Buckeyes Forced to Adjust Without Williams
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The last time Jacory Harris faced Ohio State he was running for his life.
Miami’s senior quarterback virtually cost his team the game last Sept. when he threw four interceptions during the Hurricanes’ trip to Columbus.
That included one in the red zone that was returned 80 yards by defensive end Cameron Heyward, who rumbled down the sideline to set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Terrelle Pryor.
But it was Heyward and the OSU defensive line who stole the show. Much like the last time these two teams met—in the 2003 BCS National Championship game—they kept Miami’s quarterback under constant pressure.
He was intercepted on his first drive of the game by OSU defensive end Nathan Williams after his pass was tipped by defensive back C.J. Barnett. The Buckeyes will have Barnett Saturday when they travel to Miami for a rematch, but they will have to replace Williams.
The senior defensive end underwent a minor knee scope Wednesday morning and will not be available for this week’s game against the Hurricanes.
“You always want your guys playing, but he sat out last week,” OSU Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said.
“It’s obviously been bothering him, so they decided to try and clean it up and hopefully get him back as soon as we can.”
Heyward now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which meant Williams was Ohio State’s top returning pressure guy from a year ago. He had 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss as a junior last season, but missed the Toledo game with what was being called a “bone bruise” in his knee.
Heacock said the injury likely occurred during the 42-0 win over Akron in the season-opener. Williams is expected to miss up to a month with the injury.
“He's a great playmaker,” linebacker Etienne Sabino said.
“He's a great athlete and he's got a great motor and he's somebody else for the offense to think about.”
Now they won’t have to. According to Sabino, it took the Buckeyes a quarter to adjust defensively to not having Williams on the field against Toledo last Saturday in their 27-22 win over the Rockets.
“He’s a good player for us. He’s a productive player for us. He makes plays, and pressures and does some things and drops pretty well,” Heacock said.
“So we missed him but J.T. Moore went in and did a good job, and we expect him to get better this week.”
The redshirt freshman out of Youngstown Boardman will likely make his second-straight start for the Buckeyes at the Leo position as Heacock tries to fine-tune his rotation without Williams.
“With Nate being out, we’re a little bit thin along that defensive line,” he said Wednesday after practice.
That might seem surprising considering the defensive line was expected to be one of the strengths of this defense heading into the season. Heacock even said that during fall camp, but now a lot of their success will hinge on the play of younger guys like Moore, Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett.
“We’ve got some young guys that are really starting to come along,” Heacock added.
“Mike Bennett’s starting to come. I thought Adam Bellamy has had a good week this week and he’s starting to come. Darryl (Baldwin) has come along and is starting to make some progress, so we have some young guys coming.”
One young guy who will be thrust into action this week is true freshman Steve Miller. The 6-4, 245-pound end out of Canton McKinley has played sparingly through the first two games, but he suddenly becomes the No. 2 guy at the Leo position with Williams and Solomon Thomas not being available.
“He’s been getting a lot of reps this week,” Heacock said.
“He didn’t get as many last week, but we’ll throw him in there.”
The Buckeyes also used fellow freshman Ryan Shazier at the Leo spot late in the game against Toledo, but Heacock doesn’t anticipate much of that against Miami on Saturday.
“Just when it was a definite passing down. We threw Shazier in there and said rush as fast as you can off that edge,” he said of the young linebacker out of Plantation, Fla.
“He hadn’t practiced there or anything, we were just trying to use his speed in an obvious passing situation.”
Shazier has been playing mostly Will linebacker behind Andrew Sweat this fall, but he played some Sam linebacker and even some Leo in the spring. The Buckeyes may end up needing him as a pass-rusher in obvious passing situations Saturday, but they can also go to a much larger look with junior John Simon playing the Leo spot against the run.
“We can really play a four-man front,” Heacock said.
“We’ve done that in the last two games at times, so that’s always part of our play. Especially against a running team.”
The ‘Canes will likely do plenty of running Saturday as they try to take some of the pressure off Harris.
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