The Ohio State football team was missing two returning starters in its secondary for the season opener versus Buffalo, but at least one of them is set to be back for this Saturday’s game against San Diego State.
Following practice Wednesday, coach Urban Meyer told media that redshirt-senior strong safety C.J. Barnett, who missed the season opener with a sprained ankle, is back on the practice field and ready for Saturday.
Meyer remained noncommittal, however, on whether redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby would be in the starting lineup. Roby was suspended for the season opener after his involvement in an incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar in July, and Meyer said earlier this week the second-team AP All-American and Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist would have to earn his starting job back from sophomore cornerback Armani Reeves.
“We haven’t made that decision yet,” Meyer said. “He did pretty good today in practice, obviously you got to watch the film today. But he’s had two good days I believe. I know he had a good day yesterday.”
Roby and Reeves were listed as co-starters on the Buckeyes’ most recent depth chart, which was released Tuesday. Barnett was listed as a co-starter with redshirt-senior Corey Brown at strong safety.
Barnett’s return to the lineup will give the Buckeyes three returning starters on defense, along with senior free safety Christian Bryant and junior linebacker Ryan Shazier. Roby’s return would give OSU four returning starters.
One player who was conspicuously absent from the depth chart released Tuesday was redshirt junior running back Rod Smith, who was also suspended for the season opener due to a violation of team rules. Meyer said Wednesday, however, Smith is in the mix to be the No. 2 running back on the depth chart Saturday behind starter senior Jordan Hall.
“Jordan Hall will most likely start,” Meyer said. “Who the No. 2 (running back) is … I’m not sure.”
Meyer said Smith is set to play on the Buckeyes’ punt and punt block units Saturday, which Meyer said is “more important” than him getting on the field at running back.
The Tuesday depth chart lists sophomore Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt-freshman Warren Ball as the backup running backs. Freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson could also see playing time at running back, though Meyer said Wilson is “more of a receiver right now.”
OSU took a 23-0 lead against Buffalo before the end of the first quarter, but the Bulls twice cut the Buckeyes’ lead to only 10 points, once in both the second and third quarters. The Buckeyes scored the final 10 points of the game and ended up with a 40-20 victory, but on Wednesday, redshirt senior right guard Marcus Hall and junior middle linebacker Curtis Grant both admitted that the Buckeyes took their “foot off the gas pedal” after taking the big first quarter lead.
“I hate to admit it, but it’s the first game of the season and it’s hard keeping it going throughout the whole game,” Marcus Hall said. “That was just a wake up call that we needed, good thing it was the first game.”
Grant said last week’s game taught him to “just keep going” even when the Buckeyes take a significant lead like they did in the first quarter Saturday.
“With the defensive mentality, we’re never satisfied,” Grant said. “We just got to keep working and keep working hard to get where we want to go.”
Offensively, Meyer said the Buckeyes “didn’t adapt fast enough” when the Bulls made some changes to their defense after the first quarter.
Going into this Saturday’s game, however, the Buckeyes have had another week to do just that. Both Buffalo and SDSU run 3-3-5 defensive schemes and Hall said the experience against the scheme in the opener will help the Buckeyes’ offense this week.
“San Diego State, they’ve got a lot of athletes on their defense,” Hall said. “Not taking away anything from Buffalo, they did too, but they definitely prepared us for this defense. I feel like we’re better suited to go against it and will have less mistakes.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s contest between the No. 3 Buckeyes and SDSU, who lost 40-19 in their season opener versus Eastern Illinois, is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.