OSU Seniors Decide To Close Ranks

With Ohio State coming off a third straight loss, the team's seniors stepped forward Tuesday to meet with the media. No underclassmen were made available. "The numbers don't mean anything," tailback Lydell Ross said of OSU's 111th-ranked offense.

With Ohio State in the throes of a three-game losing streak, the team's seniors made a decision.

They went to head coach Jim Tressel last week and asked if they could take on media responsibilities for the team this week. That decision came in the wake of comments made by, among others, backup quarterback Troy Smith several weeks ago and freshman offensive tackle Kirk Barton last week.

Then, following Saturday's lopsided 33-7 loss at Iowa, junior linebackers Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel were each outspoken about attitudes and effort of their teammates.

Tressel signed off on the seniors' decision, making all but six players – Kyle Andrews, Lydell Ross, Simon Fraser, Branden Joe, Mike Nugent and Dustin Fox – off limits to the media as the Buckeyes prepare to host Indiana Saturday (noon, ESPN-Plus).

"On behalf of the team and the seniors, this was a group decision made by the seniors and the captains," Fox told the media inside the team's meeting room following Tuesday's practice. "We decided to be in front of the media this week and maybe for the rest of the season. That is part of senior leadership. This allows the seniors to handle some of the difficult questions."

Fox was asked why the decision was made.

"This is tough for a young player," he said. "This is a tough situation. Things are not necessarily going the way we want them to. We don't want any controversy in the media. We think the seniors will do a better job of handling themselves in front of the media.

"Sometimes, the media try to tear the team down. We think it's better to allow us to be in front and make statements."

Fox was later asked if this arrangement implies that team members should not answer questions truthfully.

"Guys should answer questions truthfully, but a guy on this team should be a team guy," Fox said. "Opinions on how the team should be run, that should be left to the coaches."

The seniors were asked how they intend to do something much more important than represent their team in the media – how they plan to turn the season around.

"It starts with today's practice," Joe said. "This is a wonderful game. We get an opportunity to try and turn it around. We are grateful to have each day. It has to start somewhere."

Ross told reporters he still had confidence in the offense despite its meager productivity (OSU ranks 111th out of 117 teams in total offense) this season.

"The numbers don't mean anything," Ross said. "The confidence level we have here as an offense, it's there. We want to get better. It's going to turn around. We still have confidence in ourselves. We believe things are going to happen. Things are going to open up."

Likewise, the play of the defense – which has surrendered 90 points over the three-game losing skid – was a topic of discussion.

"Obviously, we haven't been successful the last three weeks," Fox said. "But the fact is we just wached some film. Simon could attest that the defense is not playing all that bad. We are just making some critical errors in critical situations. It's just one guy or two guys on a particular play who had a breakdown.

"We can correct those things with effort and by playing hard. It's not talent. The talent is there. We want to win and play physical football."

Fraser said it is possible some of the defense's young players are playing tentative.

"Maybe some of the young guys are afraid they are going to get beat and make mistakes that would cost us a game," Fraser said. "We have told them to be confident. They are out there for a reason. They have proven to the coaches and they have proven to the players they can play.

"You can't play like that. That comes with maturity. That comes with experience. Everybody is going 100 percent. If they weren't, they wouldn't be out there."

Under this access edict, Smith likely will not be available before what could be his first career start at quarterback.

"He definitely has personality," Joe said. "Troy is a flashy, confident guy. He's not cocky, but he is confident in his ability. That rubs off on the rest of the offense. He is an enthusiastic guy and that enthusiasm is contagious. We're going to stick behind whoever is calling the plays. We were behind Justin (Zwick) 100 percent."

Ross added, "He is so confident in his abilities. Every day, he cherishes the game. He enjoys the opportunity to play the game."

The game with Indiana matches a pair of 0-3 Big Ten teams desperate for a conference win.

"We need to start back in the right direction," Fraser said. "Indiana is not a team we can (take lightly). They went to Oregon and won and that is a tough environment to play. But this is more about what we've got to do. We need to focus on our responsibilities.

"A win over Indiana could get us back on the right track. It would be a start."

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