Ohio State defensive star Noah Spence was suspended for three games for violating a Big Ten Conference rule, which means he will miss the Orange Bowl and the first two games of the 2014 regular season.
Erick Smith of USA Today passed along the news:
Release from Ohio State: DL Noah Spence suspended three games for violation of Big Ten rule. Misses Orange Bowl and first two games of 2014.— Erick Smith (@erick_smith) January 1, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, Jan. 7
Noah Spence's family has revealed that the defensive lineman was suspended for use of ecstacy (via Kendra Nichols of ABC 27):
His father, Greg Spence, says Noah tested positive for a small amount of ecstasy.
It's standard procedure for every player to get tested prior to the Big 10 championship game, and Spence's family says he was shocked when his drug test came back positive.
The family says Spence unintentionally took the drug when he was given an open drink by people he didn't know at a party.
His father says the Big 10 originally suspended Spence for one year because they consider ecstasy a performance-enhancing drug. The NCAA considers ecstasy a street drug, which carries a lesser penalty.
The family appealed and the suspension was dropped to three games.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer confirmed Sunday that the All-Big Ten defensive end was absent as the final preparations shifted to South Florida ahead of Friday's matchup with No. 12 Clemson, but he didn't provide any details about the sophomore's situation or offer a definitive update on his availability this week.
"[Spence] didn't fly down with us," Meyer told reporters after the team's flight landed. "He's working through some personal issues at home."
Here's the complete release from Ohio State regarding the suspension, including details about appeals by Spence's parents, courtesy of Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:
It has been determined that Ohio State University sophomore Noah Spence has violated a Big Ten Conference rule and he has been suspended for three games, starting with the Discover Orange Bowl this Friday.
Spence's parents, who did not agree with the rule violation nor the penalty imposed, were assisted by the Ohio State Department of Athletics in exhausting the appeals process that was available to them with the Big Ten.
Spence is an Academic All-Big Ten honoree and an OSU Scholar-Athlete. He will continue course work toward his sociology degree next semester and he will be able to practice with the team this spring, but he will not be eligible to play in a game until Ohio State’s third game of the 2014 season, Sept. 13 vs. Kent State.
The Department of Athletics will have no further comment on this issue.
Spence's absence is a huge blow to a defensive line that made major strides in 2013. He finishes his sophomore campaign with 52 total tackles, 14.5 of which were for a loss, a team-leading eight sacks and a forced fumble.
Can Ohio State beat Clemson without Spence?
After being a highly touted recruit, his freshman campaign was underwhelming with just a dozen tackles and one sack. But he stepped into a much larger role on the revitalized defense in his second season and started living up to that top billing.
He was expected to serve as a key piece of the puzzle as the Buckeyes defense attempted to slow down Tajh Boyd and the talented Clemson offense. Without him, the task for the rest of the Ohio State pass rush becomes much tougher.
Although it's a major setback for the Orange Bowl, the suspension is slated to end after the first two games of next season, so the impact beyond this season should be minimal.
Exactly what rule he violated to earn the punishment is unclear, however.