Buckeyes burdened with injuries, illness and suspension days before Orange Bowl
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Health has become a big issue for Ohio State during its week in South Florida, and that was no different Wednesday when head coach Urban Meyer met with reporters.
On the bright side, middle linebacker Curtis Grant is healthy after battling a back injury in the second half of the season, but that was overshadowed by a less-than-promising prognosis for All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby.
"Curtis Grant I think is fine," Meyer said. "I don’t think Roby is going to make it."
Roby suffered a knee injury in the Buckeyes’ 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Dec. 7. He returned to that game after missing a Spartan scoring drive, but his recovery has not gone at the rate hoped for by the staff.
Sophomore Armani Reeves is expected to replace Roby, a junior who has already announced he will skip his last year of eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Ohio State will also go into its matchup with Clemson missing starting defensive end Noah Spence, a sophomore who received a three-game suspension from the Big Ten that was announced Wednesday morning.
The league did not identify the rule Spence broke, but the Columbus Dispatch reported it was for using an unapproved dietary supplement.
"He is one of my favorite guys," Meyer said. "Sometimes things happen in life that you’ve got to move on. And football teaches you that. A lot of things teach you that, so you’ve got to move forward I love that guy though, that’s a great kid. 3-point-plus student."
Prior to the announcement of the punishment, the head coach had been holding out hope Spence would be able to join the team before the Orange Bowl, but an appeal was denied by the Big Ten.
"I really wasn’t (planning to play without him)," Meyer said. "I was just disappointed that the appeal didn’t go through. Noah is one of my favorite players, great family, great person, so we’ve got to move forward."
Aside from injuries, the Buckeyes have also had multiple bouts of a flu-like disease that has gone from the team. Quarterback Braxton Miller was among those felled by the illness Tuesday morning, but he was able to practice each of the past two days.
Tight end Jeff Heuerman missed practice Wednesday, but Meyer said that was more of a precaution, both for the junior’s ability to recover and to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
"I think we’re on the back end of it," Meyer said. "I think it’s just one or two, but I think it was a significant deal."
Twenty-five days after their last game, the Buckeyes are ready to get back on the field against a team in a different-colored jersey.
"I think they’re tired of practice," Meyer said. "We’ve done games before and it gets to a point where it is ‘no mas’. We had a beach day yesterday and all the overweight players are the ones who were in the water most of the time, so it was fun. This is a great group to be around and we’re very appreciative of being here at the Orange Bowl."