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Published: Tuesday, 12/31/2013

BUCKEYES NOTEBOOK

Buckeyes taking precautions to battle bout of flu

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A flu bug continues to sweep through the Ohio State football team, with star quarterback Braxton Miller the latest to fall ill.

How ill is a good question.

Miller practiced Tuesday afternoon during the brief window of OSU’s workout open to reporters, and the Orange Bowl released video of him surfing at the team’s beach outing afterward.

But the junior missed his only scheduled media availability of the week in the morning.

“It’s been well-documented we’ve had stomach viruses going around, and he woke up not feeling too well,” OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.

A day earlier, the mother of freshman linebacker Darron Lee wrote on Twitter that several players were afflicted with food poisoning while a team spokesman clarified it was the flu.

Team staffers have been busy changing room assignments to quarantine the sick players.

“I don’t know the exact number, but a lot of guys are getting it,” senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “I’ve been very precautious, a lot of hand washing, a lot of sanitizer, putting my shirt over the mouth and nose if I have to.

“I don’t want to get that. It’s kind of a nasty bug going around, but I don’t think it lasts long. Some guys are already getting over it, so we should be all right.”

Meyer described the bug as a 24-hour issue and does not expect the team to be affected for Friday’s game against Clemson.

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell can’t even escape the heat in his own house.

“[My kids] are getting to that age where they start to ask you questions,” Fickell said with a smile. “I’ve got my own son saying, ‘Dad, maybe you should do this, maybe you should do that.’ And he’s only 11.”

Fickell, though, remains on firm footing with his boss.

Many have wondered if Fickell would call the defensive shots next season after his unit staggered to the finish this fall.

The Buckeyes gave up 75 points in their final two games against Michigan and Michigan State and have the nation’s 105th-ranked passing defense

But while Meyer said the defense “hasn’t been up to standard for a while,” he pledged his faith in Fickell. The longtime OSU assistant is expected to remain as coordinator.

“You have to look at scheme, you have to look at development, and you have to look at personnel,” Meyer said. “That’s what I’m doing now. [The defense] is certainly not what we expect, but I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Luke Fickell. I think he’s a very unselfish coach, a very good coach, and a guy that we’re going to get this thing fixed with.”

HEAT INDEX: When Meyer coached at Florida, he had a hard time getting his players to venture to the Arctic reaches of ... Tennessee.

“To get a player to play in 30-degree weather at Vanderbilt, you’d have to beat him with a stick to get him out of the locker room,” he said. The transition from cold to hot requires a touch less prodding.

With temperatures in the 70s and 80s for the Buckeyes’ first three practices here, tight end Jeff Heuerman was asked how he ever left his native Florida.

“It’s fun, isn’t it?” he said.

Except for the practice part. In fact, Heuerman said the training staff charged with keeping players hydrated may play just as much of a role as the coaches this week.

“Guys are probably losing eight, 10 pounds a practice,” said Heuerman, a Naples native. “But we have the rest of the days to hydrate and get our bodies right. That’s going to be a key to the victory, whoever is the most prepared team and has the best bodies.”

MIA IN MIAMI: Sophomore defensive end and sacks leader Noah Spence remained away from the team Tuesday with a personal issue while cornerback Bradley Roby (knee) and linebacker Curtis Grant (back) dressed but did not practice. The status of all three remains unclear.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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