The 2022 Ohio State football season will be remembered for many things as the Buckeyes made it to the College Football Playoff semifinal yet again. One of those is the injuries to key players that the Scarlet and Gray experienced last year.
Starting in Week 1 when Jaxon Smith-Njigba was hurt and essentially lost for the season and carrying through until the final game against Georgia in the Playoff semifinal when Ohio State was down to one player who started the year at running back available, injuries played a key part in 2022.
Speaking for the first time since the loss to the Bulldogs on National Signing Day, head coach Ryan Day updated that there has been some carryover of injuries into the offseason. Day said wide receivers Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka, running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor, offensive lineman Jakob James and linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Mitchell Melton and safety Kourt Williams are all on the list of players that will be out through spring practice.
“I think there’ll be a couple more. We’ll give you an update as we get closer to spring,” Day said. “But these guys have had some long-term just surgeries here. We’ll have them ready after the spring, but we’re just going to be careful with them throughout the spring.”
For Pryor and Melton, being out for spring practice comes as no surprise. Both players suffered severe knee injuries – Melton during last year’s spring game and Pryor in fall camp – and missed all of the 2022 season while rehabbing.
Henderson and Williams also were to be expected. Henderson was hampered by injuries throughout last year and missed four of the team’s last five games of the season, announcing before the Playoff semifinal that he was having foot surgery. Williams did not play in the final seven games of year with what was described by Day as an upper body injury.
Two others played through injuries during the 2022 season. Egbuka referenced more than once that he was not 100 percent and was battling issues during the second half of the year. Eichenberg played the final games of the season with broken bones in both hands.
James’ injury is unclear, as he was not listed on Ohio State’s availability report near the end of the year and played on either offense or special teams in all but the opening game of the season. This is expected to be a big offseason for James, who will compete to replace Luke Wypler at center.
While injuries are commonplace in football and it’s not uncommon to see players, especially veterans, sit out spring practice to rehab various issues, the injury list did seem rather unforgiving to the Buckeyes in 2022. While the overall numbers weren’t much different than other years, the number of key players that missed time for the Scarlet and Gray was alarming.
In addition to Smith-Njigba, Ohio State had to play with the team’s fourth-string running back, freshman Dallan Hayden, receiving significant snaps, only freshmen cornerbacks available for one game and without the Buckeyes’ starting tight end for a large chunk of the Playoff semifinal without their starting tight end and No. 1 wide receiver.
What’s next for the Buckeyes? Make sure you’re in the loop — take five seconds to sign up for our FREE Buckeyes newsletter now!
Despite the issues, Day does not believe there needs to be a mass overhaul in how the Scarlet and Gray handle injuries and rehab.
“I feel very strong about our doctors and sports medicine,” Day said on Wednesday. “And I think those are two similar situations, but also unique to themselves… I mean, I think our guys have handled it really well. I think we have some of the best in the country. There’s just some things like this that happened along the way. And you try to do the best you can. But overall, I think we’ve done as good as anybody over the past few years.”
Ohio State will use this offseason to improve and fill holes while also allowing these players to get healthy. The Buckeyes will then hope for a healthier 2023 season.