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After ‘cautious’ injury approach, Buckeyes could see big payoff now

Jonathon Cooper-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper is trying to get back in the lineup for the closing stretch. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

After ‘cautious’ injury approach, Buckeyes could see big payoff now

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 health of the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Ohio State is about to get an influx of talent just in time for the biggest games on the schedule.

The looming question is just how close to full strength the Buckeyes can get after essentially using the last three weeks as an extended rehab period for a handful of key starters. Considering how dominant the program has been while dealing with significant absences in essentially every game so far, it’s scary to think that its best football might still be ahead of it down the stretch.

So, how many guys will Ohio State be getting back for the Penn State clash for the Big Ten East Division title? Pending game-time decisions, the Buckeyes should have a good feel for that by Friday — but they appear to be trending in a positive direction with all of the potential difference-makers.

For starters, Chase Young will obviously be back after serving his two-game NCAA suspension. His impact simply can’t be understated, and the return of the best defensive player in the country is a massive boost for the Buckeyes.

Baron Browning-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning could provide a lift for the Buckeyes against Penn State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

In the secondary, Ohio State is almost certainly going to have Damon Arnette cleared at cornerback after playing it safe with him last week at Rutgers. The senior dressed and participated in warmups before the Buckeyes elected to play depth against the overmatched Scarlet Knights, but Arnette isn’t believed to have a new injury other than the wrist ailment that has had him in a cast all season.

From there it becomes a little less clear-cut for the Buckeyes. But defensive end Jonathon Cooper, wide receiver Austin Mack and linebacker Baron Browning were all in pads walking off the practice field on Wednesday night, a positive development for all three of them as they work back from their injuries. That trio has now had roughly a month to try to recover with eyes on the Penn State, Michigan and potential Big Ten title game matchups — and the Buckeyes weren’t going to push it with any of them if there was any doubt in games where they wouldn’t be needed.

“Certainly optimistic to get those guys back,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “It will be good to get them back, and we were overly cautious probably a little bit last week. But, yeah, looking forward to having those guys ready.

“I think we’re healthy and fresh at this point of the year, which is great.”

That doesn’t mean any of those guys with nagging injuries are completely healed, and both Cooper and Browning are unlikely to get back to 100 percent until after the season. Cooper has publicly acknowledged that he expects the high-ankle sprain to give him a bit of trouble for the rest of the year, but clearly the captain has been pushing to get back in time to compete for championships. Sources have indicated that Browning has been working through a core-muscle strain, and after testing it out early two weeks ago against Maryland, the Buckeyes again exercised that cautious approach to give him a couple more weeks to recover.

Obviously the Ohio State training staff isn’t going to put any of those players on the field unless they are healthy enough to play, and that decision hasn’t been made yet. The Buckeyes, though, are certainly expecting to get a boost in the lineup this weekend — and it could wind up being significant.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.