As Ohio State attempts to bring home an unprecedented third consecutive Big Ten crown, it will have to do so without one of its defensive stalwarts.
Junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson has suffered a torn ACL injury and is out for the remainder of the season, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said at his weekly press luncheon. A starter for all seven of the team’s games this season, Wilson leads the team’s defensive linemen with 18 tackles – 2.5 of which have gone for loss.
Although Tressel said the Buckeyes would obviously love to have Wilson remain in the lineup, he said the team will press on in his absence.
“The next guy’s got to be ready,” he said. “He’s got to get in there and play hard. He’s got to do what Lawrence could do. People have to step up. We’re going to go.”
That means people such as sophomores Cameron Heyward and Thaddeus Gibson will likely see more playing time, as will true freshman Nathan Williams.
The injury is to Wilson’s left knee. Last season, Wilson suffered a broken right leg during the team’s first game of the season and was lost for the entire year.
“I feel terrible for Lawrence,” Tressel said. “I feel worse for Lawrence than for us. Guys can sprain an ankle and then you don’t have them in that game, but for a guy who went through a surgery a year ago to have another surgery now … unfortunately that’s what happens in these games.”
Wilson’s name now gets added to a list of walking wounded that appears to be shrinking for the Buckeyes. Expected back in the lineup this weekend as OSU heads north to face No. 17/20 Michigan State (3:30 p.m., ABC) are junior linebacker Austin Spitler, sophomore wide receive Dane Sanzenbacher and senior tight end Rory Nicol.
Redshirt freshman tailback Dan “Boom” Herron will have his status evaluated Wednesday and a determination about his playing time this weekend will then be made, Tressel said. In addition, freshman offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts is out and could miss significant time and classmate Mike Adams will be out as well.
But as with Wilson’s situation, Tressel’s focus is on the players who will be able to play this weekend and for the rest of the season. Following the team’s lackluster 16-3 victory against conference cellar-dweller Purdue, Tressel placed a large amount of fault with the team’s struggling offense.
After putting up just 222 yards of total offense, the offense did not have a single player grade out with a winning performance, Tressel said. As such, the team did not name an offensive player of the week or a Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week for the second time this season.
Assigning fault on both the team’s game plan and its execution, Tressel said he believes the mistakes made against the Boilermakers are correctable in a week’s worth of practice.
“I hate to say it, but we’re not executing,” Tressel said. “I wish it was something more than that.”
One of the primary problems, he said, is that the team needs to do a better job of protection at the point of attack. The issue involves the interior part of the line, Tressel said. Although the depth chart shows right guard Ben Person and left guard Jim Cordle having swapped spots, Tressel said that was a typo.
Tressel said he plans to stick with freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is still growing into the starting role. Although he talked about offensive linemen making mistakes up front and having M.A.’s – missed assignments – Tressel introduced a new piece of terminology concerning Pryor.
That term is “M.M.I.H.” – short for “made your mind up in the huddle.” Pryor had one of those plays against the Boilermakers.
“If he had handed that one to Beanie, he might be in the lobby at St. John (Arena),” Tressel said. “He decided to keep it, and those things are going to happen.”
There were fewer problems on defense, a side of the ball where the Buckeyes had six starters grade out with winning performances. Two of them – senior captains James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins – graded out to around 90 percent, Tressel said.
Jenkins earned the team’s defensive player of the week and nearly brought home the special units player of the week honors as well. Laurinaitis was named the team’s attack force player of the week.
“When you have that type of consistency with people doing their job and taking care of what they need to take care of, their end of the bargain is going to be held up,” Tressel said. “Hence a three-point game.”