For much of fall camp it appeared that Luke Fickell was content not changing much from the way former head coach Jim Tressel ran Ohio State’s fall camp.
In the annual fall jersey scrimmage Saturday, however, Fickell finally made a change that left a lasting impression — the score wasn’t kept.
Which side of the ball won the scrimmage — and perhaps more importantly who will keep the scarlet practice jerseys — took a backseat to focusing on execution on a play-by-play basis.
“We broke it to them this morning and it wasn’t anything that was a big change by any means,” Fickell said. “I thought they were competitive the whole camp so far and that’s the nature of what we want to be, so we weren’t focused on the score.
“I didn’t want that to effect how the team played or how we called things. The biggest thing was I didn’t want them to look up to the scoreboard and be up by 50 and slow down or be down by 50 and sulk.”
The offense seemed to have the upper hand for most of the day, given they only turned the ball over one time while scoring three touchdowns and kicking five field goals.
By Tressel’s old scoring system, the offense would have had the clear advantage with turnovers being the most impactful way for the defensive unit to tally up points.
Fickell didn’t specify whether they’d use Tressel’s old scoring system, but said the team would be gauged on “turnovers and toughness.”
“We’re going to see the things that we’re trying to evaluate,” Fickell said. “That was the biggest thing. It is about us. We don’t care who wears the jerseys, whether or I am playing against my bother or somebody I don’t like, to me it has to be competitive.
“And if I can beat them I want to beat them as bad as I can. The biggest thing is that they compete and we are going to measure and it is going to be on the turnovers and on the toughness factor.”
While none of the players would downplay the importance of winning the scarlet jerseys, perhaps the most important thing the coaches came a way with was a gauge on how players played in a game simulation.
For the quarterbacks, who remained live for nearly half the scrimmage, it was a successful barometer for the coaching staff to measure who’s ready to lead the team.
Like he had being doing for the entirety of fall camp, fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman repped with the first team offense, highlighted by a 10-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman.
Bauserman, who connected on some nice throws during the scrimmage, had one miscue on the day on a long attempt on an out route to Corey Brown. Bauserman threw the pass behind Brown, who had beaten cornerback Travis Howard, but Howard was in position to pick off the senior in the end zone.
Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller proved why he is giving Bauserman a run for the quarterback job, as his elusiveness and ability to make plays with his legs was definitively put on display in full contact drills.
Miller, who’s day was highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields, later connected with freshman Evan Spencer on another touchdown from nearly 30 yards out. Those two touchdown passes were in addition to rushing plays that exemplified his ability to move around in the offensive backfield.
“Like Fick said, (not keeping score) gave us a little bit of urgency to worry about what we were doing,” senior center Michael Brewster said. “He said we will know who wins the game on toughness and who is going to rush the ball or stop the run and we also had some nice pass plays.
“We weren’t looking at the scoreboard, but more getting a feel for things. People know who is winning and who is losing. I am not sure what the score was, but I thought people did a nice job.”
Check out BuckeyeSports.com’s premium “Ask the Insiders” message board for a complete list of statistics, observations, and notes from the jersey scrimmage.