Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke looks ready to return for Rutgers game
Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke is poised to return this week against Rutgers, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said Thursday.
Burke was not included in the team's unavailability list before the Wisconsin game, but the sophomore took part in early warmups with a club or cast on his right hand. During final warmups, Burke was in street clothes.
"It was too close from when it occurred to put him in the game," Day said of the decision to hold Burke out. "Now he's had a good week of practice, so it's great to see him back.
"It may be something that we have to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season and protect it. But we'll kind of see how it heals and how it does. But he's going to be ready to roll this week, and I'm excited to see him back on the field."
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Fellow cornerback Cam Brown also was injured last week, meaning Ohio State started true freshman Jyaire Brown and redshirt freshman JK Johnson in the 52-21 victory.
Day said he did not have an update on Brown or wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who missed the Wisconsin game because of a hamstring injury.
Burke was one of the few standouts on the Buckeyes' defense last year when he emerged as a shutdown cornerback as a true freshman. He missed time during training camp this year with an injury and was beaten for big plays a few times in OSU's first three games.
But his return is welcomed for a position lacking depth. Ohio State has only six scholarship cornerbacks, and Jordan Hancock, who was expected to be the No. 3 cornerback, is injured.
The freshmen cornerbacks held up well against Wisconsin, which is built more for the run game than for passing.
"I had a little nerves but not too much,' Brown said. "I reverted back to our training and practice, and I felt confident in my game."
Brown and Johnson benefited from not having missed any practices in the spring or training camp while others were sidelined. Practicing against OSU's superb receivers also helped, even if they took their lumps.
"It was a challenge, but I took on that challenge and never shied away from that," Brown said. "That's only going to get me better, going against the best of the best every day."
Proctor feeling like old self
Safety Josh Proctor pronounced himself physically ready in training camp after missing almost all of last season with a broken leg.
But it wasn't until last week that the senior truly felt all the way back.
"I was telling a couple of guys the other day that's probably the first time I actually felt like myself," Proctor said.
Proctor had eight tackles and a quarterback hurry against Wisconsin and looked particularly engaged.
"Yeah, that's me, having fun, jumping around," he said.
Proctor started against Notre Dame but was benched for the rest of the night after missing a tackle on the first snap, resulting in a 54-yard gain. He and Lathan Ransom shared time in the next two games.
Against Wisconsin, Ransom did not play due to an unspecified injury, but Proctor said that had nothing to do with his performance.
"I didn't know Lathan wasn't playing, so that was a shock to me," Proctor said. "I didn't know until right before the game."
Ryan Day said that coaches knew all week, and safeties coach Perry Eliano and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles worked hard with Proctor all week in preparation.
"We kept checking in with Perry to see how he's doing, knowing he was going to get the start, and each (day), it was like, 'He's putting in the work. He's had a good day of practice.' So anytime you get that kind of feedback, you expect someone to play well.
"He's got to stay on that discipline. He's got to bring it every single week like that. To me, with Josh, it's always just been about the preparation for his body, mind and soul to go play in a game. It was great to see him back. I think that's the Proc that we think can help us reach our goals this year. The film showed that."
Fielding retains kickoff job
The NCAA granted Southern California transfer Parker Lewis eligibility this week, but Day said Jayden Fielding will continue to handle kickoff duties for now.
"I think Jayden is off to a great start," Day said. "He certainly hasn't been perfect. He's missed a couple (kicked out of bounds), and so we want that consistency.
"We want him to be the best in the country at what he does. That's the expectation for any position here at Ohio State. So we'll go into the game with Jayden and kind of take it from there."