Ohio State has been a different team since Dan "Boom" Herron returned to the field from suspension. Not only have the Buckeyes won three straight games, but Herron has boosted the run game, which has eclipsed 200 rush yards in each contest. Herron, undeniably the team's emotional leader, has racked up 415 rush yards and two touchdowns on 70 carries since his return. Arguably no player is more directly tied to Ohio State's success than Herron, as the Buckeyes are 21-1 in games where he rushes for at least 55 yards. A member of the so-called "Tat-5," Herron was suspended for the first five games for selling memorabilia items in exchange for cash and tattoos and sat out another game because he was paid by a former booster for work not performed.
The Buckeyes senior running back took some time to talk with ESPN.com about his season, his suspension and what lies ahead for Ohio State.
What has been the key to the way you've performed since coming back from suspension?
Dan Herron: It was just working really hard with the defense. We have a great defense, and with me being on scout team, it really helped me out. Just working with the strength coaches, my running back coach, they just kept me game-ready.
Being on the scout team, how much were you practicing against the first-team defense?
DH: Every day for six weeks. I was definitely working with those guys, trying to make them better and trying to make myself better. They definitely got me prepared to go out there and play in a game again.
How do you feel being out there in games, getting hit again?
DH: I feel blessed. I'm so happy to be back out there, to be out there playing against so much great talent, just playing with my teammates again. It's been an honor to get back out there and play with my guys.
What do you think you mean to the guys, your presence being back out there?
DH: Me being an older guy, I definitely feel like I'm one of the leaders and one of the guys to kind of get the team going. Me having so much experience and just being around some of the greater teams from the past years we had, I bring that leadership.
Was it hard to be a leader when you were suspended?
DH: Actually, no. I was always trying to stay on the guys, even being on the scout team. On the field, off the field, I tried to help the guys keep going and working hard.
When you first found out last December that you weren't going to be out there for the first five games, how did you react?
DH: When everything first happened, I was definitely down a little bit. But at the same time, I told myself I can't let this situation keep me down. I have to go out there and keep working hard and keep trying to get better and really learn from the situation and turn it around and make it a good situation for myself.
What was it like watching the games early in the year?
DH: It was definitely hard for me, just to sit there and watch the games, knowing I could be out there helping out my teammates. Especially when we took a couple losses early during the season, that was really hard for me.
Have you ever thought about what this season would be like if none of you guys had been suspended, if you were out there from the start and DeVier [Posey], maybe even Terrelle [Pryor]?
DH: I've thought about it a few times, but everything happens for a reason and we have to just keep on moving forward now. We can't think about what if or what could have happened. We just have to worry about what happens now.
What did you learn from the experience of sitting out?
DH: Oh, man, just really thinking twice before making a decision, making sure I know all the rules. And before you make a decision, make sure you make the right decision. It's just crazy. You learn so much from it.
What do you think the legacy of your senior class will be at Ohio State?
DH: I think it's going to be special. With everything that we've gone through, if we keep on winning and we get a chance to go to the Big Ten championship game, I think that will definitely be special. Especially with everything that has gone on at Ohio State in the last year or so.
What would it mean to go to the Big Ten championship?
DH: It's definitely still alive for us. It's one of our goals, to be the top team in the Big Ten and try to play for a big-time bowl game. It would definitely mean a lot to us.
What has it been like working with Braxton [Miller]? You were with Terrelle for three years and now you're with Braxton. How have you seen him develop?
DH: It's been good. Braxton's definitely one of those guys who works hard every day. He's one of those guys who wants to win. He's a special athlete, and I think he has a very bright future. It's been great working with him.
You still have your backs to the wall in the division race. A loss might take you out of it. How will you approach these last three games as a team?
DH: We're just staying focused and go out there and give it our best every single game. Every Saturday is a stepping stone.