Jard Work: Replacing Stoneburner And More

Ohio State is in the final hours of preparation for Saturday's home conference opener against Indiana and BuckeyeSports.com is doing the same. In this week's edition of 'Jard Work,' get updates on replacing the injured Jake Stoneburner, Zach Boren's dying dreams, how Aaron Gant's knees are feeling and more.

For the second consecutive week, Ohio State figures to be without the services of sophomore tight end Jacob Stoneburner. After suffering a high ankle sprain during OSU's home win Sept. 25 against Eastern Michigan, Stoneburner missed the Illinois game and was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Reid Fragel.

Stoneburner began his Buckeye career as a wide receiver before being converted to a tight end. He is listed at 6-5, 245 pounds and is third on the team with nine catches for 110 yards this season.

Fragel, on the other hand, has consistently been mentioned as a future offensive tackle. Listed at 6-8, 260 pounds, he has four catches for 39 yards this year after not catching a pass as a freshman.

Senior Ricky Crawford, who like Stoneburner was converted to the position, said the two bring different capabilities to the OSU offense.

"Both of them are pretty good blockers," he said. I would say Reid is a little better because Reid is huge and Jake is probably a better receiver but they both give you good effort when it comes to blocking and receiving. Jake can pretty much do both: he can block, he can run routes and Reid is definitely a good blocker and he's getting better every single day at receiving."

Tight ends coach John Peterson said the loss of Stoneburner can be offset by the fullback position.

"With Jake being a guy who's been exposed to receiving and has that expertise and a guy like (sophomore) Zach Boren who can catch the ball very well but also is a physical blocker, that allows you a little bit of leeway," the coach said. "Our tight ends do a lot of protecting and releasing and the fullbacks do a lot of the same thing so there's a lot of carryover. It might not look like a lot of depth at the tight end position, but you put the two together and the combination of the two allows us to have flexibility.

Brotherly Love – In a move that sends a statement about the way OSU's offensive line played at Illinois, Boren was named the team's top lineman of the week.

His older brother, Justin Boren, said that the honor might be a death sentence for one of Zach's goals.

"That's interesting," the senior left guard said. "When they announced that I said, ‘Zach, that must mean that all they care about you for is being a blocker.' He always dreams about getting the ball. I said if he gets the offensive lineman of the week award, you're not getting the ball. You're a straight blocker."

The decision went over well with the players once they watched the film, Peterson said.

"All you have to do is watch Zach block and watch his physical play and how tenacious he is and it's well-deserved," the coach said. "The fullback is an extended part of the blocking part of the game, a huge part, and Zach does that part of the game very well."

The Question – How long will Jim Tressel coach at Ohio State? The man himself has been reluctant to discuss the topic at any length but has said Woody Hayes' school record of 205 victories will remain safe.

With Tressel closing in on his 100th victory as head man of the Buckeyes, senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore was asked what it would mean to get his coach to that plateau. As it turns out, the topic was brought up among the players in the locker room.

"I think it's something to say," he said. "It's something to talk about when you're older. We were talking about it because of (Penn State head coach Joe Paterno) and stuff. Coach Tress is an unbelievable coach and if he continues to what he's doing, eventually maybe he can be like JoePa or something like that and I can say, ‘Oh, I was on his 100th win team.' "

Paterno has 397 career victories entering this weekend and is in his 45th year of coaching. Asked if he thought Tressel would have the tenure of Paterno, Larimore punted.

"I don't know," he said. "I think he loves it. If you really look at it, his life is football. His life is Ohio State. No matter where he is or what he's doing, he represents Ohio State. I think he's probably more noticeable than maybe (university president) Gordon Gee is. It's just interesting. I think he has the passion for it, but I don't know on his personal life how much that really interferes with anything that he would like to do."

Gant Update – After dealing with arthritis in his knees, senior Aaron Gant considered hanging up his cleats before deciding to go through one more season with the Buckeyes. Describing himself as a primary backup, the fifth-year senior said his body is holding up well so far.

"The knee is feeling great," he said. "Knees are one of the worst things to go in your body. They're holding up well. I couldn't really be any happier with the progress I've made. I always keep rehabbing. I've got to keep my knees strong and my quads strong because you never know what could happen to them again."

Gant has four tackles this season.

Mo' Money – In addition to being moved to tight end this past summer, Crawford was one of three walk-ons to be awarded scholarships this fall. Since earning his, the senior said life has been more enjoyable.

"So far it's been good," he said. "I just got my first rent check, so that's a little different. After practice now I can go to training tables. I haven't noticed anything too much other than the fact that I can stay after practice and eat."

With Stoneburner out, Crawford said he has helped out a little more during practice.

"I still go and help out on scout team," he said. "Indiana runs the spread and they have a lot of tight end sets so I go and help out the tight ends there but I also come over here and help out the offense with the second team. Right now I'm part of the game plan if Reid goes down or if they need me for something. I've been preparing our defense on the scout team and preparing myself if they need me to come in on offense."

Also an option for more playing time in Stoneburner's absence is senior offensive tackle Andy Miller, who began his OSU career as a tight end. Peterson said the coaches keep a spare jersey on the sidelines in case they would need to make Miller eligible to catch a pass.

However, the coach added a caveat to those thoughts: "I don't know if we'd run a vertical route with him, but there could be something."

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