Suspensions could serve long-term purpose for Buckeyes
Just when you thought the Ohio State hype machine was about to reach new levels at Big Ten Media Days last week, THE university dropped a bomb. Academic/drug suspensions to All-American Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson means Ohio State will be short-handed when it opens the season at Virginia Tech.
That definitely explains why Bosa was left off the Big Ten Media Day luncheon list. How awkward would that have been? Instead, Urban Meyer addressed the issue. He had known about the suspensions for “a while” and said that they had recruited well. According to Cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises, rumors about pending suspensions had been flying around for weeks. Whatever the case, it leads to the question on everyone’s mind. What does this mean for the Buckeyes?
Before we discuss the actual ramifications, let’s quickly erase the notion that a loss in this game will end the Buckeyes’ hopes of making the College Football Playoff field. The Buckeyes could fall, run the table in the Big Ten and still have a final four spot in hand. Got it? Ok, moving on.
The loss of a defensive playmaker like Bosa is immensely important. It wouldn’t be crazy if the decorated Buckeye offense came out timid in what’s sure to be a hostile atmosphere. It might take a third-down sack or a fumble recovery to get both sides rolling. On the flip side, Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer is going to breathe a little easier knowing the nation’s best defensive lineman isn’t hunting him down all night. No offense to Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard — or whoever takes Bosa’s reps — but that type of presence isn’t replaceable.
The loss at H-back could be even more significant. Taking a versatile deep threat like Marshall will keep more in the box defending the Buckeye quarterback and Ezekiel Elliot. Take away Wilson and OSU will be missing its top two returning threats at the position.
Enter Braxton Miller, stage left.
The former Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year should be in line for a greater role at his new position than Urban Meyer originally planned. This could be the baptism by fire Miller needed. Double digit touches wouldn’t be realistic, but if his surgically repaired shoulder will allow it, Miller help could absorb the blow these suspensions delivered.
Add in the loss of Smith, and Michael Thomas will be the only Buckeye on the field who finished in the top five in receiving yards last year. It’s not that the Buckeyes are lacking in talent at the position. Johnnie Dixon and Curtis Samuel are both versatile candidates who could fill the void. But they’re just second-year players and potentially first-time starters. On opening night, that won’t matter to Meyer.
The Virginia Tech rematch was already going to be OSU’s first bit of adversity to overcome. The suspensions will obviously add to that challenge. But if the Buckeyes are able to make it out of Virginia unbeaten, this could easily turn into a major positive. Getting backups road experience in a game like this will pay dividends. Meyer gets to show his program — and potential recruits — that nobody is above the law. And maybe, just maybe, this will shift the conversation from the ongoing quarterback saga in Columbus. Ok, probably not.
It isn’t the note any team wants to enter the season on, much less the defending national champs. But if there’s any team in the country that can roll with a preseason punch like that, it’s Meyer’s Buckeyes.