With his Ohio State team set to begin Big Ten play with a visit from Illinois on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes are getting ever so close to a fully clean bill of health, with the notable exception of right tackle Jim Cordle, who is expected to miss two or three more weeks with an ankle injury.
The head coach of the Buckeyes said both Zach Domicone, a redshirt freshman safety, and Jaamal Berry, a true freshman running back, were probably a week away from returning from their respective injuries but could be ready as soon as this week.
For Berry, a four-star recruit from Miami Palmetto, that might mean a decision on whether or not a redshirt is in order.
Before the season started, he was considered a candidate for playing time, but in the mean time he has seen classmate Jordan Hall earn carries along with upperclassmen Dan Herron, Brandon Saine and Marcus Williams.
That could mean Berry takes a redshirt if the rest stay healthy and productive.
“If you feel like you're solid with that and you can redshirt him, or if all of a sudden we need a little help there, but Jamaal is going to be a good player, too,” Tressel said.
The coach did not shed much light on what fans can expect to see out of the left tackle position, where Andy Miller and Mike Adams were listed as co-starters on the depth chart published Monday by the university, but he said he was happy several offensive linemen were able to play different positions as that situation there continues to be sorted out.
Looking back at the Buckeyes’ most recent game, a 38-0 win over Toledo at Cleveland Browns Stadium three days earlier, he said, “I think we played Saturday afternoon with a good purpose. I thought it was good for the city of Cleveland, it was good for our northern Ohio kids to have a chance to go back home, and they’d always admired that stadium and the thought of playing in there, you could see them as we did our Friday walk-through kind of walking on to the orange helmet in the center of the field looking around and it was a pretty neat thing. So I thought it was a good day.”
In handing out team awards for the week, he singled out redshirt freshman Ben Buchanan as special teams player of the week for filling in as an emergency replacement for regular punter Jon Thoma, who missed the game with the flu but was able to return to the team at the start of this week.
“Ben had not punted for the last 10 days or so because of a little soreness in his leg,” Tressel said. “And he was given a battlefield commission to step in there and did a good job, 42-yard net and handled a couple average snaps and really did a good job there.”
Linebacker Ross Homan was named defensive player of the week after posting six tackles and recovering a fumble, while receiver Dane Sanzenbacher earned offensive laurels for snagging five passes for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Bryant Browning, who played both guard and tackle as the Buckeyes tried multiple combinations against the Rockets, was named the Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week, and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was named the “attack force” player of the week.
“I think Cam only had 20 or 21 plays, but the plays he was in there, he was disruptive,” Tressel said. “He made plays, he hurried the quarterback. I’ve probably not seen more throwaways in a game than I saw in that game.”
As for the scout team, Tressel singled out freshman receiver Tony Harlamert for special teams, freshman Jordan Whiting on defense and freshman receiver Chris Fields on offense.
“I think Chris is going to be a good player,” Tressel said. “I told (receivers coach) Darrell Hazell and those guys more than once that Chris reminds me of the way that Santonio looked as a freshman. He’s over there on the scout team, making plays and just has that certain something about him, and I tell Chris that too. I mean, that's who he reminds me of. Someone said, what's he look like. I think Chris Fields is going to be a good football player and we'll see if he gets to the Santonio Holmes level. Santonio obviously climbed, but at this moment, I've got a lot of good feel about what he's going to become.”