August 5, 2011
Select freshmen had doubts, all back Tressel
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - For the summer months, the future of Ohio State football lingered in a state of uncertainty.
Naturally, some of the Buckeyes' verbal commitments thought twice before signing on the dotted line on National Signing Day to join the program for what would likely be their home for the next four years.
"I'm not going to lie, I did (think twice) at first," linebacker Curtis Grant admitted once he caught wind of Ohio State's off-the-field problems. "But I just prayed about the situation, and I felt like this was still the best place for me."
Even through the resignation of Jim Tressel and a hearing with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions around the corner, Grant and other freshmen came to the realization that Ohio State still was the best place for them.
But had the Buckeyes lost Grant - perhaps the most coveted defensive player in last year's recruiting class - that could have created a ripple affect that may have cost Ohio State dearly.
In the end, the program lost only one player despite intense turmoil in linebacker E'Juan Price, but he had shown earlier doubt when wavering on his decision on signing day.
The rest of Tressel's last class met with the media on Wednesday morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, all of which continued to support the coach they thought they were coming to Ohio State to play for.
"It's kind of tough," Columbus native Ron Tanner said when talking about Tressel no longer being with the program. "I always looked forward to playing for him, but Coach Fickell was also part of recruiting me and I developed a relationship with him as well, so the change isn't too bad actually, because he's a great guy. No matter who the coach is, the program will always be strong."
Though Tressel hasn't been with the program since the end of May, his memory still lingers. Gone are the photos of Tressel from the team's training facilities, but his initials were on wristbands select members of the freshman class wore this week.
"I wear it because (Tressel) was a good guy to me and he recruited me strong," defensive end Steve Miller said before holding the black and red band up for photos. "It means a lot to me, coming here. I miss him."
Ohio State's still not out of hot water, as the hearing with the NCAA is now under a week away. For the transgressions committed by Tressel and the players involved in the tattoo scandal, some expect harsh penalties such as a potential bowl ban or scholarship reductions to hit the program.
The freshmen have yet to partake in fall camp - they report tomorrow - but they've been subject to constant questions from back home about the state of the program.
Even with the distractions, it doesn't seem to be slowing the team down from preparing for a season that is now less than a month away from kicking off.
"It was at peace with itself," cornerback DerJuan Gambrell said when asked how the feeling around the locker room has been in recent weeks. "When we came in here, everything was still clicking. There weren't (any) distractions or anything like that. Everything was still working perfectly."
Tough times may be currently upon Ohio State, but the freshmen plan on changing the culture of the way the program is viewed nationally.
"From the time I committed and then everything going down, I don't really ever remember a point where I was like, 'Maybe I made a wrong decision,' because there is a lot more to Ohio State than a coach or that one mistake can erase," defensive tackleMichael Bennett said.
"Being here with my teammates and the coaches has made it more concrete. It doesn't feel like we've lost a step at all. Everyone just feels like we're 100 percent, maybe even going harder."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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