Thursday Tressel Talk: Changes to the Starting Lineup
By Brandon Castel
Get ready all you Brandon Saine lovers, the time is now.
The same goes for Jordan Hall backers.
With starting tailback Boom Herron still nursing an ankle injury suffered during Ohio State’s 30-0 win over Illinois, the Buckeyes will turn to their duo of speedy backups as they look to keep their running back on track against the Hoosiers this Saturday (7 p.m. ET, BTN).
“Probably Brandon Saine and Jordan Hall will get the bulk of the work to start,” OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel said Thursday in his last meeting with the media before the team leaves for Indiana.
“Boom’s got a little bit of an ankle, I wouldn’t say he was at 85 percent yesterday and we’d like to have him at 100 percent.”
Having replaced Beanie Wells in the starting lineup this season, Herron ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns against the Illini, but came hobbling off the field after his second touchdown in the third quarter and had his ankle looked at by the trainers on the sideline while Saine and Hall finished out the final 11 minutes of the game.
“I just think he tweaked it a little bit. After the adrenaline wore off it might have hurt him a little bit more but he’s fine now,” Saine said of Herron on Tuesday.
Although most of the reps in practice this week have gone to Saine and Hall, the Buckeyes expect Herron to make the trip to Bloomington with the team and coach Tressel said he would be ready to go if needed.
“He’ll be with us and ready to go. Today’s just Thursday, but as far as practice reps it was Brandon and Jordan getting most of them,” Tressel said.
Until now, the vast majority of carries have gone to Herron and Saine as they split time in the backfield. Things haven’t been quite as evenly distributed, however, as coach Tressel made it sound when he said, “It was six of one, half-dozen of another as to whether it was he or Boom. They’re both good, there’s not one thing the one does and the other doesn’t do.”
In fact, Herron’s 64 carries this season are exactly twice as many as Saine has had, and while Saine’s yards per carry (5.7) are much higher than Herron’s (3.6) after four games, it’s Boom who has all five of the rushing touchdowns accounted for by the backs.
Meanwhile, Hall has racked up 66 yards on 14 carries since making his Ohio State debut against Toledo in week three. A high school teammate of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Hall has shown enough to the coaching staff that they believe he can handle the role of No. 2 back against a Big Ten opponent like Indiana.
“Jordan, the more he gets work and the more he gets opportunities, continues to grow,” Tressel said.
With Boom’s status still somewhat unsure, the Buckeyes could turn to another freshman, this one of the redshirt variety, for their No. 3 back against the Hoosiers if they decide not to use Herron much in the game Saturday.
“Jermil Martin will be on the trip. Last week he was the scout team player and he’s back healthy. He got a couple reps because there were some available there because Boom hasn’t gotten as many,” Tressel said.
At 6-0 and nearly 230 pounds, Martin could be the answer to Ohio State’s short-yardage issues, but he could see other opportunities to carry the ball as well; especially with Marcus Williams being out with a knee injury and freshman Jaamal Berry being unlikely to make the trip this week.
“I don’t know for sure if he’s travelling. We’re sitting at 71 or 72 on our list right now, but he probably won’t travel.”
Assuming Berry doesn’t make that trip, that will be five games in the books without him seeing the field, but Tressel said Thursday the plan is still not to redshirt him unless the Buckeyes get into the back half of the season with all of their backs healthy.
“I think if you got into the back half of the season and you were very, very healthy with all the others. What we always say about redshirting is it’s what the team needs. We’ve taken redshirts off guys in week nine because we had to have them because today is what’s important,” he said.
Changes on Defense
Brandon Saine might not be the only newcomer to Ohio State’s starting lineup Saturday. If the Buckeyes open on defense, there will be at least one new face on the field as safety Kurt Coleman will miss the game due to a league-imposed, one-game suspension.
If the Buckeyes open in a nickel look on defense, the new number to look for is 19, as in safety Orhian Johnson.
“When we’re in nickel, he’ll be in the game and we’re expecting that he will do a great job,” Tressel said of the redshirt freshman.
A converted high school quarterback, the 6-foot-2 Johnson is an excellent athlete and a former U.S. Army All-American who the Buckeyes have been high on as a safety since he arrived at Ohio State last fall.
“Orhian has really been highly thought of since his freshman year,” Tressel said.
“He got a little bit of an ankle in the early season, in preseason, and missed a good bit. We were trying to get him back, but Paul Haynes has been very high on him.”
One position where the Buckeyes won’t have a new face is linebacker. After being knocked out of the game against Illinois with concussion-like symptoms, junior Ross Homan is expected to be back in the lineup against Indiana.
“Ross was non-contact Tuesday and then he worked full speed Wednesday, Thursday. He’s fine,” Tressel said.
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