Buckeyes Suspend Three More for Opener
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The list of players available for Luke Fickell Saturday in Ohio State’s season-opener continues to shrink.
Fickell was already going to be without a number of key players for his debut as the head coach, but now the Buckeyes will be without three more players for Saturday’s opener against Akron.
Starting tailback Jordan Hall, starting cornerback Travis Howard and backup safety Corey Brown will all miss Ohio State’s opener for taking $300 or less in impermissible benefits at a charity event they attended earlier this year.
With Ohio State already awaiting their fate from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, Athletic Director Gene Smith was not going to take any chances with potential violations.
“We take this matter seriously. Our commitment to institutional integrity is steadfast, and we must hold everyone associated with our athletics programs accountable for lapses in judgment,” Smith said in a statement Thursday.
“We believe in transparency with the NCAA, all regulatory bodies and all of Buckeye Nation.”
Ohio State self-reported these violations to the NCAA and immediately suspended all three players for one game pending a response. The University has filed for reinstatement, but they are also considering “institutional sanctions” on the three players involved.
Replacing Three More
All three of those players were expected to play important roles on Saturday. With starting tailback Boom Herron already suspended for the first five games of the season, Hall was expected to take the first handoff as Ohio State’s starting running back against Akron.
Photo by Jim Davidson
His absence leaves Ohio State’s once plush backfield with just two healthy scholarship tailbacks in week one. Redshirt sophomore Jaamal Berry is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury, which means redshirt freshman Carlos Hyde will likely get the start and classmate Rod Smith will serve as his backup.
If the Buckeyes need a third tailback Saturday, they would have to turn to walk-on Spencer DeLande, although he has been nursing an ankle injury this fall.
Hall was also going to serve as Ohio State’s primary punt and kick returner, which means more youngsters will have to step up. Receiver Corey “Philly” Brown is listed as Hall’s backup on punt return, while Chris Fields will likely take his spot in the kick return.
If Berry also misses the game, the Buckeyes might be forced to put one of their two freshman wideouts—Evan Spencer or Devin Smith—back on kick returns.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Defensively, the Buckeyes will now be without their top corner for the opener. A redshirt junior out of Miami, Howard was expected to be one of the leaders on Ohio State defense that is replacing seven starters from a year ago.
His absence means redshirt sophomore Dominic Clarke will likely get the start across from redshirt freshman Bradley Roby. Clarke and Roby had been battling for the other corner spot all fall before Roby pulled away down the stretch
Another option for the Buckeyes would be freshman Doran Grant, who passed senior Dionte Allen for the fourth corner spot during the fall.
The Buckeyes have plenty of depth at safety, so Brown’s absence will not be felt as much as the other two. He was in the two-deep at the end of fall camp, but Jamie Wood and Zach Domicone are both capable backups for starters Orhian Johnson and C.J. Barnett.
With the new suspensions, the Buckeyes will be without five starters—Herron, Hall, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Howard—Saturday. They will also be missing a number of key backups, including Brown, guard Corey Linsley, linebacker Jordan Whiting and defensive end Solomon Thomas.
Fortunately they are playing an Akron team that was among the worst in all of college football a year ago.
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