Florida Bowl About Present, Future For OSU

The members of the Ohio State football team from Florida have had quite a commute this holiday season as the Buckeyes get back to practice today, but the good news is the players will be back in sunny South Florida soon enough. That's a good deal for Ohio State, which has a lot of reasons to be happy about their bowl location.

As the Ohio State football team has finished up bowl practice in Columbus, you can forgive Joey Bosa if he's fighting a little bit of jetlag.

Bosa returned to Florida for the holiday season then had to return for the two practice sessions the Ohio State football team had Friday and Saturday before the official team plane departs for Florida for the Orange Bowl tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately for the freshman All-America defensive end, that trip – his third between Columbus and the Miami area in a one-week span – won't add to his frequent flyer miles, but he doesn't seem to mind.

"I'll get a nice little break and get some time with my family" he said before he left. "I'm going back home to Miami (for the game). It's going to be fun. It's a big game playing a good team. It means a lot."

That's the case for not just Bosa but the four members of the Ohio State football team from South Florida. Bosa hails from Fort Lauderdale, just a few miles north of Miami, the same hometown as star linebacker Ryan Shazier. Then there's two offensive starters – tailback Carlos Hyde and tight end Jeff Heuerman – who are from Naples, which is on the Gulf coast of Florida almost due west of Miami.

If you're keeping track, that's a first-team All-American, a freshman All-American, the Big Ten's running back of the year plus a starting tight end who are all from South Florida on the Ohio State roster.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes without them, and that's likely one reason head coach Urban Meyer was happy the Scarlet and Gray landed on South Beach when the dream of playing in the national title game was shattered vs. Michigan State.

"I was hoping for the Orange Bowl because of that reason, the respect we have for South Florida and the entire state of Florida," Meyer said.

"We've had some good players in the past, and we have a couple currently that are excellent players for us. Ryan Shazier just got named All-American, Joey Bosa from St. Thomas Aquinas started as a true freshman and there are several others."

The Buckeyes have done their part to make sure that connection will continue, as well. Meyer made recruiting in the area a priority in December and it paid off with the Dec. 17 commitment of Johnnie Dixon, a prospect from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, about 80 miles north of Miami along the Atlantic coast.

Dixon gives the Buckeyes a commitment from Florida in 11 straight seasons, one that will likely go to 12 thanks to the early pledge from 2015 defensive back Jamel Dean of Cocoa, which is along the Atlantic in the middle part of the state. It's no wonder the Ohio State head coach, who led the Florida Gators to a pair of national championships, said the Buckeyes were hitting the state "real hard" in the lead up to the bowl game.

It helps that there are a number of Buckeyes – Ohio transplants and OSU fans in general – who live in the area, so the team will be given a strong welcome when it heads to Miami for the Orange Bowl.

And that might be something that becomes more prevalent in the future. The Big Ten and the Orange Bowl have inked a deal that will increase access to the bowl contest for teams in the conference, one reason the bowl was so quick to use its pick to choose Ohio State for the first time since the 1976 season, bowl rep Larry Gautier said.

"It's been way too long for Ohio State to be down in Miami," Gautier, a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, told BSB. "When (Ohio State) became available, we jumped right on it because, obviously, now with our new contract, we have a new relationship with the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference for the next 12 years. We were extremely excited for Ohio State to be available."

The excitement goes both ways. Considering some of the locations for the early bowl games on the slate, being able to play in a BCS contest for the first time in three years in a destination city like Miami is a nice prize, especially to those who are from the area.

"I'm glad we're playing there and not New York or something," Heuerman said. "Obviously it will be 75 degrees and nice and we're staying in Fort Lauderdale. That's an awesome place down there."

So while some are viewing this contest as a mere consolation prize for the Buckeyes, there's a lot of reason to be excited for members of the Buckeye team – some based on location, some based on the opportunity ahead.

"We are in a very blessed situation," Heuerman said. "I think we'll get a good experience out of it. The national championship is where you want to get, that's all you're training for, everything you want to do. That's in the back of your head. (But) we've got to be grateful for the position we're in. We're in a great position getting to go to a BCS bowl, the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida."

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