Sports Today: Fickell’s early impact at UC, high school spring football, Reds turn back clock, etc.


Think Luke Fickell is making a difference early in his tenure as head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats football team? 

Here’s what Malik Vann, a four-star defensive end from Fairfield, told our Rick Cassano after verbally committing to UC: 

“I just loved Fickell,” Vann said. “I love the attitude and intensity and energy he brings to UC. I’ll definitely get behind a leader like that.”

Vann is the second four-star to commit to UC, and he did so despite many Power 5 offers. That includes Michigan State, where teammate Josiah Scott is a freshman. 

Fickell was regarded as a greater recruiter at Ohio State, and it comes as no surprise he is hitting Southwest Ohio hard right away. 

READ MORE: Malik Vann explains why he chose UC 

A lot goes into being a successful head football coach, but you know the old state champion wrestler is not going to get outworked. 

If he can keep beating big schools for local kids, the possibilities for Fickell’s Bearcats are nearly endless. 

Just look at what Tom Herman did at Houston in just two years… 

RELATED: National powers in pursuit of local stars

I’ve been working on the 2017-as-1999 narrative for the Reds early this season, but last night was a vintage early 2010s performance. 

Cincinnati wasted a gem from Amir Garrett, who struck out 12 but picked up his first major-league loss because the Reds managed only two hits while being shut out for the first time this season. 

Bryan Price says the difference between Garrett and the other young Reds starters who have taken some lumps early this season is competitiveness. 

“Of all the accolades we’ve piled on Amir these first three starts,” Price said, “the one that stands out the most is his willingness to compete every moment he’s on the field. That is not something that everybody just has because they’re a big leaguer. There’s a lot of guys who fold their tent when things get tough, even at this level, and he doesn’t. He expects to do well. If you have to convince your players they’re good, that’s another uphill battle for you. He already believes he’s good.”

That is a telling quote in many ways about these Reds, who have not seemed to be the strongest team mentally going back a while. 

Early on, though, the guys who are fueling the hot start (relievers and hitters) have talked a lot about not being surprised, so it will be interesting to see what direction that goes as the season wears on. 

Wednesday was also a turn-back-the-clock night for Ubaldo Jimenez, who walked four and struck out three while pitching into the eighth inning. 

Price also cited growing confidence as a reason for Cody Reed’s recent success in the bullpen and the decision to give him a start Saturday against the Cubs…. 

The Reds lost, but the beat goes on for the Dayton Dragons, who remain in first place in the Midwest League East thanks to a walk-off win last night. 

Hector Vargas drove in the winning run in the 11th inning

Taylor Trammell, an athletic outfielder from Georgia who was taken late in the first round of the draft last year, has a nine-game hitting streak going… 

Anthony Grant’s first Dayton Flyers basketball coaching staff is set, and it doesn’t contain any of Archie Miller’s UD assistants. 

The hiring of Anthony Solomon comes with an endorsement from well-connected Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel, for what that is worth. 

There does not appear to be much Ohio flavor to this group (only Grant and Solomon have coached in the Buckeye State before), but they have experience recruiting in a variety of places, including Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky… 

Do we need more football in Ohio? 

In general the answer to that question is always yes, but when the topic turns specifically to spring practice for high schoolers, it gets a little more controversial. 

A couple of years after his boss talked publicly about the benefits it could bring (skill development, recruiting opportunities), Kerry Coombs gave an emphatic endorsement when I asked him about it yesterday at a post-spring media availability for Ohio State’s assistant coaches. 

Among the responders on social media was Jerry Snodgrass, an assistant commissioner at the OHSAA. 

I can see both sides of the coin here. I believe in the importance of spring sports, and I oppose specialization, but I would like to see something worked out that can accommodate them all. 

If you have thoughts on this topic, email me: marcus.hartman@coxinc.com... 

And finally, what would a daily sports rundown in April be without some NFL draft talk? 

Cris Collinsworth’s mock draft is just one of several that have his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, selecting Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett. 

Yesterday I was also intrigued by the input of Andy Benoit of TheMMQB. 

I tend to agree with all of these points, although I’m not sure how eager they will be to use a high pick on an offensive lineman with Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi still trying to figure it out at the pro level. 

Of course I would rather see them reach for a lineman than a receiver. One of those positions you can build without players at the top of the draft while the other you really can’t. 

Also: Collinsworth has Ohio State DBs Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker going sixth and seventh overall. 


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