Fickell Expects Shazier Will be Ready for Gator Bowl
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After playing through a knee injury for much of the Michigan game in Ann Arbor, it appears as though Ryan Shazier will be available for bowl game after all.
Ohio State found out Sunday evening they would be playing the University of Florida—the team Shazier committed to originally—in 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. Interim head coach Luke Fickell, who is coaching the bowl game before joining Urban Meyer’s new coaching staff in Columbus, said he expects to have his talented young freshman available against the Gators.
Photo by Dan Harker
“I hope he’s OK,” Fickell said while appearing on the Gator Bowl teleconference.
“I’m not positive if I’ve heard it was an MCL or just a strain. Every indication that I get is that it might still be another week or so, but he’ll be all right.”
Shazier, a freshman from Plantation, Fla., injured his left knee in the first half of Ohio State’s 40-34 loss to archrival Michigan. After being helped off by the training staff, Shazier returned to the game with a sleeve and brace on his left knee.
It was apparent that the injury was inhibiting the play of Shazier, who was stepping in for senior Andrew Sweat, but he stayed out there and gutted his way to eight tackles in the loss.
It was only the second start of his young career, as Sweat missed the last two games of the regular season with a head injury. Shazier had a season-high 15 tackles the previous week against Penn State and finished the regular season seventh on Ohio State’s defense in tackle with 48, despite the fact he was primarily a special teams player for most of the season.
“He's a talented football player. Great explosion. Gets from point A to point B as quick as—I doubt if there's any linebackers that we have that get there a whole lot quicker,” current OSU Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said.
“He has instincts that are phenomenal. He makes plays. He's active. He's going to be an unbelievable linebacker at Ohio State. There's no question about that.”
The biggest question heading into the bowl game will be how much Shazier’s speed and lateral quickness is limited by the knee injury. They will certainly take every precaution to make sure he is physically ready to play, especially since Shazier is one of the brightest young players on the team, not to mention an almost guaranteed starter on next year’s defense.
Guys Who Want to Be There
One other rumor Fickell aimed to dispel Sunday evening was the notion that some of Ohio State’s seniors were hoping to skip a bowl game rather than playing in the postseason at 6-6.
“I never heard that,” Fickell said.
“If that was the case, those probably wouldn’t be the guys who we want to go to the game with anyways.”
The 2011 senior class has done a lot of winning at Ohio State. They were 33-6 coming in to this season with three Big Ten championships and two BCS bowl victories. A 6-6 season with three-straight losses to close out the year, including one in Ann Arbor, is not what they signed up for.
It has been a tough season for everyone at Ohio State, but Fickell would be shocked if anyone in his locker room had ideas of calling it a season before the bowl game.
“I cannot imagine guys in our program having that kind of feeling,” he said.
“I’ve been around these guys for a long time, I know what kind of competitive nature they have in them. That’s one of the most important things.”
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