Ohio State gets four players back
Tailback Jordan Hall and cornerback Travis Howard were among four suspended Ohio State players who were reinstated for the 15th-ranked Buckeyes' game on Saturday against Toledo.
Coach Luke Fickell confirmed on Tuesday that linebacker Jordan Whiting, who had been suspended in December for last week's opener for accepting cash and discounted tattoos from a local tattoo-parlor owner, will also be available to play this weekend at Ohio Stadium.
Fickell also said that Hall, Howard and cornerback Corey Brown have also been reinstated after being held out of last week's game for taking less than $300 apiece in gifts from a charity.
Fickell said he was uncertain of those three players' status beyond this week.
''They're available. That's all I know,'' he said. ''We're going to continue to move forward with guys that are available and if something comes up, something comes up.''
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was asked if the three had been cleared for all future games or if they had just been reinstated while their cases were being appealed before the NCAA.
''Technically, based on NCAA case precedence, we anticipate the NCAA reinstatement staff will reinstate them this week,'' Smith said in an email reply.
Hall and Howard had been listed as starters and Brown as a backup for last Saturday's game against Akron, but on Thursday Ohio State announced it had self-reported violations involving the three players. At the same time the school suspended the three for the opening game, which the Buckeyes won 42-0, it also filed paperwork with the NCAA asking for their subsequent reinstatement.
The release issued by Ohio State added that ''the university also is considering institutional sanctions for these student-athletes.''
Fickell was asked if Hall and Howard would return as starters.
''It's only Tuesday, so we don't know,'' said the Buckeyes' interim head coach. ''There's three practices ahead of us and we have to make sure those guys are competing. Those guys who stepped in (for the three suspended players) did a great job. (Hall and Howard) have got to come in and beat those guys out now. I think we all understand the situation.''
The Buckeyes still have four players serving suspensions through the season's first five games: 2010's top rusher, Dan Herron; starting offensive tackle Mike Adams, leading returning receiver DeVier Posey, and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. All were accused of and admitted to accepting improper benefits from the sale of memorabilia for cash and the discounted tattoos. Whiting received only a one-game suspension for his role in the scandal.
The suspensions of Herron and Hall left the Buckeyes with just two scholarship tailbacks for the Akron game. Carlos Hyde finished with 93 yards on 19 carries and Rod Smith had 74 yards on 18.
Perhaps because Ohio State was limited to playing its two best available backs, Akron coach Rob Ianello reportedly chastised Fickell after the game for showing poor sportsmanship by continuing to play his top players in the closing moments of the rout.
Fickell discounted the controversy on Tuesday.
''I didn't say anything,'' he said, adding he didn't recall what Ianello said to him. ''Maybe 'good luck' or something.''
The Buckeyes climbed three spots in this week's latest Associated Press poll, to No. 15.
Despite the lopsided win in the opener, Fickell said he isn't spending a lot of time patting guys on the back and celebrating.
''We are definitely nit-picking. We're definitely going to make sure those guys understand we're never satisfied with where we are,'' he said. ''We're happy and we're proud and we praise them for their efforts, but we have to find ways that we can get better.''