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Published: Saturday, 9/3/2011

OSU saga to finally hit field

Six starters likely out against Akron

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS — In the build up to Saturday’s 2011 Ohio State season-opener against Akron, there hasn’t been much talk at all about the Zips. That seems reasonable, since the Zips won just a single football game last year and they have not been dealing with multiple player suspensions, a coaching change, and an embarrassing NCAA scandal.

The Buckeyes have plenty to do just tending to their own backyard, especially now that three additional players have been slapped with suspensions. Ohio State will be without the services of four likely starters on offense and two on defense due to various NCAA related sanctions.

New Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said he is prepared for the kind of intense scrutiny he expects the Buckeyes to face.

“Our actions will speak for us. I think that every week, and we’re not looking at it any different,” Fickell said. “Every week, no matter what year it is, there are a lot of people watching Ohio State. That’s the beauty. That’s what the history and tradition has brought of this place.”

The Zips end up being some variation of set dressing in this Ohio Stadium melodrama, which includes Fickell’s debut, Ohio State’s first game without former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and it’s initial attempt to deal with the awkward status of multiple suspended starters. Fickell said he wants his team to get focused.

“We’ve had time to talk. There’s been a lot of talk, but talk is just that. Our performance will be what we want to define us,” Fickell said. “Our actions, our performance on Saturday afternoon, to me that is what we want people to talk about. We’re hoping that our performance and our actions speak louder than what we say.”

Fickell will start senior Joe Bauserman at quarterback, but hinted that he will work freshman Braxton Miller in with the first unit early in the game. Ohio State’s powerful group up front should make things easier on the inexperienced quarterbacks, and allow the Buckeyes the luxury of controlling the affair with a potent running game.

Jaamal Berry might not be a part of the action against the Zips, however, since the sophomore from Miami is dealing with a persistent hamstring problem. Fickell called him “questionable”, but even with Berry sidelined, and junior Jordan Hall recently joining senior Dan Herron on the suspended list, there are still decent options. Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith will carry the load.

“To me, with those running backs, we’ve got some talent,” Fickell said earlier this week. “Those guys are going to get opportunities. I’m sure you’ve heard me say a million times, how you take advantage of your opportunities will determine how many more opportunities you have.”

Senior All-American center Mike Brewster, who will be protecting those inexperienced quarterbacks and opening lanes for the OSU running backs, said he is looking forward to watching the group of new Ohio State wide receivers, as well. He expects a real play-maker or two to emerge.

“I’m just anxious — anxious to see those young guys step up,” Brewster said. “We have all of that talent, so I’m just anxious to see who is going to take that role.”

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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