Junior defensive end Nathan Williams is expected to return to action after missing the past three weeks with a knee injury suffered during the team's Aug. 14 kick scrimmage. Williams, who saw action in all 13 games last season but earned just one start, still recorded 8½ tackles for a loss and 3½ sacks.
With Thaddeus Gibson suiting up in the NFL this fall, Williams was pegged as his replacement at the Leo position.
"We have a lot of depth on the D-line," sophomore John Simon said. "When Nate comes back, that will add to it. Nate's a great competitor who is always flying around with a great motor. He's a guy who just makes plays."
For Williams, head coach Jim Tressel said the key will be building his endurance back up to where it was before the injury.
"What we have to figure out in the course of this week is just how many snaps is he ready to go," the coach said. "He seems to be ready to go. He's excited and he says he's ready to go. And now we'll see how it goes."
Senior tackle Dexter Larimore can relate to what Williams is going through. Last season, he missed four games in the middle of the season after suffering what he said was the same injury as Williams. Speaking after Tuesday's practice, Larimore said it was nice to see his linemate back in action.
"I told him, ‘Make sure you don't get out of shape,' " the senior said. "You can get rid of an injury, but if you're out of shape it doesn't really matter. He's really getting back into shape, trying to get as many reps as possible and really getting after it in the weight room and however he can. He's pushing it but he doesn't want to reinjure it or something like that. Looking at him, he's looking good."
Without Williams, the Buckeyes kept Marshall from scoring an offensive touchdown and held the Thundering Herd to less than 200 yards of total offense. However, the unit did not record a sack, with the lone one going to Star Tyler Moeller on a blitz from the defensive backfield.
Tressel said Marshall's game plan was to quickly get rid of the ball in an effort to keep the OSU defensive line off of its quarterback. Larimore said the Buckeyes know they will have to get to Miami quarterback Jacory Harris with more frequency this weekend if they want to improve to 2-0.
"I think I played well (against Marshall)," the senior said. "As a D-line we didn't get any sacks, so that's obviously something that we always want to improve on. This week we're working really hard on getting after the quarterback."
A junior, Harris has thrown for 4,757 yards in his career but rushed for negative 121.
"He's a great player," OSU senior safety Jermale Hines said. "He makes those guys go. When he's not going, they're not. He's the heart and soul of their team. He's definitely a passer."
Williams was replaced in the starting lineup by junior Solomon Thomas, who recorded two tackles in the most extensive playing time of his career.
"He might have been a little bit nervous his first time out there," Tressel said. "I thought he did well and he's got to keep doing well. He's got to get better. I don't think he graded a winning performance, but it wasn't awful and the things that he didn't do the way we need done, that's what he's got to make sure he improves upon."
Working in OSU's favor is the fact that the Hurricanes boast a rebuilt offensive line. Starting senior left tackle Orlando Frankin made 11 of his 13 starts last season at left guard and started only two games at his current spot. At the other end, senior right tackle Joel Figueroa started nine games last season at right guard.
Center Tyler Horn saw action in nine games last year, four of them at center. Junior left guard Harland Gunn started five contests at right guard last year, while sophomore right guard Brandon Washington earned one start at left guard but primarily saw action on special teams.
Surveying the Miami line, Larimore looked past the fact that each projected starter has moved around.
"They're very athletic guys," he said. "They're very quick. They get off their blocks and know what they're doing. They've got some experience there and some guys are newer but they're all physically in shape. Physically, they're pretty strong in there.
Tressel said it will take a group effort – including Williams – to be able to pressure the Miami offensive attack.
"I thought we did what we needed to do, but we've got to do it all better," he said. "If we don't do it all better, it won't be enough."