COLUMBUS — Roll call goes a little faster these days for the Ohio State defense. Fewer players are checking out equipment and taking to the practice field, and that means fewer are available for the critical Saturday work.
Last weekend's loss at Wisconsin cost the No. 11 Buckeyes the services of their leading tackler, senior linebacker Ross Homan, who now joins a growing list of the injured. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday that he expects Homan to miss a couple of weeks with the foot injury that knocked him out of the game with the Badgers in the first half.
Homan is one of a half dozen battered Buckeyes defenders. Safety C.J. Barnett damaged his knee in the win over Miami in the second week and was lost for the season.
Defensive back Tyler Moeller, who played the hybrid linebacker/safety “star” position, tore a chest muscle in the win at Illinois, ending his season.
Linebacker Dorian Bell suffered a concussion against Indiana and missed the Wisconsin game, as did linebacker Storm Klein, who Tressel said was nursing several injuries. Tressel expects to have Klein back for this week's game with Purdue but not Bell.
The personnel issues are further compounded by the extended hospital stay for freshman defensive back Christian Bryant. Tressel said Bryant has been battling a persistent infection, and will likely spend the entire week in the OSU Medical Center.
Tressel said the Ohio State coaching staff will have to shuffle the cards and put together a lineup to face the Boilermakers, and that some Buckeyes who have not seen a lot of minutes to date will now be expected to fill the void.
“Someone's got to step up,” Tressel said. “I mean, who cares how difficult it is ... regardless of how difficult it is, we've got to have someone ready. That's why you get to practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and have walk-throughs on Friday.”
Tressel said the changes in the secondary have been extensive, but he won't spend time lamenting his plight.
“If you want anyone to care that you've had three guys in your secondary hurt, then you're coaching the wrong sport at the wrong school because we've got to be ready,” Tressel said.
As the Buckeyes exited the practice field outside the Woody Hayes Center last night, it looked like senior starter Brian Rolle would be joined at linebacker by junior Andrew Sweat and either Klein or Jon Newsome.
The secondary has senior starters Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa at the corners, with senior Jermale Hines and sophomore Orhian Johnson at the safeties. Junior Nate Oliver is expected to replace Bryant at star, with senior Aaron Gant available to fill in someplace in the secondary.
“You don't like to see anybody go out for even a down or a series,” senior captain Dane Sanzenbacher said, “but at the same time, we all know this is a rough game and injuries are part of it. We're confident in the backups, the guys that have been out there working as hard as everyone else. They have to step in now and do the job.”
Tressel said that anytime he loses a player off the two-deep chart, the impact cascades throughout the playing rotation.
“Every guy that was a starter on your special teams that you don't have is no different than not having a starter on offense or defense,” he said. “It's a guy that has had the reps, it's a guy that has had the experiences in the games. Everyone you lose — you lose your holder, it has an impact.”
Tressel said the loss at Wisconsin, and the mounting losses of personnel, are just trials his team will have to weather.
“You have to have in perspective that the challenges are tough and there's going to be days when it doesn't go exactly as you would like it to go,” Tressel said. “What is really the measure of the person is how they deal with that adversity. One of the great teachable moments we always have is adversity.”
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6510.