One quarter of the way through the 2007 Big Ten season, a non-conference matchup with Kent State might sound like the opportune time to give a few players for the Buckeyes some extra rest.
But to quote Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel – who was quoting former head coach Earle Bruce – at his weekly press luncheon: “If you rest, you rust.”
As a result, the visiting Golden Flashes will not face an OSU team that is not noticeably different from the one fielded in the first six games of the season in any way, shape or form.
“We’re going to put a game plan together and those that deserve to be in the game will play,” Tressel said. “Is it difficult playing a non-conference game in the middle? Yeah, because many times you can say, ‘Ok, non-conference, ok, that’s over and now let’s focus on the Big Ten race.’ ”
That does not mean the Buckeyes will have a full contingent of players, however. While the coach reported no new injuries, he confirmed that OSU will continue to be without sophomore kicker Aaron Pettrey.
After injuring his groin during fall camp, Pettrey gave way to junior Ryan Pretorius for kickoffs. Against Purdue last weekend, Pretorius was replaced on kickoffs by junior walk-on Andrew Good and junior punter A.J. Trapasso. That rotation figures to continue for the next several weeks, as Tressel said Pettrey would likely not be back until early November.
“I don’t know that we have enough data to say one over the other,” Tressel said. “They both had a couple of real nice ones and they both had a couple of knuckleballs. I hope we get more consistent with that kind of distance.”
Against Purdue, the Buckeyes were without redshirt freshman linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, who did not make the trip. After recording seven tackles in the first five games as the team’s rush end when utilizing the team’s dime defense, Tressel said he did not make the trip for “personal reasons.”
He will be practicing with the team this week. Gibson remains listed as the No. 3 strongside linebacker behind senior Larry Grant and redshirt freshman Tyler Moeller.
In addition, Tressel said junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson likely will not be able to play until a bowl game. Sophomore defensive tackle Todd Denlinger made the trip to Purdue but did not play, although Tressel said he might have been able to go.
“I’m kind of thinking Todd will be ready (this weekend),” he said. “He won’t go very hard today and then ramp it up on Wednesday and hopefully Thursday he’s at full speed. He wasn’t that far because of the adrenaline and so forth from going Saturday, but we just didn’t think it was going to be in his best interests.”
The prognosis was not as promising for sophomore linebacker Ross Homan, who has not made a tackle since the team’s 33-14 victory over Washington in week three.
“Unfortunately Ross Homan has been banged up and will probably miss this week as well and maybe a couple more,” Tressel said.
When asked if Homan was suffering from a turf-toe injury or something, Tressel responded simply with ‘something.’ ”
The Buckeyes will also be without the services of several freshmen this week as they prepare for Kent State. On OSU’s fall quarter calendar, students taking math classes have midterms this week, and as a result several Buckeyes will be taking exams that take place during practice times.
One of those players is freshman tailback Brandon Saine, who carried the ball six times for 20 yards after missing two games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
“He’s one of those freshmen that’s going to miss – I think he’ll miss all of Wednesday based upon his exam schedule, so he’ll get a lot of reps today, see how that goes, because he’s not only going to hopefully play more on Saturday, but he’s going to hopefully practice more and we’ll see how that goes, but he came out of the game fine,” Tressel said. “And Thursday he’ll get ‘X’ number of reps and I’d like to think he’ll be available for more duty than he was last weekend, but we’ll see how the game unfolds.”
The task now, though, as the Buckeyes prepare for their last out-of-conference game of the regular season, is to keep focused on the task at hand.
“As we move forward, the thing we’ve got to make sure we do is continue at the pace we’ve been improving because as you look out ahead, that’s what it’s going to take,” Tressel said. “We said last week that we’d been making solid steps one step at a time and that we understood that the Purdue step was going to be a little bit steeper step and we made that step and we’ve got to continue that momentum as we go, that begins with practice and film preparation.”