Ohio State's world turned upside down when Jim Tressel resigned under pressure on Memorial Day. But if you hadn't known any of that and just showed up Labor Day weekend to watch the Buckeyes play, you'd swear there was a sweater-vested coach still on the sidelines.
Tressel is long gone from Columbus, but "Tressel Ball" lives on. The conservative approach that relies on strong defense, running the ball, special teams dictating field position and limiting turnovers has been synonymous with the program over the past decade. Given that Tressel was the only coach to leave the staff and how Ohio State's active roster is constituted, expect to see some reruns this fall.
"I feel like everything is still the same," running back Carlos Hyde said. "Coach Tressel's face isn't here, but his spirit is still there. You can still feel his vibe."
It's not accurate to say Ohio State just grinded things out and played field position under Tressel. Last year's team, for instance, finished second in the Big Ten in scoring at 38.8 points per game.
But offensively, at least, the Buckeyes might go a little more conservative route this season than in previous years. Terrelle Pryor's departure opens the door for a new starting quarterback, and the choice appears to be down to fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller. The situation brings back memories of 2008, when Todd Boeckman -- another senior who had redshirted and waited his turn -- got the starting nod to open the season before eventually giving way to the more athletic Pryor.
Neither guy has ever started a game, and experience at some key positions around them is lacking with top receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and tailback Dan Herron all suspended for the first five games. So Jim Bollman, who's entering his 11th year as offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes, may have to keep things close to vest early on this seasons as everyone adjusts.
"You certainly can't put too much in with certain guys," Bollman said. "You just hope you can get enough in so you can play a game against a really good football team and compete."
Tressel had heavy input into the offensive game plan and play calling. Bollman doesn't plan to reinvent the wheel with his old boss gone.
"The general philosophy is not going to change," he said. "We won't be coming out and going empty on every snap."
Defensively, there's little reason to believe anything has changed, either. New head coach Luke Fickell was the co-defensive coordinator last season along with Jim Heacock, who's coached at Ohio State since 1996. Since Tressel often concentrated more on the offensive side of the ball, the schemes and ideas that have made the Silver Bullets successful should remain in place, even with some new players plugged in at defensive end and linebacker.
"It's going to be the same way we've always been," safety Tyler Moeller promised.
And why not? Though Tressel Ball may not always be the most fun to watch, it's certainly effective. The Buckeyes won a national championship and seven Big Ten titles, including the past six straight using that philosophy. That's why, when Bollman was asked whether or not this Ohio State team would look similar to those in the recent past, he answered, "I hope so."
Maybe they'll eventually change the name to Fickell Ball or something else. But for now, it looks like the spirit of the sweater vest lives on in Columbus.