October 26, 2010

Sabino could play Saturday

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has always said players' best interests when coming to taking a redshirt season would take a backseat to the team's immediate needs.

Despite holding linebacker Etienne Sabino out the entire season up until this point in hopes of giving him two more years of eligibility, Sabino could burn his redshirt Saturday when Ohio State travels to Minnesota.

Sabino, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker that sports great strength and speed, was expected to step in as the team's starting strongside linebacker this season. Instead, Sabino was beat out for the job by Andrew Sweat in fall camp and agreed to redshirt in order to preserve years of eligibility as a starter.

With just four regular season games remaining on the schedule, Sabino could be needed on special teams and in the lineup at linebacker due to the rash of injuries the defense has endured up to this point.

"I just found out today that he was going to step out and play," senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said Tuesday evening. "I was a little surprised. He was redshirting this year but we've got a few guys banged up and now he's going to step up and play."

Sabino had made a name for himself on special teams, but it is the injuries at linebacker that could have him needed as soon as Saturday.

Though Sabino agreed to sit out this season, injuries to linebackers Ross Homan and Dorian Bell presumably have Ohio State in need of help on both special teams and defense.

Homan will be out this Saturday against Minnesota after he injured his ankle in the Wisconsin game and Bell has not played since sustaining a concussion against Indiana. Bell's status will be evaluated on a week-by-week basis.

"We've got Ross a little bit banged up, so Sabino is going to step in and play a little bit," Chekwa said. "We've got guys ready to play and hopefully he just comes in and begins where he left off."

Added Tressel: "I think (Ross) will do a little land running today. He's been running in water a lot. I don't think there will be any way that he would be ready for this weekend."

The potential of playing Sabino has caught some by surprise, especially with Ohio State being just one week away from a bye week, which could give players an extra few weeks before inviting Penn State into the Horseshoe on Nov. 13.

The decision to keep Sabino off the field was to give him the opportunity to be a two-year starter on the Buckeyes' defense. Having already endured big special teams issues so far this season with Sabino on the bench, burning the linebacker's redshirt toward the end of the season could be perceived as a mistake.

But as Tressel stated, the Buckeyes are concerned with the present, not the future. And if the Buckeyes need help from Sabino - who recorded seven tackles last season - they will put him on the field now.

While that decision could be difficult for Sabino given he has sacrificed playing time all season for the potential of staying at Ohio State an extra year, Chekwa said it is possible he could be the only answer.

"I think it might be difficult for him. You have to weigh your situation, but ultimately he can be the only one to answer that question," Chekwa said. "Hopefully he just comes out here and plays hard and starts where he left off."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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