Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Injuries mount for Buckeyes defense

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Ohio State is dealing with more than a few bruised egos on defense after Saturday's humbling loss to Wisconsin.

Injuries continue to pile up for the Buckeyes' signature unit, claiming one of its superstars and another key contributor.

Senior linebacker and co-captain Ross Homan will miss a few weeks with a foot injury suffered against the Badgers. Freshman Christian Bryant, the starter at the "star" position, also is out after being hospitalized with a foot infection.

The Homan injury certainly jumps out because of all he brings to the table. Aside from Michigan State's Greg Jones, Homan is the Big Ten's best and most versatile linebacker, racking up a team-high 41 tackles to go along with an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, four passes defended and a sack.

Ohio State needs Brian Rolle and Andrew Sweat to step up and help sophomore Jon Newsome, who likely will move into Homan's starting role during his absence.

But the more significant injury could be Bryant, given Ohio State's rash of health issues at the safety spot. Senior Tyler Moeller (torn pectoral muscle) and sophomore C.J. Barnett (knee) both are out for the season.

Bryant will miss at least one game and is expected to be hospitalized until Friday. His father told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that Christian has cellulitis, a common bacterial infection that can turn serious if left untreated.

I've known people who have had cellulitis, and it takes some time to fully recover.

"He had an infection last week and we thought we had it under control and he played a little bit in the game," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday. "He had a not very good reaction to it on the plane ride back ... and he's been over at Ohio State Medical Center trying to get it under control. ... It doesn't look like he'll be out of there until late this week and [we] just want to make sure that we get that calmed down."

Tressel said he's not yet sure how the Buckeyes will proceed at the "star" spot, a safety-linebacker hybrid used in the nickel package. Starting safety Jermale Hines can play the "star," and Aaron Gant and Nate Oliver likely will see more field time.

Another option is to play the nickel with the players used in Ohio State's base defense, a tactic both Iowa and Miami employ, Tressel said.

The good news is Ohio State's next two opponents, Purdue and Minnesota, both rank in the lower half of the Big Ten in both scoring and total offense. Ohio State then has a much-needed bye week before closing the regular season against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan.

If Homan returns after the bye week, the defense should be in good shape. But Ohio State's depth will be tested, particularly in the secondary.

The Buckeyes aren't invincible on defense this year, and they could use some better fortune on the health front.

"Someone's got to step up," Tressel said. "If you want anyone to care that you've had three guys in your secondary hurt, you're coaching the wrong sport at the wrong school because we've got to be ready."