Will They Stay Or Will They Go?

What would an Ohio State team look like next season should the team's core group of talented juniors opt to return for their senior seasons? What do Joe Daniels, Guns N' Roses, the month of November and Jim Tressel have in common? What is the deal with Alex Boone? Answers to these questions and more are covered in our latest notebook.

There might still be four games remaining in the 2007 season, but talk is slowly building up concerning which highly touted players – if any – will return for their senior seasons wearing the Scarlet and Gray.

The likes of cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Vernon Gholston were all recently pegged among the top 10 defensive prospects in the country by Sports Illustrated. Head coach Jim Tressel frequently tells his players to head to the NFL if they are a guaranteed first-round pick in the draft, and that does not appear to be any different this season – although he said the time to think about such a situation is "light years from now."

But what could potentially hold this group of players together is the bond they have built over the years in Columbus. Laurinaitis has already gone on the record as saying he will be back for his senior season, but there is still plenty of time to change his mind.

He said the players are not talking about the situation yet.

"I think a lot of the guys that we have here are having fun together and I think a lot of the guys in our class are really just focused on Wisconsin," he said. "There hasn't really been any talk about next year. We haven't said at all the possibilities of how much experience we could have if everyone came back next year. That's something that we can't control and we can't focus on right now."

Junior linebacker Marcus Freeman said the topic comes up from time to time, but it is the underclassmen who bring it up.

"A lot of times it's the younger guys saying, ‘Hey, you guys have to come back and make sure when it's our turn you guys are still here and we step it up and play together next year,' " Freeman said. "Sometimes we joke around like, ‘Man, I can't wait until we're all coming back,' but we try not to concentrate on that too much and just concentrate on this year."

Asked during the Big Ten Media Kickoff prior to the season if this was to be his "money year," Gholston laughed.

"Not exactly," he said. "The NFL is great, but for me it's all about what I'm doing today. If I take care of my business today, then the future will be great for me."

Last season, junior tailback Antonio Pittman told reporters in midseason that he would be returning for his senior season so he could win the Heisman Trophy and bring it back to his high school. In addition, junior wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez insisted throughout the season that he would be returning for one more year.

Both wound up leaving after last season.

However, the fun Laurinaitis referred to, along with the bond this team appears to share, could be enough to keep the core together for one more year.

"Everyone here is having fun and everyone here has such a close relationship with everybody else I couldn't see why everyone wouldn't return," he said.

Nothing Lasts Forever: Ohio State quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels has admitted to not being a Guns N' Roses guy, so he might not be familiar with the band's last top-10 single: November Rain.

In the song, lead singer Axl Rose wails, "nothin' lasts forever/ Even cold November rain." Unlike the aforementioned rain, however, one thing seems to last throughout the month: OSU victories.

Since Tressel took over as the head coach of the Buckeyes in 2001, he has amassed a 17-3 record in the final month of the regular season. It is a time period the coach has told his players that can make or break a season.

During practice on Wednesday, Tressel made sure to subtly remind his players of the importance of winning during the month of November.

"At the end of practice, he said, ‘When you wake up tomorrow, it's November,' " OSU junior linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

When asked to explain why the Buckeyes have been so good in the month under Tressel, sophomore safety Anderson Russell simply credited his coach.

"Honestly, I really don't know," he said. "He's a great coach and that's more credit to him than us. We've made it this far, and we've been talking this week about how well we play in November. It's definitely a huge emphasis for us."

Boone Making Many Impacts: While his play on the field has been consistent throughout the season, junior left tackle Alex Boone has been even larger than life off the field.

First, it was admitting that his long hair had been shorn by his girlfriend while he was asleep. Then, it was making the highlight reel for his gravity-defying leap over 6-3 sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline after scoring a touchdown against Penn State last weekend.

The play was a favorite on the team as the players broke down film from the victory. Tressel described it as "acrobatic."

However, junior tight end Rory Nicol was a little concerned about the safety of his fellow Buckeyes following future touchdowns – especially concerning the injury suffered by Ted Ginn Jr. when teammate Roy Hall landed on his ankle while celebrating his return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown in last season's national championship game.

"For some reason after 17 plays in a row he has enough energy to hurdle somebody," Nicol said. "It's crazy. He's going to hurt somebody one day. You'd think we'd learn after what happened to Teddy, but Alex is a wild guy, man.

"I don't like it. We saw it on film about 30 times. It's good that he gets excited when we score, but I guess the thing is in all honesty, not being funny, there's a line you that you can't cross. We all saw that with what happened to Teddy, so maybe Tress is going to sit him down one of these days and be like, ‘Listen, just go hit their heads or something, tap them on the butt.' "

Apparently, though, Tressel has no such plans.

"He can get carried away," he said. "He about killed Mo Wells down in that one corner of the end zone a couple of weeks ago. I guess rather than trying to get him to change, we just told our guys that ‘there's one other tackle you're going to have to break if you score, so you'd better be alert.' "

As for Boone's hair, Nicol said his own blond locks look far better than Boone's did.

"His was so long," he said. "His was out of control. I don't even think he ever washed it, either. He tried to donate it and they wouldn't take it."

Not So Fast: When a controversial call goes in favor of the Buckeyes, fans and commentators alike are often quick to exhort them to hurry up and run a play before the decision can be reviewed by replay officials.

But as ESPN analyst Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend." As it turns out, the league is wise to any such attempts to speed things up before a play can be reviewed.

"What the officials will tell you in all your preseason meetings is that A., they are going to review every play and B., they are not going to let anyone snap it if there is a shadow of a doubt that it needs to be reviewed," Tressel said. "If they see someone scurrying up to snap the ball, they'll push the buzzer whether or not it's really (close)."


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