Jard Work: Iowa Edition

Why is Anderson Russell starting ahead of Jermale Hines in Ohio State's base defense? Who would have gone in had Joe Bauserman been injured against New Mexico State? Will the Buckeyes look like astronauts against Michigan? Ponder these topics and others in this week's edition of 'Jard Work.'

Slowly but surely, Ohio State senior safety Anderson Russell has earned more and more playing time as the season has gone on. Surprisingly, it has come at the expense of junior Jermale Hines, the player who took over the starting free safety spot from Russell in week two and held it down until the New Mexico State game two weeks ago.

The junior from Cleveland Glenville has remained on the field at the nickel back position, but he has given way to Russell in OSU's base defense. Neither player has had a drop-off in production, having recorded five tackles each since the switch.

Hines has not been available for interviews since the Wisconsin game and Russell is loathe to talk about the topic. According to safeties coach Paul Haynes, the reason is that Hines is still adjusting to the grind of playing on an every-down for an entire season.

"This is the first year that he's been back there at safety, so he's done a lot more movement than he's used to," the position coach said. "There's the wear and tear of the running and playing on special teams while being a bigger guy. That's the reason we took him out of the base and limited his reps so we can get him in the nickel and get him full-go."

Following the Wisconsin game, Hines said he had suffered a hyper-extended elbow that bothered him throughout the game. It was aggravated when he used that arm to bat down a pass attempt and gather it in for what would be a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The injury has not affected Hines from a mental standpoint, Haynes said.

Asked if he was still simply adjusting to the grind, the coach said, "There's no doubt, especially being his first year doing this. It's totally different. That's really the main reason. He's doing good things for us and he'll continue to get better for us."

Last season, Hines battled a knee injury suffered against Northwestern that knocked him out of the final two regular-season games.

Haynes said he is not worried about Hines becoming an injury-prone player, adding that they have not taken it easy on him in practice.

"He's a tough kid and he's going to battle through it, whatever it is," he said. "He'll be fine."

Good, Not Great
After senior tight end Jake Ballard earned the team's offensive lineman of the week award for a team-leading third time, offensive line coach Jim Bollman was asked why the team's actual offensive linemen have not graded out with winning performances.

Seated on a folding chair in the interview room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Bollman set the record straight about what it means to have a winning performance.

"Sometimes everybody gets nervous because they say nobody got winning performances," he said. "A winning performance is supposed to be an outstanding performance. Maybe winning performance is not a good word to use. It's if somebody has a really good game.

"There's been some weeks that everybody played pretty good but a great, great game? Meh. Unless somebody has a really pretty remarkable game, that's fine."

As for Ballard, Bollman said he is playing some of the most consistent football in the tail end of his OSU career.

"A lot of times in the running game he's at the point of attack when we're running off tackle, and if he would be struggling it would be a lot more difficult," he said. "When he can handle things and neutralize things at the point of attack, it gives us a good chance to do that."

Earlier in the week, Ballard said he feels the Buckeyes will have at least two capable tight ends ready to fill his shoes next season.

"I think Jake Stoneburner is going to be a very capable blocking tight end, but I think his biggest threat will be in the receiving game," he said. "Reid Fragel is a big, strong tight end who can block and make big blocks. I don't think he'll be quite the receiving tight end that Stony will be, but I think he'll be able to contribute a lot."

Who's Next?
In the second half of a blowout victory against New Mexico State, freshman quarterback Kenneth Guiton was one rolled ankle away from burning his redshirt and seeing the field for the Buckeyes.

Starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor came out for the second half minus his shoulder pads after suffering an ankle injury, entrusting the offense to sophomore Joe Bauserman. Although quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said Pryor could have gone back into the game in an emergency, they could have gone to Guiton as well.

"You don't know if you're burning (the redshirt)," Siciliano said. "If Joe's hurt, rolls an ankle and it's broken, you have to play (Guiton) because you have to make sure he's ready. You can't make him just sit on the sidelines because no matter what, practice reps are not game reps."

Siciliano said he did not talk to Guiton before the half about the possibility of seeing game action, however.

"I think Kenny understood (the situation)," the coach said. "He's a very intelligent young man. He's very educated on how football works. He picks things up rather quickly. It's rather frightening how quick he picks it up because he can hear something once and he knows what's going on. He can doze off in a meeting and if I ask him a question he knows exactly what's going on. He's pretty on top of it."

Staying Focused
As he enters the tail end of his junior season, OSU defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is being projected by some as a first-round NFL draft pick after the season.

Heyward said he has not noticed scouts coming out to watch him this season, but said he has seen them in the past.

"I remember my freshman year I'd always see scouts coming for James (Laurinaitis) and Malcolm (Jenkins)," he said. "I got to observe what they did to get to that position and hopefully one day I can get to that position as well."

Asked if he would notice scouts in attendance, he replied, "Hopefully I'm too busy to working hard so I can't focus on that."

On the same topic, senior safety Kurt Coleman said he gained a greater appreciation for Heyward's performance last weekend against Penn State.

"It's different when you play in it, but after watching the film again (Heyward) is a man," he said. "He is an absolute man. The funny thing is he hasn't grown into his body yet, and that's the scary part. When he's provoked, he's unreal."

More Jersey Talk
The announcement that OSU will wear new alternate uniforms while playing at Michigan next week has caused a stir in the fan base, but that has apparently not reached at least one member of the coaching staff.

Linebackers coach Luke Fickell, who said he has not seen photos of the new jerseys yet, was confused when told the uniforms were primarily silver.

"I don't get the Internet," he said. "They don't tell me anything. It's going to look like a space guy or something?"

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