By Tim Reynolds
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.: Ohio State sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has been suspended for three games for violating an undisclosed Big Ten rule, the Buckeyes announced Wednesday.
Spence did not accompany No. 7 Ohio State on its trip to the Orange Bowl, with the team citing “a personal issue.” The Buckeyes (12-1) play No. 12 Clemson (10-2) on Friday night, and as recently as Monday the team said there was some hope that Spence — an All-Big Ten player this season — would be able to join the team for the game.
Spence also will sit out the first two games of the 2014 season, the team said.
“It has been determined that Ohio State University sophomore Noah Spence has violated a Big Ten Conference rule and he has been suspended for three games, starting with the Discover Orange Bowl this Friday,” the university said in a statement. “Spence’s parents, who did not agree with the rule violation nor the penalty imposed, were assisted by the Ohio State Department of Athletics in exhausting the appeals process that was available to them with the Big Ten.”
The school said it was not planning to comment further.
Spence led the Buckeyes with eight sacks this season. He also had 14½ tackles for loss, second-most on the team, and had 52 tackles.
Earlier this week, Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller are among the top candidates to take Spence’s spot on the field against the Tigers.
“Those are guys that probably haven’t seen nearly as much action throughout the year, but they’re guys who have practiced every single day, taken those reps,” Fickell said. “That’s a part of the game, whether we like it or don’t like it. These guys all know it. What that does is puts a little more heat on your guys that are leaders to say, ‘Come on, let’s continue to move forward.’ These guys are here for a reason. They’re on scholarship for a reason.”
Marcus and Miller have combined for 27 tackles, five sacks and eight tackles for loss this season.
Spence is an Academic All-Big Ten honoree and the school said he will continue course work toward his sociology degree next semester. He will be able to participate in spring football, but will not be eligible to return to the field until Sept. 13 against Kent State, sitting out games against Navy and Virginia Tech if the Buckeyes’ schedule doesn’t change.