Earlier today, I wrote that I would withhold commentary until a decision had been rendered on the rumored Buckeye "Tattoogate". Ordinarily, I spend December 23rd with other thoughts on my mind.
With the NCAA's ruling that Terrelle Pryor, Daniel "Boom" Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, here are my thoughts on how Ohio State should proceed ~
Very simply, move on. I have been receiving e-mails and texts from friends saying that the ruling is unfair. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith stated in his press conference that Ohio State will appeal the punishment.
Thomas Huxley once stated to "Make up your mind to act decidedly and take the consequences. No good is ever done in this world by hesitation."
If I were Ohio State, I would simply move forward upon the completion of the Sugar Bowl on January 4, 2011. Trying to reduce this punishment with the NCAA is only delaying the inevitable as it relates to Ohio State's program.
Terrelle Pryor was going to be leaving Ohio State after 2011. Same for DeVier Posey, "Boom" Herron, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas. Simply treat the Sugar Bowl as their last game, and proceed into winter conditioning and spring practice with the idea that there are several positions open for new starters.
Does this mean Ohio State should kick them out? Not necessarily. I would let the players know that it will be difficult for them to regain their starting positions, and if they decide to leave, thank them and wish them well.
The easiest spot of the starters to potentially fill will be "Boom" Herron. Quite simply, Ohio State has substantial depth at the position, with returnees Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde, and redshirt freshman Rod Smith. Supposedly, Rod Smith has been turning heads at practice with his performances.
Solomon Thomas is a backup at defensive end. Thomas played primarily on special teams this season, and could have been in the mix to fill the departing Cameron Heyward's spot, but Thomas was by no means set to start at 2011. It would not surprise me if Thomas chose to accept the punishment, and return to Ohio State for the remaining seven games of the 2011 season.
Will it hurt to lose DeVier Posey if he leaves early? Yes, but remember - Ohio State was already going to be without Dane Sanzenbacher. With the departure of WR coach Darrell Hazell to Kent State, Ohio State will be breaking in a new WR coach, as well as potentially two new starters. Ohio State has several players waiting in the wings for an opportunity to play.
Another big loss would be OT Mike Adams. Adams plays the critical left tackle position, and was beginning to demonstrate his ballyhooed recruiting status. I would consider Adams to be the biggest loss of this whole sad saga.
Last, but not least on my list, is QB Terrelle Pryor. Ohio State's offense this season has largely centered around Pryor, and this leads me into how Ohio State can rebound from this debacle.
One of the challenges Ohio State has had over the years is deciding what kind of an offense they were going to be. This year, Ohio State was a predominant passing team, until Terrelle Pryor was injured against Illinois in October, leading Ohio State to rely more heavily on its running game for the remainder of the season.
Why not rely on the running game from the start of 2011, all through 2011? Heading into 2011, Ohio State can proceed with Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham, or the highly-touted Braxton Miller as their starter at quarterback. While Miller may have tremendous potential, it is important to remember that he will be a true freshman.
During Pryor's suspension, the team would benefit from establishing a ball-control offense with the aforementioned running game, allowing whoever the quarterback is to become more and more comfortable at the helm while leading the team in the first five games. As to the wide receivers, why not use a two tight end set with Reid Fragel and Jake Stoneburner, to offset the inexperienced wideouts and help the running game?
Ohio State will open up 2011 against Akron, Toledo, are away at Miami (FL), and return home to face Colorado, before opening up Big Ten play against Michigan State. While challenging, it is not impossible that Ohio State could be 5-0.
If Pryor and the others were to return, what would that do to team chemistry? Why not stick with the players who were the starters for the first five games?
Again, these are only my opinions, and I have no doubt other Ohio State fans may completely disagree. I would simply try to find the diamonds for 2011 after the NCAA left a lump of coal in Ohio State's holiday stocking with these suspensions.