The Buckeyes didn’t have a single game this year where all 22 of their regular starters were able to play. Injuries have been part of the story from the outset, even before they lost All-American receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to his hamstring injury.
Ohio State’s weekly availability report has been a guessing game of random injuries wrapped in a mystery stuffed inside an enigma. And even if players did see the field on Saturday, they didn’t always finish the game.
Running back Miyan Williams has missed two games, and been banged up in several others. Backfield mate TreVeyon Henderson has missed four games, including three of the last four. Receiver Julian Fleming missed the first two games of the season. Right guard Matt Jones missed the Michigan game. Right tackle Dawand Jones missed the Indiana game.
Nose tackle Mike Hall has missed one game, but has been dealing with injuries for at least the last seven games. Middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg has been playing with broken bones in both hands.
Cornerback Denzel Burke has missed two games. Cornerback Cameron Brown has missed three more than that. Jordan Hancock was seen as a possible starter at cornerback and he missed the first six games of the year. Even upon his return, he’s been off and on with playing time.
Safeties Lathan Ransom and Tanner McCalister have each missed a game as well.
The Buckeyes’ depth has been tested every step of the way, and despite the constant bumps and bruises, they are currently getting ready for the College Football Playoff in a semifinal matchup against No. 1 Georgia.
That game will take place New Year’s Eve, which means the Buckeyes will have over four weeks between games to get healthy. They already know they won’t have Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but that might be it.
“Everybody else, I think we should have,” head coach Ryan Day said last Sunday. “That was a little bit part of the story this year, and to be at full strength, or almost full strength, is going to be important to go beat these guys. So yeah, great to get a couple of weeks. And even last week, got a little bit more rested.”
The Buckeyes have been hardest hit at running back and cornerback. Both spots have been pushed to the bring this season. Five different cornerbacks have started at least one game this year, including true freshman Jyaire Brown. The top three cornerbacks — Denzel Burke, Cameron Brown, and Jordan Hancock — have only been available in the same game once this season. That is one reason why redshirt freshman JK Johnson has played the second-most snaps at the position this year.
TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have only played in three Big Ten games together this year. Redshirt freshman Evan Pryor was supposed to provide the Buckeyes with a three-headed attack at tailback this year, but he went down with a season-ending knee injury in camp.
None of the three were healthy for the Michigan game, though Williams was still out there for a handful of snaps. Transfer Chip Trayanum was supposed to play linebacker this season, which he did until he moved to running back late in the year. He was OSU’s leading rusher against the Wolverines.
“I think that the running back position, especially those guys, it was hard for them,” Day said. “There’s nobody that wanted to play and get on the field more than Trey and Miyan, but they just had some things that were limiting what they could do. And I give them a lot of credit to keep trying every week.”
Ohio State doesn’t share much information regarding injuries, but the good news for the current state of the state is that things appear to be trending in a healthier direction.
“There’s two things, there’s one you can get bruised or you can get kind of hurt, there’s things where you get injured, that just physically can’t do it. And it gets frustrating,” Day said. “This allows us some time to heal from those so that we can hopefully get some of this stuff behind us, so we can have a full-strength team going into it.”
It goes without saying that the healthier the Buckeyes are in the Peach Bowl, the better their odds will be of pulling off the upset. Injuries have been such a factor this year and they have absolutely held Ohio State back. Guys were in and out of the lineups, and it wasn’t just at running back or cornerback. Every spot had its issues, but the Buckeyes are hoping those issues will be lessened the rest of the way.
“I give those guys a lot of credit for trying it every week and getting out there and grinding through it,” Day said. “But it’d be nice to be at full strength.”