Extended Herron, Posey suspensions another blow to Ohio State, if it has any air left to knock out

At some point since last December — most likely after the departure of quarterback Terrelle Pryor in June, but before Saturday's complete offensive collapse against Michigan State — the fate of the four veteran Ohio State players suspended along with Pryor for swapping memorabilia for cash, tattoos and other perks became a footnote in a much larger saga, with much higher stakes. Compared to the spotlights on Pryor, exiled head coach Jim Tressel and the imploding quarterback situation, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas were forgotten men — which may actually be a good thing, according to the Columbus Dispatch, because at least two of them likely aren't going to be back on time:

The return of Ohio State tailback Daniel Herron and receiver DeVier Posey from their start-of-the-season NCAA suspensions could be delayed by at least one more game barring a change of heart by the NCAA, sources told The Dispatch this morning.
A separate probe by the NCAA into Herron and Posey apparently showed they may have received improper benefits in terms of alleged inflated remuneration while working summer jobs in the Cleveland area. It could mean at least one more game of suspension for Herron, for whom the benefits was said to be in the $200 to $400 range, and perhaps multiple games for Posey, for whom the benefit was said to be about $500.

Sources said both refuted the charges. Herron, a source said, produced evidence that he thought showed he had received no improper benefit.

The summer jobs in question appear to be connected to Robert "Bobby" DiGeronimo, the same Cleveland-area businessman and Ohio State booster who told the Dispatch last month that he was responsible for $200 cash payments to three Buckeye players — running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and cornerback Corey Brown, each reportedly paid via Pryor — at a Feb. 19 fundraiser for a charity named after DiGeronimo's grandson. All three were subsequently suspended for the season's first two games. Athletic director Gene Smith has scheduled a press conference for 3:30 p.m. ET, presumably to elaborate on Herron and Posey's status.{YSP:MORE}

Metaphor time: If being an Ohio State fan in 2011 is the equivalent of unwittingly stumbling into a nest of hornets, they're well past the point of being too swollen and numb to feel any more stings. As an NCAA matter, violations "in the $200 to $400 range" barely register compared to what Herron and Posey have already been charged with (both reportedly brought in more than $1,000 for their wares in Tatgate) and especially compared to the charges against Tressel for covering up those violations in the first place. As a potential hit to the productivity of the offense, after the crash-and-burn sessions in losses to Miami and Michigan State, it's obviously going to take a lot more than a couple of solid skill guys to salvage that disaster. At this rate, the best-case scenario amounts to escaping the conference cellar.

If getting Herron and/or Posey back ever did have a chance of altering the trajectory of the offense, it probably wasn't going to happen this weekend at Nebraska, anyway, which shapes up as another take-your-lumps trip regardless of the starting lineup. Ditto next week's trip to currently unbeaten Illinois, and for a visit from rolling Wisconsin at the end of the month. It might get better when the schedule begins to soften a bit in November. But as silver linings go, this cloud still has no end in sight.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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