Good news for Cincinnati - Luke Fickell is committed to being the head coach of the Bearcats and isn’t going anywhere, for at least another season.
The bad news for Cincinnati and Fickell is now that the dust has settled and his decision to decline Michigan State’s offer, he has some work to do in filling three spots on the coaching staff.
Bearcats have vacancies at DL coach, RB coach, and now CB coach.
Sources: Notre Dame expected to hire Mike Mickens as defensive backs coach. Mickens was a star player for Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. He comes from Cincinnati, where he served as DBs coach.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 13, 2020
Mickens was a second team All-American and All-Big East CB in 2007 for the Bearcats. He spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons playing for Brian Kelly, after being initially recruited by Mark Dantonio. He was a 7th round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2009 NFL Draft, but did not have a long NFL career.
Mickens recorded just 4 interceptions in 2005-2006, but had 10 over the last two seasons, including 6 during his All American year in 2007. He also had 3 touchdowns those last two years.
Mickens returned to Cincinnati in 2011 as a defensive assistant on Butch Jones’ staff. In 2012, he moved onto Indiana State in the same role as the CB coach at Idaho in 2013. He was Bowling Green’s CB Coach from 2014-2017, and was hired by Fickell before the 2018 season.
Mickens has played a major role in recruiting and also in the development of guys like Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, Arquon Bush, Justin Harris.
Moving to Notre Dame, where he will fill the same role as CB Coach, gives Mickens higher visibility and additional exposure as he continues to ascend in his career. No doubt, Mickens ultimate goal is to be a defensive coordinator and it’s much easier to get a job like that as a position coach at Notre Dame, than it is to take such a leap at Cincinnati.
Another job that Fickell needs to fill is RB coach. Doug Phillips had been with Fickell on the UC staff since 2017, serving as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach in 2017, before coaching running backs the last two seasons.
Well, the last two seasons featured Michael Warren II running for 2,594 yards and 33 rushing touchdowns. Warren was so good under Phillips’ tutelage that he has become the first Bearcats play ever to leave school early to declare for the NFL Draft.
Phillips worked with Gerrid Doaks, Charles McClelland and others, helped in their development.
Can’t be mad at him for leaving - he returns to his alma mater at Youngstown State to be their new head coach. There is a vacancy there after Bo Pelini left to become the defensive coordinator at LSU.
The last vacancy is DL coach, a job vacated by Chad Wilt, who left the Bearcats after 1 year for the same job with Minnesota and PJ Fleck. Wilt did great work with the Cincinnati defensive line, which was considered a weakness heading into the 2019 season, but proved to ultimately be a strength.
One name being tossed around for the opening is Walter Stewart, who is currently the DL Coach at Temple. Stewart is a well-known UC alum who recorded 17.5 sacks from 2009-2012 with Cincinnati.
Filling these jobs is important, as position coaches spend more time with the individual players than Fickell or the coordinators, but at the end of the day, Fickell still runs the show, and regardless of who fills the void at CB Coach and DL Coach, Marcus Freeman, another rising star in the coaching world, will call the shots and be mostly responsible for the success (or failure) or this defense in 2020.