Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has one of the toughest jobs ahead of him in 2014. While there are a lot of strong suits on this team heading into the season, the linebacker spot isn’t one of them, and it’s been a while since it’s been that way in Columbus.
Most notably, the departure of All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier to the NFL has left a huge void on the defensive side of the ball, one that could be filled by one of a number of players.
Still, no matter who it is that ends up filling the slot, Fickell stated that the main thing is that he can get the entire unit to play together.
“We’ve all got to put a lot of things in our rear-view mirror. That’s what we’ve got to try and tell them. It’s a confidence issue. Whether you’re an older guy or a younger guy, we’ve got to make sure that these guys all play together. I think that’s the one thing that started to happen at the end when things were getting tough and we’re not playing well, everybody goes into their little shell, whether you’re a coach or a player.
Given some of the breakdowns last season at the end, you could see where Fickell is coming from, as it was a bit of a free-for-all, especially in the Michigan State and Clemson contests.
However, that shouldn’t be a problem as he also pointed toward the fact that there are some veterans returning that have seen the good and the bad, and can carry those experiences with them into this season.
“So we’re going to rely on those older guys. They’ve been through a lot of battles. They’ve been through some ups and downs. They’ve been through a 24-game winning streak. They’ve been through a two-game losing streak. They’ve got to feed off of those experiences that they’ve had.”
As the summer goes on, we’ll have a better idea of who can step up into the role, but as we’ve seen throughout Ohio State history, there’s always a young, hungry defensive standout ready to step up to the plate.