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Quality of Ohio State leadership will be revealed at Michigan State

Ohio State-Tuf Borland-Ohio State football-Buckeyes
Ohio State needs captains like Tuf Borland to lead the way at Michigan State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Quality of Ohio State leadership will be revealed at Michigan State

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the leadership of the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Evaluating qualities like leadership and chemistry can be a tricky game from the outside. Only the Ohio State players and coaches inside the locker room can truly know that answer, and it can be equally challenging even for them to admit or recognize how well they’re working together or if the standard is being maintained with the right accountability.

It can also be unfair to doubt that based solely on the product the Buckeyes put on display in games. But to be completely honest, it has felt at times like something has been missing — and depending on what Ohio State does on the road against Michigan State this week, the question should be answered one way or the other. Urban Meyer has always preached about the value of leadership in unlocking championship potential beyond just pure talent. And if the Buckeyes can’t dial up their best effort when they have the better roster and a Big Ten-title chance on the line, that could validate any previous concerns.

Again, a one-game sample probably isn’t large enough, but there have been potentially troubling signs along the way that have raised some red flags. Obviously filling the void left by all-world leaders like J.T. Barrett and Billy Price is a major challenge. Just this season, though, Ohio State has had a captain leave the program to prepare for the NFL Draft, another take to social media to vent about his critics, a starting cornerback refuse to address the media and a defensive coordinator deflect any blame for struggles away from himself and onto players.

Ohio State-Greg Schiano-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has previously deflected blame for any issues. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Now, Nick Bosa’s decision to protect his future is absolutely understandable. If Isaiah Prince wanted an outlet to unleash some frustration, he’s entitled to do whatever he wants. Kendall Sheffield isn’t required to participate in interview sessions, although the rest of his teammates do and that’s a part of life if he’s going to play in the NFL. And maybe Greg Schiano was correct about the issues, even if there are plenty of skilled football analysts who believe schematic changes are necessary for Ohio State.

Even when it comes to Meyer himself, it’s possible to wonder if his health issues have prevented him from speaking up the way he has throughout his career when blowing a whistle or bursts of intensity trigger the painful symptoms of his arachnoid cyst. Again, though, only Ohio State truly knows if any of those things have had a real impact on this season.

Like just about everything else that has happened in this odd season for the Buckeyes, there are two different ways of assessing the leadership situation. Odds are, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle — but at this point, it’s at least been good enough to get Ohio State to 8-1 and into the second week of November with a shot to win the Big Ten.

It’s up to the leaders to get the job done from here and erase any doubts.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.