Sprinkle dismissal impact

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Last updated: 07/08/2014 2:58 AM
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Football
Examining the Impact of the Tracy Sprinkle Dismissal
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Monday Ohio State announced that Buckeye defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle was no longer a part of the OSU football program following his arrest over the weekend in Lorain. According to the release, Sprinkle's status will be re-evaluated after all of the legal issues are resolved.

If Sprinkle's situation changes for the better, then there is the possibility that he could be reinstated to the football team.

There has been precedent for the reinstatement of a dismissed player in Urban Meyer's time at Ohio State, as linebacker Storm Klein was allowed back onto the team in 2012 following a plea agreement to lesser charges than those that initially got him booted.

However, even if the charges are altered to a point of a return being possible, the police report does not paint a rosy picture. Even aside from the drug charges and rioting, according to the police report, Sprinkle was given the opportunity to simply walk away from this incident and he chose not to.

Following last year's issues with Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby, Meyer spoke at length with the media and his players about the need for them to walk away from trouble just like this. Given that Sprinkle apparently didn't walk away, that alone will have repercussions.

Considering the seriousness of these charges, the football aspect of this situation is very much secondary, but it is also one that still must be addressed.

Any time a player is dismissed from a team, there is a void, and that void needs to be filled by somebody. Perhaps Sprinkle himself will be able to fill that void through reinstatement, but if he doesn't, the Buckeyes will need to make plans to move on without him.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes -- and that's probably not a great word given the circumstances -- the defensive line is one spot on the field where they can afford to lose a player. However, keep in mind that this is the second defensive lineman the Buckeyes have lost (Jamal Marcus) since the Spring.

Eventually, the losses could start catching up with them, but for now they should be able to absorb them fairly well.

Based on his performance in the spring, Sprinkle was fighting for a spot in the back of the rotation. In fact, during the final week of spring football, he was basically running as the seventh of seven defensive tackles on the roster.

There is no room for a seventh defensive tackle in any defensive line rotation. Even though defensive line coach Larry Johnson wants an expanded rotation this season, that's not the level of expansion that he had in mind.

Sprinkle did have some added versatility in that he could also play defensive end, but he would have been no better than sixth or seventh in that regard this spring. To put it in more direct terms, Sprinkle was at least a year away from contributing, and he may still be. This was not going to be the year where he burst onto the scene.

Currently, the defensive tackle position is more than healthy with starters Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington, both of whom are All-Big Ten candidates. Behind them are juniors Tommy Schutt and Chris Carter, as well as second-year players Donovan Munger and Michael Hill.

Both Hill and Munger are explosive penetrators, while Schutt and Carter are the run stoppers of the group. And it will be very tough for all six to get into the rotation, if not impossible, this season.

If Sprinkle does make it back onto the team, he will be further behind than he was when he was dismissed. If he doesn't make it back, then the need for a defensive tackle in the 2015 class becomes that much more important.

The Buckeyes signed defensive end Dylan Thompson (6-5 265) in the 2014 class, and he could possibly grow into a defensive tackle, as is almost the norm anymore. But if he doesn't, then this dismissal becomes even bigger moving forward.

It likely wouldn't be felt this year, but the staff would like to fix the situation in the 2015 recruiting class so that by 2016 things will be settled and back to where they want them.

But keep in mind, it's still too early to write Tracy Sprinkle off. For all intents and purposes, until the legal process runs its course, nothing has really changed from when he was suspended a day ago. His future at Ohio State was always going to be determined by what ultimately happens with the case.

The football program is hopeful that this will be resolved positively, but if it isn't, they are certainly in a position to handle the loss.

The better question is how well Tracy Sprinkle will handle it.

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