Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Football [Print without images]

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Updated: December 30, 11:04 AM ET
Noah Spence dealing with 'issues'

By Austin Ward
ESPN.com

Ohio State's top pass-rusher wasn't on the flight with the team to the Discover Orange Bowl, but there is still a chance Noah Spence could play in the game as he deals with "personal issues."

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer confirmed Sunday that the All-Big Ten defensive end was absent as the final preparations shifted to South Florida ahead of Friday's matchup with No. 12 Clemson, but he didn't provide any details about the sophomore's situation or offer a definitive update on his availability this week.

Noah Spence
Noah Spence, who has 14.5 tackles for loss this season, did not travel with the Buckeyes to the Orange Bowl and his status for Friday's game is unclear.

"[Spence] didn't fly down with us," Meyer told reporters after the team's flight landed. "He's working through some personal issues at home."

Meyer said he "hoped" Spence would be able to rejoin the No. 7 Buckeyes in time for the final game of the season, but he didn't offer anything else about the star sophomore.

Spence finished his breakout campaign with 14.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, leading a defensive line that had to be completely rebuilt before the season after losing all four starters from 2012.

Ohio State could also be without starting cornerback Bradley Roby (knee) and starting linebacker Curtis Grant (back, ankle) as they continue to rehab injuries.

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Monday in Fort Lauderdale that he was uncertain whether either would play, but he did confirm that true freshman Vonn Bell will make his first career start at nickel cornerback while Tyvis Powell will shift over to start at safety.

That could give the Buckeyes three new starters in the secondary against one of the fastest receiver groups in the nation.

If Roby can't play, Armani Reeves would get the start.

"That's just the nature of the beast," starting safety C.J. Barnett said Monday. "Guys go down and other guys have to step up. I think we've practiced enough that our chemistry will be good and I think it's just up to us going out there and executing."

Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com contributed to this report.