By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Ohio State fans have probably been spoiled in many ways by the Buckeyes’ recent football success.
One area where this is especially true but which might have been overlooked is in the run of outstanding kickers OSU has had from 2002 until the last two seasons.
This year, nine games into the season, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is still not certain who the Buckeyes’ most reliable option is when it’s time to kick a field goal. So, on Saturday at Illinois, Sean Nuernberger will replace Duke graduate transfer Jack Willoughby as OSU’s kicker, Meyer said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Willoughby is 7 of 11 on field goals but has missed three of his last four attempts and has not connected from beyond 39 yards.
Even though he had never attempted a field goal in four seasons at Duke, he beat out Nuernberger, who was 13 of 20 on field goals as Ohio State’s No. 1 kicker as a freshman last season.
“I’m very concerned,” Meyer said about Ohio State’s kicking on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday “We need to do better.”
From 2002 through 2013 Ohio State kickers were very good. Ridiculously good in some seasons.
In three seasons from 2011-2013, Drew Basil made 33 of 40 kicks, with season long kicks of 45 yards, 47 yards and 52 yards.
Devin Barclay was 20 of 24 in 2010 with a long kick of 48 yards. In 2009 Aaron Pettrey and Barclay combined to go 21 of 30 and Pettrey had a 52-yard kick before a season-ending knee injury.
In 2008, Ryan Pretorius and Pettrey combined for 22 of 27 and both kicked field goals of 50 yards or more.
Pretorius had the job to himself in 2007 and connected on 18 of 23 attempts with a long of 50 yards.
In 2006, Pretorius and Pettrey were 9 of 13 and both made kicks of more than 50 yards. Josh Hustson’s numbers in his one season as the No. 1 kicker in 2005 were 22 of 28 with a long kick of 47 yards.
And the three years before that, the gold standard of Ohio State kickers, Mike Nugent, was 65 of 74 with season-longest kicks of 55 yards, 52 yards and 47 yards.
BARRETT ON SCHEDULE: On Monday, Meyer said the only way J.T. Barrett would not be the starting quarterback on Saturday would be if he did not practice well this week.
Meyer’s verdict on Wednesday on Barrett’s work on the practice field was that he has looked “sharp.”
Barrett also will retain his captain’s title even though he was fined and had his driver’s license suspended for operating a vehicle while impaired.
INJURY UPDATES: Defensive lineman Tommy Schutt will return on Saturday after missing two games following wrist surgery.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell has been upgraded to “probable” and defensive back Marcus Lattimore could be unavailable for the Illinois game.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.