COLUMBUS - Ohio State's struggling offense got a bit of bad news yesterday, but it wasn't unexpected.
Fifth-year senior Drew Carter, the Buckeyes' second-leading receiver with 25 receptions for 410 yards and a touchdown, will have season-ending surgery on his right knee.
He was injured in the second quarter of Saturday's Big Ten victory at Indiana. Carter had three catches for 75 yards and left after making a 17-yard reception and falling awkwardly on his leg after being tackled by Cedric Henry.
“It's a devastating injury in my mind, because here's a senior who has been playing his best football and has done everything Ohio State could ever ask of him for five years,” coach Jim Tressel said. “He withstood injuries and disappointments and less playing time than he'd hoped to have, but he always had a positive attitude and always did whatever.
“To replace Drew Carter, that will be a tremendous challenge.”
Carter, who arrived at Ohio State in 1999 as a highly-touted player despite playing just one year of football at Solon High School, finally was emerging as a playmaker after four years of frustrations.
The 6-4, 200-pound Carter had blazing speed and was an All-American long jumper for the Buckeyes' track team. However, he entered this season with only 16 career receptions in 23 games, and 10 of those came as the No. 4 receiver a year ago on the national championship team.
“We'll be able to line someone else up in that position, but we'll have to find out if they'll make the plays Drew's been making,” Tressel said.
Redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes - who had just three catches in the first seven games - replaced Carter on Saturday and responded with five receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs.
He snagged a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a 47-yarder from backup Scott McMullen. Holmes, a 5-11, 183-pound speedster, came within inches of a third score but had the ball stripped away by Henry at the goal line after pulling in a 37-yard pass from McMullen.
He later received a stern warning from Tressel.
“Coach always says when you get that close, you're supposed to hand the ball to the official,” Holmes said. “I was switching the ball to my other hand, and [Henry] got his arms around me quicker than I expected. I plan to do that.”
Holmes had a few costly turnovers early in the season, which also upset Tressel.
“The only way we can clearly get [the fumbles] corrected is for Santonio to understand that there's nothing more important than taking care of the football,” Tressel said. “What can we do about it? I guess we can assess how far along he is in learning that lesson, and then how much he plays will be proportional to how we feel about that.
“I think Santonio is going to be a good football player, but he has to take care of the football.”
Holmes and Bam Childress are expected to share Carter's spot when No. 8 Ohio State visits Penn State on Saturday. Childress, a 5-11, 185-pound junior who has seven catches for 72 yards, is a former Ohio Mr. Football from Bedford Channel High School.
Carter's injury also could open the door for junior cornerback Chris Gamble to play more on offense.
“All three of them will see some time,” Tressel said. “We hope there's an emergence of production from all three of them, or if there happens to be from just one or two of them, then that's who we would go with.”
Roy Hall, a 6-3, 228-pound redshirt freshman with four catches for 41 yards who backs up split end Michael Jenkins, also could get some playing time at Carter's position.
“One thing Roy can do, because we are going to be rotating some other guys into Drew's vacant position, there will be some other positions, especially when we go with three wide receivers and so forth, that he'll be able to perhaps evolve into helping us,” Tressel said.
Gamble, a two-way star last season, when he had 31 catches for 499 yards in addition to starting on defense, has played sparingly at receiver this year. He has just one reception for 21 yards and Tressel has been reluctant to use him on offense.
“Chris has been a little banged up and in those early hot weather games, I was very concerned that you could overdo a guy, and all of a sudden, he just didn't have enough left for the Big Ten season,” Tressel said.
Another reason for Gamble's absence on offense was Carter's emergence.
“Drew was a good receiver and he was a senior and I respected that,” Gamble said.39.96196 -83.00298 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section College!
COLUMBUS - Ohio State's struggling offense got a bit of bad news yesterday, but it wasn't unexpected. Fifth-year senior Drew Carter, the Buckeyes' second-leading receiver with 25 receptions for 410 yards and a touchdown, will have season-ending surgery on his right knee.