With injuries piling up on the defensive side of the ball for the No. 10 Ohio State football team, talk swirled this week that the redshirt might be lifted off junior linebacker Etienne Sabino for the Buckeyes’ game Saturday night at Minnesota.
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said that possibility had been discussed during the week but an ultimate decision has been made – and barring any further changes, it will keep the Miami native on the bench for the remainder of the season.
“He probably won’t (play),” Tressel said at his weekly Thursday press briefing. “We were all talking about it. That was something that we were considering. Then as we’ve gone through the two days of practice, we’ve just decided that probably won’t occur.”
Tressel said Sabino, a five-star linebacker in the class of 2008, might not even be on the travel roster for the night game at Minnesota, though that decision has not been solidified. As for future play after the team’s open week, Tressel added that Sabino won’t see the field “unless we got into even more dire straits than we’re in.”
There was a good reason, though, that such talk about Sabino getting onto the field had been occurring. Injuries to Ross Homan, Storm Klein, Dorian Bell and Scott McVey have killed depth at the position, and those maladies when added to a number of injuries in the team’s secondary have led to spotty kick coverage.
Sabino had been a member of the coverage units the past two years while racking up 12 total tackles.
“We’re thin,” Tressel said. “Not only are we thin at linebacker but we’re thin at special teams because you lose those linebacker/defensive back kind of guys. We just went through all of those things and evaluated. We’d love to have him, but it’s game nine.
"I’m not sure that he’s 1,000 percent sure that it’s the best thing, and if you’re not 1,000 percent sure, this is the wrong sport.”
Tressel also mentioned that Bell will not play against Minnesota as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered Oct. 9 vs. Indiana, though he has resumed cardio workouts.
In other news, Tressel said the week’s viewing of tape has upped his appreciation for what the Golden Gophers, who are only 1-7 on the year and riding a seven-game losing streak, will bring to the table.
Though Minnesota fired head coach Tim Brewster after an Oct. 16 loss at Purdue, Tressel hasn’t noticed the team with hanging heads on film.
“It certainly doesn’t look like a team that the ball hasn’t really bounced their way or they’re in the middle of a coaching transition,” Tressel said. “They don’t seem like they’ve been emotionally grab-bag. They’re physical, a hard-playing bunch. Just watch the Penn State game (last week, a 33-21 win for the Nittany Lions). It was a good football game.
“It hasn’t gone their way, necessarily, but you watch them play, you wouldn’t know that.”
Tressel was also asked if he expected Minnesota to enter the Halloween weekend game with tricks up its sleeve. Interim head coach Jeff Horton has been adamant about bringing fun back into the equation for the squad and hasn’t dissuaded ideas he’ll pull out all the stops in an effort to get his team a win.
“We feel as if every team does that,” Tressel said. “We expect that every week. As you watch their last game, you really don’t see any philosophical differences (from when Brewster was there) like, ‘Oh, we’re going to throw deep more,’ or, ‘Oh, we’re going to blitz more.’ ”
Tressel also passed along condolences to those affected by the tragedy at Notre Dame in which a student who was filming the team’s football practice died Wednesday when the 50-foot-high scissor lift he was on collapsed.
The Ohio State head coach mentioned Tuesday that his team might practice inside with high winds in the forecast, a fate which came to pass before the Buckeyes moved back outside Wednesday. Such concern stems from conversations with video coordinator Mark Quisenberry, though the school did install permanent video towers during the summer renovation of its practice fields made possible by a donation from the Harmon family of Holland, Ohio.
“Quiz is very adamant in our meetings about, “Are we going in? Are we going out? I’m only putting my tower up 20 feet if we go out,’ those types of things,” Tressel said. “Fortunately with the towers now, our towers are tested for more than 100 mph winds as opposed to having scissors. One of the great benefits we have of the Harmon family gift was that we could upgrade to the best facility, the best-looking facility but the safest facility.
“You try to get as safe as you can. The wind is a scary thing when you’re up there. It’s just a horrible tragedy, and you just feel for everyone that is involved and the family.”