FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Ohio State’s focus might not be completely on the game the day before the battle for the Orange Bowl. Split between hoping to snag a win and battling health, suspensions, injuries and new positions, players’ and coaches’ focuses are pulled thin.
“We’ve got to get some guys healthy. It’s pretty much through our team now. We had a week-long battle with some virus stuff,” coach Urban Meyer said in a press conference Thursday. “Our Jeff Heuerman seems to be the last casualty that we’re working through.”
As the 24-hour bug makes its way out of the picture, casualties in the lineup still persist. A three-game suspension has sophomore defensive lineman Noah Spence sitting out, and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby is still pushing through a knee injury sustained during the Big Ten Championship.
Two starters out means Meyer has had to shift players to unfamiliar territory.
“(Redshirt-freshman defensive back) Tyvis Powell and (freshman defensive back) Vonn Bell will be starting at positions they’ve never started before … We’ve made some adjustments to scheme,” Meyer said.
As the numbers across the field change, Meyer has had to place faith in players who haven’t seen quite as much playing time. Sophomore defensive end Jamal Marcus has yet to start a game in the 2013 season and has recorded 15 tackles in contrast with Spence’s 52 tackles.
“Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy. He’s one of the more talented guys on our team. I’m anxious to watch him play,” Meyer said. “He’s a quick twitch guy. This is his kind of game.”
With Marcus geared up to take Spence’s place, the uncertainty of Roby’s injury still lingers. The cornerback trails only junior linebacker Ryan Shazier and redshirt-senior safety C.J. Barnett with 69 tackles. Only 10 tackles stand between Roby and the No. 2 position on the team.
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said staff would be taking the injury day-by-day, yet there still has been no word on Roby’s health status.
Roby’s injury is another reminder of the loss to Michigan State Dec. 7, and that defeat is still on the minds of many.
“You get back, and you see the players you care about and see the pain on their face. We had a real emotional meeting. I don’t know if emotional is the right word, but just like you would with any type of family members going through a hard time. From that point forward, they’ve been fine,” Meyer said.
The coaches and players are attempting to shake off the loss (a feeling unknown to many newcomers on the team) and silence criticism of the formerly long undefeated Buckeyes.
Kickoff between the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) and the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (10-2) is set for 8:30 p.m. Friday at Sun Life Stadium.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 2, 2014
An earlier version of this article stated that the Orange Bowl would take place Thursday Jan. 2, when it in fact is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3.