Roles For Suspended Players Up In Air

One of the biggest stories of fall camp will be how head coach Luke Fickell handles the five returning players who are suspended for the start of the 2011 season -- and who will vie to replace three of those players in the starting lineup. BuckeyeSports.com takes a look at the situation.

Even in the most normal of times, replacing a legendary coach isn't easy.

Of course, not much is normal for Ohio State and new head man Luke Fickell going into the 2011 season as the Buckeyes come off one of the most tumultuous offseasons in school history.

When the Buckeyes start camp Monday, Fickell will not only have to do what he can to emerge from Tressel's shadow, he'll have to make the decisions necessary to keep Ohio State among the elite teams in college football.

One of those decisions is one Tressel never had to make – what to do with the five suspended players still on the team whose NCAA violations started the scandal that ended with a vacated 2010 season as well as the loss of Tressel and Terrelle Pryor.

At the beginning, Fickell said, he has an idea of how he and the staff will handle the practice reps and other tasks assigned to Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting.

"We've got a plan," Fickell said. "They're going to be asked to do a lot of things. It's a learning process for them. We want them to show the entire team their level of commitment, and I have no worries about that one bit. What we ask them to do, I know they'll thrive in their role.

"We're going to ask them to earn everything they're going to get, and they understand that."

Herron, Posey, Adams and Thomas are suspended for the first five games for selling personal OSU memorabilia and receiving discounts on tattoos and will return Oct. 8 in a prime-time game at Nebraska, while Whiting will miss the first game vs. Akron for accepting tattoos.

While Fickell did not go into details about how he'll treat those players during camp, the coaching staff will have to tread a fine balance between making sure those players stay sharp and ready for their returns while getting the players under them enough reps.

"I'd imagine they're going to get them enough reps that they're not behind or out of the loop too much," senior center Michael Brewster said. "We always have to make sure that the guys that are playing are going to get reps, too. It'll be interesting."

The need is especially acute on offense with Ohio State auditioning four players to take over for Pryor. Posey's suspension hurts at wide receiver because he and the graduated Dane Sanzenbacher were the only wideouts to catch more than 10 passes a season ago. Youngsters Corey Brown, Verlon Reed, Chris Fields, Tyrone Williams, James Louis, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer will vie for the extra time.

The loss of Herron doesn't seem crippling because Ohio State returns Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, but Herron did top 1,000 yards last year and was first-team All-Big Ten. Adams – another first-team all-league choice – will watch sophomores Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall battle for his spot.

Fickell said the suspended players will still have a role, especially when it comes to making their teammates better.

"It's a little more unique than to say, 'Hey, wait until it's time where we can actually get those guys to compete for their positions,' " Fickell said. "We still want to put them in positions where they can put pressure on the (OSU) defense as well."

There's also the possibility that the suspended players could see a reduction in playing time upon their returns depending on how their replacements do against Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State.

"I think the greatest thing that could happen is everything be going well and guys be competing, and all of sudden you've got game six, and 'Are you just going to throw DeVier Posey in there, because Philly Brown has done a great job?'" Fickell said. "Well, no we're not. He's going to earn it. If Andrew Norwell has been a great left tackle, are we just going to flip Mike Adams in there? No, he's going to come back, compete and see what's best for the team."

When asked if the suspended players should step back into the lineup, Brewster said. "That's a good question. I'd say probably step back in. They've proven themselves to this point. They're going to have to play well when they get back, but they will. I'm not worried about that."

To their credit, the veterans have tried to act like leaders, teammates said. Both Smith and Spencer credited Posey for helping them get acclimated to summer workouts, while safety Orhian Johnson said the wideout has been active with the team this summer.

"I had a talk with him a couple of times about it," Johnson said. "He's just supportive in everything that we're doing. He's definitely still a part of this team. He's like a brother to me."

Brewster said that the vibe with all of the suspended players has been one of the things about the summer that has been business as usual.

"This summer, nothing has changed," Brewster said. "We haven't even really been thinking about it, talking about it much. They've all been getting ready for the year, just like everybody else. They're not walking around feeling sorry for themselves. It's not like we seclude them or anything. Everything has been real normal."

Normal being a relative term in this case, and even that might go out the window once Monday dawns.

"I think it's going to hit them more when camp comes and they're probably not in for all the reps with the ones or when the games come and they're not in all the practices with the ones," Brewster said. "I know it's going to be hard on them, but they'll make it through. If anything, they'll have really fresh legs for Nebraska."


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