Ohio State Suspensions Impact
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — High profile teams like Ohio State have been denounced over the years for their tendency to schedule “cupcake” games in the early non-conference schedule.
There’s a reason, however, that the Buckeyes routinely schedule teams like Bowling Green, Kent State, Ohio University and Akron. Along with being in-state schools, these programs are also winnable games for Ohio State regardless of what’s going on with the program.
Those wishing the Buckeyes would load up on heavy-hitting non-conference foes might want to consider what this weekend’s game would look like if it was Alabama coming to town instead of Akron.
College football is unpredictable. Kids transfer (like Dorian Bell and James Louis), kids leave early (like Terrelle Pryor) and kids get in trouble (like a whole lot of players on the 2011 Buckeyes).
Ohio State would have hard enough time beating a team like Alabama or Oklahoma State or Stanford at full strength, but they will be without a number of key players for their season-opener.
The losses of DeVier Posey, Boom Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas—all suspended for the first five games of the season—have been well documented. The Buckeyes will also be without linebacker Jordan Whiting and guard Corey Linsley when they take the field Saturday, but the latest round of suspensions has left Luke Fickell searching for his copy of the roster.
It was only three players, but Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown were all expected to contribute in Saturday’s opener. Hall and Howard were expected to start.
What Impact Will That Have?
The Buckeyes have learned how to survive all of their losses using the slogan “next man up.” At some point, however, they are going to run out of bodies.
We’re not at that point yet, but the latest suspensions will have an impact on the way Ohio State attacks Akron. That’s not to say that the outcome of the game will be any different.
The Zips just aren’t a good football team. They are going to lose this game by at least a few touchdowns and there’s nothing a few suspensions can do to stop it.
On the surface, the loss of Travis Howard would appear to have the biggest impact of the three. The Buckeyes are already replacing seven starters on the defense and Howard is expected to be one of the team’s top playmakers at the corner position.
He is one of the few players on the team who didn’t really have to battle for his starting spot this fall, but the Buckeyes actually have some talent at the corner position.
Redshirt sophomore Dominic Clarke couldn’t beat out Bradley Roby for the other starting corner spot during camp, but he actually got some good playing time in the Sugar Bowl.
The only thing Clarke will have to do now is keep freshman Doran Grant from taking his spot. Grant is a blue chip prospect out of St. Vincent-St. Mary who also already leapfrogged a veteran this fall to get into the two-deep.
Replacing Mr. Everything
In reality, the guy who might be the hardest to replace Saturday is Jordan Hall, especially with Jaamal Berry still being hampered by a lingering hamstring injury.
Hall would have been the backup to Boom Herron if not for his suspension, which means the Buckeyes are down to their No. 3 tailback for Saturday’s game. If Berry is considered the No. 3 back, then they might be down to No. 4 and No. 5 to start the season.
Fortunately Ohio State’s fourth and fifth tailbacks are better than some teams’ No. 1 guy. Hall’s suspension clears the way for fans to get a look at bruising sophomore Carlos Hyde—who had a great fall camp—and redshirt freshman Rod Smith. They call him ‘Smooth.’
Though they have a grand total of 24 carries between them, Hyde and Smith both look like capable backs, certainly capable of running by Akron.
Where Hall will be missed the most Saturday is all the other ways they planned to use him this fall. Receivers coach Stan Drayton called him one of the most versatile players in college football, and Hall will eventually be asked to catch the ball out of the backfield and out of the slot, along with his role as the team’s primary return man.
No Depth Concerns
Corey Brown’s suspension won’t have as much of an impact because the sophomore defensive back was not expected to start Saturday.
He didn’t take part in spring ball because he was coming off a bad knee injury, but Brown shot up the depth chart this fall. The former 5-star prospect was settling in nicely at his new position in the two-deep before the suspension.
Sophomore Christian Bryant was the other backup safety in the two-deep, but both Jamie Wood and Zach Domicone are capable of moving up into that spot. In fact, Brown might be the one guy has to worry about getting his spot back in week two.
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