Juniors Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas each voiced their plans to suit up as seniors regardless of how many games they have to sit out after receiving five-game suspensions for having sold personal OSU memorabilia two years ago.
When the players learned of their suspensions, head coach Jim Tressel offered them two choices: play against the Razorbacks and pledge to return for next season or sit out the game and begin preparing for the NFL. Each player also signed an agreement that, although not legally binding, also committed them to the 2011 season.
Interviewed live on ESPN on the field immediately after the game, a limping Pryor somewhat dodged a question about his return by replying, "all right." Moments later in a postgame interview room, Pryor elaborated further.
"I don't think I'm really ready for the NFL," he said. "I think I've got a lot of learning and better decision-making I have to make on and off the field. Off the field, I think I need to grow up a little bit more and mature as well in that standpoint."
In addition, he alluded to a plan he has with Tressel but did not give further details. Ironically, it was Pryor who cast doubt on whether the five would return during his media session Jan. 1, saying each player had his own situation to consider. One day before the game, Tressel said he was completely confident that each of the five players would be back next season.
Thomas echoed Pryor's thoughts but expressed the belief that each player will return.
"Everyone's family is financially different and economically different so you can never judge," he said. "That's something that this process with the NCAA and the suspension has taught me: we're all a team, but we all come from different places. I don't know. I would say so."
Herron was scheduled to be made available for interviews during the week of bowl preparation in New Orleans but was instead replaced by sophomore fullback Zach Boren, leading to speculation that he might not play in the game and then head to the NFL. After rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown in the victory, Herron told BuckeyeSports.com of his desire to return for a fifth season.
"I'll definitely be back," he said. "It's something I just wanted to do, come back and show that I'm capable of being a leader and capable of stepping up in the big games."
Similarly, Adams said he is looking forward to a senior season and expressed hope that a pending appeal to the NCAA will successfully reduce the length of the suspension.
Asked if he will be back, Adams said, "Yeah, you know, I'm just thinking about we just won this game. I plan to be with the 2011 Bucks and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully this appeal process works out and they can reduce the games or something but if not, it will be a long grind. We'll see what happens."
Posey had been made available to reporters during the week of bowl prep, but he had already pledged to return Dec. 28 during a public apology offered by each player. He finished the night with three receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
In his address to fans in late December, Posey pledged to be a leader on next year's squad. He repeated those thoughts following the Sugar Bowl.
"We're going to be focused," he said. "We wanted to get the offseason going with a bowl win again. It's always good to go back to Columbus with a win. It makes working out in the winter a little better."
One player considering making the jump to the NFL is junior center Michael Brewster. After the game, he confirmed that he will sit down with his family and weigh his options before making a final decision.
"Up until this point in life I've always just followed my heart," he said. "I've made a lot of great decisions – in high school, changing schools to coming to Ohio State. This is just another step in my life where I have to sit down and weigh all my options and see what the best opportunity for myself is. We'll find out hopefully very soon."
Had the other juniors opted to leave school prematurely, sophomore tight end Jacob Stoneburner said it could have started a tidal wave of defections.
"For a second there I thought, ‘Man, they're all going to leave and go to the NFL,' " he said. "I felt like if they left it would've been downhill with a bunch of guys leaving. I'm glad they're staying.
"Once they said they were staying and said they were sorry to the team, everyone didn't make a big deal about it anymore."
BSB staffer Matthew Hager contributed to this report.