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May 17, 2011

Offseason troubles leave Buckeyes' future in doubt

No team in the country has had a more tumultuous offseason than Ohio State and head coach Jim Tressel. With Tressel and five of the Buckeyes best players already suspended for the first five games of the season and even more infractions currently being investigated by the NCAA, this past spring was most bizarre in recent memory.

To give us an idea of the current state of the OSU program and the feeling out in Columbus, Ohio, coming out of spring ball, we sat down with Kevin Noon of BuckeyeGrove.com.

With all that's gone on at Ohio State over the past few months, how hard was it for the Buckeyes to even focus on football this spring?

"The truth of the matter is what they say publicly and what is private now are probably polar opposites. I mean, everybody was saying the right things about it being business as usual and whatever, but I think in some ways it helps the team. I think that they've kind of taken a little bit of an 'us versus the world' mentality. Rightly or wrongly, there's always been this widespread belief, especially since Ohio State's been successful, that people either love or hate Ohio State. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to that.

"It was difficult as well because of the fact that a lot of these guys that are going to be suspended for five games were practicing, outside of Terrelle Pryor, who's had a procedure done to clean up his foot. Kind of with that being said, it was difficult to get the stuff accomplished that they wanted to, but it wasn't impossible. I think that the team felt like they put in good work during camp and everything along those lines, so it wasn't a total loss by any stretch of the imagination."

Obviously Pryor is one of "Tattoo Five" so to speak who was suspended for the first five games this season. Did anyone step up this spring to Ohio State feel any better about those positions heading into the season?

"I think the only place that they can feel any sort of relief is at running back because they're so deep there. They have some guys who have been waiting their turn. There's definitely a lot of questions at quarterback and who's going to step in? They've got the true freshman superstar Braxton Miller. He should be able to get there, but after all, he is a true freshman, so what does that mean? What happens if he has a great run? Does that mean that they'll put him back on the bench and bring Terrelle Pryor back in?

"So there seems to be a lot of controversy about that. Some people want to start Joe Bauserman because he's been there, he's been a great practice player, he's a senior, he's put in his time. But with that being said, if he was so good, why haven't we seen more of him.

"I think on of the other scary spots is with Devier Posey the wide receiver, because Ohio State lost their other main receiver in Dane Sanzenbacher to graduation, and they have no real experience at wide receiver. They have one guy named Corey Brown who saw playing time last year, but with that being said, was very inconsistent. So who's going to step up at that position? I think what's going to end up happening is you're going to see Ohio State have to try and get the ball to some non-tradition types of pass catches with the tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield."

For most teams, stuff like this could cripple a program. Does the fact this Ohio State, who seems to have more four- and five-star guys than it knows what to do with, provide any relief to the situation?

"Relief may not be the best word, but yeah, Ohio State has definitely through the years turned in a good job of addressing positional needs. That's why they're able to reload instead of rebuild, because they don't get lured by star rankings and things along those lines. It may not be sexy sometimes to take two fullbacks, but by doing that they're never short at that position. It may not be sexy to take six offensive linemen, but they really have kept themselves out of trouble when it comes to doing things on those lines.

"On the flipside, getting back to the previous question, another position of concern is going to be on the offensive line. During the spring, they only had 10 offensive linemen who were able to go, and one of them is Mike Adams, who will be suspended as part of the Tattoo Five. So there's real concern, especially at that offensive tackle position, because they are razor thin and obviously there's no chance that they're going to be able to have Adams for the first five games."

Obviously those five players are scheduled to come back just in time for the Nebraska game. What can people expect Ohio State to do with those guys when they come out to Lincoln?

"I think some of them are going to have to go right back in just out of depth. You're going to have to see how the replacements do, but also you're not going to keep your No. 1 receiver out with Posey. As long as he does the work when they all can practice with the team, he'll be in there. Mike Adams will definitely go back in because you need to have that depth on the line.

"Terrell Pryor, rightly or wrongly, as long as he's back after five games, I mean, what do you do? That's the biggest question right there. What happens at that position? Football is definitely as sport of chemistry, and if you build chemistry after five games with these other guys, are you going to mess it up and bring somebody in? We know what you get out of Terrell Pryor, but it' a double-edged sword."

Speaking of Nebraska, how are Ohio State fans viewing that game and the Huskers joining the Big Ten overall?

"I think everybody sees that it's pretty much the biggest game out there, even though ultimately the Wisconsin game is going to mean more because it's a division game. People are very excited about it. The lunatic fringe fans are definitely not representative of the entire fan base, but I think most of the fan base recognizes that Nebraska is a special program and is a historical program, and they're very much looking forward to it.

"They've seen Nebraska for the most part play Big Ten type of football with the physicality and stuff in the Big 12, and I think when you look at the older fans, they're going to have more respect that anybody just because they can go back into the Tom Osborne days and see what he meant to the program. I think people are expecting to see a real hard-hitting, smash mouth kind of game, reminiscent of the games against Wisconsin."



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