Ohio State begins preparation for its final home game of the season with questions about a lineman on each side of the ball.
Head coach Luke Fickell did not sound confident his team would have the services of offensive right tackle J.B. Shugarts or defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins when the Buckeyes take on No. 21 Penn State on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Shugarts missed the 26-23 overtime loss at Purdue last weekend with a knee injury suffered a week earlier, and Hankins was unable to finish the contest against the Boilermakers because of a knee problem that arose in the fourth quarter.
“J.B. is probably getting treatment right now, but we don’t know exactly on him just yet,” Fickell said. “We’ll find out more. Today and tomorrow will be a big part to see if he can do it. He’s probably close, but I would say it’s very questionable if he can make it for Saturday.”
The depth chart published by the university lists Shugarts or sophomore Jack Mewhort as the starter at right tackle with Mewhort or classmate Corey Linsley starting at right guard. Mewhort has started at one of the guard spots every game this season but slid outside against Purdue after freshman starter Antonio Underwood struggled in the first half.
Hankins could be the second defensive starter unavailable to face the Nittany Lions. The head coach said linebacker Andrew Sweat, who was shown looking woozy on the sidelines in West Lafayette, is likely out this week and perhaps longer.
“He got hit. I don’t know that he’s going to be available for who-knows-how long, but the biggest concern is making sure he gets OK regardless of the football aspect of things,” Fickell said. “There are a lot of things there we don’t know about yet.
“Big John wasn’t able to return to the football game. Right now it probably doesn’t look real good. We’ll see as the week moves along. I guess we got some decent news when the MRI results came back that it’s not a season-ending one of those things or a six-month thing, but we’re not positive just yet.”
On the bright side, the team looks forward to the return of DeVier Posey, a senior wide receiver who has not played this season while serving consecutive five-game suspensions for violating NCAA rules.
Although Fickell said he was not sure if Posey would start the game, the coach acknowledged the team could get a lift from the Cincinnati native’s presence. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season and has 25 career starts. Posey enters the game with 124 catches for 1,793 yards and 16 touchdowns.
There is hope he will not be the only players returning at his position. Sophomore Philly Brown sat out the Purdue game after re-aggravating a knee injury but is going to try to go in practice today.
The depth chart lists Posey and Brown as co-starters at one receiver spot with Chris Fields listed ahead of Devin Smith at the other.
“Today is only Tuesday, so we’ve got to go out there and see how that all works out. We’ve got to see if Philly Brown can come back, too. There are some combinations there. He’ll have an opportunity to. We’ll see how practice goes.”
He did not sound concerned about his team remaining down in the dumps after the way the loss to Purdue took place. The Buckeyes rallied in the final minute to tie the game and had a chance to take the lead but saw a point-after try blocked then lost in overtime.
“I think the young guys are more resilient than you think,” Fickell said. “Sometimes you come in on Sunday and the best thing you do is get right back at it. I think you saw from those guys they are disappointed and hurt but they’ve got a passion to play and a passion to get better. They’re not happy with where they are, so that was the greatest thing to see Sunday.”
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