experience or ideas to offer to the offensive coaching staff and has had a difficult time putting the right players on the field on offense.
It's almost as if Jim Tressel experienced so much success despite the efforts of his coaching staff.
Offensive Coordinator, Jim Bollman, has had OSU fans constantly screaming at their TV sets since he was hired. His old, tired, and predictable offensive scheme has for the most part been fairly ineffective. With the exception of the 2006 season, the offense has lacked any innovation and hasn't reaped the full benefits of the talent the teams have possessed.
Unlike Fickell, former head coach Jim Tressel was an offensive-minded coach who could veto Bollman's poor scheme when necessary. Tressel possessed the offensive savvy to make adjustments at halftime and although they were never earth-shattering they were normally effective.
Obviously this is not the case with Fickell at the helm, as anyone with a brain can see from the poor offensive showings against Miami (FL) and Michigan State. Bollman even managed to ruin his one good half of play-calling against Nebraska with some head scratching calls in the second half that contributed to the historic meltdown.
With Bollman running this offense with absolutely no help or objection, the Buckeyes will be hard pressed to find much success.
Even the most experienced and successful coaches in the nation would have a difficult time steering this program through this NCAA infraction mess.
Fickell started this season with a brand new quarterback, a brand new running back, all very young wide receivers, and an inexperienced left tackle all due to suspensions from last season. This team has been extremely shorthanded on offense this year.
Coach Fickell has also had to deal with the constant struggle of thinking people are coming back only to find out they are suspended even longer. On top of all that, Fickell was also completely blindsided with the suspension of three other players that he expected to fill in for suspended and graduated Buckeyes.
All these suspensions and setbacks would give any coach major difficulty, but watching a first year head coach with no prior experience try to manage it is almost unfair.
Jim Tressel led the Ohio State Buckeyes to an impressive record of 106-22, numerous Big Ten titles, several BCS bowls, three national championship appearances, and most importantly, one national championship.
Perhaps with the exception of Woody Hayes, Tressel is easily the most difficult act to follow up as an Ohio State head coach. Fickell is almost like a little kid trying to fit his kid size feet into his father's size 14 shoes. Buckeye nation is almost spoiled with all the success we have experienced during the Tressel era and Fickell has been on a hot seat since he started.
We expect to field a national championship contender every year, no excuses. While I love this attitude, it also makes for an extremely difficult job that Fickell doesn't seem ready to handle. Like I said before, OSU fans want to win right now and we are not ready to go through growing pains with a young coach.
Maybe Tressel has made our expectations unrealistic but that's how it is in Columbus now, and Buckeye nation is unrelenting.