Flu Wreaking Havoc on OSU Offensive Line
It’s too early to start calling it an epidemic, but if Jim Tressel wants to keep the spread of flu from wiping out his entire team before Saturday’s big game against Wisconsin, he might want to start by quarantining the offensive line room.
Each new day seems to bring with it a different Ohio State lineman being incapacitated by the flu, and Wednesday it was starting left guard Justin Boren who found himself out of practice, proving once and for all that nastiness is not a viable method of prevention.
Ohio State Offensive Line
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Every day a couple more guys will be back but then a couple more guys will be out,” OSU offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Wednesday after practice.
It started this past week when junior left tackle Andrew Miller was forced to stay home for Ohio State’s trip to Bloomington and continued Sunday when Jake Ballard was not allowed inside the WHAC for post-game film study.
“I felt horrible physically. It wasn’t fun being away from the team Sunday when everyone was in here lifting and watching film,” said the senior who has started every game at tight end for the Buckeyes this season.
Ballard – who has been a big part of Ohio State’s revamped shotgun rushing attack – returned to the team yesterday, but was knocked out of practice again today by the flu. The Buckeyes still don’t know whether they will have him or Miller available for the game Saturday against undefeated Wisconsin.
“You really don’t know,” Bollman said.
“The way the thing has been going, it’s been a little unusual. I can remember guys getting sick off and on but it has really been quite a few guys. You find out in the afternoon somebody’s not feeling well and you hope they can be back the next day.”
Tuesday it was left tackle Mike Adams who joined Miller on the quarantine list. Having both of their left tackles, the Buckeyes were forced to shuffle bodies in practice, with starting right tackle J.B. Shugarts moving over to play the left side. Meanwhile freshman Marcus Hall, fresh off the first action of his career against Indiana, filled in at the right tackle spot.
“He’s a big, strong young guy who has a lot of natural talent. He’s a guy who obviously we think can help us,” Bollman said of the 6-foot-5 rookie from Cleveland’s Glenville High School.
While Miller is closing in on a full week away from the team, Adams was back in practice Wednesday, but not all was restored to working order. Along with Ballard, Boren was forced to stay home with the flu, and the Buckeyes are now facing the very real possibility that they could be without at least one starter somewhere on the offensive line this weekend.
“Everybody that’s a backup better be on their toes, because they might be needed any minute,” Bollman warned.
The one player in particular who could see more action this week because of his versatility is senior Andrew Moses. A former walk-on who garnered a scholarship last season, Moses has spent the majority of his time at right guard recently, but filled in for Boren on the left side today after stepping in at center for Michael Brewster when he was out with the flu during practice a week ago.
“The guy who’s really doing a lot of good work for us every day but hasn’t really played is Andrew Moses. He’s doing a good job for us inside, backing up all three positions,” Bollman said.
Thanks to the versatility of a guy like Moses and the emergence of Hall on the right side, the Buckeyes still feel comfortable with their desire to redshirt fellow freshmen Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort this season. That could change, however, if the flu bug continues to wreak havoc on the offensive line.
“Today (we do); we’ll see how many guys are sick tomorrow,” Bollman said.
One big reason the Buckeyes feel they can get away with redshirting players like Linsley and Mewhort, who each spent time in the official two-deep at one point this season, is the anticipated return of senior Jim Cordle.
He won’t be available for this game, and likely not the next one either, but Bollman said Wednesday that Cordle is making significant progress towards returning, and once he does, he could help the Buckeyes at any number of positions across the offensive line.
“He has plenty of knowledge at all the positions and he’s actually starting to get a little…action’s not the right word, but he’s starting to fit in there and do some drills. Without even any instructions from us, when he can get in there, he’s in there at tackle, he’s in there at center and he knows what’s going on.”
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