The reinforcements have arrived.
Along with Chase Young returning from suspension, defensive end Jonathon Cooper, linebacker Baron Browning, wide receiver Austin Mack and cornerback Damon Arnette will all be active and expected to play in Ohio State's top-10 matchup with Penn State on Saturday.
After missing last weekend's win against Rutgers, none of them were listed on the team's status report released on Friday morning.
“Chase is a big factor,” Shaun Wade said on Saturday. “Baron is a big factor. Coop is a big factor. Austin Mack is a big factor on offense. So having them back is going to be a blessing.”
|Ohio State Status Report for Penn State|
DT Haskell Garrett
OT Joshua Alabi
OL Matthew Jones
WR C.J. Saunders
S Josh Proctor
OG Gavin Cupp
RB Marcus Crowley
WR Ellijah Gardiner
S Ronnie Hickman
DT Taron Vincent
WR Kamryn Babb
DT Noah Donald (walk-on)
OL Brett Novick (walk-on)
Offensive tackle Joshua Alabi, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and offensive lineman Matthew Jones are listed as game-time decisions. Alabi has not played in a game since the Buckeyes beat Michigan State on Oct. 5, and Jones was listed as unavailable last week for the first time this season. Garrett has played in every game this season.
The Buckeyes will be without safety Josh Proctor, running back Marcus Crowley, offensive guard Gavin Cupp and wide receiver Ellijah Gardiner, each of whom are listed as unavailable for the game against Penn State. Safety Ronnie Hickman, wide receiver Kamryn Babb, wide receiver C.J. Saunders and defensive tackle Taron Vincent will miss Saturday's game, too, as they continue their recoveries from long-term injuries.
The status report distributed by Ohio State does not why players are unavailable or the expected length of each absence.
Cooper will make his long-awaited return, likely sliding back into the starting lineup alongside Chase Young. He had missed the past three games and the first four games of the season due to an ankle injury. With the starting duo of defensive ends back in the lineup, the pressure shifts away from the underclassmen – Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste – who primarily filled in for the past couple games. Cooper, in limited playing time, has three tackles this season.
Though Browning doesn't start, he played a nearly identical amount of snaps at middle linebacker to Tuf Borland in the first six games of the season. Since then, he has played 16 snaps in a win versus Wisconsin, played one snap in a blowout of Maryland and missed two games – against Northwestern on Oct. 18 and Rutgers six days ago. Browning's return gives Al Washington more options in the middle of his linebacker corps. He has 24 tackles, including five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season.
After missing the past three games, Mack will return to the rotation at Z receiver with Chris Olave. The senior wideout has 15 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns in seven games this season. During Mack's absence, Olave started three games, pulling in 16 catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Olave set single-game highs in both receptions and receiving yards with Mack out.
Arnette, who has played with a cast on his wrist all season, unexpectedly didn't play last week against Rutgers. Ryan Day said after Saturday's game, however, that the cornerback was "good." He's expected to return to the starting lineup opposite Jeff Okudah on the outside. As a redshirt senior, Arnette has 24 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception, which he returned 96 yards for a touchdown.
The absence of Proctor could pose a significant issue for the Buckeyes if anything happens to Jordan Fuller that forces the starting safety out of the game. Isaiah Pryor opted to transfer earlier this season, making Proctor the top backup to Fuller. With Proctor unavailable, Fuller's top backup will now be Marcus Hooker, who has played just 58 defensive snaps this season as a reserve.
If Garrett can't play, the Buckeyes could rely on Antwuan Jackson, their third-string 3-technique defensive tackle, to be the primary backup to Jashon Cornell.
With Cupp out and Jones a game-time decision, true freshman Harry Miller is likely to serve as the top backup across the interior offensive line, though Enokk Vimahi is listed as the backup left guard and Kevin Woidke and Ryan Jacoby are listed as co-backups at right guard.
If Alabi returns, he'll back up Thayer Munford at left tackle, with Nicholas Petit-Frere backing up Branden Bowen at right tackle.
The full depth chart for Saturday's game, as sent out by Ohio State on Friday morning, is below. (Note: Ohio State accidentally omitted Browning from the depth chart, but he is available to play and should be listed as a co-starter at middle linebacker.)