Ohio State will return a couple key contributors this weekend, but there's a chance it will be without two other starters.
Wide receiver Austin Mack, defensive end Jonathon Cooper and linebacker Teradja Mitchell are listed as game-time decisions for the Buckeyes' top-15 matchup with Wisconsin that will kick off at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Linebacker Baron Browning and left tackle Thayer Munford did not appear on this week's status report, which was released Friday morning, meaning they'll be available to play versus the Badgers. Browning missed last week's 52-3 win against Northwestern with an undisclosed injury. After being listed as a game-time decision last week, Munford did not start against the Wildcats, but he played 14 snaps in the second quarter.
|Ohio State Status Report for Wisconsin|
LB Teradja Mitchell
DE Jonathon Cooper
WR Austin Mack
WR C.J. Saunders
DE Tyler Friday
OT Joshua Alabi
WR Ellijah Gardiner
DE Noah Potter
TE Cormontae Hamilton
S Ronnie Hickman
DT Taron Vincent
WR Kamryn Babb
DT Noah Donald (walk-on)
DT Brett Novick (walk-on)
The Buckeyes will be without offensive tackle Joshua Alabi, wide receiver C.J. Saunders, defensive end Tyler Friday, wide receiver Ellijah Gardiner, tight end Cormontae Hamilton and defensive end Noah Potter, who are all listed as unavailable, against the Badgers. Kamryn Babb, Taron Vincent and Ronnie Hickman remain out, too, as they continue their long-term recoveries from injuries.
Due to a newly implemented policy this year, Ohio State does not disclose why players are unavailable to play or when they will be able to return.
Cooper's designation as a game-time decision continues what has been an unfortunately timed injury-riddled senior season. After missing the first four games of the year with an ankle injury, he returned to play in the Buckeyes' last three games, and he had said he hoped the off week before last week's game against Northwestern would help him continue to heal.
“I want to get back to feeling like myself out there on the field and not letting the ankle limit me as much,” Cooper said a week ago. “I just want to get back to feeling good and feeling like I can do everything and everything I want to do out there without it hurting.”
With Friday also sidelined for Saturday's game, a combination of Tyreke Smith, Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Zach Harrison will complement Chase Young at defensive end if Cooper is unable to play.
Mack, whose junior season was cut short by a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot, hasn't missed any time this year but is now apparently battling an injury again. Should he be unable to play against Wisconsin, Chris Olave would step into the starting role at Z receiver. Binjimen Victor, Garrett Wilson and even Jameson Williams could all be in line for upticks in snaps, too.
Munford's return to the starting lineup will steady Ohio State's offensive line, which will rely on the same five players who entered the season as starters. Alabi's absence for a second week in a row, however, means Nicholas Petit-Frere will be the top backup at both tackle positions.
Baron Browning's return boosts a linebacking corps that will be key against Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor-led rushing attack. Last week, Tuf Borland played all the snaps at middle linebacker in the base defense while Pete Werner played middle linebacker in a few passing situations, but Browning should return to playing a big role in the rotation this week.
Malik Harrison, Browning's roommate, said his fellow linebacker has been arriving to the training room as early as 6 a.m. the past couple weeks in order to get back onto the field.
“It means a lot, just having another presence out there,” Harrison said earlier this week. “Baron is a great player, so having him out there, we're excited.”