clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ohio State DC Luke Fickell will have his hands full at Cincinnati

Fickell may not be setup for success at UC.

Sports: Cincinnati hires Luke Fickell Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Fifteen years ago this week, Ocean’s Eleven hit theaters. Heavy on handsomeness, expensive clothing, and pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-it wit, the widespread success of the film spawned a trilogy that banked over a billion dollars in worldwide revenue.

Aside from the film axiom that the first movie in a sequel or a trilogy is almost always the best of the bunch — The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, and The Godfather: Part II come to mind as exceptions Eleven is the best of the Ocean’s trilogy because the prime members of the ensemble cast are each permitted to dive fully into their characters without the baggage that comes in the next two films. George Clooney can be deviously charming; Matt Damon can be destined-for-thievery-greatness but neurotic; and Elliott Gould can be unapologetically ‘Reuben.’

Another notable part of the film — aside from Mark Wahlberg turning down the part of Linus Caldwell (Damon’s role) — is the amount of ‘Hey, that’s that guy!’ moments, like Charlie Conway — err, Joshua Jackson — and Topher Grace (right?) appearing as their real selves in the beginning of the film.

Anyway, on to the rankings!

1. John Glenn

Life’s truly worth living if you do it anywhere close to how John Glenn did it:

  • Veteran of World War II and the Korean War, where he fought alongside Ted Williams.
  • Astronaut at age 38 (when he became the first American to orbit the Earth) and 77 (when he became the oldest person to fly in outer space).
  • U.S. Senator for nearly 25 years.
  • Ran for president.
  • A few years ago, the Columbus airport was renamed John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

A native Ohioan who became a great friend to Ohio State University, Glenn’s life is seemingly without parallel in recent American lore. I’ll never forget that one of my first assignments for The Lantern was to report on a meeting Glenn attended in downtown Columbus and to try to interview him afterward. Too much time has passed for me to remember the article’s subject, but after the meeting was over, I approached Mr. Glenn and asked if I could speak with him. I could not have been more nervous and awkward; he could not have been more warm and gracious.

Rest in peace, John Herschel Glenn.

2. Lamar Jackson

The Louisville quarterback’s star waned a bit over the season’s final weeks as his team went from playoff contender to 3-loss afterthought, but there was never really any doubt that Jackson was the sport’s top player in 2016. The true sophomore — yeah, he’s gonna get even better in 2017 — won his school’s first-ever Heisman Trophy on Saturday evening.

After scanning through cfbstats.com, I found some interesting tidbits (at least to me) about Jackson’s season:

  • Jackson finished second behind Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II in total offense per game.
  • Jackson had 62 plays from scrimmage (rushing or receiving plays) where he gained 10+ yards. No other quarterback in college football had more than 46.
  • Jackson passed for 3,390 yards (12th in the nation) and 30 touchdowns (11th in the country). He rushed for 1,538 yards (eighth-best among all players) and 21 touchdowns (tied for fourth in the country).
  • Jackson completed a pass of at least 40 yards in eight of his team’s 12 games.
  • In five games this season, Jackson averaged at least nine yards per play.

3. Pat Elflein

The lowest-ranked member of Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class at Ohio State was awarded the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding center Thursday evening, the Buckeyes’ first major individual accolade since Malcolm Jenkins won the Thorpe Award in 2008. Elflein was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given to the country’s top interior lineman (Alabama’s Cam Robinson won) and has recently been named to numerous All-American lists. Suffice to say, Elflein’s decision to come back for a fifth season and to move from guard to center has paid dividends.

A three-star recruit out of Pickerington North High School in Columbus, Elflein received 10 scholarship offers, though over half of them came from non-Power Five schools. After redshirting the 2012 campaign with a foot ailment, Elflein saw action in all 14 games in 2013 as a backup, but his welcome-to-the-big-leagues moment was when he replaced right guard Marcus Hall in the Michigan game after Hall was ejected for his participation in a second quarter brouhaha.

Eflein started for Hall in the Big Ten Championship game, and then made 28 consecutive starts at either left guard or right guard from 2014-15, garnering first team all-Big Ten honors in both seasons. With the Buckeyes losing three starters from the 2015 offensive line entering this fall, Elflein moved over to center to replace fellow Pickerington native Jacoby Boren.

Now, Elflein is the last man standing from Ohio State’s 2012 recruiting class, a group that was ranked No. 5 in the nation and included future NFLers Michael Thomas, Cardale Jones, Noah Spence, Taylor Decker, Joshua Perry, and Tyvis Powell.

4. Luke Fickell

It’s nice to see the 43-year-old Ohio State lifer get a real chance at a head coaching job with Cincinnati after he was dealt an impossible hand taking over at Ohio State on an interim basis in 2011.

I’m torn on whether I think Fickell is in a position to succeed with the Bearcats. The appeal of Fickell (hard-working, ace recruiter, no one knows Ohio better) works in direct contrast to the fair/unfair (depending on what you believe) accusations levied against Tommy Tuberville and why his regime failed at Cincinnati.

But I’m also worried that too much could be asked of Fickell at Cincinnati, a Group of Five school with Power Five ambitions. The university recently spent $86 million to renovate its pre-World War I football stadium in part because Cincinnati desperately wants to rejoin college football’s big leagues despite having finished third and fourth in the American’s Athletic Conference’s East division the past two seasons. And yet, in spite of the program’s recent regression, expectations remain high thanks to the foundation laid by Mark Dantonio and the Big East titles won by Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.

I’m also torn on whether Kerry Coombs (who apparently isn’t going anywhere) would have been a net positive or net negative working under Fickell at Cincinnati. Coombs, whose deep Cincinnati connections are well-established at this point, would have been an incredible asset to Fickell in re-planting the Bearcats flag inside the I-275 belt, thereby lessening the influence of Michigan State, Kentucky, and other programs that have been poaching three and four-star recruits out of the city with alarming regularity. However, at the first sign of extended trouble, the sometimes-insular section of Cincinnati’s fan base — there are still plenty of Bearcats fans that yearn for the Bob Huggins era on the hardwood — would have rallied around Coombs and implored the native son to take the reins.

5. Additional coaching attrition

The possibility still exists that Fickell is just the first domino to fall from the ranks of Ohio State’s assistant coaches, even if the chances of that happening are lessening by the day. Coombs now appears likely to stay put, and the same could be said for co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who was reportedly in contention for the Oregon and South Florida gigs, which went to Willie Taggert and (reportedly) Charlie Strong, respectively.

Still, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is a possible fit at Western Kentucky, and there’s always room for the unexpected to occur.