Tailback Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and safety Corey Brown all missed Ohio State's first game of the season after the university discovered they had accepted extra benefits during a charity event over the summer. Linebacker Jordan Whiting was suspended one game for receiving discounted tattoos in an unrelated incident, but all four are eligible to play this week.
Hall and Howard were expected to assume starting roles this season while Brown and Whiting are backups, but head coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday at his weekly press luncheon everyone will have to re-earn their spots as the team prepares to take on Toledo this Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
“It’s only Tuesday, so we don’t know,” Fickell said. “We’ve still got practices ahead of us and we’ve got to make sure those guys compete. The guys who stepped in ahead of them did a great job so they’ve got to come in and beat those guys out. I think we all understand the situation.”
The Buckeyes and Rockets square off at noon after both won their openers.
The Rockets, who are coached by former Ohio State assistant Tim Beckman, are expected to contend for the MAC championship while the Zips look headed toward a record more like the 1-11 make they posted in 2010.
They also have a reputation for playing well against BCS conference teams, including 6-9 against Big Ten teams since 1992.
“There’s nothing that goes unnoticed and nothing that goes untalked about, and knowing that they’ve been a giant-killer at times is definitely something our guys will know,” Fickell said.
In other personnel news, Fickell said he did not yet have an update on offensive lineman Antonio Underwood or wide receiver Philly Brown, both of whom left the Akron game with injuries.
The coach said he is hopeful tailback Jaamal Berry, a sophomore who could contend with Hall, Carlos Hyde and Roderick Smith for carries, will return from a preseason hamstring injury but was no more clear than that on his situation.
“I’m hoping we get Jaamal back and he’ll be another addition for us,” Fickell said.
Fickell said to expect quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller to continue sharing time at quarterback but indicated the rotation may not exactly mimic the Akron game.
Bauserman started against the Zips and played all but one series of the first half. He also played the first series of the second half.
The staff planned to use Miller again before intermission but chose to go with Bauserman because the Buckeyes got the ball back off an interception with 2:41 on the clock.
Fickell was happy with how Miller handled that change in plans as well as a disastrous first series that included a dropped pass and a botched snap.
“To me, I’m not sure that wasn’t decent to see, to see him come off to the sidelines, to see how he handled it, to see him still hold his head up and not be really mad about going in the next series,” Fickell said. “That’s what I wanted to see: How are you going to be able to handle popping in and out? Then all of a sudden not getting that next series we had planned in the second (quarter) just the way it fell with the two-minute situation. You could still keep yourself together and come out in the second half and perform. That’s what I was most impressed with.”
Bauserman, linebacker Andrew Sweat and safety Nate Ebner will serve as captains this week for the Buckeyes, who are 2-0 in the all-time series against Toledo.