JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You could use three words to describe the now-departed Ohio State football senior class: good, bad and ugly.
For several Buckeye seniors, whose legacy to OSU football might be in question, Monday’s season-ending 24-17 loss to Florida in the 2012 Gator Bowl, was an opportunity to reflect on the highs, the lows and the forgettable moments of their OSU careers.
Several players, including senior center Michael Brewster, pointed to back-to-back Bowl Championship Series victories in the 2010 Rose Bowl and the 2011 Sugar Bowl as a reminder of the class’ accomplishments.
“We had a good run in the middle — two BCS bowl wins, three Big Ten championships,” Brewster said. “There were a lot of what ifs about this year — what could have been. But we won a Sugar Bowl and a Rose bowl back-to-back. I think that’s something that’s pretty amazing.”
The 2011 Sugar Bowl victory to which Brewster referred — a 31-26 win against Arkansas — was later vacated by the university, along with the entire 2010 regular season, for NCAA rules violations.
To be sure, OSU football’s class of 2011 enjoyed bowl triumphs, or “good” moments.
Then the 2011 season began — a season some members of Buckeye Nation might consider a low moment in the program’s history.
OSU lost seven games for the first time since 1897. The campaign fraught with turbulence on and off the playing field for each team member, but especially the members of the class of 2011.
The season-ending defeat to Florida elicited different reactions from the departing Buckeyes and their teammates that remain.
Off-field transgressions — many of which were committed by OSU seniors — resulted in penalties for OSU football. On Dec. 19, the NCAA Committee on Infractions handed the team a one-year postseason ban and slashed a total of nine scholarships over three years due to multiple violations. In December 2010, five OSU football players, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, senior left tackle Mike Adams, senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and redshirt senior defensive end Solomon Thomas, were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after selling Buckeye football memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game ban.
Posey, who was suspended for a total of 10 games for two separate NCAA violations, said there weren’t many on-field positives for him to draw from in 2011.
“It’s definitely not wins, and it’s not like a good football season as far as things go,” Posey said. “This was definitely a humbling experience.”
Not all OSU seniors’ careers were marred by controversy though.
Redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Moeller removed his scarlet and gray jersey for the final time Monday. The game brought about an end to Moeller’s six-year career at Ohio Stadium, which saw the player battle back from injuries and an assault and subsequent brain trauma.
“It’s sad and disappointing at the same time,” Moeller said of leaving the Buckeyes. “Having your last game to take it (your jersey) off be a loss, it’s tough. It’s been a great journey. Ending with a loss is just tough.”
After Monday’s loss, senior linebacker Andrew Sweat talked about the pride he takes in having been a part of OSU football, saying the experience was “surreal.”
“You get to here and you’re so excited to play for a prestigious program like Ohio State,” Sweat said. “You experience all the highs that we’ve experienced, and obviously this season was full of lows. But that only makes you better as a person.
Players like Moeller and Sweat might be cause for former coach and now-assistant defensive coordinator Luke Fickell’s affinity for the departing seniors.
“What we think of their legacy and what you write about their legacy is two completely different things,” Fickell said. “For us, we know that they’ve fought through and battled a lot of things. We know what they mean to us, and how we feel about them.”