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Rose Bowl notebook: Bucks check in at full strength

Andy Gottesman / The Lantern

With less than 24 hours to kickoff, the Ohio State Buckeyes finally have a full bill of health going into a game for the first time since the season began. Dexter Larimore returns after a long break recovering from a knee injury.

The Ohio State offense “is as healthy as it’s been, especially the front half of the season. It just didn’t seem like we could get any continuity going from an execution standpoint, a practice standpoint,” coach Jim Tressel said. “I felt we got better as the year went. Really I think the only one banged up a little bit near the end was [quarterback] Terrelle [Pryor]. We seemed pretty healthy other than that.”

Aaron Pettrey returns from New Mexico State injury

Senior kicker Aaron Pettrey will return to the field after having knee surgery following an injury on Oct. 31 which forced him to turn the reins over to junior Devin Barclay.

Tressel said that the plan for the Rose Bowl Game is to allow Pettrey to kick field goals, while still having Barclay on the kickoffs. Pettrey is ready for field goals, Tressel said, but there is not a doubt about his range or ability, there is more a concern for his safety.

“I just don’t think I would put him out there on a kickoff for two reasons,” Tressel said. “One, the torque that you put into a kickoff with the running start is one thing, and then the coverage. He’s just shortly off of a knee surgery, and to put him out there and put him in harm’s way, those guys can return kickoffs. I don’t want a one-legged guy out there trying to help.”

The opportunity for Pettrey to play in the Rose Bowl is crucial as he prepares to play in an All-Star game in February and as he looks to continue on to the next level after the season, Tressel said.

Group of returners reorganized for Rose Bowl

With senior Ray Small and freshman Duron Carter suspended for the trip to Pasadena, OSU had to restructure its group of returners.

Wide receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher will be in position to return Oregon punts while running backs Brandon Saine, junior, and Dan “Boom” Herron will join Lamaar Thomas for the kickoff returns.

Thomas, who leads the team in with 376 yards on 18 kick returns, could possibly be playing in his last game for the Buckeyes. Thomas has expressed frustration with his lack of playing time at OSU and said that he will make his decision on whether or not to transfer after the bowl game.

Offensive line is thick with starters

Tressel said that the offensive line starters are as healthy as they have been all season and he is fully confident in their preparation for the game.

Starting will be center Michael Brewster, guards Bryant Browning and Justin Boren, and tackles Jim Cordle and J.B. Shugarts, Tressel said.

Freshman Marcus Hall and sophomore Michael Adams will also see playing time at right and left tackle respectively, Tressel said.

Buckeye defense will not disappoint, Tressel says

During last year’s loss to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ohio State defense looked tired at the end of the game, eventually giving up a late, game-clinching touchdown pass.

Tressel said, however, that he was not disappointed in his defense then and doesn’t anticipate being disappointed in his defense in the Rose Bowl.

Football is such a great team game, and if you think back to the Texas game and you evaluate it, you look at the first half, it was kind of an even played game, even number of snaps, those kinds of things,” Tressel said. “And then in the third quarter, offensively I think we only had like eight or ten snaps. And when you leave your defense on the field that long against good football teams, there is going to be a wearing factor.”

Even with an opposing offense as fast as Oregon, Tressel said he believes his defense stands a chance.

“Chasing Oregon around is going to make them tired, too,” he said.

Dynamic duos are name of the game for running backs

In 2006, Antonio Pittman, then a junior running back, rushed for 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns. His starring role had the perfect backup in Chris “Beanie” Wells, then a freshman. Wells rushed for 576 yards and seven touchdowns.

“I’ve always liked to have tempo changers as running backs like when we had ‘Beanie’ and Pittman.” Tressel said. “They were a little bit different in the tempo and the style that they would hit you. And I think that that always added a little bit more pressure on the defense.”

With Saine and Herron, more affectionately known as “Boom” and “Zoom,” that type of partnership plays out well. However, OSU is not the only team in the Rose Bowl with a one-two punch in the backfield.

LeGarrette Blount, running back at Oregon, was suspended earlier in the season for punching an opposing player, but will be playing for the Ducks in the game. Blount offers a contrast in style to starting Oregon running back LaMichael James.

“LaMichael is like, ‘ptchoo,’ and then all of a sudden Blount is going to run you over,” Tressel said regarding James’ elusive quickness and Blount’s hard-hitting tactics. “It adds more to [Oregon’s] repertoire.”

Tressel said that he is not underestimating Oregon, after having postseason games against two national champions and a No. 2 Texas team in the last three years.

“Oregon in my mind can play with anybody in America,” he said.

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