No timetable set for return of Ohio State football's Jaxon Smith-Njigba
There is no firm timetable on the return of Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said during his weekly news conference on Tuesday that Smith-Njigba remains day to day after suffering an injury setback that left him unavailable for last week’s rout of Wisconsin.
Smith-Njigba first appeared to injure his hamstring in the season-opening win over Notre Dame when he was tackled in the first quarter.
“It’s a long season,” Day said. “I don’t think we want to move forward until we all feel really good about everything.”
Ohio State vs. Rutgers:Ryan Day, Tim Walton and Mitch Rossi preview game
But Day added that he does not expect Smith-Njigba to be out for an extended period of time and indicated a return in the near future is likely.
“I know he's frustrated,” Day said, “but we're not as far away as we think, and if he just has the mindset of showing up every day and getting as much treatment as he can to take care of his body, this will be behind us soon. We still got a lot of football left to play.”
Because of the lingering issue, Smith-Njigba has been limited through the first month of this season, playing only 38 snaps over two games, according to a tally from Pro Football Focus.
He also sat against Arkansas State in the second week before coming back against Toledo.
When asked if he regretted Smith-Njigba’s return against Toledo, Day said they had no second thoughts.
“You got to just trust in what you see and your evaluation,” Day said, “and then go from there.”
Day acknowledged the up-and-down start has been difficult for Smith-Njigba, who broke out last fall as the Buckeyes’ leading receiver and entered this season as an All-American candidate.
“He's struggling,” Day said. “He wants to play. He's one of the more competitive players I've been around. But rarely does it go the way you expect it to go.
“That’s just life in general. Life’s going to throw adversity our way, and we control the response. There’s just so many things in our life that we’re not going to be able to understand. So these are great opportunities for us to help them deal with that down the road. We talk to our team a lot about that.”
Day reiterated he will defer to the medical staff and Smith-Njigba to determine when he is available.
“We always refer to the trainers and the doctors and get feedback from the player,” he said, “and we try to do the best we can to keep him as safe as we can in those moments.”
Eligibility resolved for transfer kicker
Transfer kicker Parker Lewis has been granted immediate eligibility, The Dispatch has learned.
The NCAA ruled him eligible for this season on Monday after receiving his waiver request late last month.
Lewis, who transferred from Southern California in the summer, has been practicing with the Buckeyes for the past five weeks, but he did not go through preseason training camp due to the questions regarding his eligibility.
While Noah Ruggles was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as one of the nation’s most accurate kickers last season, the availability of Lewis could still help with kicking off.
Only 17 of Ohio State’s 33 kickoffs this season have resulted in touchbacks, a percentage that ranks 77th out of 131 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Jayden Fielding, a freshman walk-on, has been handling kickoff duties through the first four games.
One of Fielding’s kickoffs late in the first quarter against Wisconsin landed out of bounds, giving the Badgers possession at their 35-yard line.
Lewis has a strong right leg. As a sophomore at USC last season, he managed touchbacks on 27 of 34 attempts, a percentage of 79.4 that ranked 11th among FBS kickers.
Day did not address Lewis’ status on Tuesday, including when he might suit up for the Buckeyes.
Optimism for starting cornerbacks' return
Day said he is hoping starting cornerbacks Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke, who were sidelined against Wisconsin, will be available against Rutgers on Saturday.
The reason for Brown’s absence against the Badgers was not clear, but Burke appears to be dealing with a hand injury.
Burke wore a cast on his right hand while warming up last Saturday until a decision was made to hold him out. He did not dress for the game.
Day was less optimistic about a return for Jordan Hancock, who has not played this season due to an apparent lower leg injury suffered in preseason camp, adding that Hancock was at least another week away.
Following Saturday’s game against Rutgers, the Buckeyes visit Michigan State on Oct. 8 before an idle week.
Status of top reserve safety
Safety Lathan Ransom is expected to be available this week.
Ransom did not appear on the Buckeyes’ pregame status report ahead of Wisconsin, but saw no playing time.
Day said Ohio State would start setting their availability report on Friday after doing so on Thursday in previous weeks “so it’s a little bit more accurate.”