Cody Cousino / Photo editor
The Ohio State football team can’t play in a bowl game next year, but don’t tell the seniors on the team they have nothing to play for in their final season.
Twenty-two senior Buckeyes will play their final game in Ohio Stadium next year and said they want to go out on a high note. After posting a 6-7 record in 2011, several seniors said they are looking for improvement and better results this season.
Senior tight end Jake Stoneburner said the seniors have to make the most of their final campaign at OSU and are motivated by underachieving last fall.
“We have to play to the best of our ability because we seniors only have eight games left in the ‘Shoe and then that’s it,” Stoneburner said. “We had a disappointing season last year, so we want to come out and prove we’re a better team and that last year was a fluke.”
Going to a BCS or other high-profile bowl is out of the question in 2012 due to an NCAA-imposed bowl ban, so some players said the focus shifts to winning games.
Senior punter Ben Buchanan said the bowl ban hasn’t changed his level of excitement for the upcoming season.
“I know the bowl ban is probably on the back of everyone’s mind, but we seniors just want to go out and win 12 games, beat Michigan and all those great things that any Ohio State team would look for,” Buchanan said. “I know a lot of guys have personal goals, but our goal overall as a team is to pick up Ws.”
The bowl ban, along with a reduction in scholarships, come as the consequences to an NCAA investigation that found that six players had received improper benefits in the form of tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Of the six, former running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, former wide receiver DeVier Posey and former offensive tackle Mike Adams all moved on to the NFL this April. Former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who often found himself at the center of the scrutiny following the scandal, departed the university prior to the 2011 season to pursue a career in the NFL. Linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game suspension and has since transferred to Louisville.
Former coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign in May of 2011 after it became clear that he had known about the violations and failed to report them, thereby knowingly playing ineligible players during the 2010 season.
With the hiring of coach Urban Meyer, the seniors will play for their third coach in three seasons after 2011 head coach Luke Fickell was moved to defensive coordinator and linebackers coach this season.
Etienne Sabino, senior linebacker, said he also appreciates Meyer’s honesty when analyzing and criticizing the players.
“It puts you in an uncomfortable position, but I think it’s good because he sees how you perform under pressure. It shows how you can react,” Sabino said. “I’ve learned there is no gray area. They’re going to tell you what they think of you.”
The seniors will start their final year with OSU at home against Miami (Ohio) Sept. 1.