At his final press conference before Ohio State takes on Toledo this weekend (noon, ESPN Plus), head coach Jim Tressel said senior right tackle Jim Cordle will be out for three to four weeks with an ankle injury.
"His ankle was bothering him a little bit Monday and we didn't think it would be a problem, thought it would get better Tuesday and it got progressively worse," Tressel said. "I think it's a big deal any time you lose somebody who's played so much. There's leadership and all the other things there."
Cordle underwent an MRI on Wednesday that Tressel said he thought showed no broken bones, but the coach would not clarify the nature of the injury. The senior has 27 career starts to his name, 11 more than anyone else on the OSU offensive line.
Tressel said he is not sure when Cordle initially suffered the injury. The hope was that it was just soreness from a tough loss to USC on Sept. 12, but it continued to get worse, Tressel said.
"I think he was like, ‘Oh, my foot hurts but we've got a game, oh my foot's hurting a little more,' " the coach said. "All of a sudden it was hurting him to the point where it affected where he could run. It was a progressive thing."
Into the void step a number of options. Sophomore J.B. Shugarts has been the primary backup at both right and left tackle and will likely get the first shot at filling in for Cordle. In addition, sophomore Mike Adams will be available for the first time this season after sitting out due to an undisclosed situation and could be part of the solution.
Adams might be back in the two-deep, but Tressel said he is still playing catch up after spending most of the season to this point toiling on the scout team.
"I think any time you lose some repetitions you are (behind), but he's got to catch up," Tressel said.
Shugarts has seen spot action this season after being limited to 26 minutes of playing time last year. He was slowed by an ankle injury earlier this season but is fine now, Tressel said.
"He hasn't played much," Tressel said. "He's very talented. (The coaches) said the two quickest guys off the ball are Justin (Boren) and J.B. When they come off the ball, they come off the ball. If the center doesn't get it out of the gun quick, it looks like they're moving early. My confidence level will be much greater the more he blocks on Saturday."
In addition, junior right guard Bryant Browning started all 13 games at right tackle for the Buckeyes last season and was mentioned as an option by Tressel. Earlier in the season, however, Cordle cited Browning as a better fit for the guard spot than tackle.
"Bryant's a natural for the guard," Cordle said during fall camp. "He's played great for us. Quick pull and things like that and he can get his low hips in at guard and sit on the bull-rush. Maybe he wasn't in the best position last year at tackle so he'll be a big-time player for us this year at guard."
Should Bryant slide outside to tackle, the first likely replacement at right guard would be senior Andrew Moses. Tressel also mentioned junior left tackle Andy Miller, who has held off Shugarts and Adams and made both starts at that position this season.
In all, Tressel said the Buckeyes will likely play eight offensive linemen against the Rockets. Not expected to be among them are freshmen Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall and Corey Linsley, who might all be headed for redshirts this season.
"Sitting here right now today I would say probably not (play them)," Tressel said. "Never say never, but if the game were this moment probably not."
As a result, the face of the line will look decidedly different this weekend.
"That's what you have to do with the offensive line," he said. "Mike Brewster is the center but now Andrew Moses is the only upperclass possibility. Moses can move in there and Jack Mewhort is the third guy.
"We practice every day with guys getting reps. You say to people they're one play from being a big deal."