Luke Fickell was placed in an extremely difficult position when Ohio State appointed him to take over for Jim Tressel on Memorial Day.
Becoming a first-time head coach is tough enough. Doing so three months before the season after a scandal at a place like Ohio State is even tougher. Inheriting a team without a proven quarterback, without a starting left tackle and a starting running back for five games, and without the team's only proven wide receiver for 10 games ... well, you get the point.
Still, few saw Ohio State going 6-6 this season, the Buckeyes' worst mark since 1999. Aside from a dramatic win against Wisconsin and a three-game win streak midway through Big Ten play, Ohio State had little to celebrate this fall.
Now with Urban Meyer expected to be introduced as Ohio State's next head coach later this afternoon, it's time to take a look at Fickell's short tenure in charge. There's a good chance Fickell leads the Buckeyes in their upcoming bowl game -- he reportedly could stay on Meyer's staff as an assistant -- but it's fair to take a snapshot of his performance in the lead role.
Like many, I was extremely impressed with the way Fickell handled himself in the media spotlight. He was honest and direct, and even showed a bit of emotion, like after Saturday's loss to Michigan. Perhaps it's because he hadn't been a head coach before, but Fickell really seemed to stay true to himself in these situations. He often talked about the importance of momentum -- getting it and then sustaining it -- and the difficulty to keep it this season. These qualities will help him when he gets a head-coaching opportunity -- and he will get one.
As a game coach, Fickell showed his inexperience at times. His teams often started slowly and fell behind. He coached conservatively -- not a surprise for a guy who apprenticed for Jim Tressel -- but it cost Ohio State at times. Ohio State clearly missed the influence of both Tressel and former assistant Darrell Hazell on offensive play-calling, as the offense really struggled until the breakout performance against Michigan. You didn't get the sense Fickell put his stamp on the program on game days.
Ohio State should have won more games than it did, but this was never a championship-caliber team, given the suspensions and Terrelle Pryor's departure.
So what grade should Fickell receive? I'd give him a C. And if I were an athletic director looking for a rising star, I'd put in a call to Fickell.
What grade would you give Fickell?