CHICAGO – Two weeks ago, there was probably a 99 percent certainty the first question Urban Meyer would be asked on Day 1 of the Big Ten football media days on Thursday would be which of his three quarterbacks was going to be the starter.
For the last week, after Braxton Miller announced he would be moving from quarterback to wide receiver, the probability was almost as great that the opening inquiry would be about that decision.
Nobody saw something like, “What do you think about Joey Bosa and three of your other players being suspended for the opener?” coming.
But that was the direction the first question took when Meyer stepped to the lectern.
Bosa, an All-American defensive end and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, along with wide receivers Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith and H-back Dontre Wilson, will miss the Buckeyes’ opener at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 for what an Ohio State press release described as a violation of athletic department policies on Thursday morning.
Universities are typically vague when they announce suspensions. And Meyer did not shine any more light on the situation than the press release provided.
“The way I’ve always done in the past is internal is internal and external is external. If it was a legal something that had to be addressed externally, I’d do that. But it’s a violation of team policies and that’s as far as I’ll go,” he said.
The biggest question is how far this will go in terms of affecting OSU in its opener and possibly beyond that.
Virginia Tech, of course, was the only team to beat Ohio State last season. This year’s game is at Virginia Tech and the Hokies have 16 starters back from last season’s 7-6 team that put the only blemish on OSU’s record last season with a 35-21 win at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State is attempting to become the third college football team in the last 20 years to win back-to-back national championships, something done only by Alabama (2011, 2012) and USC (2003, 2004).
This does not appear to be a crushing blow to those hopes. But it is not totally insignificant, either.
Bosa, who had 13.5 sacks last season, is the biggest loss. Marshall and Wilson, who combined for nine touchdowns a year ago, could also be missed against Virginia Tech.
Not having Bosa concerns Meyer the most at this point. “Obviously, when you lose the big defensive end, who everybody knows where he’s at, that’s big.”
While there is no one who can duplicate what Bosa does, the OSU coach is confident the roster is deep enough at wide receiver to weather the storm of losing three pass catchers for the opener.
“If we stay healthy throughout training camp with Braxton, Noah Brown, Michael Thomas, Nick Vannett, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Curtis Samuel … we recruited pretty well. Now we have to go get them ready to play. I’ll know more as we get going. But I’m not overly concerned at that spot,” Meyer said.
Repeating as national champion is never easy. This might have made it just a little harder.
But judging by what Meyer said and how he said it, this appears to be just a bump in the road and not even close to a season-swallowing sink hole.
“Everyone deals with stuff. When you’re Ohio State and some of these other big-time programs, stuff becomes a major deal,” he said.
While it might have been disappointing to them, like their coach, the Ohio State players at Big Ten media days seemed mostly unworried about the suspensions.
“We’re disappointed because we value a high level of accountability, but at the same time you have to realize guys do make mistakes. Nobody is perfect,” linebacker Joshua Perry said.
“If you go down our roster and see some of the other players who can step in, it shouldn’t be too worrisome,” he said.
Defensive lineman Adolphus Washington proclaimed himself “not at all” worried by the absence of Bosa in the opener.
As Perry pointed out, OSU overcame more than this last year when it won a national championship with its No. 3 quarterback.
“It was a bit of a different situation but the way that guy (Cardale Jones) stepped up last year when we didn’t have players available was pretty amazing. It just kind of goes to show how we do things around our program, the way we prepare and the expectation level we have for everybody on our team,” he said.
Internally and externally, the expectations for Ohio State weren’t changed by the news of the suspensions.
But maybe they were a reminder that if this season ends in another national championship, it won’t always be easy.