Injured Buckeyes May Return After All

At one point this week it looked as if Ohio State would enter its final home game of the seasons without as many as four starters because of injury, but head coach Luke Fickell did not rule any of them out on Thursday.

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell did not completely rule out contributions Saturday from all four of the Buckeyes who began the week battling injuries suffered in the past two weeks.

Both linebacker Andrew Sweat (head) and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins (knee) left the game last week at Purdue after suffering injuries while right tackle J.B. Shugarts (knee) and wide receiver Philly Brown (ankle) missed the contest.

The latter three sound closer to ready to go this week against No. 21 Penn State than does Sweat.

"How much we'll get out of certain guys like Johnathan and J.B. and Philly Brown, we'll have to see," Fickell said Thursday. "Obviously those guys will be available. They look like they might have a chance, but how much will we get out of them and how good can they be for how much we put them out there? That's one of those things. As coaches, you've got to be smart in figuring out what they can handle."

Shugarts is the starting right tackle and was injured during a 34-20 win against Indiana on Nov. 5. Brown is a starting wide receiver who stayed home from the trip to West Lafayette after aggravating a pre-existing ankle problem that kept him out of three games earlier in the season, and Hankins appeared to hurt his knee while rushing the Purdue quarterback in the fourth quarter last week. He left the game but walked off under his own power.

"I hope all of them can (play)," Fickell said. "It just comes down to how much can they play and still be able to be successful at what they do. Do they wear out because they haven't been able to practice? Are they still hurting? Those are things you've got to see at game time and get them in there and see how they're doing."

As for Sweat, who was shown needing the help of two team staffers to walk woozily back to the locker room after halftime at Purdue, a small bit of hope remains he will be able to suit up against the Nittany Lions on his Senior Day at Ohio Stadium.

"Sometimes the mind is a powerful thing and the best thing guys can have is hope," Fickell said. "That can make you feel better, so you still give guys hope and don't say completely for sure but we will have to make sure we do what's best for Andrew Sweat."

If Sweat is sidelined, his replacement will be Ryan Shazier, a true freshman from Plantation, Fla., who logged seven tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, against the Boilermakers.

"Ryan stepped in and did a good job," Fickell said. "He's not going to be worried or in fear a whole lot. That's up to the coaches to worry about. You go through each and every year, someone is going to step up and be the next man to move in. We'll have to do a good job of rolling guys in as well."

If Shugarts is limited or unable to play, his likely replacement is sophomore Jack Mewhort, who would move over from right guard and be replaced off the bench by classmate Corey Linsley.

Co-defensive coordinator Paul Haynes told reporters Wednesday night he expected Hankins to play. Freshman Michael Bennett is in line to receive more playing time if Hankins cannot play or is limited.

If Brown is able to play, Ohio State would have its top two wideouts available in the same game for the first time this season.

The contest Saturday is set to be the first for DeVier Posey, a senior who served consecutive five-game suspensions for violating NCAA rules.

As was the case with other players who were returning from suspension earlier this season, Fickell was coy about whether or not Posey will step right into the starting lineup.

"We've still got another day of practice, so depending on how many we start with out there we'll see if DeVier is one of those," Fickell said. "Really, we haven't exactly said. We could come out and be in no wide receivers so he doesn't get a start. We could come out in five wides and have to put them all out there. Believe me, we're confident in what DeVier can do, the way he's handled the situations. Those guys have a lot of respect for him. It wouldn't mean anything different to anybody on our football team, which is what's most important."

There was also some elaboration on the plan for the teams to shake hands at midfield in a gesture of sportsmanship in light of the sexual abuse case that has rocked the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions will be playing their first road game since long-time head coach Joe Paterno was forced out as a result of the unfolding scandal.

Ohio State spokesperson Jerry Emig said the captains will meet at midfield for the customary pregame greeting and coin toss with the rest of the players 10 yards behind them. After the coin toss, each player will seek out one opposing player to shake hands.

"We're all educated people and we're all aware that this is about a football game," Fickell said. "We're aware of the situations and we've always said our thoughts and prayers go out to those families, but we want to make sure everybody understands its about a football game. We're going to shake hands just like the captains would normally do and then we're going to move on."

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