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Buckeye Brief: Ohio State injury updates and Urban Meyer coaching tree

Ohio State redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber (left) speaks with running backs coach Tony Alford (right) prior to the Buckeyes’ season-opening 49-21 win over Indiana on Aug. 31 in Bloomington, Indiana. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer addressed the media Monday afternoon two days after the Buckeyes’ 54-21 win against UNLV. Here are our takeaways.

Injury and suspension updates

Running back Mike Weber (hamstring) has been cleared to play and middle linebacker Chris Worley (foot sprain) was listed as probable for their game against Rutgers, Meyer said. Neither entered last Saturday’s game against UNLV.

Though the Buckeyes will return multiple starters against Rutgers, Ohio State received bad news as Meyer announced redshirt freshman defensive tackle Malik Barrow will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Robert Landers is probable for Saturday’s game. He did not play against UNLV and was wearing a walking boot during pregame warmups.

Redshirt sophomore backup quarterback Joe Burrow, who suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand prior to the season, played in his first game of the season Saturday and completed all four passes he threw for 37 yards. He only played one offensive series, compared with fellow backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who led the offense for seven series.

“Last week I wasn’t going to put him in harm’s way,” Meyer said. “Joe is such a tough guy. He thought he was ready after seven days. It’s a broken bone. So that’s why he went in later.”

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Michael Hill will not play against Rutgers due to an ongoing suspension for undisclosed reasons.

Offensive line important as ever

Last year, junior right tackle Isaiah Prince struggled mightily and the issues continued as he gave up two sacks during Ohio State’s 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. But Prince, whom Meyer said had his best week of practice, was named the offensive player of the game by Ohio State’s coaching staff for his performance against UNLV.

Prince’s improvement will be key to the Buckeyes’ offensive success. Meyer called Ohio State an “offensive line-driven program.” In 2016, Ohio State had two first-team All-American offensive linemen, center Pat Elflein and right guard Billy Price.

“I think any coach would stand in front of you and say if your offensive line becomes best in the conference, you’re probably going to win the conference,” Meyer said. “And last year we were not and we did not. So that means that we should be in the hunt if we continue to grow as an offensive line, and Isaiah is a big part of that.”

Chris Ash and what makes a good head coach

Few coaches have a coaching tree as vast as Meyer. From Texas coach Tom Herman to Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell and South Florida coach Charlie Strong, Meyer has been influential in the careers of many of his former assistants.

Rutgers coach Chris Ash looks on during a game against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Credit: Courtesy of Rutgers Athletic Communications

Therefore, he has seen what types of personalities work as head coaches and what don’t.

“I think if he lives in a little-tunnel world, sometimes those are your best assistant coaches, but they’re not meant to be a head coach,” Meyer said. “If they’re big picture people, and I think especially in college, the recruiting aspect, they can’t be good; they have to be your best recruiter on your staff or they’re going to fail.”

Rutgers coach Chris Ash, whom the Buckeyes will face off against Saturday night, worked under Meyer as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2014 and 2015 before taking his first head coaching job.

Meyer said he thinks the Scarlet Knights have one of the most improved defenses in the country in Ash’s second year at the helm.

“I knew Chris was going to be — he’s one of the best we’ve had,” Meyer said. “And obviously did a great job. We went from most missed tackles in college football to the fewest.”

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