Ohio State's Top Pass-Rusher Not On Plane
Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence did not fly with the team to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sunday ahead of the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
The team's top pass rusher and a first-team all-Big Ten performer with 14.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks may or may not be available for Friday's game against Clemson.
"He's working through some personal issues at home," coach Urban Meyer told reporters Monday, declining to elaborate.
The up-and-down Tajh Boyd was red hot in November before struggling against South Carolina, but he and expected first-round pick Sammy Watkins are capable of exploiting a vulnerable Ohio State secondary, which may be without starting cornerback Bradley Roby (knee). The absence of Spence would only exacerbate the potential trouble, though the Buckeyes do have three other players with at least six sacks.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier, the team's best player, has six sacks and a team-best 22.5 tackles for loss.
Spence leads a rebuilt line that replaced all four starters from 2012. The secondary will look different in the Orange Bowl as well, ESPN reports, with true freshman Vonn Bell expected to make his first start at nickelback while Tyvis Powell shifts to safety.
Ohio State gave up 35 points to a bad Illinois team Nov. 16, 41 to a down Michigan team Nov. 30 and 34 to defensive-oriented Michigan State on Dec. 7. Regardless of who's available on defense, quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Carlos Hyde and the offense are going to need to score plenty of points and control the clock if possible.