NCF Nation: Solomon Thomas

Timeline of Ohio State's NCAA case

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
2:54
PM ET
Ohio State's infractions case with the NCAA came to an end today after the events leading up to it had played out -- at least publicly -- for almost exactly one year. Here is a timeline of the Buckeyes' trying times:

April 2, 2010: Then-Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel gets his first email from Columbus lawyer Chris Cicero informing him that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players were trading their team memorabilia to local tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife in exchange for tattoos. Tressel does not inform any of his superiors about this.

Dec. 7, 2010: The U.S. attorney’s office discovers Ohio State football memorabilia in a raid of Rife's business.

Dec. 23, 2010: Ohio State announces that Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for trading their memorabilia. All five players are allowed to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, thanks to some lobbying by the Big Ten. The Buckeyes would go on to defeat Arkansas in the game.

Jan. 13, 2011: Ohio State unearths Tressel’s emails with Cicero, igniting an investigation.

Feb. 19: A group of Buckeyes players are paid $200 by booster Robert DiGeronimo for attending a charity event in Cleveland.

March 8: The school announces that Tressel will be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and will be fined $250,000. His bosses voice their support of Tressel, with school president E. Gordon Gee infamously saying, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

March 17: Tressel’s suspension is extended to the first five games of the season.

May 30: Athletic director Gene Smith forces Tressel to resign. Luke Fickell is named interim coach.

July 8: Ohio State announces it has vacated all wins from the 2010 season and is self-imposing two years' probation stemming from the Tressel/tattoo controversy. The school later also says it will return its proceeds from the Sugar Bowl.

Aug. 12: Ohio State goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis.

Sept. 1: Less than 48 hours before the season opener against Akron, running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown are suspended two games each for accepting cash from DiGeronimo at the charity event.

Sept. 20: Ohio State publicly disassociates itself with DiGeronimo, who had given more than $70,000 to the athletic department in the previous 25 years.

Oct. 7: Posey is suspended an additional five games, while Herron and linemen Marcus Hall and Melvin Fellows are suspended one game for being overpaid for summer jobs at a company owned by DiGeronimo.

Nov. 3: The NCAA sends another notice of allegations to Ohio State concerning the DiGeronimo accusations. The NCAA says the Buckeyes will face a "failure to monitor" charge. The Buckeyes respond by stripping themselves of five total scholarships over a three-year period.

Nov. 28: Ohio State hires Urban Meyer as its new head coach. Meyer and Smith both say they are not worried about any serious NCAA penalties. Smith says there is no precedent for receiving a bowl ban in cases similar to this one.

Dec. 20: The NCAA doles out its punishment to Ohio State: a 2012 postseason ban, the loss of four scholarships on top of the school's own reduction, an extra year of probation and a five-year show-cause penalty for Tressel.
Saturday is Senior Day at Ohio State. This year will likely bring some mixed emotions to the event.

The Buckeyes have a small senior class of contributors -- of the 24 players who will be honored before the Penn State game, only nine have ever started a game in their careers. And of those nine, four of them have been mired in controversy this year. Offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas sat out the first five games as part of their suspension for the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal. Running back Dan Herron served that suspension and an extra game for another violation. And receiver DeVier Posey will be playing for the first time Saturday after sitting out 10 games for both the tattoo case and a summer job that the NCAA has alleged paid him for work he didn't perform.

[+] EnlargeLuke Fickell
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteCoach Luke Fickell said Ohio State's seniors who were suspended should be shown the same respect as the other seniors.
The seniors also won three Big Ten championships and played in three BCS games, winning two of them (though one of them, like the entire 2010 season, was officially vacated). So how exactly will fans view this class? Will it be all cheers on Saturday? Or some grumbling as well?

"I'm not sure how they will react," Herron said. "That's really not something we can worry about. If fans give us a good response, we'll be happy. If they don't, we've got to keep moving on."

Head coach Luke Fickell says the seniors who were suspended should be shown the same respect as others.

"They've made a mistake," he said. "They've served their penance. They've shown what they can do in the way that they've handled themselves ....

"To me, these guys have battled through a lot. I've got the utmost respect for them for how they've handled the situations. The way they've been in the locker room, I couldn't ask for anything truly more in the last six months than the way they've handled themselves, the way they've accepted me, and our coaching staff, and the things we thought were important for these six months."

Posey might be the most interesting case study of them all. Surely, the Buckeyes' woeful passing offense could have used him this season. He's a central figure in not one but two situations that resulted in a notice of allegations from the NCAA. He's also paid the price by sitting out 10 games his senior year and trying to stay in shape and focused on when his opportunity would come.

Adams and Herron, who were starters before their suspensions, stepped right back into their roles when they came back. Fickell praised the way Posey has handled himself through the situation but didn't commit to Posey starting this week. The Buckeyes may need him against a stout Penn State defense.

"I'm so excited to see him out there and playing," said Herron, a close friend of Posey's. "When you miss 10 games, it's tough on someone, especially when it's your dream to play college football. He's been working tremendously hard and hopefully he'll show that on Saturday."

It's also important to note that many of the seniors never got into any NCAA turmoil. Guys such as All-Big Ten center Mike Brewster, who will be starting his 47th consecutive game this week. Brewster said he'll choose to remember the BCS bowls, and that the NCAA can't vacate last year's Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas out of his mind. This year, though Ohio State is 6-4, he said he'll remember helping to mentor young players such as Braxton Miller and hopefully setting the stage for the future.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the senior class will be remembered.

"I hope we have a great legacy," Herron said. "We've been through a lot, but we don't make that as an excuse. We've shown that you can go through anything and that anything is possible. We're going to fight to the end."
There must have been times this season when Ohio State's starting defensive linemen found games to be easier than their own practices. That's because the Buckeyes had likely the best scout team left tackle in America for the first five weeks.

Mike Adams should have been with the starters, too, during that time. But he was serving his five-game suspension as one of the players involved in the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal. All he could do was try to provide his teammates with a good look on the scout team while he counted down the days until his return.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Mike Adams
Bruce Thorson/US PRESSWIREThe return of 6-foot-8, 320-pound left tackle Mike Adams has made a dramatic difference in the Buckeyes' run game.
"That part of the suspension definitely makes you challenge yourself a little bit," he said. "I'd be sitting on my couch watching the games going, 'Man, I wish I was out there.' But it was nobody's fault but my own."

Adams was the first of the suspended players to return and have an impact, as running back Daniel "Boom" Herron had to serve an extra game, receiver DeVier Posey got five extra games and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas was injured. Adams wasted little time in proving his value.

Stepping right back into the starting lineup, Adams helped rejuvenate the Ohio State running attack. The Buckeyes had only 35 net yards on the ground in the final game of his suspension. In his two games back, they rushed for a season high 243 yards at Nebraska and 211 versus Illinois.

Adams' return allowed younger offensive linemen to slide back into more natural roles and gave the offense a 6-foot-8, 320-pound lead anchor. He was a big reason why Ohio State could line up and run the ball all but four times in a victory at Illinois last time out.

"Eventually we've got to have some more balance," head coach Luke Fickell said. "But we can get away with a lot of things because Mike is a very good football player."

Adams said his work on the scout team, going up against starters like John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, kept him from getting rusty during his time away. And as one of the suspended guys who felt like he let his teammates down, he wanted to make sure he came back with a bang.

"You want to come back on the foot you left off on, and for me and Boom, that was the Sugar Bowl last year," he said. "Coming back, we didn't want there to be any dropoff. We want to be consistent and help this team get better and keep on winning."

Getting a first-team All-Big Ten left tackle back on the field was certainly going to help. Fickell said it's more than just what Adams brings to Saturdays, though.

"Mike is one of the guys who gives us more confidence," he said. "Just in the huddle, in the locker room, he's a guy who's naturally very confident. He brings us a whole lot of things, not just his game but his attitude and confidence level as well."

Adams admitted it pained him not being able to help earlier this season as Ohio State lost to Miami and Michigan State with a floundering offense. Now that he's returned, he's aiming to get the Buckeyes back to winning big games, starting with this weekend's showdown against Wisconsin.

"We have a little something to prove, as we have the whole season," he said. "We definitely have plans for a strong finish."
Week 6 is just around the corner, so let's take a look at 10 items to track in the five Big Ten games taking place Saturday.

1. Buckeyes seeing red: Luke Fickell and his team can't catch a break these days. Saturday was supposed to mark the return of four players, including three multiyear offensive starters, from suspension. Turns out, Ohio State will only regain the services of left tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas for the game at Nebraska. The Buckeyes rank 108th nationally in total offense and face a Nebraska defense coming off of an embarrassing performance at Wisconsin. Ohio State is a double-digit underdog in a conference game for the first time in recent memory. Is this the beginning of the end, or the start of a turnaround?

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Luke Fickell
Greg Bartram/US PRESSWIRELuke Fickell and Ohio State rank 108th in total offense this season.
2. Carson, Lions hope to humble Hawkeyes: Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson added some spice to the Penn State-Iowa rivalry this week, jokingly calling Iowa "a wrestling school" and saying of Hawkeyes fans, "They think they have this stranglehold on us. We just have to humble them up a little bit." Simply beating Iowa would be a nice start, as Penn State has lost three straight and eight of its last nine to Kirk Ferentz's squad. Carson and his fellow Lions defenders will need another superb performance if Penn State's offense continues to spin its wheels.

3. Wolverines, Illini finally hit the road: Michigan and Illinois have been the two nicest surprises in the Big Ten so far, as both teams are 5-0 and ranked in the top 20. Both teams also haven't left the comforts of their home stadiums. That changes Saturday as Michigan visits Northwestern and Illinois visits Indiana. Although neither road opponent or road setting seems too daunting, Michigan's improved defense will be challenged against Northwestern senior QB Dan Persa, while Illinois faces an Indiana team that held Penn State to 16 points last week in Bloomington.

4. Mad Martinez anxious to rebound: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is fed up with the criticism, which increased after his three-interception game against Wisconsin. Martinez had a terse session with reporters this week in Lincoln, and offensive lineman Yoshi Hardwick said, "It finally hit him. He'd been holding in a lot. He said he couldn't take it anymore. ... He told me he's sick of it. These next seven games, he just wants the world to get off his back, so he had to do something about it." He can start the process against Ohio State, which boasts the nation's No. 13 defense.

5. QBs in spotlight at Ross-Ade: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill and Purdue counterpart Danny Hope both announced likely starters for Saturday's game -- Max Shortell for the Gophers, Caleb TerBush for the Boilers -- but said things could change by kickoff. MarQueis Gray practiced this week and could work his way back onto the field for Minnesota after missing the Michigan debacle. Robert Marve, whose critical tweet after the Notre Dame loss didn't upset Hope, should be in the mix alongside TerBush. "If he could stay within the system, he could be a difference maker for us," Hope said of Marve this week. "Caleb manages the offense very well and Robert doesn't manage it as well." This much is known: one of these four quarterbacks will guide their team to its first Big Ten win Saturday.

6. Denard vs. Dan: No two Big Ten players meant more to their teams in 2010 than Michigan QB Denard Robinson and Northwestern QB Dan Persa. The two signal callers meet Saturday night in Evanston in what could be an offensive shootout. Robinson still leads the Big Ten in rushing (120.6 ypg) and rebounded nicely as a passer last week against Minnesota, completing 15 of 19 attempts for 169 yards and two scores. Persa sizzled in his season debut at Illinois, firing a career-high four touchdown passes on only 14 pass attempts. Although Persa left the Illinois game with a right foot injury, he practiced this week and is expected to take the bulk of the snaps against Michigan.

7. Potent Hawkeyes pass attack put to test: Ferentz was joking last week when he said Iowa will "go 100 percent no-huddle" on offense the rest of the season, but the Hawkeyes have found something with their up-tempo passing attack. QB James Vandenberg has racked up 432 pass yards and six touchdowns in his past five quarters of play, and Iowa's receiving corps has been a pleasant surprise as Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley are emerging alongside No. 1 wideout Marvin McNutt. How good is the Hawkeyes' pass attack? Find out Saturday afternoon at Penn State, which ranks sixth nationally in pass defense with only three passing touchdowns allowed this season.

8. Illini livin' on the edge: Illinois is racking up the wins, but not without plenty of drama. The Illini have recorded three consecutive victories by three points, rallying in the fourth quarter for two of those wins (Arizona State and Northwestern). Ron Zook would like to leave the Maalox at home this week and enjoy a complete performance from his 19th-ranked squad at Indiana. Illinois has to cut down on turnovers, limit penalties after committing eight last week and improve its red-zone touchdowns efficiency against an Indiana defense that forced two Penn State turnovers in the red zone last week.

9. JoePa's sideline swagger: Penn State coach Joe Paterno has disposed of his cane and hopes to spend an entire game on the sideline for the first time this season. The 84-year-old has coached the first half on the sideline in each of the last two contests before heading to the coaches' booth after halftime. "I'm going to be swaggering all over the place." Paterno told reporters Tuesday. "Don't get in my way." Although Paterno's prolonged sideline presence should help his team, he remains removed from much of the key decision-making, including offensive play calls, which are handled by assistants Galen Hall and Jay Paterno. "I don't do a lot of play-calling anymore," he said. "I'm a cheerleader."

10. The league's middle class: Monday, I wrote that the Big Ten needs its middle class to rise to improve its national perception and enhance its chances for the bowl season. Top dog Wisconsin is off this week, so Saturday provides a chance to evaluate the rest of the league (aside from Michigan State, which also has a bye). Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois all have opportunities to take steps forward on the field and likely in the polls. The Iowa-Penn State winner will be in good shape to make a push in their division. Northwestern and Ohio State try to avoid 0-2 conference starts and change the mood around their programs.
Fickell/PeliniUS PresswireLuke Fickell's and Bo Pelini's teams aren't where they thought they'd be at this point in the season.
As spring ball reached the home stretch and people began to scan the Big Ten schedule for the coming season, one game practically jumped off of the page.

It pitted two teams many expected to reach the inaugural Big Ten championship game. It marked a historic event for the Big Ten's newest member. It paired two likely top-10 squads -- the league's flagship program against a potential emerging power. It featured a delicious quarterback matchup.

And the unique circumstances surrounding the game made it a must watch.

We're not talking about Nebraska-Wisconsin. Sure, it was a big game and a historic one for Nebraska, but Russell Wilson was still playing minor league baseball at the time.

Back in the spring, the Huskers-Badgers game was merely the undercard. Ohio State-Nebraska was unquestionably the Big Ten's main event.

Now it might as well be called the What-If Bowl.

This spring, you'd have a hard time finding a matchup anywhere in the country that had more storylines and national intrigue than Buckeyes-Huskers.

An Ohio State program that had dominated the headlines throughout a rough offseason was set to welcome back coach Jim Tressel, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four others from suspension. Many thought if the Buckeyes could just survive the first five games with a shorthanded roster and an inexperienced game coach (Luke Fickell), they could once again make a run at a Big Ten title and possibly more.

Love or loathe the Buckeyes, you would have a hard time not tuning in to see how the team responded with Tressel, Pryor and the others back on the field. The reality: Tressel and Pryor are gone and only two of the so-called "Tat-5" will return in Lincoln.

The what-ifs could drive Buckeye Nation batty: What if Tressel were manning the sideline Saturday night? What if Pryor returned to call signals in the type of road setting where he thrived for much of his career? What if DeVier Posey returned to provide some much-needed experience to a green receiving corps? What if Fickell could return to what he does best, coaching the linebackers? What if the Buckeyes had survived the opening stretch at 5-0 instead of 3-2?

The pattern continued Monday as Posey and top running back Dan Herron, two players Ohio State expected to return Saturday, were ruled ineligible for a separate NCAA rules violation. What if Posey and Herron were back?

It's painful to think what Saturday night might have meant for a sputtering Buckeyes offense ranked last in the Big Ten and 108th nationally. Ohio State would regain the services of four multiyear offensive starters: Pryor, Herron and Posey, along with left tackle Mike Adams, who will be on the field in Lincoln. It also would regain Tressel, who had tremendous influence over the quarterbacks and the offense and could provide direction.

Nebraska also can play the what-if game, especially after its humbling loss to Wisconsin last week. What if the defense had played to its potential from the start of the season? What if top cornerback Alfonzo Dennard hadn't gone down with an injury midway though camp and missed the first three games? What if Nebraska continued to run the ball in Madison rather than assume risk with Taylor Martinez and the passing game?

Maybe we'd have two 5-0 teams squaring off in Lincoln in a national showcase game. Instead, the game pits an underachieving 4-1 Nebraska squad against an unranked 3-2 Ohio State team that already has had two of the worst offensive performances in team history.

The game still has some interesting plot lines: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini facing his alma mater, the Huskers' first Big Ten home game, Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas returning for Ohio State, the Buckeyes' response to their latest off-field setback.

Maybe we'll get an instant classic Saturday night.

Most likely, we'll be left wondering what if.
Ohio State's offense has been abysmal, but the Buckeyes at least could look forward to this week when three offensive starters return, including running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey.

Or can they?

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Herron and Posey may have to sit out at least one more game instead of returning this week for the Nebraska road contest. (Fellow suspended players Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas would still be cleared this week).

From Tim May's story:
"A separate probe by the NCAA into Herron and Posey apparently showed they may have received improper benefits in terms of alleged inflated remuneration while working summer jobs in the Cleveland area. It could mean at least one more game of suspension for Herron, for whom the benefits was said to be in the $200 to $400 range, and perhaps multiple games for Posey, for whom the benefit was said to be about $500.

"Sources said both refuted the charges. Herron, a source said, produced evidence that he thought showed he had received no improper benefit."

The latest potential problems are related to booster Robert “Bobby” DiGeronimo, who admitted to giving $200 each at a charity event to Buckeyes running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and safety Corey Brown. All three were suspended for the first two games of the season.

The Dispatch story says DiGeronimo's company, Independence Excavating, employed Herron and Posey as part-time summer employees in a program many Ohio State athletes have participated in over the years. The story says the NCAA may have found discrepancies between what Herron and Posey were paid and what they should have been paid for their work.

The Buckeyes have called a news conference for 3:30 p.m. this afternoon with athletic director Gene Smith "to discuss developments in Ohio State’s case with the NCAA." We'll keep you posted.
It's a question that has lingered around Ohio State ever since the Allstate Sugar Bowl: How exactly will the Buckeyes blend in the four suspended players -- including three key starters -- when they become eligible midway through this season?

While the answer to that won't come for a few more weeks, head coach Luke Fickell gets a good chance to figure that out this week.

That's because three players who were suspended for the opener for receiving impermissible benefits at a charity event -- starting cornerback Travis Howard, starting running back Jordan Hall and reserve defensive back Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown -- have been reinstated to the team this week, along with linebacker Jordan Whiting, who served a one-game ban for his role in the tattoo trading.

Howard and Hall in particular were expected to play important roles. In their absence, the Buckeyes received good play from cornerback Dominic Clarke and running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith in the 42-0 opening win over Akron. So now what? Does Fickell just plug the suspended guys back into their starting jobs? Or does he stay with the guys who did nothing wrong and played well when given an opportunity?

Fickell said nothing has been determined about those starting spots and won't be until this week's practice sessions. But he also realizes how important his handling of this situation will be.

"Those guys coming back are great assets to us," Fickell said. "But we want to make sure that they don't just jump back in there, because those guys have filled in and stepped up and took their game to another level. They deserve the same situation they were in last week. We're going to make it a great example that hey, those guys that come back have got to earn everything. Just like our entire team does; we're going to earn everything."

Fickell said the returning suspended players are "accepting it and willing to go out there and practice" in an effort to get their jobs back. This could signal how the Buckeyes work in running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive linemen Soloman Thomas when their suspensions end after the fifth game. In the case of the first three of those players, they are proven veterans and most likely the most talented guys at their positions. But will chemistry be affected if they step back in to replace those who may have excelled in their absence?

Running back is already becoming a crowded position. With Hall back and Jaamal Berry (hamstring) expected to be available this week against Toledo, the Buckeyes' backfield will have doubled in one week. And that's before Herron comes back. Keeping everyone happy might be a tricky balancing act.

"I think those guys can all co-exist," Fickell said.

Ohio State may start to find out this week just how well that works.

Some other quick Buckeyes notes:
  • Fickell said quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller would both continue to play, probably in the same roles as last week. He said he liked the way both quarterbacks played against Akron.
  • Fickell received a game ball from athletic director Gene Smith following the Akron win. But as has been his attitude since he took the job, Fickell deflected attention from himself.
  • Toledo coach Tim Beckman used to coach alongside Fickell when he was Ohio State's cornerbacks coach in 2005 and 2006. Fickell said he spent time with Beckman this summer during the Buckeyes camps. "It's just like if I was playing my brother," Fickell said.
Three more Ohio State players, including two projected starters, will join the so-called "Tat-5" (now Tat-4) on the sideline Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown have been suspended for Saturday's opener against Akron for receiving impermissible benefits at a local charity event they attended earlier this year. The players each received less than $300 in benefits. Ohio State self-reported the violations, and while it has petitioned the NCAA to reinstate the players for the remainder of the season, the school is considering "additional sanctions."
"We take this matter seriously," athletic director Gene Smith said in a prepared statement. “Our commitment to institutional integrity is steadfast, and we must hold everyone associated with our athletics programs accountable for lapses in judgment. We believe in transparency with the NCAA, all regulatory bodies and all of Buckeye Nation."

There are a few ways to look at this. The timing certainly doesn't help, as Ohio State is awaiting a ruling from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions for violations involving former coach Jim Tressel, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four current players -- RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, LT Mike Adams and DL Solomon Thomas -- who are suspended for the first five games.

The NCAA could level additional allegations against Ohio State -- the dreaded second wave that might result in more severe penalties -- or simply rule on what it discussed at an Aug. 12 hearing in Indianapolis. If no additional allegations come down, Ohio State should survive major penalties.

Ohio State's cooperation with the NCAA throughout the Tat-5 case seems to have helped its cause, and these new violations were self-reported by the school. Ohio State wants to convince the NCAA it is monitoring its players as closely as possible.

Still, Smith's claim this past December that memorabilia sales and players receiving benefits aren't a systematic problem seems very tough to believe. This issue goes deeper than the Tat-5.

Thursday's announcement gives the NCAA more incentive to keep studying the Ohio State program. The infraction committee's ruling on Ohio State is expected sometime in the next two months.

As for the on-field effect, Hall's suspension and Jaamal Berry's lingering hamstring injury mean Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith likely will log plenty of carries against Akron. Running back depth remains a strength for the Buckeyes, but things could change if both Hall and Berry miss extended time before Herron returns from his suspension.

Sophomore Dominic Clarke should get the start in place of Howard at cornerback. Ohio State isn't deep at cornerback, as redshirt freshman Bradley Roby will make his first start on the other side Saturday.

Ohio State fill-ins on the spot

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
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In a different world where Ohio State players had never received any free tattoos or traded memorabilia, Saturday's lineup against Akron would look a lot different.

As it is, three key offensive starters and one defensive backup are suspended for the first five games, and quarterback Terrelle Pryor is gone for good. That means young and inexperienced players are taking on a larger role at the start of the season. But Luke Fickell said this isn't a Keanu Reeves movie, so don't refer to the new guys as "The Replacements."

"We're not trying to focus on them on being replacements," the Buckeyes' head coach said. "It's just like we had seniors graduate -- it's next man up. We're not going to sit back and wait until those guys are able to come back. Our idea is, hey, that guy steps forward and takes his opportunity.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Joe Bauserman
Greg Bartram/US PresswireJoe Bauserman is expected to start at quarterback in Saturday's opener.
"Everybody knows the story of Wally Pipp, and if that's the case, that's the best thing that can happen to us. Someone will have to come and fight their way back into the lineup when they're eligible to play."

With that said, here's a look at how Ohio State plans to fill in the gaps:

-- Quarterback. Senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller are officially listed as co-starters, but Fickell said Tuesday that Bauserman would get the first snaps on Saturday.

"It's leadership," Fickell said when asked why Bauserman will start. "He's done a really good job through camp. I've been impressed with the things we've asked him to do and what he's done."

But Fickell insisted that both quarterbacks would be needed this year and that he wants to see them in the heat of competition. Especially the youngster, Miller.

"Obviously, his abilities have impressed us all, and that's why he's here," Fickell said. "Until you do it and perform, we'll keep our judgments to ourselves. We know he can do it. We know he has the ability to do it. Being able to handle all the situations is what's important. We don't lack confidence in what he does, I can tell you that."

-- Running back. If there's a real chance at a Wally Pipp situation, maybe it's here. Daniel "Boom" Herron rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, but the Buckeyes have a stable of impressive, young backs who have a chance to shine in the first five games.

That stable will be a little lighter early on, as Jaamal Berry is questionable for the opener with lingering hamstring problems. Junior Jordan Hall, a versatile, do-it-all performer, is listed as the starter, with bigger backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith as his backups. Even without Herron, Ohio State expects its running game to be the strength of the team.

-- Wide receiver. DeVier Posey is the best and by far the most experienced wideout on the roster. In his absence, sophomore Corey "Philly" Brown must take on a larger responsibility as the No. 1 target.

"He's a guy who has really stepped up from the spring," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "He's the one guy who's really got any experience. But it's a totally different role for him now than last season."

Brown might be playing more of a complementary role if Posey were eligible. Instead, younger players will be pushed into action. Redshirt freshman Verlon Reed won a starting receiver's job out of fall camp.

"The wide receivers have [been] unbelievable," Fickell said. "They've been as impressive a group, as I think, throughout camp. Maybe that's a little because we knew we had a lot of young guys, and we didn't know what to expect."

-- Left tackle. Mike Adams is one of the best, if not the best, offensive tackles in the league. Bauserman and Miller won't have that security blanket. But the Buckeyes feel they're in good hands with sophomore Andrew Norwell, who was an ESPN.com All-Big Ten Freshman team member last season.

The problem with Adams' absence is it hurts the overall depth. Ohio State lists three true freshmen as backups on the offensive line, and redshirt freshman Eric Kramer is next in line behind Norwell.

"I'm not going to lie," center Mike Brewster said, "we're a little thin."

-- Defensive end. Solomon Thomas sealed the Sugar Bowl win with his interception against Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, but he was likely ticketed for a backup role. Ohio State should still be in good shape up front with senior Nathan Williams and promising sophomore Johnathan Hankins at end, while tackle John Simon can slide outside as well. Again, experienced depth is the biggest issue, as a pair of freshmen are currently listed as the backups at defensive end.

Reinforcements will arrive by Game 6. The Buckeyes hope the new guys -- don't call them "the replacements" -- can hold the fort until then.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has every right to question why Terrelle Pryor and four other Ohio State players were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl.

The deferred punishment reeked of hypocrisy. Pryor and the others had violated NCAA rules for selling memorabilia items, rendering them ineligible. But an NCAA loophole allowed them to take the field in New Orleans.

"There’s no question that I don't understand how they were eligible to play in the game," Petrino told reporters Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings. "I just don't, and I never will. ... They [the NCAA] kind of changed the rules for that bowl game."

Petrino is right, and he's certainly not alone in this opinion.

But in practically the same breath, Petrino repeated the line he said leading up to the Sugar Bowl.

"We wanted to play their best players," he said. "When you have a year like we had and you're able to win six games down the stretch and get to a BCS bowl game you want to play their best players. That's what you want to do."

Sorry, coach, you can't have it both ways. You can't change lanes.

If you wanted to play Ohio State's best, you got it. And you lost. Deal with it.

Had Arkansas played an Ohio State team without its starting quarterback, its starting running back, its starting left tackle, a starting receiver and a defensive lineman (Solomon Thomas) who happened to make the deciding play in the Sugar Bowl, it would hardly qualify as facing the Buckeyes at their best. Not even close.

And fair or unfair, Arkansas victory against a depleted Ohio State team would have been branded with a qualifier because of the suspended players.

Again, Petrino has a legitimate gripe about why the Tat-5 were allowed to play. And if that's his argument, stick to it.

But if he truly wanted to see Ohio State's best product in New Orleans, he got what he wanted.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The sweater vest stayed in the closet for Jim Tressel at Ohio State's spring game on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeGene Smith and Jim Tressel
AP Photo/Terry GilliamAthletic director Gene Smith, left, chats with coach Jim Tressel before Ohio State's spring game.
Instead, the Buckeyes coach wore camouflage pants and a matching hat to honor the Ohio National Guard members and their families in attendance. Of course, that sartorial choice lent itself to a lot of easy wisecracks, like the notion that the embattled Tressel was using the outfit to hide from NCAA investigators and his own athletic director.

Though just a scrimmage, Saturday marked the last time Tressel will stand on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium for any kind of game until Oct. 29 against Wisconsin. He is suspended for the first five games, along with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas. To no one's surprise, Tressel didn't feel like talking about that situation Saturday, ending his news conference after just five question when a reporter asked how his next few months would be different.

"I'm not worried about what lies forward," he said.

Plenty of Buckeyes fans are, and Saturday gave them a chance to preview the 2011 season and how life might look without those five key starters.

Pryor stood behind the offense wearing a headset and a jacket over his jersey, not playing as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery. The four quarterbacks who are battling to replace him for the first five games each threw a touchdown pass and got snaps with the first-team offense. The most impressive of the group was freshman early enrollee Braxton Miller, who led the offense on a 92-yard scoring drive. He finished 7-of-12 for 73 yards and showed off his athleticism by wiggling for extra yards on scrambles.

Miller probably ensured that he'll get a longer look this summer -- and guaranteed that he'll get more hype than he deserves in the meantime.

"People want excitement," said senior Joe Bauserman, who has backed up Pryor the past two seasons and took the first reps on Saturday. "A guy they've never seen before gets them thinking about it."

Bauserman went 4-for-11 for 42 yards, Kenny Guiton was 5-for-11 for 43 yards and Taylor Graham was 4-for-9 for 91 yards. Graham was also sacked five times.

"I thought Braxton probably played a little more relaxed and had a little bit more fun than he has, in part because we really limited what we were doing today," Tressel said. "Joe and Kenny showed they've been around and are able to manage our offense and know what's going on. Taylor had a big home-run throw, but he took a couple too many minus-yard plays."

After Pryor, the biggest loss for the Buckeyes in the suspensions is Posey, their lone proven playmaker in the passing game. So it was encouraging to see young receivers make their presence felt in the spring game.

Redshirt freshman T.Y. Williams caught three passes for 83 yards, including a 68-yard bomb from Graham. Williams had let a pass slip through his hands on the previous play before the touchdown. Corey Brown, Ryan Ross and Verlon Reed also caught scores, albeit against a secondary severely depleted by injuries.

"I felt like a proud dad watching them score touchdowns and make plays," Posey said. "To me, that shows growth. At the beginning of the spring, I didn't know if they would make those plays. Now I can look forward to the next four months."

Herron looked like the best player on the field early when the offense had trouble moving the ball in its first dozen series. He ripped off runs of 16 and 17 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry on his six attempts.

"I really went out there and gave it my all today, because it's going to be a little while until I get out there again," he said. "During this offseason, I've got to work hard and stay conditioned, because my day will come again."

Herron will be missed, but his loss does not cause a crisis. Jordan Hall (37 yards on eight carries), Jaamal Berry (two carries for 16 yards) and Rod Smith (seven for 36) showed they can carry the load while Herron is sidelined.

Ohio State still has issues, including a lack of depth on the offensive line that forced Tressel to abandon the traditional spring game format for a modified offense vs. defense scrimmage. The quarterback position needs to be figured out, and the young receivers must prove they can get it done against better competition -- Williams' long score, for example, came against walk-on cornerback Vincent Petrella.

"All in all, we had a good spring," Tressel said.

The coach ended the spring game after 89 snaps and fewer than 90 minutes because severe weather approached the stadium on an overcast day. Saturday offered some encouraging signs, but it remains to be seen if Tressel and the Buckeyes can stay ahead of the storm this fall.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There will be a time when Jim Tressel has to give up the thing all coaches covet -- control.

It might not be until Sept. 3, when Tressel begins serving a five-game suspension for violating NCAA rules and doesn't join his Ohio State team at Ohio Stadium for the opener against Akron. It might happen sooner, if the NCAA decides to impose stronger penalties against the coach that would prohibit him from his regular duties.

But Tressel isn't ready to enter that realm yet. If he's concerned about his uncertain future, one he can't control, he's not showing it.

"I really haven't given it much thought," Tressel told ESPN.com after a recent spring practice. "I've always tried not to think too much about things I don't have any control over, and obviously that's one of them. It's been a little different, but in our world, you're so busy.

"You don't have much time to think about what's different."

Things will be different for Ohio State this season.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Terry GilliamJim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor are participating fully in spring practice but will miss the first five games of the season.
The Buckeyes will be without five players -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other starters -- for the first five games because of NCAA violations. Tressel's self-imposed suspension for not coming forward with information about the players' violations will keep him off the sideline for the same span. Luke Fickell, the team's co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, will handle the head-coaching duties for the first time in his career while Tressel sits.

And there's the looming NCAA investigation that could bring potentially crippling penalties for a program that can only be described as dominant during Tressel's tenure.

"People from the outside will look and say, 'Oh, let's see how they handle this,'" Fickell said.

The Big Ten's flagship program, a team that has won or shared the past six conference titles and claimed back-to-back BCS bowl victories, is facing its greatest challenge in recent memory.

Will the great Scarlet and Gray tower come tumbling down in 2011?

"I'm sure they would want that," senior defensive end Nathan Williams said of the Buckeyes' adversaries. "We're six-time Big Ten champions and you've got every single Big Ten team looking to take you off the top of the mountain.

"We're not going to let that happen."

Tressel still has control of the squad this spring, and the coach isn't wasting a nanosecond.

He buzzed around the field during a practice last week, lining up as a defensive back during one sequence and mixing it up with players before providing instruction. Ohio State must replace 24 seniors and prepare for the early season absences of Pryor and others, so Tressel has plenty to occupy his mind this spring.

"It's like nothing ever happened," center Mike Brewster said. "We know there's adversity ahead of us, but like [Tressel] told me the other day, 'There's fun in the challenge of it. I believe in you guys.' Just like we believe in him. There's a mutual respect like, together, we can do this."

According to Fickell, Tressel doesn't discuss his future with the staff.

"He's a rock," Fickell said. "When times are tough, it's almost like he raises his level. He doesn't show it, he doesn't look for any pity. You wouldn't know there was any different situation inside this bubble. It's been pretty much business as usual."

Some could argue Tressel is in denial. Maybe the future is too daunting to think about.

How tough is it not knowing what's ahead?

"What's the alternative?" Tressel countered.

What about that first game? How tough will it be to stay away?

"I don't know," he replied. "I'm going to be a beginner at that. I haven't started preparing for that, either, because we've got work to do."

Ohio State's personnel situation has served as one heck of a distraction for Tressel and his staff this spring.

The coaches are evaluating a group of quarterbacks that includes only two players with game experience (Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton) and a combined 49 career pass attempts. DeVier Posey's suspension leaves Ohio State without any proven receivers. The Buckeyes also are looking to replace All-Big Ten players at left tackle (Mike Adams) and running back (Dan Herron) for the first five games.

Seven starters depart on defense and Solomon Thomas, a possible starter at defensive end, is part of the suspended group. Fickell notes that the defense loses 1,100 of its 1,400 production points from last season.

Opportunities are out there, and Ohio State is confident it can reload one more time.

"We're Ohio State," Williams said. "We recruit good players and they're capable of stepping in."

Ohio State will need to be a player-driven team in 2011, especially with its head coach missing for games against Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State. Veterans like Brewster and Williams will do their part on Saturdays, and Tressel has repeatedly pointed out that the five suspended players aren't shirking their responsibilities in practice.

"Not that I didn't think they would, but when you have some disappointment, the natural tendency is to sit back and maybe feel bad for yourself," Tressel said. "But those guys have been extraordinary. Human nature could have been that one withdraws. But they sure haven't."

Neither has their coach.

Brewster entered the spring thinking the team simply needs to find a way to survive the first five games. His view since has changed.

"I'm seeing that we can really do this," he said. "Seeing how guys are responding, I've been really, really impressed.

"Our focus can't be to survive. Our focus has to be to win."
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Off-field issues continue to dominate the discussion around Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have plenty to address between the lines.

Not only does Ohio State lose 24 seniors from the 2010 team, but the Buckeyes will be without five players, including four offensive starters, for the first five games this coming season. The cumulative loss in production has coach Jim Tressel calling this his youngest team at Ohio State.

Here are the five players suspended for the first five games of 2011:
* returning starter

Filling these gaps is a primary goal for Ohio State this spring. The team is in good shape at some positions and thinner at others.

Here's a breakdown of the five positions, from the most shaky spot to the most stable.

QUARTERBACK

    [+] EnlargeJoe Bauserman
    AP Photo/Terry GilliamJoe Bauserman is the most experienced of Terrelle Pryor's backups and is the favorite to start.
  • Sidelined: Terrelle Pryor, three-year starter (2010 stats: 210-for-333 passing, 2,772 yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs, 754 rush yards, 4 TDs)
  • Fill-ins: Joe Bauserman (senior, two-year backup, appeared in every game last season and completed 16 of 22 pass attempts); Kenny Guiton (sophomore, appeared in five games last season and completed 1 of 2 attempts); Taylor Graham (freshman, redshirted in 2010); Braxton Miller (true freshman, enrolled early and participating in spring)
  • The skinny: Quarterback is undoubtedly Ohio State's biggest concern because Pryor has held the starting job since September 2008. Bauserman is a veteran but lacks game experience, while the others essentially have none. Although Bauserman and Guiton have an edge right now in the spring, Graham and especially Miller could close the gap. Guiton and Miller are the most mobile of the group, although Bauserman moves pretty well, too.
  • Quotable: "Braxton is lost. Kenny and Joe have the best grasp on it. Taylor's somewhere in between. We've had four practices. I hope in the next 11, we get a lot more looks that will really make you think, 'OK, this guy.' If I had a game tomorrow, Joe would start, but Kenny has looked good and the two young guys, they're so hesitant because they don't know much, and we have to wait until we get out there and chase them when people are allowed to tackle them." -- Tressel
WIDE RECEIVER

  • Sidelined: DeVier Posey, two-year starter (2010 stats: 53 receptions, 848 yards, 7 TDs)
  • Fill-ins: Corey Brown (sophomore, eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in 2010); Chris Fields (sophomore, three catches for 22 yards in 2010); James Louis (freshman); T.Y. Williams (freshman)
  • The skinny: If the quarterback spot weren't so important, receiver would be Ohio State's most pressing need. Posey, graduating senior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and graduating senior running back Brandon Saine accounted for 131 of the team's 228 receptions in 2010. Brown is a good bet to start and Fields could land the other spot in Posey's absence. Ohio State also could use its running backs as receivers more this fall. The 6-foot-5 Williams is an intriguing prospect because of his size. New assistant Stan Drayton has his hands full in his first year.
  • Quotable: "Coach Drayton said DeVier is like Coach Posey now. He knows the offense so well and I'm sure coach Drayton is still getting caught up a little bit." -- center Mike Brewster
LEFT TACKLE

    [+] EnlargeMike Adams
    Greg Bartram/US PresswireLosing Mike Adams for five games will really test Ohio State's O-line depth.
  • Sidelined: Mike Adams, started throughout 2010 season, consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection
  • Fill-ins: Andrew Norwell (sophomore); Marcus Hall (sophomore, redshirted in 2010 because of academic issues); Jack Mewhort (sophomore)
  • The skinny: Overall offensive line depth is an issue for Ohio State this spring, and the lack of bodies could prevent the Buckeyes from having a full-blown spring game. Players are rotating at several spots during practice, and Mewhort and Hall both are in the mix for starting jobs at guard, too. Hall's return should help Ohio State survive without Adams, as hopes were high for Hall before his academic issues last season. Norwell backed up right tackle J.B. Shugarts as a freshman in 2010 and could be the answer during Adams' suspension.
  • Quotable: "We only have 10 linemen right now. We'll get a couple more for [preseason] camp. But I'm really, really impressed by the guys. They've been rotating around, playing left tackle, left guard. It has been encouraging." -- Brewster
DEFENSIVE END

  • Sidelined: Solomon Thomas (2010 stats: 14 tackles and a win-clinching interception in the Sugar Bowl as a reserve)
  • Fill-ins: Nathan Williams (senior, 46 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes defended, one interception in 2010); Adam Bellamy (sophomore, 11 tackles, two tackles for loss in 13 games in 2010); Melvin Fellows (sophomore)
  • The skinny: Ohio State lacks many true defensive ends and will need a big year from Williams, a returning starter, at the rush end position. Thomas likely would have started if not for the suspension, but the Buckeyes have some flexibility up front. Most of Ohio State's defensive linemen play both inside and outside. John Simon, who started last season at defensive tackle, lined up at end for part of Wednesday's practice. Ohio State boasts better depth at the inside position, so players like Simon and Bellamy could see more time on the outside.
  • Quotable: "You've got your Johnny Simons and your Nate Williamses back, and you hope they can be the core and the leadership. They might not be production leaders because of where they are [on the field], but that's where it starts." -- co-defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Luke Fickell
RUNNING BACK

  • Sidelined: Dan Herron, 17 career starts, first-team All-Big Ten in 2010 (2010 stats: 216 carries, 1,155 rush yards, 16 touchdowns, 19 receptions, 180 receiving yards)
  • Fill-ins: Jordan Hall (junior, 37 carries, 161 rush yards, 2 TDs in 2010); Jaamal Berry (sophomore, 32 carries, 266 rush yards, 1 TD in 2010); Carlos Hyde (sophomore, 24 carries, 141 rush yards in 2010); Rod Smith (freshman, redshirted in 2010)
  • The skinny: Of the five positions where Ohio State loses a player to suspension, running back looks to be the strongest by far. Herron had a strong performance in Big Ten play last fall and could be missed, but the Buckeyes should be very deep in the backfield. They have variety in size, skill sets and running styles, and they will be able to give defenses different looks. Hall and Berry both looked good at times last season, and Smith generated a lot of buzz during practices before the Sugar Bowl. Fullback Zach Boren said running backs coach Doc Tressel has noted that the team has seven players capable of starting in the backfield.
  • Quotable: "It's a stable of backs. To me, it's one of the most impressive backfields in the country. All those guys, you can tell they're trying to do the right things because they know whoever's going to have that little edge, they need to make sure they're doing the right things off the field as well. There's so many running backs, it's going to be hard to get them all on the field." -- Brewster

The Big Ten's offseason to-do list

January, 21, 2011
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The offseason is here and it provides a chance for the Big Ten to look in the mirror.

The league didn't exactly have a banner year in 2010, and it's important to avoid slipping back to the period before the bowl breakthrough in 2009.

I've prepared a to-do list for the Big Ten and several of its teams during the next seven and a half months before the games begin again.

1. Image is everything: Legends and Leaders will remain through the 2011 season, and the Big Ten's new logo isn't going anywhere, either, but the league should continue to examine how it's viewed nationally and how it can improve its image. Whether Big Ten fans want to acknowledge it or not, the league's reputation outside the footprint isn't overly favorable. A large part of this has to do with recent on-field performance, but many see the Big Ten as an arrogant league that lives off of its past. The Big Ten should improve in 2011 with the addition of Nebraska, but it must find better ways to connect positively with folks around the country.

2. Repair the defenses: Five Big Ten teams made changes or tweaks to the defensive coordinator position, and fixing defense will be a common theme around the league in the coming months. Teams like Michigan and Northwestern return quite a bit on offense but need significant upgrades on the defensive side of the ball. Indiana tries to fix its chronic problems on defense, while other squads such as Purdue and Wisconsin must replace standout linemen (Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt).

3. Quarterback search in the Leaders division: Illinois and Purdue are the only teams in the Leaders division that have a good idea of their starting quarterbacks entering the season, and that's assuming Boilers signal-caller Robert Marve returns at full strength following his second ACL tear. Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana will feature quarterback competitions this summer, and Ohio State must identify a starter for the first five games while Terrelle Pryor serves his suspension.

4. Complete Nebraska's integration: All indications so far suggest Nebraska's transition to the Big Ten is going well. It's important for both sides to complete the process without any snags before Nebraska becomes a full Big Ten member on July 1. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others acknowledge Penn State's transition two decades ago didn't go as smoothly as it could have. It's important for the Big Ten to finalize future schedules and any other logistics before Big Red comes storming in.

5. Fill the gaps in Madison and Columbus: The Big Ten's top two teams in 2010 both face significant challenges on the depth chart entering 2011. Wisconsin loses more individual standouts than any Big Ten team and must replace stars at quarterback, offensive line, tight end and defensive end. Ohio State not only says goodbye to a large senior class but must figure out how to survive the first five games without four offensive starters (Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams) and a defensive reserve (Solomon Thomas).
The official list of underclassmen entering the 2011 NFL draft will be released at some point today, but no Ohio State players will appear on it.

[+] EnlargeJim Tressel
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images"Our kids want to finish their degree and their commitment at Ohio State," Jim Tressel told The Columbus Dispatch.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel confirmed to The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday that all of the team's underclassmen will be back in 2011. The group includes five players -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive linemen Solomon Thomas -- who are suspended for the first five games this coming season, pending appeal.
"Our kids want to finish their degree and their commitment at Ohio State," Tressel told The Dispatch. "That is very important to each and every one of them, and to our staff and entire athletics family."

There are times when those of us in the media need to admit we're wrong, and this is one of those times. After the suspension bombshell last month, I had a hard time believing the players would return simply because of a verbal or written promise to Tressel. There are no binding agreements in cases like these. Players can ultimately do what they want.

There was a lot of justified criticism about the players being allowed -- by both the NCAA and Ohio State -- to participate in the Sugar Bowl, and the agreements between the players and Tressel sparked a good deal of skepticism.

Here's what I wrote last month:
Four of the five players receiving the stiffest penalties -- Pryor, Herron, Posey and Adams -- are candidates to go pro after the bowl game. I had heard Herron was the likeliest to do so, but he'll probably have some company. I just can't see all of these players coming back to miss what likely will be at least one third of their senior seasons.

And before the bowl game:
As for the players, I don't buy the statement that all will be back in 2011. Things change after bowl games and after NFL draft evaluations come in. While I see where Tressel is going with his decision, I don't think you can base it on what the players are saying now.

Turns out, Ohio State won the Sugar Bowl and all five players kept their word. Buckeyes fans flooding my inbox are demanding that national media members apologize and praise the suspended players for their display of integrity.

I can't control what my media colleagues do, but I'll fully admit I underestimated Tressel and his influence on his players. If these guys didn't care about disappointing their coach, at least one if not more would be entering the draft. Pryor and the others didn't want to let down The Vest, and that's very significant.

I don't know how many other coaches could do what Tressel did in this situation, especially when some of the players have opportunities to get paid at the next level.

I'll hold off on labeling these players as pillars of integrity, but their decision to keep their word is another step in the right direction. They can apologize to Buckeyes fans and vow to make things right, but we all know actions speak louder.

It remains to be seen how Ohio State fans will view the legacies of the five suspended players, especially Pryor, in 10 or 20 years.

But Tressel's legacy in Columbus is clear and continues to grow.

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