OSU Backs Questionable, Line Improving

With a visit from New Mexico State on tap for Saturday at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said his offensive line is getting healthier while part of his stable of running backs is somewhat iffy.

Among the frontliners, Tressel said only right guard Bryant Browning has been healthy all year, but fellow starters center Michael Brewster (ankle), left guard Justin Boren (undisclosed) and right tackles J.B. Shugarts (ankle) are all healthier than they had been in recent weeks.

Jim Cordle, who started at left tackle last week in place of Adams, figures to be there again as Adams is out for at least two weeks with a knee problem offensive line coach Jim Bollman said Saturday would require a surgical procedure.

As for the backfield, Tressel identified Dan Herron (ankle) as questionable and said Brandon Saine (concussion) would be evaluated as the week goes on. Saine will be held out of contact today, per usual for an injury of that nature, but Tressel expects him to play if he is cleared by doctors later in the week. He said redshirt freshman safety Orhian Johson was in the same boat as Saine.

He said he would not approach the decision of who plays and who does not because of health with any different consideration based on the quality of the opponent.

"Not at all," Tressel said. "If Brandon Saine is cleared, Brandon's playing. If Orhian Johnson's cleared, he's going to play. If Boom Herron is cleared, he's going to play.

"We need to get better. That's just as important, and the best chance you have to get better is on Saturdays. Practices are critical. It's at a certain level, but it's not at the level that a game is, playing in front of the fans and the excitement and the energy, so, no, if a guy can play, if he's allowed to play, he's going to play."

If Herron and Saine miss the game Saturday, the top two running backs would be freshmen Jordan Hall and Jermil Martin, a proposition about which Tressel and his staff feel more confident after seeing the two both run well in a 38-7 defeat of Minnesota last Saturday.

In addition, Tressel said Jaamal Berry, another freshman who has yet to make his Ohio State debut as he has dealt with a lingering hamstring problem, is cleared for full participation in practice this week. The coach did not rule out his playing despite the chance to save a year of eligibility with a redshirt, and he said if the health situation worsens with the rest of the backfield, they would not hesitate to use Berry even for only one game.

As for the 3-5 Aggies, Tressel said he expects an offense that will use more two-back sets than most of the teams the Buckeyes face and a defense built on man-to-man pass coverage and blitzing at least 50 percent of the time.

The Ohio State head man praised the early work he has seen from first-year New Mexico State mentor DeWayne Walker.

"You can see as you watch the film that the guys are being taught the things that need to be done to become a successful football team," Tressel said.

Later he earned a laugh from the assembled group of reporters when asked what he thought about his team's being a 40-point favorite.

"We haven't got 40 points very often, so..." he said.

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