Personnel Questions Abound For Buckeyes

Luke Fickell

Ohio State begins preparation for a game at Miami (Fla.) on Saturday unsure of the availability of a pair of injured starters, one high-profile reserve and three players who have run across problems with the NCAA.

Ohio State knows it will play at Miami (Fla.) on Saturday night, but that is just about all. Buckeyes head coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday he still is unsure of the availability of several of his players as preparations begin for the Hurricanes.

He described the suspensions of tailback Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and defensive back Corey Brown as pending on Tuesday when he met with reporters in Columbus for his weekly press luncheon

Hall, Howard and Brown sat out Ohio State's first two games because they received money while attending a charity event in February. They were initially expected to miss only one game, but the NCAA extended the punishment to a pair of contests and announced it needed answers to more questions before clearing them to play. Hall and Howard are expected to be starters this season while Brown is a reserve.

"Right now we're still pending and waiting," Fickell said. "We're not going to jump to any conclusions, but we'll wait and see. Hopefully we'll hear something soon."

If Hall and Howard are not able to play against Miami, they might not be the only starters out of the lineup.

Fickell said he is not sure if defensive end Nathan Williams and wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown will be healthy enough to play but that the coaches would know more after returning to practice.

Williams missed the Sept. 10 win over Toledo with what has been widely reported as a bone bruise while Brown left the game with a left ankle injury.

"There's obviously a few guys we're not positive on. We'll find out a little bit more hopefully today, see how (Williams) can move and run around today," Fickell said. "It's still a little bit too early to tell."

Of Brown, Fickell said, "I don't know that he looks great right now."

Health could also be a factor in the status of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, but Fickell was somewhat evasive when talking about the five-star recruit who did not play against the Rockets either despite the coaching staff saying he was in their plans along with senior starter Joe Bauserman.

"Braxton was dinged up a little bit. He practiced more so on Thursday and a little bit on Wednesday," Fickell said. "We had a plan going in that maybe we didn't quite happen exactly how (we thought) so we had to kind of adjust on the run. We're not going to look back on it. We know that most importantly those guys' minds were right. They understand the situation we're in. We communicated with them so that there's no guess work involved, and to me that's the most important thing, that they can stay focused and move forward and not dwell upon the past."

Asked later to clarify if health were a factor in Miller's remaining on the bench, Fickell replied, "No, I didn't say that. I said he was dinged up a little bit earlier in the week. We had a plan going in. Maybe we adjusted the plan a little bit."

There was one player Fickell was clear about Tuesday. Corey Linsley, a sophomore offensive lineman who competed for time with the No. 1 unit in spring practice but sat out the first two games while allegedly facing undisclosed disciplinary action, is available to face the Hurricanes.

"Hopefully we'll get him back in the mix real soon and create some more competition up front on the offensive line and give us some more depth," he said.

After opening the season against one team expected to finish near the top of the Mid-American Conference standings (Toledo) and one projected to dwell in the cellar (Akron), Fickell said his team is excited for his team's first road trip and first game against a squad from a BCS conference.

"They present some new challenges, but I think our guys will be excited for the challenges they present," the coach said.

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