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Dave Thurman (10:55 am)

While the Buckeyes prepare for their January 4th game versus Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl we are previewing a few of the key players for the Razorbacks.  So far we have looked at running back Knile Davis, defensive end Jake Bequette, and tight end D.J. Williams.  Today the focus moves to linebacker Jerry Franklin.

Franklin, a 6'1" 241 lb. junior out or Marion, Arkansas, has actually led the team in tackles three straight seasons.  After redshirting, he was a freshman All-America in 2008 when he tallied 77 tackles and picked off two passes, and then moved his totals up to 94 tackles and 3 interceptions as a sophomore.  This season, with one game to go, Franklin has 93 tackles, including 12.5 for loss with an eye-popping 6.5 sacks.  His fine season resulted in Franklin being named second-team all SEC.

Recruited out of high school as a safety and wide-receiver, Franklin possesses excellent speed for an inside linebacker, but has bulked up to become a fierce run stopper.  He will be a key player in the Razorback's efforts to slow down Boom Herron and the potent Ohio State run game.  An interesting match-up to keep an eye on will be Buckeye fullback Zach Boren going against Franklin, as they could have some pretty violent collisions at the line of scrimmage.  It will also be important for OSU to keep the Arkansas middle backer from getting to Terrelle Pryor on the blitz.  If the Bucks can hold Franklin in check it will go a long way toward bringing success in the Sugar Bowl.

 
 
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I want that track jacket...(Neal Lauron/Dispatch)
Drew Thurman (10:09 pm)

Tressel had lots to say today in his presser. The big news that he revealed is that the five suspended juniors will return for the 2011 season. In fact, Tressel would not have let them make the trip to New Orleans had they decided to leave.

"We told them they would have to make the decision on the NFL prior to leaving for the bowl game," Tressel said at his first Sugar Bowl news conference. "It wouldn't be fair to not face the consequences down the road."

Tressel will undoubtedly take a ton of criticism nationally for the decision to play these guys and not suspend them right away, but he is pretty limited when it comes to options. While some will make this sound like he is bribing the players to stay for another year, he really is ultimately just ensuring they do receive some punishment for what they have done. While I still have my doubts as to how binding this whole agreement really is, in the end the player will look bad for jumping ship and not Tressel. I do think he would have preferred to suspend them for this game, but due to pressure from others involved, this appears to be the next best option for both he and the university going forward.

Tressel also addressed the fact that they sold important Buckeye keepsakes, something that has brought on a lot of grief from fans. From the sound of things, Tressel is frustrated as well. 

"It's disappointing. A number of people reached out as we've been dealing with this thing maybe to calm my thinking or whatever and one the thing said was, 'Keep in mind coach you're dealing with a different generation. Back when you were growing up one guy got a trophy, maybe, and now you're dealing with a generation that if you were on the team and you were seven years old everyone got a trophy. Maybe this generation doesn't understand the value of awards like we did.' I understand the argument. Not sure I justify the deal, but it does make it disappointing."     

 
 
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(Terry Gilliam/The Associated Press)
Drew Thurman (9:53 am)

[Ed. Note - After too many Christmas parties to count and excessive egg nog for us here at TSB, we are finally back at things...]

Are they really sorry? The five suspended players got their chance yesterday to speak to the media and fans,  and show their remorse for what they had done. Not exactly an easy task for five young men who have been beat up by the media and fans this past week. While none of them will win a public speaking award for the eloquence of how they delivered their apologies, each guy did seem truly sorry. Well, that's my opinion anyway. Judging by the message boards, not everyone in Buckeye Nation shares my assessment. In fact, it sounds like many fans didn't like the "vibes" some of the players sent, namely Terrelle Pryor. I guess this will not be an Oscar winning performance for him. 

Regardless of how you took the press conference, it was big news to hear Posey promise to return for his senior season for some redemption. The wide receiving core will be very green next year, and his return for Big Ten season could prove extremely valuable. You can say what you want about his "alligator arms" or how he can often go MIA in certain games, but the Buckeyes will desperately need him next season. Next to Terrelle Pryor's decision, this was the most important one for OSU in 2011. Now let's hope some of the other guys follow suit and decide not to bolt out of Columbus leaving such a bad taste in everyone's mouths. 

Fox has a thought. Former Ohio State defensive back Dustin Fox, who is currently a free agent in the NFL, has lots to say on Twitter about this whole suspension mess. Last night he offered one of the better opinions on how the NCAA should have handled things.

"I think suspensions should begin asap and should only be two games next year. For three games total."

Amazing how the common sense of the social media trumps the NCAA. Fox's punishment is exactly what the situation calls for, and makes more sense for all the parties involved. While I like the sound of 1-9 much better than 0-10, OSU will be more ridiculed for playing these players and winning than they will be losing without them.       

 
 
The five players that were suspended for five games in 2011, issued their apology to Buckeye Nation. Each player was given a chance to express their remorse (with no questions from the media), and all five did seem truly seem sorry for what they had done. Those Buckeye fans who were hoping to see them condemned to the electric chair, will be disappointed. Anyway, you can watch all five players issue their statements in the two videos below (via The Plain Dealer).
 
 
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Dave Thurman (7:31 pm)

If Ohio State suddenly found itself on the front of a tabloid it would not surpirse me after a crazy few days in Columbus.  Unless you have been hiding under a rock or in a third world nation without internet access then you know that all hell has broken lose and the seemingly indestructible Buckeye football empire built by Jim Tressel is reeling.  But it isn't just what has taken place that has been strange, it is also the reaction of Buckeye fans, and the crazy rumors that seem to have taken on a life of their own.

To recap here is what has taken place:

1) Dave Biddle of Bucknuts reported than there was an investigation into players receiving tattoos for autographs, and was immediately hammered by Buckeye fans submitting threads in which they not only questioned Biddle's information but questioned his charater. 

2) Kirk Herbstreit did his best Judas Iscariot impression and piled on, seizing the opportunity to throw his former team under the bus, and even named players though nothing official had been released.

3) Not only were the rumors confirmed but it was revealed that the situation was worse than suspected, as memorabilia and merchandise was sold, and five Ohio State players - Mike Adams, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Terelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas - received five game suspensions, while one other (Jordan Whiting) was suspended for one game.  However, in what seemed to be a twist from logic, the NCAA chose not to suspned any of the group for the Sugar Bowl, but for firts portion of the 2011 season. 

 
 
This pretty much sums up how most of us felt yesterday. Thank you Clark Griswold. Anyway, Merry Christmas Buckeye Nation, you won't hear from us until the 26th unless some very big news comes out...
 
 
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Drew Thurman (1:08 pm)

I would really like to forget today happened. Not only is it a black eye for the Ohio State program, but I really don't want to deal with the fallout from the national media and rival fans. Already fans from some of Big Ten schools are throwing OSU under the bus, via the social media and message boards, which should be expected since the Buckeyes have dominated them for a decade now. Sometimes it's ugly to be on top. 

With that said, I am not nearly as irrational as some of the fans and reporters I am reading on Twitter. Many are ready to completely excommunicate the players involved forever, many even hoping they will now head to the NFL. Apparently even Herbie was very outspoken on the issue, saying this was "addition by subtraction" and a very selfish act by Pryor and the OSU players. While I'm not going to defend what the players did, because it was obviously not smart and against the rules, we all have to remember these guys are 18-22 year olds. In fact, according to Gene Smith's timeline given at the press conference, all of the items were sold prior to the 2009 season (before they were even sophomores). We all do dumb things in our youth, and unfortunately for Pryor and company, their mistakes was made for the world to see. As Buckeyes fans I think we have to be a bit more rational in the midst of all of this. I like what Jon Thoma's tweet said:

"This is when your boys need you most Buckeyenation. Through thick and thin. From adversity will come greatness."

Anyway, off my soap box now, here are a few thoughts about the press conference and ruling.

 
 
Official Press Release from OSU:

INDIANAPOLIS - Five football student-athletes from The Ohio State University must sit out the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and university apparel and receiving improper benefits in 2009, the NCAA has determined.

A sixth football student-athlete must sit out the first game in 2011 for receiving discounted services in violation of NCAA rules.

The violations fall under the NCAA’s preferential treatment bylaws.

In addition to missing five games next season, student-athletes Mike Adams, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The repayments must be made to a charity.

Student-athlete Jordan Whiting must sit out the first game next year and pay $150 to a charity for the value of services that were discounted because of his status as a student-athlete.

“These are significant penalties based on findings and information provided by the university,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs.

The decision from the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff does not include a withholding condition for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The withholding condition was suspended and the student-athletes will be eligible to play in the bowl game Jan. 4 based on several factors.
 
 
Last night the rumors about tattoos for autographs (which took over Twitter) didn't seem to have much validity, so we didn't waste our time talking about it. Well, the story hasn't gone away and even more reporters are jumping on the bandwagon. Here is what Ken Gordon tweeted just a short while ago:

"Ohio State is investigating possible violations involving players getting tattoos in exchange for autographs. Some discipline likely."

And then this:

"Unclear right now who may be involved, or when and what that discipline might be. May involve missing Sugar Bowl, but may be later. Unknown."

Not good news for the Buckeyes. Dave Biddle remains a bit more positive about the suspensions, but he is just speculating at this point. Everyone seems to be reporting that an announcement could be made tomorrow, which is good because I'm not sure Buckeye fans will be able to wait much longer. In the mean time, you can read what SportsbyBrooks is reporting. He claims to have a source that knows the establishment and the list of players who have received tattoos there. Stay tuned.

Update - There are a lot of angry fans out there thanks to Herbie breaking this story nationally while commentating the MAACO Bowl. Before it even hit the front page of ESPN, he decided to speculate and pass on the rumors. He even decided to name names, which every other credible journalist has refused to do. You can watch the whole thing here (H/T 11W). 

Update #2 - AD Gene Smith is holding a press conference at noon to talk about "NCAA rule violations."
 
 
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Drew Thurman (1:14 pm)

Possible trip to Houston? Want to know why the Buckeyes have a serious shot at making it to the Final Four this season? Look no further than last night. While blowing the Bulldogs of North Carolina-Asheville out of the arena, they demonstrated two characteristics that have defined this season thus far: 1) defense and 2) unselfishness. While OSU's non-conference schedule hasn't exactly been murder's row, they're undefeated, and have done so by overwhelming teams on the defensive end. It's not like the Buckeyes have made this run via a slow, overly defensive (Wisconsin-esque) style of play though. This team is putting up points, and the best part is, it comes from different sources every night. Some nights Jared Sullinger goes into beast mode and takes over the game inside the paint, other nights Jon Diebler gets hot from long range, while still other games Lighty or Buford use their athleticism to lead the team. The Buckeyes have a lot of different scoring options, and I didn't even talk about guys like Craft and Thomas. This team is unselfish, they get it to the hot hand and they play solid defense. Bring on the B1G!

Close the books on Duron. There have been lots of rumors floating around that Duron Carter wouldn't be coming back to Columbus next season. Besides the fact that he has shown interest in numerous big time programs, there has been speculation that the Buckeyes may not want him back. According to Duron's tweets, this is more than just a rumor. Two days ago he tweeted this:

"People stop asking me questions about O state.... ask them..."

Then today he added to that thought with this:

"I wanted 2 go back..... even with the 3.0 rule.... they never offered me... so even if i wanted to go back i cant.... sorry."

So there you have it. Seems like we need to move on, even though it kills me to think what he could have been. Be prepared to hear rumors start circulating about him heading to Kent State now