Ohio State heads into its last nonconference game of the season with the availability of a pair of starting defensive backs still uncertain.
Head coach Urban Meyer told reporters Wednesday night that safety C.J. Barnett (ankle) and cornerback Bradley Roby (shoulder) have been limited in practice this week.
“I’ll know more tomorrow,” Meyer said.
Defensive end Michael Bennett will miss his fourth game with a groin injury, but Meyer said he is improving. Running back Carlos Hyde will continue to be sidelined as well with a knee injury suffered Sept. 8.
On the bright side, Jordan Hall has continued to improve in his return from offseason foot surgery, although the senior running back is not 100 percent.
“He’s a tough guy who battles and is dying to play in that stadium, so he had a better week this week,” Meyer said.
Defensive end John Simon (shoulder) was limited in practice but is expected to be full-go on Saturday, and fellow senior Nathan Williams has not shown any ill effects from playing most of the 35-28 win over California last week. He had to sit out the previous game because of soreness in a surgically repaired knee.
“I was really concerned, but you don’t think about that in the third or fourth quarter,” Meyer admitted. “The positive is he’ll play Saturday. He had not as good a week last week, but he’ll be ready to go.”
The senior defensive end spoke with reporters before Meyer and said he feels good.
“I don’t want people to have to worry about me,” Williams said. “I wake up at 4:30 (a.m.) and come in here ready to go. I ice and do my rehab and lift and do certain things every day to provide strength and help me out. Coming into this season, I felt like I’d be lucky to play half the year. The way I’m recovering is amazing to me. I just keep praying and wake up every day with a new challenge to me and it’s time to go.”
Discipline and tackling were big themes this week after both were issues against the Golden Bears last weekend.
“It was a tough week for some people who have to learn how to tackle better,” said Meyer, who acknowledged the proof will not be seen until the 16th-ranked Buckeyes tee it up with UAB at Ohio Stadium. “We won’t know until Saturday, but what do you do when you’re weak in a spot? When you’re weak in pass rushing, you emphasize it and get going. Same thing with tackling.”
He repeated a concern that some of the tackling woes could be from an offseason emphasis on causing turnovers.
“There’s an element before stripping the ball, and that’s getting their butts on the ground,” Meyer said. “It better be better.”
In regards to penalties, Meyer went straight to the sources of the personal fouls that hurt the team on both sides of the ball.
“I had very, very confrontational meetings with our players about those guys who did it,” Meyer said. “The good thing is they’re not knuckleheads. They saw our center killed a drive. That took our momentum. We had scored on three straight possessions I think and then he had a 15-yard penalty and we didn’t score again for four series. I like him, but that’s his fault because offensive football is momentum.”
He acknowledged the 0-2 Blazers could be a candidate to be overlooked with the start of Big Ten play looming a week later but suggested there is plenty of motivation to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I think if we were playing great it would be because you would see a team overlooking a team, but we’re going to play hard because we’ve practice really hard,” Meyer said. “We can only control what goes on here, and they see on film a very good team that has athletes all over the place. They’re going to launch it down the field, and we haven’t been stellar in pass coverage.
“Offensively, we better get better. We’ve just had two very tough days of practice.”