OSU secondary expects all hands on deck

Tim May
Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller hits Nebraska's Kurt Rafdal during the second quarter on Saturday. Fuller was ejected for targeting on the play, but will be back this week against Michigan State. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Shuffling the lineup in the defensive backfield is not the way any football team likes to go about business, and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer indicated Monday signs point to a full deck for Saturday’s game at Michigan State.

The Buckeyes had to keep dealing last week against Nebraska. One of the starting safeties, Isaiah Pryor, was ruled out late last week due to a shoulder injury and one of the three primary cornerbacks, Jeffrey Okudah, was scratched during pregame warmups due to a hamstring strain. The other starting safety, Jordan Fuller, was kicked out in the second quarter after being flagged for targeting. All are expected to be available against the Spartans.

Against the Cornhuskers, however, after the Fuller toss, the Buckeyes’ nickel defense consisted of starting cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette, starting safety Shaun Wade rolled down onto the slot receiver, and little-used Brendon White and Amir Riep at the safeties. White parlayed it into a breakout game, being named the team’s defensive player of the game.

But drawing from the deck is not the way Meyer and the defensive coaches would prefer to go about things nine games into the season.

“We’re hoping, I think finally we’re going to have them all healthy,” Meyer said. “It’s been like that. It’s been a deck of cards shuffling in and out of the back end of our defense.”

Hartline on the rise

When receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba became the seventh commitment to the Buckeyes’ 2020 recruiting class on Sunday, the five-star prospect from Rockwall, Texas,  indicated one of the attractions was playing for interim receivers coach Brian Hartline. Meyer indicated Monday that the interim qualifier could be coming off soon.

“He’s done very good,” Meyer said. “And we’ll address it at the right time. He’s done very good.”

Recruiting prowess was the biggest question Hartline, a former Ohio State and NFL receiver, had to answer after being named to fill the post after Zach Smith was fired in late July.

“He was thrust into a situation,” Meyer said. “And I think one of the great things he had, he had a veteran group (of receivers) to coach, and he has very good recruiters around here to see how it’s done.

“He’s been here a couple of years (initially as a program assistant). That’s a positive.”

Line depth rising

Wyatt Davis, usually a guard, put on a No. 86 jersey so he could be the tight end on the full-house formation the Buckeyes unveiled against Nebraska to add power to the short-yardage running game.

Meyer said last week that Davis had earned playing time, and then the Buckeyes found a way to get him on the field with the five starting linemen. Meyer said Monday that guard Branden Bowen, coming back from leg surgery, is close to returning to action, too.


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