Ohio State could be less than full strength at tackle on both sides of the ball when Wisconsin visits Columbus for a crucial Big Ten game Saturday.
Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel told reporters Tuesday that defensive tackle Dexter Larimore will miss the game after suffering a knee injury during a 33-14 win at Indiana last Saturday night, but there was good news. The junior will not need surgery and is expected to return at some point this season.
On the other side of the ball, there is the potential Ohio State will have to operate without both of the players who have started games at left tackle this season.
Andrew Miller, a junior who started the first three games of the season, missed the Indiana game because of flu so bad the medical staff would not allow him to make the trip with the team. He was also barred from the football complex the following day and Tressel did not see him Monday, either.
Miller is one of “five or six” players out today with the flu, a group Tressel said he thinks also includes Mike Adams, a sophomore who alternated at left tackle with Miller against Toledo on Sept. 19 and Illinois one week later. Adams started against the Fighting Illini and against the Hoosiers.
“Adams, I think, has got the flu,” Tressel said. “Miller's out. I don't have that report with me, but there are at least five or six names, and I remember a couple offensive linemen and the reason I'm thinking it might be Adams is because I'm thinking, ‘OK, left tackle we'll go unbalanced, we'll go without one.’ ”
A reporter suggested perhaps J.B. Shugarts, the regular right tackle the last three games after starter Jim Cordle went down with an ankle injury, could shift back to left tackle, where he split reps with Miller earlier in the year while Adams toiled on the third team. Should Shugarts move to the left side, Marcus Hall would slide into the No. 1 spot at right tackle.
“That's a good thought,” Tressel replied, joking at least to some extent. “I'll let you know. I mean, it's going to be somebody, but (offensive line coach Jim Bollman) will figure that one out. Now, whatever I would suggest, Bolls will go with the other so I'll say you suggested that.”
Hall, a true freshman from Cleveland Glenville, made his collegiate debut Saturday in Bloomington, and the head coach expects fans to see more of him on Saturdays the rest of the season.
“We thought Marcus deserved the opportunity,” Tressel said. “He demonstrated that he could help us. You don't know what was going to happen, and we didn't know we were going to be without Andrew Miller. You don't know who's going to turn an ankle. I think two of the offensive linemen tonight won't be at practice because of the flu. So you just don't know, and you don't want to be too bare bones.”
While left tackle looks like it will be a question mark all week, Larimore’s spot at nose guard figures to be handled capably by two players who have already seen significant time there through the first five games of the season: senior Todd Denlinger and true freshman John Simon.
Denlinger has played 39 games in his career, including eight starts, and has eight tackles on the year, including four for loss and two sacks. He intercepted a pass shortly after replacing Larimore against the Hoosiers.
Simon has played in all five games this season and notched five tackles.
In other injury news, Tressel said Cordle is expected to be out for a couple of more games, while running backs Dan Herron and Jaamal Berry both should be healthy enough to play this week.
Herron started the Buckeyes' first four games before sitting out the Indiana game with a sprained ankle, but Tressel said he could have played in a pinch. Berry, a true freshman who has yet to play a game, was 95 percent and probably would have been the next player into the game if another injury had occurred in Bloomington.