Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Buckeyes embracing challenges ahead
By Adam Rittenberg
First came the shock.
Jim Tressel’s resignation as Ohio State coach rattled the program for several days.
"It was a big blow," All-Big Ten center Michael Brewster told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Just more hurt for him than anything. We knew how much he loved this place, how much he loved us. But once we got over that, we realized it’s time to move on."
Michael Brewster said the team will have to get past all the distractions this season.
Brewster has seen minimal moping in the past four weeks. Ohio State is trying to keep a sense of normalcy under interim coach Luke Fickell.
Despite so much uncertainty, a season is on the horizon, and Brewster has seen his teammates attack the offseason with renewed vigor.
"Guys are working their butts off, harder than ever, not backing down," he said. "It really has been a good thing to see.
Ohio State's internal leadership will be instrumental in steadying the ship this fall. While Brewster takes his role as a team leader seriously, the task hasn't been too challenging so far.
"Everyone's been getting closer and more pissed off and more ready to go," he said. "We've really embraced the challenge, and that has been awesome.
"I'm really not worried about next year. I know we're going to be ready."
Ohio State tried to maintain a sense of normalcy in spring practice, and succeeded for the most part. But it was before Tressel resigned, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the program and the NCAA investigation into the program heated up.
The increased attention on players' off-field activities has resulted in more meetings with compliance officials in recent weeks.
Fickell, Tressel and team officials are scheduled to meet Aug. 12 before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. The program could be hit with severe penalties at some point during the season.
How do the Buckeyes deal with the uncertainty?
"It's something that's so out of our hands that we're not really worried about it," Brewster said. "We don't know what's going to happen, whether it's going to be in August or if it's going to be next year and so on. We're just worried about getting ready for the first game."
Ohio State players are used to winning Big Ten titles and earning BCS bowl berths, but the unique circumstances surrounding the coming season would make success even sweeter.
"I know we're going to come out on top in this challenge," Brewster said, "and I think it will be so satisfying at the end of the day when we do. Our backs are against the wall, but we're working very hard."
Brewster weighed in on a few other topics during our chat:
On Pryor's departure: "Guys were surprised and bummed, but he had to move on and we know we've got to do the same. We still love him, he's still our teammate and our friend. That's not going to change just because he can't play here anymore." Brewster talked to Pryor shortly after the quarterback decided to leave, but the two haven't spoken since.
On quarterback Joe Bauserman: "He knows the game well, he knows how to manage the game, manage the offense. Those are all things that make you feel very confident in him to take care of the game plan."
On Fickell: "He's not going to try to be somebody he's not. He's not going to be try Coach Tress. He's going to make sure we get to where we want to be, and you've got to respect him for that. Everything has been very normal around here because we know our goals haven't changed."