Ohio State football: Key defensive player full-go for Penn State game

Tuf Borland returned to Ohio State’s starting lineup two weeks ago.

For the fourth-ranked Buckeyes’ biggest game so far, he is available full time for the first time when the Buckeyes play at No. 9 Penn State on Saturday.

Coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday the sophomore linebacker is no longer “on a pitch count” as he was for the first four games as he returns from an Achilles injury.

One of Ohio State's seven captains, Borland has eight tackles on the season.

He started nine games last season and finished with 58 stops including 3.5 for loss and a sack.

Facing a Penn State offense averaging 55.5 points per game, the Buckeyes will need all hands on deck.

They won't have star defense end Nick Bosa, but defensive tackle Robert Landers is expected to return after missing the win over Tulane last week.

Other items Meyer discussed on the weekly Big Ten teleconference:

  • Penn State hasn't lost a beat without star running back Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft last spring, or offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who has become the head coach at Mississippi State. "You have to give them credit because Myles Sanders pops right in there and he's an outstanding player. The quarterback (Trace McSorley) is the guy who gets it going. He's in a good scheme for his skillset and the thing that makes this thing go is his competitive spirit."
  • Meyer said his staff told him Penn State has one of the better offensive lines they have seen.
  • Meyer has lots of respect for Penn State and remembers a very tough environment when the Buckeyes were last there in 2016.
  • Regarding PSU's defense: "There's a bunch of new starters but very good, very active front." The Nittany Lions remain the same schematically and can rush the passer from both sides with a very active defensive line.
  • Ohio State will need its running game to be efficient this week. "You have to stay on schedule. This is a team that takes great pride in getting you off schedule. It's going to be a move-the-chains type game, get first downs and field position."
  • Ohio State's defense must avoid giving up big plays. "We've played solid defense. We've just allowed too many big plays. This is a big play offense.
  • Regarding quarterback Dwayne Haskins, "We always knew he was really talented" but his management of the offense has impressed Meyer.

In his teleconference appearance, Penn State coach James Franklin said: 

  • Sanders has been good since he stepped on campus but had to wait his turn behind Barkley. "He's gotten better every single day. He's very mature. He's obviously very talented."
  • Franklin likes the talent and experience of his offensive line.
  • Ohio State's passing game is obviously different with Haskins compared to Barrett, the starter the past three seasons. "Before they were quarterback-run oriented and now he's able to distribute the ball and get the ball to all the playmakers they've been able to recruit and develop all over the field."
  • He said he feels like he understands the criteria for the College Football Playoff but noted the committee members change and what members are looking for might also change. "We've been told what factors are supposed to be important, but the reality is you have individuals making decisions. The hard part is it's going to change yearly."
  • Both teams have the ability to make plays so the players can't get concerned about giving some up. They "have to chip away at championship standard for four quarters."
  • "The biggest thing is making sure your players understand this is going to be four quarters, a 12-round heavyweight fight with a bunch of good players on the field, two teams with sound schemes and there's going to be a ton of plays made."
  • He is concerned loosening transfer rules will have some negative consequences, including more players looking to move on at the first sign of adversity rather than working through it.

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