At his weekly press luncheon, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said injured sophomore wide receiver Ray Small could play as soon as this weekend against Akron but that freshman linebacker Jermale Hines' status with the team is up in the air.
Small suffered a high ankle sprain during fall camp and did not play in the Buckeyes' season-opening contest with Youngstown State. After appearing on the depth chart as the backup flanker to Brian Hartline in the depth chart released in the team's 2007 media guide, Small was pegged as OSU's No. 3 wideout after nabbing 8 catches for 68 yards and 1 touchdown as a true freshman last season.
"We knew he was going to miss at least the first game, and he may have a chance to play this game and give our guys some relief there," Tressel said of Small.
He did practice on Monday, and Tressel said he was expected to work for a "big part" of practice on Tuesday.
Small's injury has in part allowed freshmen Dane Sanzenbacher and Taurian Washington climb the depth chart. Both caught their first career touchdowns against the Penguins, earning significant playing time during the game.
The eventual return of Small does not necessarily mean he will lock down the No. 3 wide receiver spot, however. Tressel said instead of focusing on who is where on the depth chart, the focus will be on getting everyone into the mix at wide receiver as well as making sure they do not rush him back too soon.
"We don't get too involved in whose spot it is," Tressel said. "I'm hoping he can progress and help us and be one of the guys. We don't really worry about which spot is which.
"You play so many guys all the time, and it was a great opportunity for Dane to get all those reps with those other guys next to him."
When fully healthy, though, the Buckeyes appear to have a few things planted in their offense designed to take advantage of Small's speed and abilities.
Hines has also battled an injury to his right hand throughout fall camp, but that does not appear to be what will be holding him back from playing time. Tressel said he could only give a few details on the situation, saying they are "in the midst of an appeal situation."
"He's going to be here, but we've got to get some ‘T's' crossed and some ‘I's' dotted," Tressel said. "I can say that much."
As he was being recruited by OSU, Hines reported scoring a 16 on the ACT but was planning on retaking the test a few times to help solidify his chances of passing OSU admissions standards.
His final test scores were not made public.
"You don't want to coast in anywhere," his mother, April, told BuckeyeSports.com on Jan. 28. "We want to be all the way over. I don't want May to come and then they're saying, ‘Oh, he should've got a 19 or an 18' so we're going for the gusto. But I don't think he will have any problem, right now where we're at, getting in, or Ohio State would not have made the offer."
A four-star linebacker prospect as ranked by Scout.com, Hines is listed on the team's roster and participated in OSU's kick scrimmage – which was the only fall practice open to the media – on August 22.
He did not play against YSU. Leading up to the game, Tressel ran through the list of freshman and described each player's chances of playing this season. Of the 15 members of the class of 2007, Tressel – perhaps as a simple oversight – did not mention two: Hines and fellow linebacker Brian Rolle.
Rolle did play against the Penguins, however, working on the kickoff coverage unit. He did not record a tackle.