BSB Notebook: Sweat, Shazier Set For Game

The unveiling of Ohio State's NCAA punishment has garnered most of the attention, but the Buckeyes are still working on their preparations for the Gator Bowl. Read on for the latest on the health of linebackers Andrew Sweat and Ryan Shazier, Luke Fickell's comments on the Pitt head coaching job and more.

The Ohio State football team's defense will have a different look Jan. 2 when the Buckeyes battle Florida in the Gator Bowl.

Senior Andrew Sweat will slide from the weakside (Will) linebacker position to the middle (Mike) against the Gators, allowing freshman Ryan Shazier to man Sweat's former spot. That decision, one that had been rumored to be in the works near the end of the season before a concussion and an elbow injury sidelined Sweat, will allow Ohio State to get its two best linebackers on the field at the same time.

Both Sweat and Shazier are expected to play in the bowl game after suffering late-season injuries. Sweat's concussion kept him out of the home finale against Penn State, and a dislocated elbow left him on the sideline at Michigan. Shazier started in place of Sweat on the weakside in both games but suffered a left knee injury against the Wolverines.

Sweat spoke to the media on Monday, saying both he and Shazier were practicing and should be good to go in Jacksonville.

"(My elbow) feels good," Sweat said. "I wear a brace, obviously, but it's feeling pretty good."

As for the position change, Sweat said he feels more natural at middle linebacker. Sweat has played all three linebacker spots as a Buckeye. The adjustment to Mike has not been difficult, thanks for former position coach and current OSU head coach Luke Fickell.

"I think what Coach Fickell preached when I was younger is that we learn it as a scheme," Sweat said. "You don't just learn your position. You learn the whole defense as a concept and a scheme. When you do that it's easier to interchange people into different spots because you know what the Sam (strongside linebacker) is doing and the Mike and Will are doing.

"It hasn't been a hard transition."

Addressing Pitt Rumors: Fickell met with the media on Monday, the first time since reportedly discussing the open head coaching position at Pittsburgh with university athletic director Steve Pederson. Fickell told reporters that he had "no idea" on what was going to happen next in the Steel City before quickly changing the topic.

"Things are busy here," Fickell said. "We're preparing. This is the middle, the heart of our practice time right now. This is our game week preparation. That's the way we're trying to look at it.

"All of those outside things, all of those outside distractions, I don't really know those situations. I don't exactly know. You'd have to ask somebody else what their process is and where they are."

Fickell was later asked about his aspirations to be a head coach. He said his family would come first when it comes to any potential opening, but he was willing to listen to offers.

"At some point in time someday the situation will be right for both me and my family, wherever that is," he said. "That opportunity will come, and I'll probably have to take it."

MVP Musings: Some people were surprised to learn that fifth-year senior tailback Boom Herron was voted the Buckeyes' MVP for the 2011 season. Among those was Herron himself.

"I actually didn't vote for myself," said Herron, who voted for junior fullback Zach Boren. "I was a little bit surprised."

Herron earned that accolade despite missing the first six games of the season serving a pair of NCAA suspensions. He finished the regular season with 596 yards on 123 carries with three touchdowns.

Senior center Mike Brewster said Herron impressed his teammates with his attitude on and off the field.

"I think they recognized when he came back the energy that he brought," Brewster said. "His talent set was awesome and his leadership was also much needed out there with a young team. He provided a spark for us, did everything asked of him and more.

"I'm definitely proud of him and I definitely think he earned it."

Sweat Redshirt: In early December, insider Bill Greene posted on the Ask The Insiders message board that Sweat would apply for a medical redshirt from the knee injury he suffered during his sophomore season in 2009. Sweat confirmed it Monday but made it sound like the request was unlikely to succeed.

"I think I played too many games," said Sweat, who missed three games during the '09 season. "It was a stretch, but it was something they brought up with minimal chance I guess."

The Numbers Game: How many scholarships Ohio State will have to offer this season is up to debate, but Fickell said that two spots will be available this year because of two medical-related departures from Ohio State's roster. It had already been reported that sophomore defensive end Melvin Fellows had received a medical hardship waiver, and Fickell confirmed that redshirt linebacker Scott McVey had done the same.

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