Ohio State's Chris Worley and Jerome Baker take down Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight last season. Speight has started throwing once again, but has not played since a back injury in September.
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COLUMBUS – The sight Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was cause for a double take.
As the Buckeyes walked into their practice facility from the adjoining outdoor fields, a crop of unmistakable helmets made their way toward the Block O at midfield. Among the traditional silver helmets were the maize-and-blue winged helmets of Michigan, worn by Buckeyes.
During the rivalry week, the Buckeyes make their practice squad dress like Michigan. Ohio State’s starters see the same uniform in Columbus they will see Saturday in Ann Arbor.
“You see those ugly colors and you might want to hit it a little bit more,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “But other than that, it’s the same guys, just different clothes.”
This season, the Buckeyes continued the tradition of making their practice squad dress like their fiercest rival.
The idea is Ohio State will play its most intense game of the season against Michigan, and the maize-and-blue uniforms add something extra to the practices leading up to The Game — even if no Ohio State player actually wants to spend the week wearing Michigan colors.
“I definitely feel sorry for those guys because it’s just a long week,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “I think they practice a little harder when they’re in that. They try to give us the best look possible.”
For a collection of players that almost certainly will not see the field Saturday — because this season’s meeting is a road game for OSU, many of them will not travel —practice this week is at least some taste of the rivalry.
Saturday heroics are a long way away for some scout team players, yet the players wearing rival colors this week can be a valuable part of Ohio State’s preparation for Michigan.
“It’s kind of two-headed because you don’t want to wear those colors, but at the same time, you know if you do your job you can prepare the offense or the defense for the looks they’re going to get on Saturday,” receiver Terry McLaurin said. “The scout team guys play a big role in this week as well.”
QB QUANDARY: Michigan has not announced who will play quarterback, and the Buckeyes have looked the possibility of three different Wolverines starting the game. Brandon Peters left UM’s most recent game with a head injury and his status is in doubt, while opening-game starter Wilton Speight has not played since September because of a back injury, but has been cleared to throw.
If neither Peters nor Speight can play, John O’Korn will start for Michigan.
Regardless of which quarterback will play, the Buckeyes believe they first have to focus on stopping the run.
“They’re all different in their own way, but the offense never changes no matter who is in,” defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. “They’re going to try to run the ball and try to set the tone by running the ball, so we got to come ready to stop that and stop the run. No matter who the quarterback is, they’re going to try to run the ball.”
TACKLE WATCH: Michigan’s two defensive tackles have drawn Ohio State’s attention. Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary present a heavy challenge for the Buckeyes’ interior offensive line, which helped the Buckeyes run for more than 300 yards in the past two games. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said that OSU has had eye on Michigan’s defensive tackles for a while.
“We haven't just been starting our film study for the week. It's been going on for a long time,” Meyer said. “They're very good players. Both very highly draftable NFL players, too.”
INJURY REPORT: Meyer said linebacker Dante Booker, who missed the past two games, has been cleared for contact. Booker practiced Tuesday evening. Meyer said safety Jordan Fuller, who missed the Illinois game with a leg injury, is probable to play against the Wolverines.
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