A fifth Buckeye could see his season debut when Ohio State and Toledo face off at Ohio Stadium.
OSU head coach Luke Fickell said Thursday that Jaamal Berry, a sophomore tailback who missed the end of preseason camp and the season opener against Akron because of a hamstring problem, is expected to be available against the Rockets.
“He’ll have a plan. He’ll have some opportunities,” Fickell said. “It might start with being a kick returner to start with, but those guys did a good job performing ahead of him last week so we’re going to continue to roll with that.”
He referred to Carlos Hyde, who started at tailback and ran for 93 yards in a 42-0 win over Akron, and Rod Smith. Smith shook off a fumble inside the 5-yard line to finish the day with 74 yards and a touchdown.
“We want to make sure those guys understand that when their opportunities arrive, they’ve got to take advantage of them,” Fickell said. “We like to see how guys handle that, how they respond to coming back and not just being shoved right back into a spot they were in before. We understand injuries happen, but we want to make sure everyone understands it’s about the team and we’re going to continue to do what’s best for the team.”
Also ready to rejoin Ohio State this week are tailback Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard, safety Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown and linebacker Jordan Whiting, all of whom were suspended for the opener after violating NCAA rules against receiving special benefits.
Fickell maintained the stance he took earlier in the week in refusing to identify what type of playing time the four might receive.
Hall and Howard are both juniors who were listed as starters on the first depth chart of the season before news of their suspensions broke late last week. Brown and Whiting are reserves who figure to help on special teams.
“I don’t think we’ve set any stipulations publicly with what we’ll do with them. I think our guys played well last week and its their job. We want to make sure they know we have confidence in them,” Fickell said. “Guys are going to be evaluated on their performance and if they do a good job during the week and they’re getting better, we’ll continue to go with them.”
Ohio State and Toledo both have high-profile opponents coming up in the third week of the season, but Fickell dismissed the idea either could overlook the game scheduled for noon this week on the Big Ten Network.
The Buckeyes play at Miami (Fla.) while the Rockets will host Boise State.
“I think our team, being as young as they are, hopefully they don’t even know who we play next week right now,” Fickell said. “I haven’t heard a bunch of talk about it. I don’t know if our guys outside of the locker room are hearing about it from maybe the media or their families or friends, but I’m hoping that’s not a big deal. We stress to them all they have to do is look at 2008 when they beat Michigan, 2009 when they beat Colorado and 2010 when they beat Purdue.
“We don’t have the good fortune to roll those helmets out there and think we’re going to just roll over anybody or have the ability to look ahead, so that’s the focus I’ve had and I hope that obviously trickles down to the players as well.”