Revitalization of Ohio State Football


It’s a new dawn and a new day for Buckeye football.  I’ve noticed a change over the past couple of months, and it seems to be caused by the combination of several events over the past five years, perhaps culminating with this latest recruiting class.  In my not so humble or unbiased opinion, this change should impact not just the Big Ten, but the entire NCAA.

This program has seen more highs and lows since 2007 than most teams will see in twenty or thirty years.  We have been on the brink of greatness and legend, and most recently, scandal and indifference, but hope to bounce back and begin a new era at Ohio State.

This whole process began in 2007, as the rippling effects of a game that still horrifies and embarrasses  Buckeye fans a half-decade after its completion are still very much alive.  The 2006 OSU football team was a Big Ten juggernaut.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it; the team was a force to be reckoned with.

On offense, the team was lead by Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith and had an overwhelming array of talent for him to work with.  Smith’s backfield contained two tailbacks that have seen NFL time, Antonio Pittman and first round draft pick, Chris “Beanie” Wells.  His options in the passing game included a staggering five future NFL wide receivers in Roy Hall, Brian Robiskie, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, and Brian Hartline.

Defensively, OSU was as impressive, if not more so, than their offensive counterparts.  The linebacker core featured James Laurinaitis, the nation’s best defensive player in 2006.  The defensive line showcased three future NFL players, including the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Vernon Gholston.  The secondary was highlighted by the future fourteenth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Malcolm Jenkins, who went on to win a Super Bowl ring in his first pro season.

OSU cruised through the entire regular season undefeated with only two games (Illinois and M*chigan) being decided by one score.  In the other ten games, Ohio State outscored their opponents by an amazing 301 total points (377-76).  Unfortunately, as we all know, this miraculous season came crashing down in full force on January 8, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Florida Gators, led by Coach Urban Meyer, absolutely tore the Buckeyes apart in almost every aspect of the game, defeating OSU 41-14 in the National Championship Game.  This humiliation would become Act I in the transformation.

The loss in the very next season’s championship game also hurt the already bruised ego of the Buckeyes, but was not nearly as tough to swallow as the Florida game.  Most fans will admit that they were not nearly as confident in the team that lost to LSU as they were the previous year, but a loss still hurts, especially at the hands of another SEC team.  This loss to LSU left the flood gates wide open for insults and bragging rights to be hurled from SEC University (You know, that one school down south that all NASCAR fans seem to root for) directly at the prideful campus in Columbus.  This loss would become Act II.

Act III came after what seemed to be three solid, upswing years by the Buckeyes.  They had landed a highly touted recruiting class in 2008, which was anchored by a game-changing quarterback named Terrelle Pryor.  The Bucks continued to dominate the Big Ten, crush their rivals from Up North, and play in BCS games.  However, Act III was the most painful of them all, and it hit with unforgettable force. 

Just before the Sugar Bowl game against Arkansas, OSU fans learned about some NCAA violations by several of its star players.  This grew into a full-fledged “scandal” as evidenced by the flocks of writers and reporters who visited Columbus from December 2010 to May 2011.  They uncovered more wrongdoings by individual football players, included the selling/trading of memorabilia for money and tattoos, acceptance of improper benefits, and the alleged cover-up by Jim Tressel and the athletic department.  The latter resulted in the “resignation” of Jim “The Senator” Tressel from Ohio State in the early summer of 2011, as well as the devastation of an entire fan base.

The Buckeyes were broken.

Act IV brought the hope of redemption on the field, as hometown hero, Luke Fickell took over as the interim coach.  However, the inevitability of suspended players, inexperienced coaching, lack of leadership, and improved play by TSUN stopped any hopes of redemption shy of the execution phase.  Much to the delight of the rest of the nation, the boastful and confident OSU crowd had been put in the Big Ten corner that had been previously reserved for Northwestern, Purdue, and the “rest of the Big Ten.” 

The Buckeyes were now defeated.  Hope never left, but had taken a back seat to disappointment, frustration, and anger.  Act IV was rock bottom.

But a funny thing can often happen after rock bottom.  You can become content, or you can fight back and start fresh.  The athletic department’s announcement at the end of November of 2011 that Urban Meyer would become the next head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes signaled this fresh start, not with a bang, but with fireworks, a ticker-tape parade, and the beginning of Act V

In just two short months, Meyer assembled a crew of experienced and exciting coaches to replace most of the fossils left from a painful time and put together the best recruiting class that OSU has seen in well over a decade.  Any anger or frustration that had previously been focused on the recent NCAA violators has now been directed to its rightful spot, approximately 190 miles north of Columbus.  The swagger is back in “Ohio” and the future should hold many memorable battles between Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, as well as take care of some other issues that have come up recently between Meyer and certain B1G coaches. 

Buckeye Nation isn’t just looking for wins over the next few years; it’s looking for pain, championships, revenge and respect.  For the first time in months, a conversation about our favorite team can be positive…entirely positive.  OSU will get a full season to learn a new offensive scheme, rediscover and teach the talent that is already here, and bring in new faces who could very well become players that we talk about years down the road.  Take a look around at the blogs, articles, and conversation regarding OSU now, and you can tell that a change is here.   

After five years of a few highs, canceled out by terrible lows, I’m pleased to say that a new life is here for Buckeye football…and it’s feeling good.

Follow me on Twitter @AJBorland