Key Injuries Strike Buckeyes

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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 11/15/2011 6:43 PM

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Key Injuries Strike Buckeyes in Crunch Time
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State lost a big game at Purdue this past Saturday, but they may have lost a whole lot more.

After losing senior linebacker Andrew Sweat to head injury in the first half, the Buckeyes were without sophomore defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins down the stretch. It doesn’t appear either of them will be available for this week’s home finale against Penn State.

Johnathan Hankins is assisted from the field at Purdue.
Photo by Jim Davids
Johnthan Hankins

“Big John wasn’t able to return to the football game. Right now it probably doesn’t look real good,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday.

“We’ll see as the week moves along. We've got maybe some decent news that hopefully it wasn't getting the MRI results back, hopefully it's not a season ending one of those things. So we're not positive just yet.”

Hankins had to be helped off the field at Ross-Ade Stadium late in the fourth quarter after twisting his knee. He did not return to the game, and was not on the field for Purdue’s 3rd down conversion in overtime or the one-yard touchdown sneak by quarterback Robert Marve.

Sweating the Important Things

The Buckeyes were already playing with Sweat—their leading tackler on the season with 68 stops—who left the game with apparent concussion in the first half. Sweat attempted to return to the sideline in the second half, but had to be helped back to the locker room after he became disoriented.

Andrew Sweat leaves the field with a concussion at Purdue.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Andrew Sweat

“He got hit. I don’t know that he’s going to be available for who-knows-how long, but the biggest concern is making sure he gets OK regardless of the football aspect of things,” Fickell said.

“There are a lot of things there we don’t know about yet.”

Head injuries are always a major concern in football, especially in today’s game, where more stringent testing and precautionary measures have become commonplace. Sweat was replaced by freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier, and the youngster out of Florida played a great game at one of the more important positions on the Ohio State defense.

“Ryan was a guy who stepped up for us. Played 3/4th of the game at ‘Will’ linebacker, and really did a good job of running around,” said Fickell, who coached the linebackers at Ohio State from 2004-10. 

“His first real time. He played a bit in the past, but did a good job at just handling himself and running around and being active and everything we needed him to do.”

Shazier will likely make the first start of his career at Will linebacker this week against Penn State after recording seven tackles and a sack against the Boilermakers. He already has 25 stops in 10 games this season playing primarily on special teams.

False Start or False Hope?

The Buckeyes may also have to shuffle things around on the offensive line this week if senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts is not ready to return from his knee injury.

“J.B.'s probably over there getting treatment right now, but we don't know exactly on him just yet. We'll have to find out,” Fickell said.

“Tomorrow will be a big part to see if he can do it. He's probably close, but I would say he's very questionable whether he'll be able to make it for Saturday.”

Shugarts missed the Purdue game after injuring his right knee in the third quarter against Indiana. He had to be helped off the field and did not return to the game. He made the trip to West Lafayette, but only street clothes on game day.

He was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Antonio Underwood, but the Buckeyes had to make a change before halftime. Underwood was struggling in his first extended action, so Jack Mewhort slid over from right guard to tackle and he was replaced by fellow sophomore Corey Linsley.

That will likely be the look for the Buckeyes again this week if Shugarts is not ready for action. Linsley and Mewhort were listed as co-starters at right guard on the depth chart while Mewhort and Shugarts were listed as co-starters at right tackle.

Underwood did not appear on this week’s two-deep depth chart.

Brown and Out?

With all the injuries mounting for the Buckeyes, they could not have picked a more opportune time to get senior wideout DeVier Posey back from his 10-game suspension.

Posey was listed as a co-starter on this week’s depth chart, but Fickell wasn’t sure if he would be in the starting lineup against the Nittany lions.

“Today is only Tuesday, so we’ve got to go out there and see how that all works out,” Fickell said Tuesday.

“We’ve got to see if Philly Brown can come back, too. There are some combinations there. He’ll have an opportunity to. We’ll see how practice goes.”

Brown also missed the Purdue game after re-injured his sprained ankle during practice last week. If Brown cannot play against Penn State, the Buckeyes would be without both of their starting wideouts—Brown and Verlon Reed—from the start of the season.