Gridders Entering Crucial Summer Months

Ohio State wrapped up spring practice April 23 with the annual spring game and will not resume official team practices until fall camp kicks off in late summer. With 14 starters from the team's bowl game unavailable for at least the first five games of the season, unofficial summer workouts will become more vital than ever.

Few things appear certain when it comes to Ohio State football right now, but here are two: there will be a 2011 season, and it starts with a Sept. 3 home contest against Akron. Before that date arrives, however, center Michael Brewster knows what needs to happen.

"This is going to be probably the most crucial three months that this team has had in a long, long time with all the suspension stuff that will be going on next year," he said following Saturday's spring game. "Everybody is going to have to be in the film room. We've done it in the past a little bit but this year it's going to be really crucial. Everyone knows that."

The list of distractions is significant. Six players will be suspended for the game against the Zips, five of them for the first five games of the season along with head coach Jim Tressel. Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will take over as the head coach on Saturdays until Tressel's return as the team takes the field minus 14 players who started in OSU's Sugar Bowl victory against Arkansas.

First, though, come summer workouts and 7-on-7 drills during which the coaching staff can not be present.

Asked which player will be responsible for organizing the group, defensive lineman John Simon said, "I wouldn't say we have one guy who says that. Everyone is motivated to do that and that's the great part of being on this team is everyone is motivated. You don't have to tell anyone – you'll just see them there (at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center)."

Brewster said the situation had already been discussed with the team but did not specify by whom.

"As players, we're going to have to get back together and get that done," he said. "We've got a lot of good leadership on this team. With as many young guys as we have do we do have a lot of older experienced guys as well. We're going to bring those guys along, get in there once or twice a week and go over a couple things a day so by the time we get to camp we can just go and we don't have to go over little things."

The hope is that once fall camp rolls around, the Buckeyes will be able to quickly turn their focus toward getting ready for the season.

"You've got to hit the ground running," Brewster said. "We don't have time to go over the basics this time around. That's why we went live so much this spring because we need to get guys ready. Guys did a great job. Guys like (wide receiver) Verlon Reed – nobody knew much about him. He redshirted but he's being noticed now. I think he did a good job this spring."

After the spring game, Brewster tweeted a photo of a black T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Silence the doubters" all in capital letters. Above the words were drawings featuring Tressel, Posey, Brewster, Pryor, senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts and junior safety Orhian Johnson.

A little more than one week into the spring, junior linebacker Etienne Sabino said the atmosphere within the locker room felt no different than in years past.

"Honestly, I haven't seen a difference," he said. "I think people have started to realize that our team is very close. Regardless of what other people might say, our team is very close. We're like a family, so I haven't seen much of a difference at all."

One day after OSU received a notice of allegations detailing Tressel's alleged transgressions that would ignite a media firestorm when it was released Monday, the head coach proclaimed his faith in the future.

"We were focused to have a really good spring," he said. "I'm not worried too much about what lies forward. I want (the players) to get ready to have a great May, June and July."

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