Injured Buckeyes on the Mend?
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As it turns out, the Buckeyes may not be as short-handed as they initially thought heading into Senior Day at Ohio Stadium.
Speaking with the media for the final time before Ohio State’s last home game of the season against Penn State, Head Coach Luke Fickell made it sound as though a number of their injured players would be available Saturday.
That includes defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts, along with wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown.
“How much we’ll get out of certain guys like Johnathan and J.B. and Philly Brown, we’ll have to see,” Fickell said during his Thursday press conference.
“Obviously those guys will be available. They look like they might have a chance, but how much will we get out of them and how good can they be for how much we put them out there? That’s one of those things. As coaches, you’ve got to be smart in figuring out what they can handle.”
The best news concerns Hankins who had an MRI on his knee earlier in the week. The 330-pound defensive lineman out of Detroit was helped off the field in the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s 26-23 loss at Purdue. He did not return to the game and Fickell seemed very concerned earlier in the week that it might be a serious, potentially even season-ending, injury.
Obviously that is not the case if Hankins is available to play against the Nittany Lions just one week later.
“I hope all of them can (play),” Fickell added.
“It just comes down to how much can they play and still be able to be successful at what they do. Do they wear out because they haven’t been able to practice? Are they still hurting? Those are things you’ve got to see at game time and get them in there and see how they’re doing.”
Fickell was also not ready rule linebacker Andrew Sweat out for Saturday’s game, even though it seems highly unlikely he would be able to play after being knocked out of last week’s game with a head injury.
“Sometimes the mind is a powerful thing and the best thing guys can have is hope,” Fickell said.
“That can make you feel better, so you still give guys hope and don’t say completely for sure but we will have to make sure we do what’s best for Andrew Sweat.”
The senior out of Washington, Pa., leads the Buckeyes in tackles this season with 68 through the first 10 games. He was one of only three returning starters from last season’s defense, which also included defensive end Nathan Williams, who is out for the year with a knee injury.
Sweat was replaced by freshman Ryan Shazier in West Lafayette, and the youngster showed he was ready to play at this level, even at a young age.
“Ryan stepped in and did a good job,” Fickell said.
“He’s not going to be worried or in fear a whole lot. That’s up to the coaches to worry about. You go through each and every year, someone is going to step up and be the next man to move in. We’ll have to do a good job of rolling guys in as well.”
They don’t have many other options at linebacker, but that could mean some playing time on defense for former walk-on Tony Jackson or even freshman Curtis Grant.
The Buckeyes tried to play a true freshman at right tackle last week when Shugarts was sidelined against the Boilermakers, but Antonio Underwood was eventually replaced by Jack Mewhort.
If Shugarts cannot play or is limited against Penn State, Mewhort would likely get the start at right tackle while fellow sophomore Corey Linsley would step in at right guard like he did against Purdue.
Ohio State was also without Brown last week after the sophomore wideout re-injured his ankle in practice. It has been an issue for the speedy youngster out of Philadelphia since the beginning of the season, and Fickell said Thursday they aren’t sure if Brown will be ready to play Saturday, or if senior DeVier Posey would replace him in the starting lineup.
“We’ve still got another day of practice, so depending on how many we start with out there we’ll see if DeVier is one of those,” Fickell said.
“Really, we haven’t exactly said. We could come out and be in no wide receivers so he doesn’t get a start. We could come out in five-wides and have to put them all out there.”
This will be Posey’s first game of the season and his last ever in Ohio Stadium. The Cincinnati La Salle product missed the first 10 games due to NCAA suspension, but that doesn’t mean he will be limited in his return this week.
“Believe me, we’re confident in what DeVier can do, the way he’s handled the situations,” Fickell said.
“Those guys have a lot of respect for him. It wouldn’t mean anything different to anybody on our football team, which is what’s most important.”
Regardless of how much they play Saturday, Posey, Sweat and Shugarts will all be introduced during the pre-game Senior Day ceremony.
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