Already short one starter on the defensive side of the ball, the Ohio State Buckeyes could be without arguably their best defensive back for the Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson.
Redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby, who injured his knee late in OSU’s 34-24 loss to No. 4 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game Dec. 7, is still working back to full strength, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Monday.
“He’s still rehabbing right now,” Fickell said of Roby during a press conference. “We’re not exactly sure how he’ll be, and we kind of take it day-to-day.”
Roby, a first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media, is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown against Illinois Nov. 16. He ranked third on the team with 69 tackles, led OSU with 16 passes defended and blocked two punts in 2013.
Fickell said he was not sure if the injury Roby sustained against the Spartans was more serious than what was initially thought.
“You’d have to ask the doctors. I mean, there’s — there’s a lot of injuries that — you know, it’s not an exact science,” Fickell said. “I always tell those guys, a mind is a powerful thing. A doctor can tell you one thing or a trainer can tell you one thing, but what’s in your mind and how well you can heal and what you can do is probably as powerful as anything. So we don’t really know.”
The No. 12 Tigers (10-2, 7-1) sport one of the nation’s best offenses, led by redshirt-senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Boyd’s favorite target in 2013, Watkins leads Clemson with 85 catches for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Roby is able to play, it is likely he would be matched up with the talented receiver a lot throughout the course of the game.
However, if Roby has to sit out, and starting sophomore defensive end Noah Spence does not make the trip to Miami as he works through what OSU coach Urban Meyer called “some personal issues at home,” the Buckeyes could be without two of their best defenders on a unit that struggled late in the season.
“That’s tough, but that’s why you’ve got these other guys. It’s a part of the game that you don’t always account for, but it’s a reality,” Fickell said. “It’s a part of the game. We’ve got to deal with it. We can’t dwell on it. We can’t whine and complain about it. Next man up.”
Kickoff between the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) and the Tigers is set for 8:30 p.m. Jan. 3 2014 at Sun Life Stadium.