The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and the injured Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
How’s the depth at Defense with the 4 guys out last week. Is there a timeline for them to return?
With the Buckeyes looking unstoppable, what is the biggest test during this game?
— Jess 🅾️☕️💫🥂 (@Buckeyetxgrl2_0) September 23, 2019
The turnaround of the Ohio State defense is well underway. And even if the level of competition is about to get dialed up a notch, the Buckeyes can still take their game to a higher level, too.
Now four full games into the season, Jonathon Cooper still hasn’t played a down yet on the defensive line. Rising star Tyreke Smith has been limited to six quarters of action. Last week, Ohio State played it safe with Robert Landers and cruised through a blowout without the services of the veteran defensive tackle.
So, if this is what the Buckeyes are capable of without even having the entire roster available, look out for what they could do when they finally get back to full strength — which could happen as early as this week against Nebraska.
Multiple sources have indicated that the plan all along was to have Cooper back to 100 percent for the trip to take on the Huskers and their dangerous offense. That appears to be right on schedule as he’s been more active in practice and during pre-game settings as he works back from his high-ankle sprain. All indications at this point suggest that Landers will be back in the lineup as well with his absence last week just a precautionary measure, according to one source with knowledge of the situation.
Up front, that just leaves Smith and Taron Vincent dealing with injury issues. And the two are currently facing quite different circumstances for the Buckeyes.
Smith was once again going through a spirited workout during warmups for Ohio State ahead of the non-conference tuneup on Saturday against Miami (Ohio). That was previously an indicator that he was on the brink of returning from his offseason groin surgery when he went through drills the week before playing against Cincinnati. Smith picked up what appeared to be an upper-body injury during the win at Indiana in Week Three, but he didn’t look to be in any pain in the Horseshoe last weekend — and the Buckeyes would gladly welcome him back to bolster the pass rush alongside Cooper.
Vincent probably won’t be as fortunate with his shoulder injury, and the former five-star recruit might have to wait for another year before getting his chance to break out and show what he can do with the Buckeyes. Sources familiar with Vincent’s situation have suggested that the door hasn’t been definitively closed on him playing this season, and at least initially there was some thought given to battling through the pain. But the heavy sling and padding Vincent has been wearing on his right arm is a clear sign that it’s a significant injury, and that will continue to leave the work on the interior to guys like Davon Hamilton, Tommy Togiai, Haskell Garrett, Jashon Cornell and a healthy Landers.
But getting three of those banged-up Rushmen back in time to visit Nebraska and dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez would be huge for the Buckeyes. And it also wouldn’t hurt to have C.J. Saunders return at H-back and on special teams this week, which also looks like a distinct possibility.
Ohio State is getting stronger as the season gets rolling. And now it looks like it’s going to get deeper as well.
Miss any previous editions of Question of the Day? Catch up right here.