COLUMBUS - While things have been working out quite well on the field for the unbeaten and eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, their off-the-field fortunes took a significant hit yesterday when third-string quarterback Antonio Henton was suspended following his arrest Monday night on a charge of soliciting a prostitute.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said yesterday afternoon in his weekly press briefing that the 6-2 redshirt freshman from Georgia would not travel with the team to play at Minnesota this weekend, and characterized Henton's suspension as running for an "indefinite" amount of time.
According to the police report of the incident, Henton was arrested at about 8:30 p.m. near the corner of Sixth Avenue and High Street close to downtown Columbus, and south of the Ohio State campus. The arrest record said Henton, who was arraigned yesterday morning in Franklin County Municipal Court, allegedly offered an undercover police officer $20 for sex. Henton was one of several individuals picked up in the sting, police said.
Henton's legal representation entered a not guilty plea, but the 20-year-old Henton, his head lowered throughout the proceeding, did not comment, court officials said. He did receive a brief lecture from judge Amy Selerno, who set his bond at $2,500 on the misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
"Considering sir, the fact you are the ambassador of the Ohio State University, your visibility in the community - you need to always keep that in mind," Selerno said. "I can tell, sir, your head is hung down and you are looking extremely sad. I know you do not wish to disappoint your team members either, sir."
Tressel used similar language when he addressed the incident, the first law enforcement matter involving an Ohio State football player in some time.
"It's a great disappointment for our Buckeye football family, and we are very concerned for Antonio," Tressel said. "Antonio is keenly aware of the standard we have for ourselves, and that makes this even more disappointing."
Henton had spent last year, his first season at Ohio State, working exclusively on the scout team, which helps prepare the top units by mimicking the opposition's offensive patterns. This past spring, he emerged as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart after a three-way battle for the starting job with Todd Boeckman and Rob Schoenhoft over who would replace Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
Henton, with a strong passing arm and a penchant for running the ball, had the style most like Smith of the trio. Henton had played in all four games this season, sharing the backup duties with Schoenhoft. Henton had a 37-yard touchdown pass in the season-opening win over Youngstown State, and was
3-of-6 passing on the season for 57 yards.
His 41 rushing yards ranked him fourth on the team.
"He made a mistake, but he has great character and he's a great person," Boeckman said yesterday. "And he's a great player. He does a lot of things for us."
Boeckman said he does not expect Henton's legal woes to impact the preparation for Saturday night's second Big Ten game of the season.
"People have been talking about it, and we saw it on the news, but we really don't know much else," he said. "I don't think it will be much of a distraction, since we all know we have to focus as a team on preparing for the next game."
Sophomore defensive back Kurt Coleman said he expects the Ohio State team (4-0) to give Henton all the support he needs, while at the same time getting its preparatory work for Minnesota (1-3) completed.
"To be honest, we're one big family here, so I know we will all focus and pull together," Coleman said.
Tressel said he had not spoken with Henton as of yesterday
afternoon, but expected to as soon as a meeting could be worked out. Tressel said he planned to "defer to the legal process" before taking additional action on the matter.
"I guess what's most disappointing to me is that our guys, I think, know deep down what is expected, and when we err, whether it's a player, a coach, whomever, that's disappointing."
Tressel said freshman Joe Bauserman would move into the No. 3 quarterback role after working with the scout team to this point. Bauserman, who will be 22 years old next week, played professional baseball coming out of high school after being selected in the fourth round of the 2004 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bauserman (6-2, 220) split his high school career between his native Virginia and Florida, and was all-state in football and baseball in both places. Ohio State was one of the schools that had originally recruited him to play football.
"I think Joe's really coming along," Tressel said. "He hadn't thrown a football for three years, so the first week or so was a little different, and he didn't look like a guy who threw a 90-whatever-mile-an-hour fastball. But then all of a sudden, when he got his experiences back there, you can see that he's got great pop in his arm."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.39.96196 -83.00298