Future Buckeyes React To OSU Sanctions

Tuesday might have been a difficult day for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, but a phone call from five-star linebacker signee Curtis Grant might have helped his mood. BuckeyeSports.com caught up with a number of OSU commitments to get their thoughts on Tressel's pending suspension and how it might affect their thoughts on the Buckeyes.

Shortly after Jim Tressel ended Tuesday's press conference, the embattled Ohio State head coach found himself receiving a phone call from Virginia.

On the other end of the line was Curtis Grant, the last player to join Tressel's 2011 recruiting class. Rated the nation's top outside linebacker prospect by Scout.com, Grant chose the Buckeyes during a press conference on National Signing Day that was broadcast nationally. After learning that his future coach would be suspended for the first two games of his career, Grant was a little concerned.

By the time the conversation was over, however, the linebacker had no further worries.

"It sounded like an honest answer to me when he said he was trying to protect his players," Grant told BuckeyeSports.com. "That's one thing he told my mom he was going to do when he sat in my living room when he was recruiting me. I respected him for that. I'm really not mad about the situation or anything. I still want to go up there and play for Coach Tressel and do what I've got to do to help the team win championships."

Tuesday, OSU announced that Tressel would be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season, pay a fine of $250,000 and face a number of other punishments for not reporting potential NCAA violations last April. But a random sampling of recruits from both last year's class and verbal commitments for the class of 2012 revealed that the situation has had little impact on the next wave of players to become Buckeyes.

OSU has five verbal commitments for next year's class. Reached by BuckeyeSports.com, three of them re-affirmed their plans to be Buckeyes: running backs Warren Ball and Brionte Dunn and offensive lineman Kyle Kalis.

After listening to Tressel's press conference live on the radio with his wrestling coach at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, Kalis said his first thoughts were sympathy for his future coach.

"Anyone who knows Coach Tressel knows he's a great guy," he said. "All the recruits and coaches and players, we knew Coach Tressel would never do anything like what the media is making it out to be. I think everyone thinks this is being blown way out of proportion."

Likewise, Dunn said he listened to the press conference and said his primary concern was that Tressel would be resigning as a result of the report OSU has submitted to the NCAA.

"When I heard about it, I didn't know if he was going to retire," he said. "I didn't know anything. Once I saw he got a two-game suspension I thought that was tough. I was surprised at everything but I really don't think it will affect me when I get there."

Ball said that although the topic was a hot one at school Wednesday, he did not want to comment specifically on the situation other than to say that he remains 100 percent committed to the program.

"I'm still excited to be a Buckeye and to wear the Scarlet and Gray," he said. "I'm proud to be a Buckeye."

As Dunn pointed out, Tressel's suspension as it stands will have no effect on the class of 2012. It is the players who signed with the Buckeyes in February who will feel the immediate impact when the coach is not on the sidelines Sept. 3 against Akron.

Grant said that will not be as strange as some might think because the class of incoming players knows nothing different.

"I don't know what it's like to have him on the sidelines yet," he said. "That's the leader of our troops and I'll follow him. It won't make a difference because our main leader might not be out there but we still have to get the job done."

Columbus Eastmoor safety Ron Tanner said that he has tried to stay out of conversation regarding the topic.

"It's not my place to say anything about it because I'm not even there," he said. "I've been an Ohio State fan all my life and I definitely have the utmost respect for the coaching staff and the university. I feel like a part of it. I'm still buying into the system and still proud to be a Buckeye."

Keeping out of the conversation has not been easy for everyone. Dunn said he had teachers asking him about the situation throughout the day while Grant pointed out that the story was all over television during the morning. Kalis said he had people joking with him throughout the day about Tressel's suspension but that he had no serious conversations about it.

The senior-to-be said he felt the situation was bringing OSU's recruits closer together. Asked if it had changed his feelings on the Buckeyes, Kalis said, "Oh no, not at all. That's the thing: people think it would but people who know (Tressel) or know anything he does for his players (isn't upset).

"I think a lot of kids think like me, that it's being blown way out of proportion."

Kalis added that his opinion was shared by Ball and Dunn as well as early enrollees Braxton Miller and Jeff Heuerman.

Grant said he has received some messages on his Facebook page questioning why he would still consider going to OSU. His response: "They're not doing what I'm trying to do in my life or anything so they can't tell me how to live my life."

Likewise, Centerville, Ohio, defensive lineman Michael Bennett said he feels the situation is being blown out of proportion.

"I think (Tressel) was put in a really bad position," the four-star prospect said. "From talking to guys and seeing how he is in his past, I don't have any lost respect for him or I don't think any poorer of him. I just think he was put in a bad situation trying to protect his guys. I respect that."

When the class of 2011 reports for summer courses, Grant said the challenge in front of them is obvious.

"I don't care that that happened," he said. "That's been my school and that's where my heart has been set at. He made a mistake and we're going to get over the hump and keep moving and do what we've got to do to win games.

"We've got things pretty much settled. It's time to go balling and that's pretty much it."

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