When Ohio State takes to the field to face Illinois this weekend, it will do so without a pair of former Cleveland Glenville Tarblooders.
Sophomore safety Jermale Hines will dress and make the trip, but head coach Jim Tressel said he does not expect Hines to play after suffering an injury against Northwestern.
“I don’t think he’ll make it,” Tressel said at his final press conference before the game. “He’ll go, but I’m not betting on him.”
A player who has turned heads this season in the most extensive playing time of his young career, Hines is seventh on the team with 29 tackles this season while playing at free safety and as the nickel back.
Tressel said he did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, while linebackers coach Luke Fickell said he took part in limited action Wednesday but was hobbling around. Tressel did not indicate who would take Hines’ place should he not be able to go, but sophomore linebacker Tyler Moeller has been listed as his primary backup for much of the season. In addition, the Buckeyes could use three cornerbacks on the field at once.
Although his status for the team’s season-ending game is unknown, Hines’ prognosis should be better than that of fifth-year senior defensive end Curtis Terry. Although he is listed as the primary backup to junior Robert Rose at end, Terry will be out for the remainder of the season, Tressel said.
“He’s been out for the year,” Tressel said.
Terry has six tackles in a reserve role this season. He did not make the trip to Northwestern last week.
Tressel listed defensive end Thaddeus Gibson and defensive tackle Todd Denlinger as being healthier than they were a week ago. Senior running back Maurice Wells did not practice Tuesday after suffering an unspecified contusion in the game against the Wildcats, while senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie worked through some soreness Tuesday and also took part in Wednesday’s practice.
It all adds up to a battered and bruised Buckeye team that will try to keep pace atop the Big Ten with a road game against Illinois. Weather conditions are expected to be blustery and cold, and Tressel said the team will approach it like any other Big Ten game.
“That’s Big Ten football and that’s November,” he said.
Adding to the situation is the fact that two of the conference’s top cornerbacks in OSU’s Malcolm Jenkins and Illinois’ Vontae Davis will be prowling on the defensive side of the ball.
“I would definitely think that those are two of the better guys in the country,” Tressel said. “It will be hard to define who did better. Those two guys will both play well for their respective teams, because they are good.”
Tressel said the two are similar because they both play with confidence and they are both explosive, fast and can hit.
It will also see two mobile quarterbacks in Terrelle Pryor and Juice Williams facing off against each other.
“They both create a lot of headaches for the opposing defenses because you’d better make sure they don’t start running wild, yet they both can hurt you big time with big plays in the passing game,” Tressel said. “Those things are the most frightening things to a defensive football coach.”
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time and will be televised by ESPN.