Sabino Unlikely to Face Illinois
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hasn’t officially ruled linebacker Etienne Sabino out for this weekend’s game against Illinois, but he could as early as tonight.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Meyer listed the senior linebacker as questionable on Monday, but his prognosis was already downgraded to doubtful on Tuesday, and we’re being told Sabino is very unlikely to see any playing time against the Fighting Illini this weekend.
The 6-3, 237-pound senior out of Miami, Fla. has not played since the first half of the Buckeyes’ 63-38 win over Nebraska back in early October. He left the game with what turned out to be a cracked bone in his leg.
Sabino has been running in a pool for a couple weeks now, and recently started jogging, but Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell are not going to risk reinjuring Sabino’s leg with just three games left in his OSU career.
If they hold him out of action this week, it would give Sabino two extra weeks to get ready for the Wisconsin game on Nov. 17. The Buckeyes are 9-0 with a chance to go 10-0 to start the year with a victory over Illinois in Columbus on Saturday.
They finally have their bye week coming up the following week before closing out the year against Wisconsin and Michigan. Sabino is still tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 37, and the Buckeyes have struggled to find a full-time replacement for him at Sam linebacker since his injury.
Freshman Joshua Perry got the first crack at playing Sam (strongside) linebacker when Sabino went down, but he has been battling his own leg injury over the last few weeks. Sophomore Curtis Grant moved over to give them some more depth at Sam linebacker in practice, but it’s defensive end Nathan Williams who has really filled the void left by Sabino over the last two games.
The Buckeyes also moved senior fullback Zach Boren over to the defensive side of the ball to fill Sabino’s role as one of the two linebackers in the nickel defense. Boren already has 21 tackles in just three games since moving over from the offense before the trip to Indiana, but Ohio State would certainly benefit from having a healthy Sabino against Wisconsin.
The Badgers run a physical, power-oriented offense that will require the Buckeyes to play a lot of base 4-3 defense, which means we will see very little of Orhian Johnson or Noah Spence in that game.
It would nice for Fickell to have Boren at Mike (middle) linebacker and Sabino at Sam linebacker, so he could go with Williams and John Simon as his two ends. The reemergence of a healthy Michael Bennett would give him another option if Sabino is not ready to play a full game of physical football in Madison.
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