Still reeling from their overtime loss to Purdue that may have put a Big Ten Championship out of reach, the Ohio State football team is struggling to get healthy for this weekend’s pivotal conference game against Penn State.
The Buckeyes suffered two injuries to key defensive players against the Purdue Boilermakers, while two other impact players did not even dress.
In the first quarter of action in West Lafayette, Ind., senior linebacker Andrew Sweat suffered a concussion and had to be helped from the field. Coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday that Sweat could be out indefinitely.
“I don’t know that he’s going to be available for who knows how long,” Fickell said. “The biggest concern is that he gets OK, regardless of the football aspect of things.”
The team’s leader in tackles with 68, Sweat also has an interception and a forced fumble this season.
Sweat’s injury forced true freshman Ryan Shazier into his first significant action of the season on defense. Fickell has expressed confidence in Shazier in the past and said he was pleased with what he saw against Purdue.
“Ryan stepped up for us,” he said. “He did a good job of handling himself, running around and being active doing everything we needed him to do.”
Shazier had his biggest game of the season as he tallied seven tackles, a quarterback sack and a forced fumble. He is listed as a starter on this week’s depth chart.
Sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan “Big Hank” Hankins left the game in the second half against Purdue with a knee injury and did not return. Fickell said he doesn’t expect Hankins to be available against the Nittany Lions.
“Right now, it doesn’t look real good, but we’ll see as the week moves along,” Fickell said. “We don’t know.”
Hankins is the team’s third-leading tackler with 54 from his defensive line position and has nine tackles for loss this season.
Fickell said the team doesn’t think the knee injury is serious.
“We got some decent news … hopefully it’s not a season-ending (injury) or a six-month (injury),” he said. “But we’re not positive just yet.”
Senior offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts (knee) and sophomore wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown (ankle) did not dress against the Boilermakers and Fickell is unsure of either player’s status against Penn State as well.
Both players are listed as possible starters against the Nittany Lions, but Fickell said the decisions will be made as the week continues.
“Today and tomorrow will be a part to see if (Shugarts) can do it,” Fickell said. “He’s probably close, but I would say he’s very questionable whether he will be able to make it for Saturday.”
Shugarts suffered a knee sprain Nov. 5 against Indiana. His string of 24 straight starts for the Buckeyes was broken against Purdue.
Brown has missed four games this season due to injury in a thin Buckeye receiving corps that looks to also have senior receiver DeVier Posey returning from suspension this weekend.
The Buckeyes will face the No. 21 Nittany Lions Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.