Injuries have decimated the Big Ten this season, and Ohio State is no exception.
The Buckeyes have avoided injuries to marquee players, not seeing too many starters miss time outside of wide receiver Corey Smith who is out for the season with a leg injury.
However, the Ohio State defensive line will be without starting defensive tackle Tommy Schutt this week against Rutgers.
According to coach Urban Meyer, the senior lineman had surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist and his return is expected to be “in a couple of weeks,” per the head coach.
A pair of reserve Buckeye defensive lineman are expected to fill the void left by Schutt and in an emergency, a true freshman could even be in the mix.
“Next up is going to be Joel Hale, it’s going to be Mike Hill, possibly using a freshman. Not sure I am ready to do that yet, but the next guy is in,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said Wednesday. “We don’t worry about the guy (that’s) gone. We are going to miss him, but we’ve got to go forward. That’s my approach going into practice.”
The freshman in question is former four-star recruit Robert Landers, who has yet to make an appearance in a game in 2015. Landers played his high school football at Huber-Heights Wayne, the alma mater of Braxton Miller, and picked the Buckeyes over West Virginia.
Johnson said that while Landers has been practicing more, the true freshman is being kept ready for precautionary reasons.
“We’ve been working him in the rotation,” Johnson said. “We haven’t made the decision we are going to do it, take his redshirt away from him yet, but just in case of an emergency we’ve got him ready.”
As for the likely replacements to Schutt, Hale and Hill are two players with similar skill sets, and will likely split the reps at defensive tackle according to Johnson.
Hale is a redshirt senior who has played both offense and defense in his time at Ohio State and has started nine career games as a Buckeye. So far this season, Hale has appeared in all seven games and has recorded nine total tackles.
On the other end, third year sophomore Michael Hill is seeing the most playing time in his college career in 2015.
After suffering an injury as a true freshman in 2013, he redshirted the remainder of the year and came back in 2014 and appeared in eight games, recording his lone career sack to date in a 56-17 win over Rutgers.
So far this season, Hill has tallied six tackles and has appeared in all seven games.
While they are set to play a similar amount of reps against the Scarlet Knights, Johnson said he has yet to determine who will come out with the first team defense on Saturday.
“Both guys are working hard, it’s a challenge. I will probably make the decision on Friday,” Johnson said. “They are going to play half-and-half. About 40-45 plays, that’s my goal. They are both going to play a lot of football.”