COLUMBUS, OHIO – Jashon Cornell was ranked by ESPN.com as the nation’s No. 1 football recruit in the 2015 class when he was a junior at Cretin-Derham Hall.
He later dropped to 33rd on that list but was still a highly coveted defensive lineman when he committed to Ohio State the summer before his senior season. The 6-3, 265-pound Cornell graduated early, so he could enroll at Ohio State in January.
Cornell will redshirt, as will most members of this recruiting class. Entering Saturday, just four true freshmen had played this season for the Buckeyes, who are loaded with NFL talent.
For comparison, the Gophers have played nine true freshmen this year.
Injuries keep mounting
The Gophers had three new injured players to report before Saturday’s game, as left tackle Ben Lauer (concussion), defensive tackle Steven Richardson (calf) and Isaac Hayes (unspecified) were all out.
That meant the Gophers were down both of their starting defensive tackles (Richardson and Scott Ekpe) and three starting offensive linemen (Lauer, Brian Bobek and Josh Campion).
Foster Bush got the start at left tackle, with Jonah Pirsig at right tackle. Andrew Stelter, Yoshoub Timms, Robert Ndondo-Lay and Gaelin Elmore were all expected to see time at defensive tackle.
Redshirt freshman Jared Weyler made the trip as a backup guard, and sophomore Chad Fahning was a backup tackle. True freshman offensive lineman Ted Stieber also made the trip.
Not an audition?
Last week, interim coach Tracy Claeys brushed off talk that this game was part of his “audition” to get the job.
“If anybody’s going to be judged on three or four days of their career, I’d like to pick those days to judge other people, too,” Claeys said. “If that’s how it’s going to be done, I think that’s unfair. Hopefully it’ll be done on our staff’s body of work and what we’ve done, and not just here what happens.
“And I understand you’ve got to win, and winning’s important. We’ve done an awful lot to get this thing where it is from when we first got here. We have work to do, believe me.”
The Gophers were the only Big Ten team to offer safety Antonio Johnson a scholarship, when he was making his mark at Shaker Heights High School outside Cleveland.
He grew up in Buckeyes territory but had a strong allegiance to Michigan State, where his father, Craig, was a defensive back for the Spartans’ 1987 Rose Bowl team.
Johnson has carved his own niche with the Gophers. He played 12 games as a true freshman in 2012, and started about half the games the next two years. He entered Saturday tied with Cody Poock for the team lead with 55 tackles.
Johnson said he had been to Ohio Stadium one other time before Saturday, and that was to watch a high school all-star game when he was in fourth grade. He needed 20 tickets for Saturday’s game for friends and family members.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun came back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 to become a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback last season. His surgically repaired left knee remains strong, but he suffered a right knee injury Sept. 28 and missed two games.
The senior returned for the Oct. 17 Nebraska game and managed an interception on a tipped pass from De’Vondre Campbell against Michigan. Boddy-Calhoun is playing, despite not quite looking like himself.
• The Gophers added stickers to the back of their helmets, honoring former coach Jerry Kill and his “Chasing Dreams” foundation, for epilepsy patients, along with his cancer fund, which has the slogan “Tackling the Tough Times.”
• Shannon Brooks had to leave the game because of a neck injury. Fellow tailback Rodney Smith suffered a right ankle injury early but returned in the second quarter. Cornerback Jalen Myrick suffered a rib injury, returned for a bit, and then left the game.