Ohio State Buckeyes: Senior LB could miss Nebraska game

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 23:  Justin Hilliard #47 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates with teammates /bbd4 #4 and Jeff Okudah #1 after intercepting a Penn State Nittany Lions pass in the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Penn State 28-17.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 23: Justin Hilliard #47 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates with teammates /bbd4 #4 and Jeff Okudah #1 after intercepting a Penn State Nittany Lions pass in the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Penn State 28-17. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Ohio State should be close to full strength when the Buckeyes play host to Nebraska on Saturday.

The notable exception would be if senior linebacker Justin Hilliard is unable to go.

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He is listed as a game-time decision (unidentified injury) on the pregame status report the school released Friday morning.

Hilliard was the team’s fourth linebacker last season and part of sub packages, including a 4-4 alignment the Buckeyes rolled out against Wisconsin.

This season he is expected to share the No. 1 SAM role with Baron Browning, a fellow senior who was also a five-star recruit who has not broken through and found a full-time spot on the defense yet.

Browning moved outside this offseason while last year’s primary SAM, Pete Werner, has moved inside to the WILL position.

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Jaden McKenzie, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman who could earn a spot in the rotation but isn’t expected to be a starter, is also a game-time decision.

A dozen players are out, including Jaylen Harris and Gavin Cupp, seniors who could be on the depth chart at receiver and offensive guard, respectively, if healthy.

Running backs Marcus Crowley, a sophomore who suffered a knee injury last season, and true freshman Miyan Williams are also out.

That reduces the practically unprecedented depth at that position the coaching staff bragged about in the preseason but still leaves Trey Sermon, Master Teague, Steele Chambers and Xavier Johnson available.

Sermon, a transfer from Oklahoma, and Teague, the primary backup to J.K. Dobbins last season, are expected to be the main backs with Chambers available to spell them and Johnson expected to play a hybrid role.

Senior Demario McCall can also play running back or receiver.

Ohio State did not release a depth chart, as it did on Fridays last season, but the absence of some names from the status report could be a good sign for several players who were not 100 percent entering the preseason.

Most notably that would be defensive tackles Taron Vincent and Haskell Garrett, who are expected to be part of coach Larry Johnson’s rotation if healthy.

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