Buckeyes, Gators Dealing with Injuries

Both teams could be without a starter on offense Monday when Ohio State and Florida square off in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Buckeye tight end Jake Stoneburner is struggling to return from a knee injury while Florida offensive lineman is out because of a back ailment.

Both teams could be missing a starter when Ohio State and Florida face each other in the Gator Bowl on Monday.

Jacob Stoneburner, a junior tight end for the Buckeyes, had knee surgery in early December and might not be able to play.

"I'm kind of curious myself," Fickell said when asked about how Stoneburner might fit into the offensive game plan. "I don't know how available he'll be. We've still got a day and a half to go to see if he can get into a situation where he can play. He obviously won't be able to play a ton because he's not in the shape to get back in there but we're still hoping maybe he's got some situational things we can do with him."

With Stoneburner limited, the Buckeyes will likely rely on junior Reid Fragel and true freshman Jeff Heuerman at tight end.

On the other side of the ball, Ohio State is looking forward to taking the field with a complete lineup for the first time since Andrew Sweat suffered a concussion against Purdue on Nov. 12.

That kept him out of the following week's loss to Penn State, and the senior later dislocated an elbow that caused him to miss the regular season finale at Michigan.

Freshman Ryan Shazier starred in Sweat's place at Will linebacker but had to deal with an injury of his own when he damaged the MCL in his right knee against the Wolverines.

With both healthy, Sweat and Shazier are expected to start together for the first time this season.

"It was extremely tough to stand on the sideline since Purdue," said Sweat, who will move to middle linebacker to make room for Shazier on the weak side. "I had a lot of bad luck but I feel pretty healthy. Every day I'm getting better. Ryan is getting healthier every day and I'm excited to play next to him."

With Florida favoring a two-back, pro-style attack, Sweat said the Buckeyes could play a lot of base defense including Etienne Sabino as the Sam linebacker as opposed to the nickel defense with Tyler Moeller that Ohio State played much of the season.

As for the Gators, head coach Will Muschamp said offensive tackle Matt Patchan will not play after hurting his back during bowl practice. Patchan aggravated an injury that first occurred during the regular season.

"We've had a physical bowl practice and preparation with what we're trying to do to improve our football team and get ready for the bowl game, so we had an unfortunate injury," Muschamp said.

Patchan started Florida's last five games at right tackle after earning two starts at left tackle previously.

Chaz Green and Xavier Nixon are expected to start at tackle with Nick Alajajian in the mix as well.

Additionally, defensive end Kedric Johnson and linebacker Lerentee McCray are game-time decisions for the Gators, who previously lost nose tackle Dominique Easley to a knee injury in December.

Although Ohio State is used to going to BCS bowls more often than not in the past decade, Fickell said the Buckeyes have enjoyed themselves in Jacksonville.

"That's what's so special about college football that we've had the opportunity to be together as a team, to experience a lot of the different things during the week, and the Gator Bowl has been that for us," Fickell said. "We can't say how excited we are to be here.

"We've had a good time of practice down here. We've gone pretty hard for the first couple of days and then we've tried to taper it back."

Fickell chose not to comment on the status of one player who has not been able to enjoy the bowl festivities: Rod Smith. The redshirt freshman tailback reportedly missed the team charter and is not with the team in Florida.

"We're going to focus on the guys that we have here, the 100 guys we have back there in that locker room," Fickell said.

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