Sept. 27, 2011
COACH FICKELL: Probably should start off by saying obviously last week was exciting. I think the one thing our guys enjoyed as much as I did is having students back on campus. A few more things for them to do, to be focused on. But to have that little bit more of the emotions that I think we maybe don't see before school starts, I think that's a big boost to our guys, a big boost to us.
Obviously the way we played is a boost, but it's nice to have that behind you. Really want to thank them. Hopefully they continue to do the same things and get better each and every week.
We can open it up for questions.
Q. Evaluate how you thought Braxton played.
COACH FICKELL: He did a good job. The number one thing he did was hold onto the football, played some plays with his feet, settled down, threw some good balls later in the game.
The ball wasn't coming out of his hands as well as he would have liked or anybody else would have liked. He settled down. Took some shots. Still got up and continued to compete. I think that's the number one important thing we saw from him, his demeanor, how he competed.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FICKELL: We'll see. We'll see real quick here. It's hard to look past any one game. One week at a time. Our focus is on getting better. The type of team we have, the amount of youth we have, we continue on focusing on getting better each and every day, each and every week, I think we have a chance to get better every month.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FICKELL: I don't know what else there is to say about it. It is. It's a big one. Our guys understand that. They're not blind. They can walk in every day and see the schedule on the board.
Again, we stay focused on getting better. I think you knew that when this thing started off. No matter what the situation was, it was going to be a grind. This is going to be a grind. That's how you get better.
Q. I know it's small subset of games, but Michigan State leads the Big Ten in defense. Is this the biggest test you faced so far from your offense?
COACH FICKELL: I think so. I mean, obviously I think Miami had a very good defense. Every week somebody poses a little bit something different. Last week maybe they didn't have the talent that Michigan State has right now. They do a lot of different things Colorado wise that gives the offense some problems.
Michigan State is probably as good up front as we've seen. They're going to definitely get on your guys outside. They're going to put pressure on you, whether it's four, five, six men. I think we understand that. How we handle it will be the key.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FICKELL: I would imagine. They're still going to be who they are. They are a very aggressive team anyway. If that factors into it, they'll be even more aggressive.
A lot of what you watch, I don't know how you can get a whole lot more aggressive. They're going to bring, like I said, four, five, six most of the time. Sometimes more if they can.
Will they be more aggressive? It's a good chance. I think knowing the situation, what their mentality is, I wouldn't expect anything else.
Q. Can you comment on the adversity they went through with Coach Dantonio?
COACH FICKELL: Again, they won't be doing what they needed to do. They had a great season. Maybe they weren't in the BCS just because of the way things worked out. But I'm sure they weren't satisfied and happy where they ended up at the end of the year as well. But they had a great year. All the different things they had go on there, I think they handled it great.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FICKELL: Again, we've got enough things to focus on. I think we talked about those kinds of things, what teams have done what in the pre season when we were at camp really looking back, whether it was Michigan State, whether it was an NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, how many people they had down on different things. We brought those things up when we had time too. There's been a lot of people that have been in their situation. There's a lot of people that have been in tougher situations. There's ways of getting better, getting through it, continue to fight.
Q. Missed tackles was something you talked about after the Toledo and Miami game. Was that something you felt the defense made progress with against Colorado?
COACH FICKELL: I think we did. We still had some missed tackles. I think you're always going to have them if you're aggressive. I think the biggest thing that happened last week, against the tackle, there was somebody else right there to make it. Maybe that wasn't the case I know in Miami. That probably wasn't the case all the time in the Toledo game. We still missed some.
We know we have to get better at it. The ones we missed, there were two, three, four guys right there afterwards.
Q. Was that the focus last week in practice?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, it's always a focus for us. It was obviously a little bit of a heightened one. We didn't do as well as we have in the past nine years at it. It was something we talked about.
Q. Can you talk about the selection of Jordan Hall. Suspended for a couple games. What does it mean you would select him as a game captain this week?
COACH FICKELL: It means that Jordan is a part of our team, he's a big leader in the locker room. He does a great job. He does everything we've asked him to handle with class and dignity. He has not batted an eye at it with all the situations.
We understand we learn from our mistakes, but we're not going to throw guys away. That's kind of the reason we wanted to have the game captains the whole season, so we could make sure we could bring everybody to be part of this team no matter what their situation. They learn from it, grow from it, have the right attitude, they continue to get better. This team loves them. They'll always be able to be in a position they can get better.
In some situations like this, hey, we're excited to have him. The past is the past and we learned from it.
Q. Looking at video over the last two weeks, what has Christian Bryant brought to the defense playing more and more? What have you seen out of him?
COACH FICKELL: Christian, a lot like (indiscernible), he was a guy that was very confident. He's got a little bit more of a natural fire to him. To me he's one of those guys that's a natural leader. He doesn't get rattled. He doesn't get frustrated. Big play, something happens, he's on to the next one. He doesn't have that conscience that weighs over him. Some of the guys, it's hard to get on to the next play at times. He brings that to our defense, a little bit of a different emotion, a little bit of a different attitude at times.
Q. What are you seeing out of Devin Smith? Making a lot of plays. Do you see him becoming more a part of the offense as the season goes along?
COACH FICKELL: We continue to move Devin along. I think he might have only had 27 to 30 snaps last week. As he grows and he matures, he'll get more and more.
Devin can make plays. He's a guy that can get on top of you, have some speed. Obviously good balls were thrown to him and he made the plays.
We need that. We know people are going to pack it in on us with a lot of run stuff. We need the wide receivers out there to have the ability to make plays, especially when people are going to get up on them.
Q. Coach Dantonio, coordinator here earlier on staff, anything you picked up on from him? Anything you gleaned from his experience as a coach?
COACH FICKELL: What I learned from him, obviously I was with Coach Tressel for nine years as well. Just the three years Coach Dantonio was here with him, probably the one guy that I stay most in contact with since he's been gone. Just probably because we're more similar people in general, family oriented guys, a lot of those kind of things. That's very important for him, how you handle these situations, what's really important, don't forget about those kinds of things. We have a good relationship.
Q. You have had conversations after you got the job?
COACH FICKELL: Yes. If there's one person I've talked to as much as anybody, it would be him.
Q. A couple of freshmen linebackers, Ryan Shazier is playing good. Also Curtis Grant, where does he fit in right now?
COACH FICKELL: Ryan has done a great job. Ryan I think played 27, 28 snaps last week in the game, in situations when the game was obviously still early on in the game is what I mean. He's done a great job. He's done a great job special teams wise. He's going to be a very, very good football player. He's got a knack for the ball. He can run. We can get some special things out of him. We need him. He's one of the four guys in the rotation.
As far as Curtis Grant, Curtis is picking it up a little bit more. He hasn't been as big of a special teams guy as we need. But the next couple weeks, I think he's going to have a lot more opportunities, maybe playing some Sam this week a well as in the future.
Q. Why would Curtis have more opportunities at the Sam this week? What do you see there at that position that that would be the case?
COACH FICKELL: We just kind of moved him a little bit. He had been a Mike backer. Sabino bumping out to the Sam as well. Sabino was playing the Mike, too. Getting guys more involved in line situations, things like that.
Q. Your time with Coach Dantonio, what do you think it will be like this week coaching against him? Do you think it will be similar to what it was like for Coach Dantonio when he coached against Coach Tressel?
COACH FICKELL: I've said before, if I was playing my brother, I'd want to beat him as bad as I want to beat anybody. I don't think that changes or factors into it.
Q. Braxton, are you a little concerned he ran 17 times? Was that a little bit of nerves or was that part of the game plan?
COACH FICKELL: I think it's a little bit of both. But obviously we got to be conscious of it. He's got to be conscious of it. There are going to be situations where he's going to run. I'm not going to avoid those, as well.
What's the perfect number? I don't know. Staying healthy, knowing when to take off, when to get down, when to go to the extra yardage, those are things you have to learn.
Q. What is the update on Nathan Williams and Corey Brown? Will they be available this week?
COACH FICKELL: Don't know and don't know. Maybe we'll have a little better idea maybe by Wednesday. I can't speak intelligently about it right now.
Q. Curtis Grant, is there such a thing as a guy coming in with a mentality of a middle linebacker, maybe he has to grow into other roles? Is that one of his situations?
COACH FICKELL: No. I think hindsight, looking back at him, we would have wished maybe we put him in Sam earlier, things we could have done earlier. But, you know, you got to learn how to play football, you have to learn how to play the system. I was trying to tell all those guys, Sam, we moved him to Mike because we didn't have a guy. We'll let these three guys battle out at Mike and see who is best.
Q. Luke, I know obviously this day and age, you want to win every game. Does the mentality change at all with the start of Big Ten play?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a heightened awareness. They understand that. Not that those other games don't count because they do. They know what it's about. That's what our focus has always been about. This is when it starts.
We kind of talk about that all through the pre season, in camp, what we've got scheduled ahead of time so when we do get into that season, you don't have to look ahead week to week. We knew what this month is going to be about.
That's the fun of it. That's the beauty of it. I know they're excited. I know we're all excited.
Q. Obviously you guys are focused on this week's game against Michigan State. At what point do you start to get Mike Adams back in the game plan? How do you balance that?
COACH FICKELL: We're not thinking about that. We've had a plan all along. Those guys are still doing what we've asked them to do. When they're able to go, we'll get them back into the mix. Put a lot on them to make sure they know what's going on, they're staying involved.
I can just tell you they've done a great job of what we've asked them to do.
Q. Jordan Hall, what do you see what we don't see as far as what makes him special as a player?
COACH FICKELL: He's a competitor. I think that's probably the one thing you can talk about as much as anything. This guy has all kinds of abilities. When you get to college, the next level, those things become closer and closer. I think that's the one thing I would say about Jordan. Yes, he's very good in the things he does, but he's competitive. Put him back there to return the kick or put him up at the frontline, to be one of the frontline guys that block. I tell you right now, if you took him over on defense, he'd start somewhere on defense, too, just because of the competitor that he is.
Q. What does Braxton bring to the package? Are you clearly defined with what your offense is right now?
COACH FICKELL: Yes and no. I know we've got to be balanced. We've got to find more balance. That's not always easy to do. Like I said, may have called a lot more passes last week than we actually threw. But we're going to continue to tweak those things, find different ways we can do what we do, get better at them. We do know we have balance. In what way, we'll at this point to figure that out.
Q. I know you really can't prepare for trick plays. Last year Michigan State pulled off one with the Little Giants play. How do you prepare for the possibility of something like that coming down the road?
COACH FICKELL: It starts with fundamentals. You have to be fundamentally sound. To me defensively that's kind of what we do. We maybe don't get into the scheme as much as we do just making sure we're sound in what we do. So pretty much you hope that you have an awareness of everything that's going on.
The hard part about those kinds of things, you can't sit there and try and wait for them all game. If you're waiting for it all game, you're probably missing 90% of what's happening. You have to be aware and be able to react to the things that you see.
Q. Jordan Hall again, did you ever have any concern, see anything, with things that happened with Terrelle, was it difficult for Jordan?
COACH FICKELL: Jordan is his own person, like I said. Jordan is solid. It was never a thing when we recruited, they were two guys that had to go to the same place. It was a completely separate issue.
Q. (Question regarding Kirk Cousins.)
COACH FICKELL: He's a very good football player. Obviously very smart. I'm sure all of you have seen his speech he gave at the Big Ten Conference. Just an unbelievable young man. Obviously a senior who controls the offense very well. Obviously he throws the ball well.
But I think the biggest thing is he just has command of the offense. He has some weapons that they can do a lot of different things. They can run the football well. They can get out and spread the field and throw the football well, but that's because they have a quarterback that can handle those different situations.
Is he a guy that's flashy, going to run all over the place? No. But he's going to control the offense, get the ball where it's supposed to go, going to read the coverages, read the defense, get them out of things he needs to get out of. That's what every team is looking for, a field commander like that.
Q. Michigan State has 25 players from Ohio on its roster. Is there a lot of competition recruiting?
COACH FICKELL: They do a great job in this state. They make it harder on us. They make it harder on everybody.
Recruiting is always one of those things it's not a perfect science. What they think of somebody and what we think of somebody might be two different things. Who knows. You don't really know what's deep inside that person a lot of times, inside that heart. There are a few that are obvious. They do a great job in the state of Ohio. We battle with them all the time.
Q. (Question regarding emotion in this game.)
COACH FICKELL: Sure. I mean, obviously Coach Dantonio is from Ohio. A lot of their coaches are from Ohio. Jack Tressel's son is on their staff. There's all kinds of little things that can fire them up.
Again, it's a Big Ten game. I think that's the most important thing. It's the start of the Big Ten season. Whether there's little side things or stories or not, I'm sure there are every week. But it's still about Michigan State and Ohio State.
Q. You touched on this when you were talking about Braxton carrying the ball. He's got that special ability. Is there a line that you have to find with turning that loose? How much of a difficult process is that to not take away what makes him special but at the same time understand what the season needs?
COACH FICKELL: That's a difficult situation. You just got to talk and talk and talk to him about it. We say it all the time, I don't know about you, but if you're a competitor, sometimes those things are harder to learn. You go out there and play a pickup basketball game. All of a sudden you come off the floor with cuts, scrapes and bruises. Those are things that aren't the easiest things to teach.
But you know what, I'd rather have that guy that's a competitor when you're worried about playing a pickup basketball game because you know he only does things at one speed. When he gets out there, he's going to be competitive. Obviously we're going to have to try to help him through those things, coach him through those things. I'd rather have it that way than a guy the other way.
Q. Both are important for an offense, but which is more important to the importance of an offense, minimizing risk or maximizing opportunity?
COACH FICKELL: It's a little bit of both. We got to have balance, you have to have some risk, you have to have some reward. Different games, different situations, depending how things are going, you have to have the ability to do both.
You got a plan, you have to stick with it.
Q. With the Big Ten season coming up, do you need to up the risk/reward ratio?
COACH FICKELL: Depends how the game goes. Again, we can only do what our guys can handle. Coaches spend plenty of time coming up with new ideas. Ultimately what it comes down to is what they can handle. What they understand is much more important than what we understand. We got to find that balance.
Q. Braxton mentioned pre season he was trying to catch up as far as the playbook goes. How has he progressed with that?
COACH FICKELL: He's like a freshman. He's doing a better job. I think the more you become involved in doing it, obviously you start to learn a little bit better. A lot of these guys like myself are a little bit more 'learn by doing'. Sometimes in practice you think you know it. You get out in the game, you realize, Wow.
I think he's done a good job. He's going to continue to do a good job. It's on us to make sure we can only put the things in his hands that we think he can handle. How much that is, we'll continue to do.
Q. Are you curious at all about the game in Madison on Saturday night? Are you curious about the Nebraska/Wisconsin game?
COACH FICKELL: I didn't know they were playing. I didn't. Someday I wish I can balance it out well enough that I can enjoy watching other people play. But for now, unfortunately I've got a little bit of blinders, worry about what we got.
Thank you very much.
Q. What does it mean to you to be a captain? You've obviously been through a lot this year. You had two great games. Now to be named a captain, does it resonate? Are you appreciative of what it means?
JORDAN HALL: Yeah, it's definitely an honor. It will be one of my greatest memories at Ohio State definitely. It's definitely exciting.
Q. Just your thoughts on Michigan State. Obviously the bar will be raised now that the Big Ten is here.
JORDAN HALL: It will definitely be raised going into Big Ten play. They're a good, physical team. I think it will be a good test for us.
We'll need a good week of practice.
Q. How did you kind of approach the weeks that you couldn't play? How did you deal with that and keep your edge?
JORDAN HALL: I just took it as a learning experience. It taught me kind of not to take anything for granted because it could be took away like that.
I'm taking the rest of these games as if it's my last game.
Q. Does it make you more determined when you do get to play?
JORDAN HALL: Yeah, definitely.
Q. How has it changed to you? Do you sit in your room at night, don't go anywhere anymore? How has it changed your approach to fans, et cetera?
JORDAN HALL: No, our compliance office did a good job in the summer letting us know what we could do, what we can't do. It's basically knowing, being aware of the rules.
Q. Probably the most surprising elements to people who hadn't seen you take the ball as a tailback was the way you finish runs. For a player of maybe a smaller stature, you tend to finish with the pile moving forward in your advantage. Talk about that mentality as a runningback of trying to move the pile forward, keep your legs driving through the finish of a run.
JORDAN HALL: Growing up, like, my coaches, my father, he always told me to fall forward. I kind of kept that with me throughout college.
Q. Talk a little bit about your special teams play, just what goes through your head. Obviously you're trying to hit a home run every time you're out there.
JORDAN HALL: It's just another chance to make a play. Obviously I like making plays, helping the team out. Special teams play is a big part of the game. I think I try to take full advantage of that.
Q. The two games you were out, what did you actually do while the games were being played?
JORDAN HALL: I watched.
Q. Where were you?
JORDAN HALL: At home.
Q. What's that experience like?
JORDAN HALL: You actually don't know what it's like until you actually do it. So that's why I told before in the earlier interview I don't ever want to miss a game again.
Q. Do you scream at the TV? Do you feel like a fan?
JORDAN HALL: Yeah, I just want to see my teammates do well.
Q. Did you have anything to eat, get a pizza?
JORDAN HALL: I don't really remember what I ate (laughter).
Q. Michigan State statistically is the best defense in the Big Ten. What have you seen of them? What are your challenges?
JORDAN HALL: I seen that they run to the ball well and they're number one in the Big Ten for a reason. I think it's a big challenge. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Back on watching the game. A lot of basketball coaches go up and down the sideline almost as if they want to get every rebound. Were you breaking tackles on your sofa or anything like that?
JORDAN HALL: I kind of was visualizing myself in the game.
But Carlos and Rod, they did a good job of running the ball. We won it. We won. So that's all that matters really.
Q. Coach Fickell praised your competitiveness. He says you've handled everything he's asked you to handle. How does it feel to have that kind of support from your coach?
JORDAN HALL: It feels good because, I mean, he's the head coach, he makes all the decisions. If he feels that way about a player, you obviously feel good about yourself.
Q. When people watch replays of some of the plays at Miami, even last week, do you ever watch those ground level plays, do you marvel at the guts it takes to be a runningback? What is it about that that you got used to early in your life about the getting hit part?
JORDAN HALL: Growing up, I was always smaller than everybody. I liked to play with the older kids in the neighborhood. I'm kind of used to it.
Back to the runningback position, I respect any runningback because you get hit by at least three people plus the ground every time you carry the ball. They have my respect.
Q. When you get a kickoff, what are you looking at? Some guys have a knack for returning kicks, some run into the pile. What is going through your head when the ball comes down?
JORDAN HALL: I'm just trying to find a crease, find a crease, just hit it. That's really all it is, to rely on a couple blocks.
Q. Michigan State won 11 games last year, had to play without their coach for part of the season because of health issues. Is that anything you think about, something you can build on, they went through some adversity also last year?
JORDAN HALL: We're going to prepare like any other team. I mean, we're just going to take it one game at a time and prepare like any other game. We know they're going to be tough, obviously. But we're going to fight, too.
Q. Was there a little transition period when you actually did return to practice and could play in games?
JORDAN HALL: What do you mean?
Q. In practice, was there like an acceptance that now you're really a full fledged member of the team and are available to play on Saturday, felt like you were more part of anything?
JORDAN HALL: Yeah, when I wasn't playing, I went on the scout team to help the defense prepare for the other runningbacks. Being back with the offense, I feel like it's practicing to get ready for the game.
Q. Based on that, is there a transition that also has to take place with the guys that sat out the first five games? Do they have to be blended in with everybody, there's a mental barrier they have to break down?
JORDAN HALL: They're still a full fledged member of the team. They was always with us. This is their senior years. They're leaders. During the off season, they were leaders during that. When they come back, we'll look at them as leaders.
Q. What do you think of Braxton in the huddle and under center?
JORDAN HALL: He's an exciting guy. He can make something out of nothing. When you got that back there, the defense got to count for that. I think that will help us out.