During Saturday’s practice, Ohio State senior linebacker Justin Hilliard had to be carted off of the field due to a leg injury. The significance of the injury wasn’t known then, but today Lettermen Row is reporting it as an Achilles injury for Hilliard.
Ohio State confirmed that Hilliard has already undergone surgery. OSU also confirmed that redshirt freshman receiver Kamryn Babb will undergo surgery for his injury within the next week. Ohio State would not disclose the nature of either injury, however.
Both players are out indefinitely.
The announcement of Hilliard’s injury comes exactly one year to the day of Tuf Borland’s Achilles injury. Borland was able to return in time for the season opener against Oregon State last year, but it was routinely remarked that Borland was a fast healer and that normal timeframes didn’t pertain to him. It also appeared at times while he was playing that he wasn’t yet back to his 2017 form.
Hilliard’s career has been one filled with injuries, and it was clear seeing him leave the field on Saturday that another significant obstacle had just been placed in front of him.
His first two seasons at Ohio State saw him deal with separate biceps injuries. He bounced back to record 14 tackles as a redshirt sophomore, and then last year he was one of the Buckeyes’ best special teamers, recording a career-best 20 tackles.
This spring new linebackers coach Al Washington was relying on veterans like Hilliard as Ohio State implements a new defensive scheme.
“Those guys, I tell you, Pete Werner, Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning, those guys have been there,” Washington said. “They’ve got equity. You respect that. That stuff matters.”
Hilliard has been here before, so he knows what it takes to get back. Given his injury history, however, rather than rush him back this season, OSU could instead choose to appeal for a sixth year for Hilliard and have it approved.
A sixth year in this instance requires two missed seasons due to injury, which could actually be the situation already even if Hilliard returns to play this year.