Ohio State will be without at least 14 scholarship players this weekend, including its leading receiver.
Chris Olave, a junior wideout with a team-high 36 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns in five games, headlines the list of Buckeyes unavailable for Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game versus Northwestern, which was released by the team 75 minutes before the scheduled noon kickoff.
|Ohio State Status Report for Northwestern|
|S MARCUS HOOKER|
WR CHRIS OLAVE
LB BARON BROWNING
P DRUE CHRISMAN
DE TYLER FRIDAY
DE JAVONTAE JEAN-BAPTISTE
WR JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA
RB STEELE CHAMBERS
S BRYSON SHAW
S RONNIE HICKMAN
QB GUNNAR HOAK
WR JAYLEN HARRIS
LB TOMMY EICHENBERG
DL JACOLBE COWAN
S KOURT WILLIAMS
CB CAMERON BROWN
TE COREY RAU
LB BEN SCHMIESING
DT ZAID HAMDAN
WR CHRIS BOOKER
OL RYAN SMITH
LB CADE KACHERSKI
QB JAGGER LAROE
DB ALEX TAYLOR
Starting linebacker Baron Browning and punter Drue Chrisman will not get a shot to play the Wildcats either, per the program, as they've been included among the unavailable players.
Starting safety Marcus Hooker was listed as a game-time decision, but he's not participating in warmups and isn't expected to play. Backup safety Ronnie Hickman was a late addition to the availability report, having been ruled out prior to kickoff.
Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, defensive end Tyler Friday, defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, running back Steele Chambers, safety Bryson Shaw, linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, wide receiver Jaylen Harris and quarterback Gunnar Hoak also won't be available. They join cornerback Cameron Brown and safety Kourt Williams, who have been unavailable as they continue their long-term recoveries from injuries.
Linebackers coach Al Washington and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline won't be at the game either, the team confirmed.
The status report, which is released by Ohio State prior to each game, does not disclose any reasoning for absences or denote an expected return date for any players listed as unavailable.
Of note: The vast majority of players who sat out the Dec. 5 game with Michigan State are active for Saturday's tilt with Northwestern. All five starting offensive linemen, including left tackle Thayer Munford, center Josh Myers and right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, along with linebacker Tuf Borland, safety Josh Proctor and offensive tackle Paris Johnson should be good to go. None of them appeared on Saturday morning's status report, which deems all of them available to play.
Olave's absence means Ohio State will have to open up the passing attack beyond he and Garrett Wilson, who account for a combined 70 of the team's 107 receptions. Sophomore Jameson Williams and freshman Julian Fleming, in particular, move into important roles for the Buckeyes. Justin Fields will assuredly be looking their way more often.
— Chris Olave (@chrisolave_) December 19, 2020
Justin Hilliard will likely shift into Browning's spot, becoming the full-time starting Sam linebacker. Not having either Friday or Jean-Baptiste means defensive line coach will turn to a three-man rotation of Zach Harrison, Jonathon Cooper and Tyreke Smith.
With Hooker unable to play, Proctor will play at deep safety in his place, with Lathan Ransom backing him up. Shaw and Hickman also being out limits the options of secondary coaches Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes.
Not having Chrisman – who confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 – at punter thrusts Zach Hoover into a big spot. He's a senior walk-on specialist from Toledo.