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Ohio State players upset over loss of Sprinkle, confident in defense without him

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 Tracy Sprinkle (93) lays on the field with a leg injury. He left the game following his injury during the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

Tracy Sprinkle (93) lays on the field with a leg injury. He left the game following his injury during the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

With one shove from a Bowling Green offensive lineman, the season of Ohio State redshirt junior defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle took an abrupt turn on Saturday afternoon. The shove sent Sprinkle backwards, causing his right knee to buckle awkwardly inward.

OSU coach Urban Meyer shared the news that many Buckeye fans feared while watching the starting defensive tackle off the field. The training staff that helped Sprinkle off the field told the coach that the injury was with his patella tendon.

“It’s a surgery and a season-ending is what I’ve been told. We’ll update further as we know more,” Meyer said. “And that’s the worst part of this darned game is when a guy gets hurt, especially a guy like that who has committed so much to this team and program. Our prayers are with Tracy.”

Few comeback stories are as unique as that of Sprinkle. After being dismissed from the team for off-the-field issues, Sprinkle earned his way back to the Scarlet and Gray and earned the trust of Meyer.

Many held high expectations for the Elyria, Ohio, native. The OSU coaching staff spoke volumes about Sprinkle during spring drills, and ultimately rewarded his hard work with a starting role.

The comradery the Buckeyes have keeps the team close, and results in a universal feeling of sorrow throughout the entire program when a player is injured. Fellow OSU defensive linemen were pleased by how the team performed on Saturday, but felt a certain level of remorse for what their teammate had went through.

“He’s everything. When we think of Rushmen, ‘How She ‘Gon Eat,’ everything. That’s Tracy,” junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. “I hate to see him go down, but I know he will still be there in spirit and he’s going to bounce back. He will definitely bounce back.”

The replacement for Sprinkle, redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones, did not record any tackles against Bowling Green. Jones is a former three-star prospect according to 247Sports, and will most likely be moved into the second defensive tackle position, with junior Michael Hill moving over to take over up to fill the hole left by Sprinkle.

The depth of the team that Meyer has talked about for the past few months will likely be put to the test following the injury to Sprinkle. Currently on the depth chart, the Buckeyes have three defensive tackles other than Sprinkle. According to the roster, there are eight total players at the position.

Replacing a starter is never an easy task for any team, but redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard knows the team is up to the challenge.

“We can’t really replace a guy like Tracy, but young guys and other guys like ends gotta step up and improve their game and pick up what he left behind. But, he’s still going to be there for us,” Hubbard said. “We’ll see if we move guys around, but I’m confident in Dre’Mont Jones and Davon (Hamilton) all them to help us.”

Hamilton, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle from Pickerington, Ohio, took advantage of his playing time, picking up a share of a sack with Holmes.

Any changes Meyer and the rest of the OSU coaching staff make are expected to be announced later in the week.

The Buckeyes will be put to the test, minus Sprinkle, on Sept. 10 at 3:30 p.m. against Tulsa in Ohio Stadium.

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