Buckeyes Expect Barnett Back, Perry to Start
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — He led the team in tackles a year ago, but one name not many people are talking about in 2012 is C.J. Barnett. The safety out of Clayton Northmont has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain, but Urban Meyer expects to have Barnett available Saturday when the Buckeyes travel to Bloomington.
C. J. Barnett
Photo by Dan Harker
“C.J. is good,” Meyer said after Wednesday’s practice.
“(He’s) about full-speed. He’s playing.”
According to teammate Christian Bryant, Barnett’s fellow starter on the back end of Ohio State’s defense, the two should be reunited on the field against Indiana this Saturday. Bryant, who is currently second on the team in tackles behind linebacker Ryan Shazier, said Barnett is at about 90-percent right now.
“C.J. is coming along. His ankle is better,” Bryant said after practice Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to him being back on the field this week. He’s been playing it pretty cool, being one of those older guys on the sideline coaching younger guys up.”
Barnett watches the offense from the sideline and tells Bryant and the other defensive backs what he sees out there on the field. It’s just extra set of eyes to go along with Luke Fickell, Everett Withers and the defensive coaching staff.
One of the guys Barnett has been coaching up, however, is the same guy who’s been playing his position while he’s been out with the ankle injury.
“I just go in there and take it day-by-day,” said safety Orhian Johnson, who has started the last three games for Barnett.
“I just go out there and do whatever the coaches ask me to do, whether that’s playing the ‘star,’ backing up C.J. or taking that spot when I need to.”
Johnson has been a quasi-starter for the last few years, but he has never really established himself as a key player on the back end of Ohio State’s defense. He has had some of his best games as a Buckeye this season, but has also had some moments where he didn’t look as he should for a guy who is 6-3, 210 pounds and one of the most athletic players on the roster.
He has 24 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defended this season as a fifth-year senior. The Buckeyes will be in plenty of nickel defense against Indiana’s spread attack, so Johnson should be on the field whether Barnett is back this week or not.
“We just go out there and do whatever the coaches tell us to do,” he said Wednesday.
“They’re going to give us the best 11 on the field, so we’re just going to go out there and compete. I feel like in that room it’s a lot of camaraderie. A lot of guys in there working hard and I think it helps us get better every day.”
What About the LBs?
If the Buckeyes are going to be playing a lot of nickel defense this week, that means Storm Klein will have to step in for the injured Etienne Sabino as the second linebacker in passing situations.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That’s not exactly Klein’s strength, but he has played better as of late. Not well enough for Meyer and the defensive coaches.
“Did he grade a champion? I don’t believe he did. No,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“So, not well enough. But he’s getting better.”
The same goes for freshman Joshua Perry, who replaced Sabino at Sam linebacker after he suffered a broken fibula in the first half of Ohio State’s 63-38 win over Nebraska.
“Josh Perry is getting better,” Meyer added.
“Ryan Shazier is getting better and obviously Storm Klein. We’ll be in a lot of nickel this week. But yeah, they’re getting better. You just wish they would have got better yesterday.”
The one guy Meyer thought he might be itching to play at this point in the season just isn’t ready to be a guy they can count on at the linebacker position this early in his career.
“David Perkins is a guy that I had hoped would be in the mix and right now,” Meyer added.
“He just struggles a bit on defense. He does OK on the kicking game.”
There was no mention of sophomore Curtis Grant on Wednesday, despite the fact he has moved from Mike (middle) linebacker out to Sam (strongside) linebacker, where Perry is going to get the nod in place of Sabino this week when the Buckeyes are in base defense.
“Oh, the linebackers, I went back and looked at recruiting and the last 10 guys we got, really only two of them are playing,” Meyer said in disbelief.
“We’ve got to get some guys going. Either they’ve got to get going or we’ve got to get some guys in here. That position is not Ohio State standard right now. Not depth wise.”
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