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Fickell likes ‘Tresselball’

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — For almost a decade, Ohio State fans have loved and loathed “Tresselball.”

The buttoned-down, conservative approach of former head coach Jim Tressel relied on defense and special teams winning games, with the offense doing just enough to not mess it up.

When the Buckeyes won the 2002 national championship at the Fiesta Bowl by running the less-than-mobile quarterback Craig Krenzel and playing field position against top-ranked Miami, the faithful adored it and its architect.

But after narrow losses fans ranted for weeks about Tressel’s inability to open up and let his talent take over.

Now, Tressel is gone; Tresselball is not.

“I wouldn’t say Tresselball; he’s no longer around,” tight end Jake Stoneburner said. “It’s the Ohio State offense. We’re going to run the ball, because that’s what we do (with) simple pass plays to start off the season. It’s basically the same Ohio State offense you’ve seen the last 10 years.”

With the 2011 season about to kick off Saturday against Akron, everyone’s eager to check out interim head coach Luke Fickell.

Fickell, who has been on the Buckeyes’ defensive staff for the past nine years, said he has no plans to dabble with the offense or create “Fickellball.”

“I’m going to stick with my strengths,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence in (offensive coordinator Jim) Bollman and everybody on that side of the ball. They’ve been doing this a long time and know what they’re doing.”

Tressel — and his style of play — was a big winner. Even subtracting the vacated 12-1 record from 2010, Tressel was 94-21 on the Ohio State sideline.

He played keep-away with the ball on offense with high-percentage passes and straight-ahead running plays, picking his spots when he might take a chance. The rest of the time, he was content to settle for field goals and to pin opposing teams deep in their own territory with punts — which he called the most important play in football.

The rest he left up to his annual rock-hard defense.

A different approach might seem to be required this year because leading tailback Dan Herron and top returning receiver DeVier Posey will miss the first five games for accepting improper benefits. Also missing: three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who jumped to the NFL.

With Pryor’s understudy, Joe Bauserman, and true freshman Braxton Miller sharing time at quarterback, it’s unlikely the 2011 playcalling will vary much from previous seasons.

“Our philosophy hasn’t changed,” quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said. “We’ve been together a long time. And we’re still on the same mission as an offense.”

One of the holdovers on the offensive staff is running backs coach Dick Tressel, Jim’s older brother. He concedes that anyone expecting a wild, wide-open attack will be disappointed.

“The punt is absolutely the most important play in football,” he said with a grin. “But there’s a close 1-A, and that’s the next play: Whatever play it is. That’s a very important one.”