Freshmen Aim to Put Ohio State Back on Top
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It doesn’t seem right to call Ohio State down.
If not for the self-imposed NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes would be gearing up for a run at a possible seventh-straight Big Ten championship in 2011. They would also be an incredible 66-11 overall since 2005 with a 43-5 record in the Big Ten.
Instead, they vacated a 12-1 season from a year ago and with it the conference co-championship they earned along the way. Despite all their winning, or maybe as a result of it, the program has become a target for national scrutiny.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I feel like we’ve been buried a lot and dogged out a lot and just been talked about negatively,” said freshman Curtis Grant, a 5-star linebacker out of Virginia.
“I just want to help the team—and this freshman class just wants to help the team get back on top.”
Even without Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, it’s not exactly like Ohio State has hit rock-bottom. However, few are picking the Buckeyes to win the first championship game in Big Ten history, and maybe not the second or third either.
No one knows exactly what the future will hold for current Head Coach Luke Fickell, and Grant admitted that the turmoil surrounding the Buckeyes caused him to momentarily rethink his decision.
“I'm not going to lie, I did at first,” Grant said Wednesday as he and the other members of the 2011 class were introduced to the media.
“I just prayed about the situation and I felt like this was still the place for me.”
When Grant committed to the Buckeyes back in Dec. 2010 over places like North Carolina and the University of Virginia, he was planning to play for Jim Tressel. So were the other members of his class.
“It's kind of tough. I always looked forward to playing for him," said defensive back Ron Tanner, a product of Eastmoor High School in Columbus.
“But Coach Fickell was also part of recruiting me and I developed a relationship with him as well, so the change isn't too bad, because he's a great guy. No matter who the coach is, the program will always be strong.”
That was the sense gathered from the entire freshman class Wednesday as they stepped into a locker room that does not appear to be in as much disarray as one might expect from a team that lost its beloved head coach.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It was at peace with itself,” Toledo Rogers cornerback DerJuan Gambrell said of the OSU locker room.
“When we came in here, everything was still clicking. There weren’t (any) distractions or anything like that. Everything was still working perfectly.”
A big reason for that was Ohio State’s decision to promote Fickell from within rather than hire a brand new head coach or bring in someone from the outside to take over the team for 2011.
“Me and Coach Fickell have a great relationship. As far as him as the head coach, that just made me want to come here even more,” said Grant, one of the most coveted linebackers in the country.
“He was a guy who was truthful with me. He never tried to sell me anything. It was what you see is what you get.”
That’s the new era of Ohio State football, at least for the moment.
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