CHICAGO — A one-game suspension for a quartet of players may have been the first major setback to the 2015 Ohio State season, but members of the defending national champions aren’t letting it break their spirits.
OSU announced Thursday that junior defensive lineman Joey Bosa, redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, junior H-back Dontre Wilson and redshirt senior wide receiver Corey Smith had each been banned from the Buckeyes’ season opener on Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech for a violation of a Department of Athletics policy.
While the suspensions were made public Thursday morning, OSU coach Urban Meyer said later that day during the 2015 Big Ten Media Days that it is an issue that he had been aware of for longer than that.
“I kind of knew about this for a little bit,” Meyer said. “The athletic department has policies that we expect, and I 100 percent am fully supportive of it.”
Meyer opted not to disclose the details of the violations, saying it was an “internal” team matter.
Senior linebacker Joshua Perry said he was disappointed to see the punishments dished out, but he acknowledged there is a team code of taking responsibility for actions.
“We’re disappointed because we value a high level of accountability,” Perry said. “But at the same time, you have to realize that guys do make mistakes; nobody is perfect, so as much as you want to eliminate those mistakes, you got to recognize them, you got to do something about them, and then you got to do something about it.”
While each of the four suspended players are set to play major roles for the Buckeyes this season, Bosa’s absence against Virginia Tech — a team that handed OSU its only loss of the 2014 season — figures to be the most notable. Bosa was a unanimous 2014 Associated Press first-team All-America selection and finished as a finalist for three major national awards.
However, Perry said he has faith in the depth and talent that the Buckeyes have to make up for the absence of the four.
“If you go down our roster, and you see some of the other players we have that can step in, it’s not too worrisome,” Perry said.
Missing a player who picked up 13.5 sacks last season in Bosa is never ideal for a defense, but Perry said the OSU defense has never been about the individuals.
“We’re a no-name kind of defense,” he said. “What I mean by that is we want to take the individual identities away and we want to have a group identity.
“We want to focus on that identity, the power of a total unit coming together. So when one guy goes down, it’s not even about the name anyway, you have to have another guy step up and know that with 11 guys doing their job, you can be successful.”
The senior singled out players such as redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Sam Hubbard and Darius Slade, as well as sophomore defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes to pick up the defensive slack in the opener with Bosa out, and a pair of wide receivers in sophomore Curtis Samuel and junior Michael Thomas supporting the offense.
Senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker was able to draw positives from the suspensions, citing a manufactured sense of urgency that can be valuable to a team.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for those guys who are going to step into those positions,” Decker said. “I think it might create a sense of urgency for the guys who are going to have to sit out that game because they’re probably going to be on scout team for the entirety of camp and those other guys are going to get the opportunity to take that spot and if they do a better job, they’re not going to get that spot back.”
“So I think it’s going to create a sense of urgency all around, and I think it’s going to be beneficial, because if you break the rules you are going to punished no matter who you are. I don’t want to say I’m happy it happened, but I think there can be positives that come from it.”
OSU — sans the four suspended players — is set to take the field for the season opener on Sept. 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m in Blacksburg, Va.