Ohio State's Luke Fickell coaches the Buckeyes against Michigan State on Oct. 1 in Columbus. He says his team needs to focus on the players who can play, not those who are suspended.
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COLUMBUS -- The expectation for months has been that when Ohio State traveled to Lincoln for this weekend's Big Ten showdown with Nebraska, the suspensions of four players would be history and the Buckeyes would be at full strength for the first time all season.
The NCAA changed that and put a football version of musical chairs back in play with the Ohio State lineup when it issued another round of player suspensions that were announced on Monday.
So the Buckeyes go to Nebraska still accompanied by turmoil. First-year head coach Luke Fickell, who seems weary addressing all of the chaos, said at his weekly news conference Tuesday that he and the team will move on.
"How many times have we said, we are going to focus on what we have, not what we don't have and focus on moving forward," Fickell said. "That's what we have to do."
The most-recent suspensions will keep Marcus Hall, who started all five games this season at right offensive guard, out of the Nebraska game.
It will also delay the widely anticipated return of wide receiver DeVier Posey and running back Dan Herron. Those two and Hall were suspended for the Nebraska game by the NCAA after it was deemed they had received improper pay while employed by a Cleveland area businessman and Ohio State booster who has since been formally disassociated with the program.
Hall's suspension means that Toledo native Jack Mewhort will move over to the right side from his usual post as the starter at left guard. Andrew Norwell, who had been starting at left tackle, moves into the left guard slot, while senior Mike Adams, suspended along with Posey, Herron, and defensive end Solomon Thomas for the first five games over their roles in the tattoo and memorabilia scandal, returns to start at left tackle.
From left, Daniel Herron, DeVier Posey, and Marcus Hall.
A serious knee injury in the Michigan State game last weekend has ended the season for redshirt freshman receiver Verlon Reed, the team's second-leading pass catcher. True freshman Evan Spencer moves into a starting role with Reed sidelined.
Fickell, facing a difficult road game against a No. 14 Nebraska team desperate to make a statement after getting knocked around last weekend in a 48-17 loss at No. 4 Wisconsin, said he is urging his team to rally in the face of additional adversity.
"We are not going to make excuses for guys," he said. "We are not going to allow them to be down. As coaches, we are not going to do that as a team, and we believe everybody will follow suit."
Fickell said he expects the return of the 6-8, 320-pound Adams to help the struggling Ohio State offense. The 2010 first-team all-Big Ten pick is considered a top NFL prospect.
"One thing Mike will bring to us is some confidence," Fickell said. "Adding him back into the mix will do nothing but help us up front."
Fickell said he did not anticipate any internal problems as a result of playing Adams or Thomas.
"Those guys have been a part of the team. Those guys have been a part of the program. It's not like they were gone and distant," Fickell said. "Each one will be handled in the way that we best need them to be handled for the team. But we definitely take into consideration that we are not throwing anybody away that had been in there and ... we are going to continue to move forward."
Fickell was asked if he had considered removing Posey and Herron from the team, since they have committed multiple NCAA violations. He said he had not considered that action and that information on the most recent violations was still being reviewed.
"This is still something that's ongoing," he said. "I don't know. I don't have all of the information ... not that I have seen anything that [means] we wouldn't want a guy around right now."
He appeared to leave the door open to revisit the status of Herron and Posey in the future.
"I'm sure we would talk about that as a team, and as a staff." Fickell said. "But you know, again, those guys were part of who we are right now; they are a part of what we do, and we need each and every one of them, in whatever role they have."
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.