Freshman Duo Returns To Field

Ohio State fans saw a lot of things in the Buckeyes' 23-7 victory against Purdue Saturday night, but they had to be pleased to see two freshman crack back into the team's lineup. Tailback Brandon Saine and linebacker Jermale Hines both hit the field running against the Boilermakers, and was there to speak with them following the game.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. While the Buckeyes were busy preparing to earn their first win at Ross-Ade Stadium in five seasons, two members of their freshman class were earning their way back on the field.

Both linebacker Jermale Hines and tailback Brandon Saine saw action for the first time in a while – but for different reasons. One had an academic situation that needed resolution, while the other was battling back from suffering an injury.

Both were thrilled to be back with their teammates.

"It was very exciting, playing on the road at night in a very hostile environment," Hines said. "It was very exciting."

After impressing the OSU coaching staff with his ability to pick up the team's defense throughout fall camp, Hines was announced as being unavailable for the Buckeyes as they went through an appeals process.

Although no further information was given at the time, Hines said there were concerns about his NCAA clearinghouse papers.

"My clearinghouse papers went through at the last minute, and they thought something was wrong with them or fishy, so they gave me a final note and Ohio State had to petition them," he said. "It was basically just heartbreaking. I felt like I let myself down, but the Lord was with me and it all came together and I'm finally here."

While he waited, Hines was not allowed to attend practice, work out with the team or watch film. He was allowed to remain on scholarship and nothing more, he said.

During his first week back at practice, the 6-2, 209-pound linebacker said he felt sore from being involved in full-contact drills again but he did not feel rusty. At his weekly Tuesday press conference, Tressel said Hines immediately entered the two-deep on special teams.

"The thing I was impressed with Jermale, I was amazed how he picked up all that our defense does, which is significant," Tressel said.

As it turns out, that was only part of the story: He jumped right in as a starter on special teams. It was not something he expected to happen as he saw five weeks pass without being part of the team.

"I thought I would redshirt," he said. "Halfway into the season, I figured I would redshirt but I came back and the first day I was on special teams. I immediately jumped in right where I left off at."

Saine, on the other hand, had already made an impact during games this season. The speedy tailback had carried the ball 28 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns before suffering an undisclosed knee injury sometime during the team's 33-14 victory over Washington in week three.

As it turns out, even Saine does not know when he suffered the injury.

"I don't remember at all," he said. "It hurt during the game and I told them, then after the game it didn't hurt. Then after the long flight back and everything, I could tell it was hurting."

On his final carry of the game, Saine burst around the left end for a 37-yard touchdown run as time expired. When asked how he could do so with his injured knee, Saine said, "adrenaline."

The 6-1, 220-pound Saine had arthroscopic surgery performed on his knee in the week following the game and, less than three weeks later, he was back on the field. He resumed practicing full-go during the week before the Purdue game and has pronounced himself 100 percent healthy. During the week, Tressel had begun by listing Saine as "questionable" on Tuesday but upgraded that diagnosis as the week went on.

"I was just working really hard," he said. "I wanted to get back so I could help the team out as much as I could."

There are no lingering concerns about the stability of the knee, either. Against the Boilermakers, Saine carried the ball six times for 20 yards with a long of 11.

"It felt really good," he said. "I was away a while and off my leg, but once everything started healing up I got back on the field and it feels really good to start playing football again. It was just a really fun game for me, especially playing at night.

"I wanted to do (the surgery) because they said it could get worse. I wanted to get it fixed as quickly as possible, and I knew I would be able to bounce back."

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