Teams & Conferences

Luke Fickell Named Cincinnati Head Coach: What Does It All Mean?

Luke Fickell Named Cincinnati Head Coach: What Does It All Mean?


Cincinnati has hired Ohio State assistant coach Luke Fickell as its new head coach. What does it all mean?


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Luke Fickell an Ohio State-worthy head coach at Cincinnati

Yeah, he went 6-7 at Ohio State in his one 2011 season, but that was coming off the Jim Tressel controversy and the program was in a transition period. He was fine – he wasn’t Urban Meyer, or Tressel.

The former Ohio State defensive lineman was born in Columbus, knows Ohio football, and isn’t going far out of his comfort zone in terms of recruiting, the high schools, and what’s expected out of the UC program.

Just 44 when the season starts, he’s young, experienced, and upwardly mobile enough to make this job a success before moving on to bigger things. If Cincinnati gets three big years out of him, that’s good.

A huge help with the defensive side, losing the key assistant is a problem, and now …

Could Ohio State lose Greg Schiano, too?

The Ohio State defensive coordinator and assistant head coach is destined for another head coaching job soon, being talked about for the South Florida gig. But he’s needed to get the Buckeyes through the College Football Playoff, doing a phenomenal job with the OSU defense this year and needing to keep everything focused for Deshaun Watson and Clemson. It’s not a given – Lane Kiffin and Charlie Strong are in the hunt for the USF job, too, with Strong the likely choice – but losing Fickell is a distraction, and Schiano being a part of all of this doesn’t help.

How good has Fickell been for the Buckeyes?

The talent has always been in place under Meyer, and Schiano made the biggest splash, but the D had to replace a whole slew of NFL talents, and it still finished fourth in the nation, third in scoring, and led the nation in pass efficiency defense. It finished ninth last year in total defense, and it shut down Marcus Mariota on the way to a national title two years ago. It’s Ohio State – it’ll find other elite coaches – but Fickell was an integral part in making the machine go. But it’s time – he’s waited his turn, and earned his chance at running his own program again.

How quickly can Fickell turn around Cincinnati?

It might be relatively fast if the offensive talent can come into place.

Six starters return, with Fickell needing Hayden Moore to turn into a major playmaker – and a steady one – at quarterback, and the O needs to figure out how to score again. Great at times throughout the Tommy Tuberville era, the offense fell off the map last scoring seven points or fewer in a three-game stretch on the way to a five-game losing streak to close out the year.

Defensively, the Bearcats were okay, but they didn’t get any help from the other side. Six starters are back and the loss of the most of the top linebackers is a problem, but Kevin Mouhon is back and CB Alex Thomas is a good one to work around. More than anything else, Fickell has to crank up the pass rush that wasn’t nearly disruptive enough.