This is a tale of two Buckeyes—one who stayed and one who was asked to leave. The former is coach Earle Bruce, who mulled over a reported $300,000 package from Arizona before deciding to stay in Columbus. "I'm used to the weather. I've lived in Ohio or Iowa most of my life," explained Bruce. "I led with my heart instead of my head."
The Buckeye who departed is split end Cris Carter, a consensus All-America who was ordered to forfeit his final year of eligibility for accepting money from agent Norby Walters. Carter set three single-season school records in '86—69 receptions, 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns—and the loss of one of the best pro receiving prospects since Lynn Swann is enough to drop the Buckeyes down a notch in the race for the Big Ten crown, as well as the national championship. But even without so potent a scoring threat, Ohio State is just too strong to fold.
One reason is that other Chris on the opposite side of the line, Chris Spielman, the All-America linebacker (see story on opposite page). Spielman also has lots of experienced company on a team that hopes to break a seven-year run of three-loss seasons. There are six players who will be starting for their fourth year and, as Bruce says, "It's important they all have their best years as seniors. It's important they aren't burnt out."
Each has a specific burden to bear. Outside linebacker Eric Kumerow (6'6", 250 pounds) needs to play up to his potential, cornerback William White must stay enthusiastic, and heavy-running-and-eating fullback George Cooper (6'2", 246) has to show a little more "meanness," according to Bruce, and realize that "10 pounds of sugar under your belt doesn't help."
Another cornerback, Greg Rogan—assuming that he does not lose his eligibility—has to straighten himself out off the field: Last October he pleaded no contest to reckless driving, and in March pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Charges of assaulting a teenage girl were dismissed this month, but Rogan had to pay damages and court costs.
Most important, especially in the absence of Carter, may be the success of three-year punter Tom Tupa as the Buckeyes' quarterback replacement for the departed Jim Karsatos. As a kicker, the 6'5" and 216-pound Tupa is outstanding (his average of 43.7 is the best in OSU history), but he has not had much air time. In brief appearances last year, Tupa completed 30 of 49 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
"Tom's got that quarterback attitude," says roommate Spielman, in what must be construed as a compliment. Says Bruce, "He's a good leader and he has a strong arm. I expect him to do well based on what he did last year. But school is still out on him a little bit."
School will commence if the huge offensive line (average weight: 268) gives Tupa enough protection and blows open holes for one-two tailbacks Vince Workman and Jaymes Bryant. Together Workman and Bryant gained 1,686 yards last season, two-thirds of the Buckeyes' rushing total. Cooper will again provide the short yardage.
As usual, though, it will all come down to that season-ender against Michigan, at Ann Arbor. "In Columbus, Ohio," says Bruce, "you are only as good as your last game." It's nice and warm out there in Arizona, Earle.
DAVID L. JOHNSON/ACTION IMAGES
Celebrated for his punting leg, Tupa now takes on the weight of the Buckeye offense.
THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
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