Through the regular season senior defensive tackles Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt combined for 19 starts for Ohio State.
With just the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame remaining on the 2015-16 slate, it’s possible neither play will be available for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. Washington will miss the game – he’s suspended after being cited for solicitation – and Meyer announced Thursday that Schutt is dealing with a foot injury as Ohio State prepares for the Fighting Irish.
“I don’t know how bad yet,” Meyer said of Schutt’s injury, but he conceded that depth at defensive tackle is a problem. He added that Michael Hill has been “playing pretty good” and he mentioned Joel Hale, Donovan Munger and Tracy Sprinkle as possible options to step in. The only other defensive tackle to make a two deep this season was freshman Robert Landers, who has yet to play in a game and is unlikely to lose his redshirt for the bowl game alone.
Hill made his first start of the season against Michigan while Hale started the four previous games. Sprinkle has been in the rotation some throughout the season, as has All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, who Meyer noted is used as a defensive tackle in some of Ohio State’s packages.
At least one player who goes up against Hill, Hale, Munger and Sprinkle in practice said he feels there won’t be a big problem when the Buckeyes take the field against Notre Dame on New Year’s Day.
“I think they’ll be fine,” said junior offensive guard Pat Elflein when asked about other players having to step up in Washington’s – and possibly Schutts’s – absence.
“Going against Tracy and Mike Hill, those are good players, they’re hard to block,” Elflein added. “Tracy has gotten a tremendous amount better. Mike Hill is a tough dude and Joel is a big strong dude. Those guys can go in there and play and I think they’ll be OK.”
Washington was an All-American this season as well, though not a consensus pick like Bosa. He finished the regular season seventh on the team with 49 tackles to go with seven tackles for loss and four sacks, not to mention a pick-six against Western Michigan.
If Schutt misses the game at well the remaining options at defensive tackle – Hill, Hale, Munger and Sprinkle – combined for just 25 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and no sacks.
Regardless of who whether or not Schutt does end up playing, both he and Washington are set to graduate this year along with Hale, meaning bowl practices this season could be a time to see what the future holds at defensive tackle for Ohio State. Now with Washington out and Schutt banged up, that future could end up coming sooner rather than later.