The Ohio State defense will be without one, and possibly two starting defensive ends when it faces Minnesota on Saturday.
Nick Bosa is definitely out following abdominal surgery, and Jonathon Cooper is questionable following a concussion.
Could this be defensive tackle Robert Landers’ big chance to move outside and rush off the edge?
“Oh no, that’s too much running. That’s way too much running for me. I’m good where I’m at,” Landers said Wednesday.
“If the ball flows away, I’ve got to run too much. I’m going to stay right there in my little five yard box.”
Landers has been solid within that box as the Buckeyes’ man in the middle this fall. He had a career-high five tackles in the win over TCU.
However, he also missed the following week’s game against Tulane with an injury. That gave some of the Buckeyes’ younger nose tackles like Davon Hamilton a chance for more playing time, and Landers a shot at a new role.
“My job was to become a coach,” Landers said. “As I go throughout the game whether I’m playing or having to sit on the sidelines and watch, I’m doing everything I can to pick up on little things, little indicators and help some of the guys who are in the game work on what they might be doing wrong or giving them tips to help them enhance their game.”
If Landers is the teacher, then Hamilton has been his star student.
“Davon’s game is skyrocketing right now and I’m proud of the way he’s playing. I can tell he’s a lot more comfortable in the system,” Landers said. “Davon is going to be one of those guys especially as we go throughout this season, you’re going to see his game get higher and higher and higher.”
This weekend, the Buckeye defensive line will face its biggest challenge of the year – at least size-wise.
Minnesota is starting 6-foot-9, 400 lb freshman Daniel Faalele at tackle against the Buckeyes. Landers likely won’t go head-to-head much with the Gopher Goliath, but provided a scouting report anyway.
“For me the biggest challenge would probably be his weight. That’s a massive man,” he said. “As far as height-wise, that kind of plays to my advantage, being shorter and having leverage. But the weight – I’m going to get my money’s worth if I have an encounter with him.”
Landers is listed – perhaps a little generously – at 6-foot-1 on the official roster, so he will be giving up at least 2/3 of a foot if he faces off with Faalele.
OSU offensive tackle Isaiah Prince agreed with Landers’ assessment of how that height difference could play out. In football, the low man wins. And after years of doing battle during practice, Prince knows how low Landers can get.
“When you’re 5-foot-7 and you’re going against 6-foot-9, I’m pretty sure that gives you an advantage in football, so I’m pretty sure he loves that,” Prince said. “I hate it. Because when I use my hands, I expect you to be up here but you’re all the way down there.”
Told that he may have sold Landers short by about six inches, Prince laughed.
“He’s listed at 6-1? He looks about 5-7 to me.”