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Football: Linebackers and more from Urban Meyer on the Big Ten coaches teleconference

Ohio State senior linebacker Chris Worley (35) sacks in the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan State game on Nov. 11. Ohio State won 48-3. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Junior linebacker Jerome Baker is cleared for Saturday’s game against Illinois, while redshirt junior Dante Booker’s status remains questionable, head coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference. 

Baker and Booker both missed last Saturday’s game against Michigan State with undisclosed injuries. With the two starters out against the Spartans, Meyer sent Chris Worley and Malik Harrison to the outside linebacker positions and started Tuf Borland inside.

The standout performance by the replacements has brought up the question of who will start Saturday for Ohio State, even if Booker and Baker are both healthy. Meyer said a decision on that will be made in the next two days. 

“I like the fact first of all, we’re building a bit of depth,” Meyer said Tuesday. “And second of all, those are very tough, consistent players and I’ve seen both playing a lot.”

One player who Meyer said has stepped up all season for the Buckeyes was Borland. The redshirt freshman filled in for Worley earlier in the season due to Worley’s injury and has since established himself as a co-starter at middle linebacker on the team’s depth chart each week.

“Just his consistency, it’s every day,” Meyer said. “He matches — it’s amazing his name is Tuf, he’s a very tough player, very consistent player, does things right and a very valuable guy for our program.”

Here are some more notes from Meyer on Tuesday’s teleconference:

Meyer on the three targeting calls that have been levied against his team this season:The one [by Denzel Ward] was misfire by an official and then the other two weren’t. I think Bosa’s was a hit. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one like that where it’s in a pile. It’s kind of in the pocket. But Dre’Mont’s is wrong. So I met with coach Schiano and coach Johnson we’re just going to constantly, there’s zero resistance on our end. We are proponents of the rule. I don’t think the rule is — it’s a good rule. It’s for the best interest of the game and our players and all players, so it’s just consistently educating and teaching it and making sure that people know it’s not acceptable.”

Meyer on the recent performance of freshman kicker Blake Haubeil: “Our kicker, ever since we’ve had, you know, the struggles early has been really, really good. So he’s kicking it right where he’s supposed to be. We’ve made some personnel changes and the personnel changes have been very productive.”

Meyer on if Senior Day will prevent Ohio State from sleeping on Illinois: “I think that you know it’s a very unique experience, Senior Day in the Horseshoe. I hear players talk about it. It’s an incredible tradition to salute the players in front of the great fans and I think just the coaching staff has to take the lead in the way we practice. There will be zero conversation about the past and the future. It’s about today and then Wednesday and then Thursday and go play well. And that’s our job.”

Meyer looking ahead at Illinois: “Their two-deep inside guys on defense stand out. You can tell they’re building for the future, and they can see there’s some young players on the offensive side of the ball that have brilliant futures and we’ve just got to make sure that future isn’t Saturday. We have a lot of respect for them and what they’re trying to do and their coaching staff and their players and the two inside guys can play anywhere in the Big Ten conference.”

Meyer on what stood out from the Michigan State game: “The offensive line play without question. They went against a very good rush defense, we’ve gone against them, but that’s our sixth time and it’s not easy to do what they did and they worked extremely hard and without question the offensive line play.”

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