Monday briefing: Buckeyes thin at LB

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The defense is down to two healthy starters at linebacker.

That might be all Ohio State needs this week.

The loss of Etienne Sabino for at least three games due to a broken bone in his right leg will test the depth at a position that was already perhaps the most inexperienced on the roster. But as the Buckeyes prepare for a trip to Indiana on Saturday, they might be in position to survive for a week without the senior captain given the amount of Nickel they're likely to be playing against a pass-happy offense.

"Tremendous blow," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "Very good player ... and we’re going to miss him.

"We’re also dealing with [this offense], and this week will probably be a lot of Nickel. You’ve got Storm [Klein] and [Ryan] Shazier -- a couple older linebackers and the rest of them are freshmen."

The Buckeyes are going to need at least one of those young guys to contribute in the base personnel package, and Joshua Perry is in line for the start in place of Sabino.

They're also looking for more contributions from guys like David Perkins, Jamal Marcus and Camren Williams, who are much more likely to see action on defense now that the team's third-leading tackler is on the shelf for an extended period of time. But when Ohio State puts an extra defensive back on the field to match up with a passing attack that is throwing for more than 300 yards per game, it will be sticking with its veterans -- even if Shazier just barely counts as one as a sophomore.

"Any time one of your captains goes down, especially a big leader on the team, you need a lot of guys to step up," defensive end John Simon said. "[Sabino] gave a pretty good speech there in the locker room, and he just kind of laid it out for us.

"We’ve got a lot of guys who need to step up this week, and I think we’re starting to prepare for that task and looking forward to it."

Awards talk: Meyer still isn't ready to anoint Braxton Miller as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But the time appears to be getting closer.

The sophomore was named the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback of the Week after another wildly productive outing in a win over Nebraska on Saturday, and his work on the ground over the last two games to open Big Ten action has only strengthened his case as a potential option for Heisman voters at the end of the season.

But Meyer isn't ready to do any campaigning for his guy just yet.

"I don’t think Braxton is a Heisman candidate right now," Meyer said. "I think he’s certainly one to watch, he’s got the ability, but I don’t know who is [a candidate now]. We’re only halfway through the season, in two or three games I think you can start talking about it.

"I’m not talking to Braxton about it. We’re trying to win some games. I think at the right time, he will be a candidate if he continues to play very well."

Bumps and bruises: C.J. Barnett appeared to have a chance to get back on the field since he was in uniform for the win over the Huskers, though his high-ankle sprain again kept him on the sideline.

The Buckeyes might finally be able to turn the safety loose again this week at Indiana.

"Good sign yesterday, he was out there running around," Meyer said. "We need to have him back for obvious reasons."

The Buckeyes could use Jordan Hall back to add depth to the backfield as well, though they didn't exactly have any problem running all over the Huskers without him. Meyer didn't give an indication either way about the senior's availability for the meeting with the Hoosiers other than confirming the partial tear of a knee ligament "is not right yet."

Champions club: Running down the players who graded out the highest according to the film review of the 63-38 win over the Huskers by the coaching staff.

He said it: "We’re getting ready to play a big-time game in that great stadium and I get a bunch of text messages and phone calls, ‘Did you hear?’ We suspended him immediately for the game, a very ignorant comment. That’s exactly what it is, a 19-year-old kid making an ignorant comment, which makes him 1 of 460 million. We’re moving on, we moved on already, had a good chat and he’s very apologetic. He does go to class and he’s actually a heck of a kid." -- Meyer on Cardale Jones and his tweet about the value of classes last week