|Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino (6). TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell|
COLUMBUS — With just two games remaining on Ohio State's quest for perfection, the No. 5 Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) are using their bye week to stay sharp, but also to mend after 10 straight weeks of grinding.
And no position is more important to the Buckeyes' stretch run than at linebacker, a unit that has been battered and bruised in recent weeks.
Well, that group just got a bit stronger, as senior strongside linebacker Etienne Sabino is back on the practice field after missing the last four games with a fractured right fibula.
Sabino, who in six games this season has recorded 37 tackles, two sacks and an interception, brings a veteran presence back to the linebacking corps which has been led by sophomore Ryan Shazier, a converted fullback in Zach Boren and a bunch of true freshman ever since the senior went down a month ago.
There is a lot of excitement about Sabino's return inside the locker room.
"It's great having (Sabino) back out there," Shazier said. "It's great to have another dude that we can trust. I feel that he's going to help out a lot.
"At the line of scrimmage, he knows what to do at that SAM position. He'll be able to keep leverage and help us keep their linemen from getting a push."
Even those on the other side of the football are getting a little pep in their step about their comrade's return.
"It's good to see No. 6 out there," junior offensive tackle Jack Mewhort said of Sabino. "He's a captain, he's a leader, and to see him back healthy and see him happy is huge for us and the morale of this team."
Shazier said that Sabino is just as pumped as his teammates about getting back to action.
“He’s real excited,” Shazier said. “He’s trying to do a lot. He is just trying to get every extra rep he can get. He’s just happy, you can tell. He’s into it. He’s talking about it a lot.”
Following the bye week, the Buckeyes will travel to Wisconsin and then return home for the season finale against Michigan.
According to OSU head coach Urban Meyer, if the Buckeyes are to run the table and win the Leaders Division, having Sabino, Shazier and Boren on the field will be crucial.
"Those are our three top guys right now," Meyer said of the linebacker trio. "The next two games, you'll need them all, all three of those guys."
BUCKEYES-BADGERS KICKOFF TIME ... Ohio State's start time at Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 17 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., according to the university.
The game will be broadcast on ABC.