Tressel, Buckeyes Not Distracted by Controversy
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jim Tressel is not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot.
The NCAA still must decide if Ohio State’s self-imposed sanctions are sufficient punishment for the violations committed by Tressel when he failed to notify anyone significant of the emails he received last April.
Things could get worse than the five-game suspension already awaiting Tressel at the start of the 2011 season, but the Buckeyes aren’t waiting around for the other shoe to drop.
“As a team I don't think we're letting it bother us at all,” senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts said.
“We're using it as motivation, just the added adversity. More eyes are on us, more people want to see us fail. We're going to take all that in and succeed and prove everybody wrong.”
Outside the program, controversy continues to swirl around Ohio State as they prepare for one of the strangest seasons in school history. Not only will they be without their head coach for five games, but also four starters on offense, including the quarterback and running back.
“You can't worry about what people say on the outside. We're all human, everybody makes mistakes,” said tailback Daniel “Boom” Herron, one of the players suspended for selling gear to the owner of a local tattoo parlor.
“We've got to worry about the guys that are out here. We have people who can go out there and make the plays on Saturdays.”
Without Herron, Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey, the Buckeyes will certainly have fewer guys who can make plays on the field when they open the season against Akron this fall.
It has been a tough couple months for him and his teammates ever since the news broke back in December, but football has actually proved to be the best distraction.
“Sometimes you see it on TV, but at the same time you've just got to focus on what we're trying to do, and that's get better every day,” said Herron, who led the Buckeyes with 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground last season.
“I just really try to stay focused on our team and our job.”
That might seem easier said than done considering the magnitude of what is at stake, especially now that Tressel’s fate is directly involved. The legacy of the five suspended Buckeyes is also at risk, but Michael Brewster says the focus of this team has been exactly where it needs to be this spring.
“Tress does a really good job. We really do block everything out and when we're here we're focused on what we need to get done and what we need to do in this practice time we have or weightlifting time we have or film time we have,” the senior center said.
“It really hasn't affected us at all. Things have just been really normal. We don't even really talk about it anymore.”
They can’t stop others from talking about it, but that doesn’t mean they have to listen. The controversy may have caused dissention throughout Buckeye Nation over the fate of Tressel and the five players, but it has had the opposite effect on the Ohio State football team this spring.
“I definitely feel like we're on a sense of normalcy,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said.
“We're going out, we're competing, practices are high-tempo. It's kind of like we're all coming together as a family. When something happens you come together as a family. Adversity never hurt anyone.”
It certainly could hurt this team if they had a different approach to handling things this off-season, but that’s not Tressel. That’s not the way he has run this program for the past decade. He is not one to let outside factors influence what goes on inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“To be honest, we just try to stay focused on the task at hand. Just like at the Sugar Bowl with all of the stuff that was going on. He really makes sure that we stay focused,” Brewster said.
“These next seven or eight practices that we have left are really important. They're really important for us to get better. We've already taken steps forward, but we can't take any steps back. It's gotta keep going up.”
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