The Buckeyes do not play this weekend, but it will still be a busy stretch of days for Ohio State. There will be some practicing, but just as importantly there will be one last stretch of rest and recovery for the many walking wounded in Scarlet and Gray.
The silence you are hearing following that bit of news is coming from the phalanx of Big Ten football coaches expressing absolutely zero sympathy for the amount of injuries the Buckeyes have dealt with this season.
The sweat on their respective brows, however, is indicative of the fact that the next time this squad is on the football field, they’re expected to be the healthiest they’ve been since the season opener against Notre Dame.
Yes, that even means the return of star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who suffered a hamstring injury early against the Fighting Irish. It also means the return of leading rusher Miyan Williams, who missed this past weekend’s game against Michigan State but will be good to go when the time comes.
“I mean, going into today’s meeting, talking of going through the injury report, really, for a bunch of those guys, it was the expectation that they’re going to play for the Iowa game,” head coach Ryan Day said on Tuesday. “Now, they still have to come along and they have to have a good week and all that, but that’s the goal right now is to get them healthy this week, and have a full week of practice next week and those guys are ready to roll for Iowa.”
The amazing part is that the Ohio State offense has been missing players from week to week, and they’re still leading the nation in scoring at nearly 49 points per game. Smith-Njigba has played about 40 snaps this season, which is fewer than backup quarterback Kyle McCord. Junior receiver Julian Fleming missed the first two games of the season, sophomore receiver Emeka Egbuka was a game-time decision this past weekend, and graduate senior Kam Babb is still out at least a few more weeks.
And that doesn’t even cover the fact that running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have each missed a game this year.
The open date gives the Buckeyes one last week to catch a breath before heading back under. The timing couldn’t be better for Ohio State.
“I think it does come at a good time,” Day said of the open week. “There’s times where you start to get into a rhythm, and then you don’t want that bye week. I don’t know if that’s the case here. We’re gonna practice today, tomorrow, Thursday. Really put three good days of practice in and keep grinding on this thing. But it does allow us to get a few guys healthy heading into the Iowa game.”
It won’t just be the offense that is helped by the week off. Defensive tackle Mike Hall only played seven snaps against Michigan State because he was nursing an injury. On four of those snaps he failed to sack the quarterback. And now he’s going to get healthier.
The Buckeyes should also be getting Jordan Hancock back, the sophomore cornerback who was going to be heavily involved in the OSU defense this year.
“We were hoping going into the season he’d be battling for a starting position. So I guess that wouldn’t really change coming off of an injury,” Day said. “But he’s got to get back on the field and prove that — he’s just got to start off by getting some games under his belt and then we can kind of go from there. But we’ll be better if he’s in the lineup and start off by providing some depth and then go from there.”
Even without Hancock and a limited roster of defensive backs randomly throughout the season, the Buckeyes still have produced a Top 10 defense in terms of yardage allowed. That was Ryan Day’s goal, but the stakes are going to start getting much higher.
Ohio State has yet to be full strength this season, and with guys like running back Evan Pryor and pass rusher Mitchell Melton out for the year, they’re not going to get there in 2022. But when they host Iowa on October 22, the Buckeyes are going to be healthier than they’ve been in over a month. That’s good news for Ohio State and bad news for everybody else.
The silence that you’ve been hearing from opposing coaches is about to give way to frustration and muffled cursing.
And lots and lots of fireworks.