- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - In the 121 years that Ohio State has been playing football, there probably haven’t been many offseasons with so many lingering questions.

Usually, a finish like the white-knuckle, 31-26 victory over Arkansas in Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl would be enough to keep Buckeyes fans warm and giddy all through the remainder of a cold winter.

Yet despite that capper to a 12-1 season, there are an unending series of unsettling matters to be dealt with between now and the 2011 season opener on Sept. 3 vs. Akron.

“There’s never a shortage of story lines for the Ohio State season,” departing senior wide receiver and team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher said in the afterglow of the win at the Superdome.

OK, fine. But this many?

First, there’s the question of whether the “Tattoo Five” will be back. Next, there’s the problem of replacing half of the starters from the Sugar Bowl.

But first things first _ the “Tattoo Five.”

Four junior starters _ quarterback Terrelle Pryor, tailback Dan “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and left tackle Mike Adams, along with Sugar Bowl star Solomon Thomas, a backup defensive end _ have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling rings, uniforms and awards and getting discounts on tattoos from a West Columbus parlor.

The athletic department is appealing to the NCAA. It’s trying to get a game or two cut off of the suspensions, although there is some criticism that the association has already been soft on Ohio State in allowing the five to play in the Sugar Bowl before beginning their suspensions.

All five could jump to the NFL draft early _ all played well in the bowl game _ and not risk injury or the vagaries of only having a little more than half of their senior seasons to impress pro scouts.

Thomas, who had the clinching interception deep in Ohio State territory in the final minute, said he thought all five would be back.

“I do. Everybody’s different from the situation that happened,” he said. “Everyone comes from different places; everyone’s financially different and economically different. We’re a team. I don’t know (for sure), but I would say so.”

The five pledged to coach Jim Tressel they were returning, but no one considers that binding. Pryor said as much, calling it just a form of an apology to Buckeyes fans.

With many questions about his passing ability, Pryor said he needs another year of seasoning.

“I don’t think I’m really ready for the NFL,” said Pryor, who passed for 221 yards and rushed for 115 in the victory over Arkansas. “I think I’ve got a lot of learning and better decisionmaking I have to make on and off the field. And even off the field, I think I need to grow up a little bit more and mature as well in that standpoint.”

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