Motivation, Leaders Not Lacking For OSU

There was a lot of disappointment in the postgame locker room when Ohio State lost the Orange Bowl to Clemson, but there was also signs that the determination was there among returning leaders to get past the two straight losses to end the regular season. "Not gonna happen" again is how one player put it.

Doran Grant stood in front of his locker in the southwest corner of Sun Life Stadium, gazing straight ahead at the questioner with a set jaw and steely eyes.

The Ohio State cornerback was discussing the 40-35 loss to Clemson on Friday night in the Orange Bowl when he was asked how he viewed the two-game losing streak that ended the 2013 season for the Buckeyes.

"How do you think I do?" his eyes seemed to suggest.

"It hurts," he said without blinking. "It hurts. Coming out empty handed in both championship games, it'll just fuel the fire for next season."

That season, the 2014 campaign, is one in which Grant will become that clichéd term, a senior leader who will be tasked with making sure the Buckeyes not only reach 24-2 but improve upon that two-year record.

And when asked if he had plans to make sure the Buckeyes don't finish with two consecutive losses come next fall, the Akron native had another quick answer.

"Yes sir," Grant said. "Not gonna happen again."

Just after Grant finished talking, across the locker room, another example of the leadership the Buckeyes will have going forward was also willing to address the future with the media, and that might be because it beat thinking about his recent past.

Senior-to-be Jeff Heuerman played in the Orange Bowl and even caught a 57-yard touchdown pass despite battling a stomach virus for three days that would have knocked out any lesser human being.

"I haven't eaten since New Year's Eve," Heuerman told BuckeyeSports.com while pointing to the bruises on each arm. "I got it on New Year's morning. Nick (Vannett), my roommate, he had it the first day we were here. Some of the guys got it worse than other. I got it pretty bad.

"I was sick all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, didn't practice Thursday, didn't do anything with the team Thursday or Friday. I was sick this morning, I was throwing up at breakfast. Four bags of IV at noon, laid down for a little bit, came here, sick before the game, sick during the first quarter. Came in a little bit early before halftime and got one IV in this arm, one IV in that arm, two more bags. I went from there."

So with leaders like those, Ohio State appears to be in good shape going forward, something the departing seniors are excited to see.

"I think we set a standard for these younger guys," left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "I think they're going to do great. I hope this program stays on the rise. I know it will under Coach Meyer and some of these leaders we have coming back."

Heuerman and Grant will likely just be at the head of the class. Barring a major change of heart, the team will have a fourth-year starter at quarterback in Braxton Miller, someone whose leadership has slowly but surely blossomed in his time in Columbus.

Meanwhile, wide receivers Evan Spencer and Devin Smith, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and linebacker Curtis Grant figure to be senior starters, while a number of major contributors have just finished their sophomore campaigns and could be counted on to provide increased off-the-field contributions.

Included in that group is cornerback Armani Reeves, a part-time starter in 2013 who figured to get a crack at replacing Roby on a full-time basis next year. After starting in Roby's stead and having an up-and-down day while trying to follow players like All-American Sammy Watkins in the loss to Clemson, Reeves is excited to get back at it next season.

"I just have to work on the things that, like Roby told me, everything is not going to be perfect," Reeves said. "The only way that you're going to get better is if you learn from those mistakes and fix those mistakes. That's what I'm going to keep doing. I have to perfect my technique. If I was perfect, I'd be an All-American, but I'm not. I just have to keep working. I can't wait for the offseason."

Pupils like those will surely make it easier on the seniors to be, but motivation isn't expected to be a major concern. The standard at Ohio State is high, and two losses to complete a season for just the second time in the past decade should put fuel in the fire when the team gets back to work toward next September.

"As soon as we get back, we have to hit the ground running," Heuerman said. "This is a feeling no one wants to feel. Obviously it'll have a lot of impact in the offseason in how hard we work."


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