COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The opportunity is still there, especially at linebacker.
Now the Ohio State freshmen just have to stay healthy.
Expected to help fill the void on defense after the loss of senior Etienne Sabino, a handful of young Buckeyes instead had to deal with injuries leading up to last week's trip to Indiana and ultimately didn't make an impact in the 52-49 win.
But the Buckeyes could still use some help from guys like Joshua Perry and Camren Williams, though they appear to have found a short-term fix for their depth issues by moving fullback Zach Boren over to lend a hand on defense. As it turned out, the real impact for the freshman class came up front against the Hoosiers.
Position: Defensive end
Stats sheet: Five tackles
What it means: Pressed into action after Nathan Williams was scratched due to a concussion, Spence had easily the most productive game of his young career against the Hoosiers. The pass-rushing talent didn't make any plays behind the line of scrimmage, but he played with good effort and ran down the ball to limit gains on a handful of short passes by the Hoosiers and could have earned a larger role heading into the stretch run of the season.
He said it: "The guy that played very well is Noah Spence, so the thing you have to ask yourself, OK, Noah Spence and Nathan Williams play the same position, so let’s have a conversation about that -- and we are. How do you get them both on the field at the same time is the conversation. If they’re the best 11, 4-3, 3-4, whatever, get them on the field. We’re good enough coaches, let’s figure it out. I’m not saying that’s happening, we’re just identifying who the best 11 players are and putting the puzzle together." -- coach Urban Meyer
Stats sheet: No tackles
What it means: The Buckeyes still have Perry listed on the depth chart as the starter in place of Sabino, just like last week before an undisclosed injury kept him from moving into the rotation against the Hoosiers and lending a hand. It may still be too early in the week for the Buckeyes to know for sure if he'll be able to fill in against Purdue, but they could certainly use his blend of size at 6-foot-4 and athleticism to help patch up the defense.
He said it: "He got hurt on either Tuesday or Wednesday, I want to say Tuesday when the whole shift with Zach went on. ... Josh Perry is also going to be [a contributor] -- we're just dealing with young kids and they have to play better." -- Meyer
Position: Defensive tackle
Stats sheet: 1 tackle
What it means: The 6-2, 295-pound athlete hadn't made a tackle since the season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), but he snapped that streak with a stuff on a fourth-quarter run by the Hoosiers. It's a small sample size of plays, obviously, and it's just one takedown. But getting Schutt some experience on the inside should only help the Buckeyes moving forward given his impressive credentials coming out of high school.