Safety Marcus Hooker back with Ohio State football team after suspension

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes safety Marcus Hooker (29) runs a drill during Ohio State Buckeyes football practice on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State safety Marcus Hooker has returned to the team after he was indefinitely suspended this spring following an arrest for operating a vehicle under the influence.

Coach Ryan Day said he will be eligible to play for the Buckeyes when they open their season at Minnesota on Sept. 2.

“He went through a tough time,” Day said, “but he’s learned a lot from it and paid his dues and went through a bunch of different programs. So we’re supporting Marcus and he’s back on the team.”

As part of a plea agreement reached in April, Hooker was required to pay a $375 fine, have his driving privileges limited and go through a driver’s education program. It was the second alcohol-related driving infraction of Hooker's career after he faced a similar charge as a freshman in 2018.

Following the suspension, Hooker was suspended for a majority of spring practice, leaving the Buckeyes without a veteran in their secondary.

Hooker started four games as a junior last fall, manning the single-high safety role that Josh Proctor ultimately took over late in the season.

Receiver departures

Wide receivers Ellijah Gardiner and Jaylen Harris are no longer with the team.

“They have decided to move on,” Day said.

Both were on the roster during spring practice and would have been fifth-year seniors this fall, but have left football.

Harris had a medical issue, while Gardiner “just decided to retire,” according to Day.

Neither had a sizeable role. Harris caught five passes in four seasons. Gardiner had no receptions.

But Day thought their absences left the Buckeyes thinner on depth at receiver. Along with the offseason transfer of Jameson Williams to Alabama, they are down to eight scholarship receivers.

If it becomes an issue, Day said Demario McCall and Gee Scott Jr. could be candidates to return to receiver after they switched positions in spring practice, with McCall moving to cornerback and Scott going to tight end.

Day pointed out that walk-ons Chris Booker, Xavier Johnson and Sam Wiglusz are also “scholarship-level players that are going to provide some depth for us.”

Latest on Chambers

Running back Steele Chambers has also worked out with the linebackers this summer and could play at either position for Ohio State this season.

Day said no decision had been reached about where he might end up.

“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s really up to Steele and where he feels most comfortable.”

Chambers was both a running back and linebacker while in high school at Blessed Trinity Catholic in Roswell, Georgia, but started on the offensive side of the ball when he joined the Buckeyes in 2019.

In two seasons, he's rushed for 221 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. The Buckeyes have five other scholarship running backs, making carries potentially scarce this fall.

Healthy bodies

Several of the Buckeyes’ expected starters who were out during spring practice are expected to be healthy at the start of preseason camp on Aug. 3.

Day confirmed cornerbacks Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown, linebacker Dallas Gant and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett would all be back after they were unavailable for practices in March and April due to injuries.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

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