Ohio State Football: 10 Presents the Buckeyes Hope to Find Under the Tree
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Unless you're a fan of the Ohio State football program, because you just found out that the Buckeyes will not be participating in the postseason next year.
The one-year ban received from the NCAA will mark the first time OSU will not play in a bowl game since the 1999 season.
Still, there is a lot of promise and much to look forward to with the Meyer era underway. In just three weeks of taking over recruiting responsibilities, the prolific coach has reeled in multiple big-time high school athletes.
He has also added Iowa State's Mike Herman to coordinate the offense and Everett Withers to aid Luke Fickell on defense, with more to come.
The to-do list is becoming shorter with each and every day, but there are still plenty of things needed to continue rebuilding of this prestigious program.
Here are 10 presents the Buckeyes hope to find under the Christmas tree for next season.
Gene Smith's Resignation
Many Buckeyes fans are calling for athletic director Gene Smith's head after a series of questionable tactics leading up to the latest NCAA rulings.
But none more important than when Smith chose for Ohio State to participate in the completely meaningless Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl after a forgettable 6-6 season, when a self-imposed 2011 bowl ban would assumingly have prevented the Buckeyes from spending the 2012 bowl season at home.
“We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA’s decision,” Smith said during Tuesday’s press conference.
Well, we're all surprised, Mr. Smith. You promised no bowl bans and light NCAA punishment.
And everyone knows what happens when promises go unfulfilled in the world of college football: one strike and you're out.
Luke Fickell to Stay in the System
With Paul Chryst accepting the job at Pittsburgh and Terry Bowden taking the reigns in Akron, it's almost certain that interim coach Luke Fickell will remain a Buckeye as a co-defensive coordinator in Meyer's staff.
However, it's now clear that Fickell is interested in being a head coach, and there are smaller schools that would love to have him aboard.
The fact is, Ohio State needs him to stay within the system. Fickell has been a large part of the Buckeyes' football program, since he was a silver bullet himself in the 1990s. The man lives for this school and its tradition, and that's the kind of person we need coaching our players.
Besides, Meyer isn't guaranteed to lead the team for 10-plus years. Heck, he may only be here for five. That said, Fickell could be the go-to guy when he retires, which could end up being the best scenario for Ohio State's future.
Virginia Tech to Beat Michigan
Forget about rooting for the Big Ten in the postseason. Forget about wishing Michigan well just to make Ohio State's loss look better, or whatever you would like to call it.
With all due respect, I am disgusted when fellow Ohio State fans cheer for that team up north, no matter what the situation is.
If you bleed scarlet and gray, you want the Wolverines to lose every single game. That would include their matchup with Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
And I'm sure the players feel the same way.
A Healthy Andrew Sweat
It goes without saying that Andrew Sweat makes Ohio State's defense a lot better.
The senior linebacker was injured early in the Purdue game and has not made an appearance on the field since.
In Ohio State's final three games, the defense allowed an average of 215.0 yards rushing, featuring the distinct struggles of its linebacker corps. Sweat's absence has been detrimental to the Bucks defense, and his return could make a huge difference in the outcome of the Gator Bowl.
A Gator Bowl Victory
Ohio State's (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) frustrating record has landed it in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (a.k.a. the Urban Meyer Bowl) for a contest against the equally disappointing Florida Gators (6-6, 3-5 SEC).
A win here would be the cherry on top after grabbing the Gators' former coach just a month prior to the game.
The Buckeyes would also be avoiding their first losing season since 1988, when they finished 4-6-1 under coach John Cooper's first year.
An Offensive Line Coach
Urban Meyer has done a nice job building his new staff, but he's not finished. He's still on the hunt for an offensive line coach, and his main target is Greg Studrawa from LSU.
Many figured that Studrawa would leave Baton Rouge and run the Buckeye offense while taking responsibility for the offensive line as well, until Herman was hired.
This has firmly diminished the odds of Studrawa coming to Columbus, but Meyer's pursuit has not faded. His addition to the team would bring a lot to the table and could possibly end the O-line drought that Ohio State has experienced over the last several years.
Nevertheless, if Studrawa does not accept the job, there are still plenty of other worthy candidates: Arkansas' Chris Klenakis, Toledo's Matt Campbell, Southern Methodist's Adrian Klemm and Mississippi State's John Hevesy.
Kenny Guiton to Not Transfer
It may not seem like a big deal now, but this is huge for Ohio State.
Freshman quarterback Taylor Graham's recent decision to transfer has left the Buckeyes' depth at the position in an awkward state.
Heading into the 2012 season, just freshman Braxton Miller, sophomore Kenny Guiton and sophomore walk-on Justin Siems return to the roster.
And with Miller always being a liability with the numerous hits he takes after scrambling, OSU needs a solid backup that is prepared for game action.
I'm sure Guiton had other plans than to be the second option throughout his collegiate career, but his presence would play a large role for the young squad.
Ohio State needs him to stay put.
Kyle Dodson to Commit
Dodson is a 6'6", 300-pound offensive lineman from the Cleveland area and is one of the more physical prospects in his class.
He's currently in a verbal commitment with Wisconsin, but Meyer's transition to Ohio State has him thinking otherwise.
If signed, Dodson could make an immediate impact on an O-line unit that struggled in 2011.
Jameis Winston to Commit
If you haven't heard of Jameis Winston yet, here's a quick summary of his resume:
He's a 6'4", 200-pound quarterback from Hueytown, Alabama. Winston passed for more than 2,300 yards with only three interceptions, rushing for more than 800 and leading his Golden Gophers to the third round of the state playoffs all during his senior year.
The 5-star QB was featured on ESPN's show Elite 11, where former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer made it clear that Winston stood above all and was an obvious future pro.
Winston is a born leader with monstrous dual-threat abilities, being able to stand in the pocket and make a great throw or use his quick legs to avoid a sack.
The 'Bama native is a Florida State verbal commit, but has shown interest in the Buckeyes since Meyer's arrival. He recently took a trip to Columbus and it looks as if Ohio State is still in the race to steal him from the Seminoles.
Although he most likely wouldn't start with Miller locking up the job for at least the next two seasons, Meyer could redshirt Winston in 2012 and have him ready by his sophomore year.
A Quiet, Productive Offseason
One year ago to the day, it was announced that five Ohio State players were to be suspended for the first five games on the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and apparel and receiving improper benefits.
The affected players included star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, All-American offensive tackle Mike Adams, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
Amid the scrutiny and investigations, fan-favorite coach Jim Tressel decided it was in his best interest to resign. Luke Fickell was nominated interim coach.
Pryor, who seemed to be the main cause for Tressel's departure, followed with his plans to leave the school for the NFL. He is now the third-string QB for the Oakland Raiders.
But it didn't stop there.
Just days before the season opener against Akron, Ohio State announced that it would self-report violations to the NCAA involving three football players—Jordan Hall, (DB) Corey Brown and Travis Howard—for receiving impermissible benefits of $300 or less each in total at a charity event they attended.
And if things couldn't get worse, Herron and Posey were later hit with an extended suspension by the NCAA for taking more money than necessary for a summer job they didn't do. Herron was only given one more game, while Posey missed an extra five.
I don't want to jinx anything, but we may be able to take a sigh of relief now that everything is done and in the past; Ohio State can start fresh next season (minus the bowl ban).
The NCAA has made its final ruling and the Buckeyes can move forward as a program with a clean, legal path lying ahead.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope that everyone gets exactly what they asked for this Holiday season.
Including the Buckeyes.
Follow me on Twitter @Tyler_Waddell for more updates around the sports world.