Joe Podelco / Photo editor
Ohio State’s jersey scrimmage on Saturday meant the Buckeyes were finally getting back to what they do best: playing football. There was no dark cloud looming over the field; there were no remorseful press conferences. Just football.
It would be easy to get caught up in all the negativity, but the Buckeyes are relying on veteran leadership and team unity to stay focused and move forward.
“I think it’s important for everyone to step up and provide leadership, no matter if you are a senior or a junior,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. “Obviously, we lose some guys the first couple games. I think it’s important that everyone steps up.”
The losses of Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas for the first five games of the upcoming season will give the Buckeyes a new look, but the players said they haven’t seen much of a change in the way things run.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen a difference. I think people fail to realize that our team is very close,” senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said. “We’re really like a family here. I haven’t seen much of a difference at all.”
One aspect that has changed is the role of the five suspended players. They’ve taken on more of a teaching role in addition to their playing duties. While recovering from surgery on his left foot, Pryor can be seen guiding freshman quarterback Braxton Miller and helping him find his way in the new system.
“If anything, they’ve been helping the young guys,” Sabino said. “You see Terrelle out there helping Braxton. You see DeVier out there; you see Mike out there helping the new linemen. … If anything, they’ve become more like coaches.”
The five, with the exception of the injured Pryor, are still getting their usual reps in practice, but senior center Mike Brewster said the five’s future absence has created a lot of opportunity and, consequently, competition.
“Anytime you lose five guys for some games, there’s going to be some more spots open, but even before that, there were a lot of spots open,” Brewster said. “I think everyone is competing, and they’re realizing it’s been their dream to start at Ohio State and they’re one step further in conquering that.”
Coach Jim Tressel was not available for comment, but the players said he has done a great job in making sure that when the team is together, it’s not about everything happening off the field — it’s about getting the job done. Tressel will also serve a five game suspension in the upcoming season.
“(Tressel) does a really good job,” Brewster said. “We really do block everything out. When we’re here, we’re focused on what we need to get done and what we need to do within this practice time we have.”
Brewster said the adversity is inevitable but the way the team responds to it is what’s really important.
“You can do two things,” Brewster said. “You can get mad or you can use it to your advantage. You can use it as fuel to prove people wrong. I think that’s the attitude we take. Just keep working hard. You know, let’s shock the world. Let’s show people what we can do by staying together.”
Staying together seems to be the key. Brewster said all the criticism from the outside has pushed the team closer together. It finds support and solace in the confines of the program.
“I loved all the past teams I’ve been on, but man, something about this team,” Brewster said. “It’s just like everybody is cool with everybody. It’s like a big family. I’m so excited for this year. Just being in the locker room after practice was just like guys love being here. We just want to win.”