Ohio State Football: Jim Tressel's Lasting Legacy Shows in Buckeyes' Seniors
Jim Tressel's Buckeye career had two major low points: the 41-14 loss to Urban Meyer's Florida Gators in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, and his resignation following the tattoo scandal on Memorial Day 2011.
Tressel will be back in Columbus on Saturday for the Ohio State-Michigan game as a part of a tribute to the 2002 national championship team, where Tressel made himself a household name in college football.
While some of Tressel's last few recruiting classes have been disappointments so far, especially the 2008 class, the current crop of seniors that were sophomores he left in the hands of Luke Fickell and then Meyer have been invaluable to the Buckeyes this year and are a huge reason why they are 11-0.
Meyer spoke on Wednesday to the media about how much the senior class led by John Simon, Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren impressed him. When they had a chance to leave Ohio State and be eligible anywhere for this season, none left.
This was before any of those seniors had suited up for Meyer, their third coach in three years at Ohio State after Tressel resigned following a 10-year tenure in Columbus.
The moment when Ohio State's seniors could have bolted due to NCAA sanctions and didn't resonate with Meyer and showed how loyal Simon and the seniors were to the program.
Without them, it's hard even with Braxton Miller's breakout season to see the Buckeyes standing one win from a perfect season.
Sabino had a reemergence as an outside linebacker and has played very well, Simon has been just spectacular and fellow seniors Orhian Johnson and Travis Howard have each had solid seasons.
Despite some early struggles, Reid Fragel has slowly settled into the role of RT after moving from TE before the start of this season.
Boren had to make the biggest move, transitioning from fullback into inside linebacker, and has helped give the leaky Buckeye defense some life in the middle.
It's tough to really imagine how this team would perform without these seniors, without the leadership they have given through an extremely tough season.
They know their college careers will end on Saturday regardless of the outcome, but have a chance to do something that hasn't been at OSU done since—ironically enough—the Buckeyes fell to Meyer in the national championship game in the 2006 season: finish the regular season unbeaten.
The Buckeyes are one win away from doing just that, and it comes against Michigan, the team who beat them a year ago 40-34 to end an eight-year drought.
With everything going in the Buckeyes' favor, from the undefeated record to being at home and Meyer's first game against Michigan at Ohio State, all the stars may be aligned with the Buckeyes.
Losing to Michigan would be a very disappointing end to a season that has brought Buckeye fans a lot of new hope.
The return to national prominence is almost complete. All that remains is the Buckeyes being bowl eligible next year to officially be "back."
The senior class of the 2012 season has played a giant role in Ohio State's rise from a very disastrous 2011 season.
Tressel's return to Columbus on Saturday almost brings this whole saga full-circle.
The reaction to his return may be the biggest question during that portion of the afternoon.
But if you need a look at what he left behind, look at the seniors. They have been resilient and have found ways to turn disaster into brilliance throughout the season.
That group has brought the Buckeyes out of mediocrity and lifted them to within one game of a perfect season.
Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.
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