Tailback Keith Byars will miss some early games because of a broken bone in his right foot but might be back in time to help Ohio State defend its Big Ten title, Coach Earle Bruce said Tuesday.
Byars rushed for 1,764 yards, caught 42 passes and scored 24 touchdowns last season.
“It’s quite obvious to me we’ve lost a great, great player for our (Sept. 14) opener against Pitt,” Bruce said. “We hope it’s 50-50 for Colorado, and that it gets better than that as we go toward Washington State and Illinois.”
The Buckeyes open their Big Ten season Oct. 5 at Illinois.
Byars was injured Monday near the end of Ohio State’s 13th preseason workout. Team physician Robert J. Murphy said the 6-foot-2, 238-pound senior--the nation’s leading major college scorer and rusher a year ago--may miss up to three games.
“Keith was running on a grass field. And no one hit him,” Byars said. “He pulled up, and I thought he must have done something to his foot--he has had a sore foot--sure enough, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.”
Said Byars: “I went to run a sweep around left end, and it just snapped on me. A sharp pain shot through my leg, so I went over to the trainer and said, ‘I think I should have X-rays on this.’ ”
“He was having a great fall. He was really setting the tempo for us,” Bruce said. “We will miss his talent and enthusiasm on an offensive team that is struggling to find some of the things we have had over the past.”
Taking Byars’ place will be 5-11, 190-pound John Wooldridge, who averaged 5.9 yards a carry last season as Byars’ understudy.
“The big question is, can he carry the ball 30-35 times like Keith did sometimes?” Bruce said. “Durability is the main concern with any tailback who’s 5-11 and 190 pounds. That’s a big difference from 6-2 and 238.”
“If Keith is fortunate enough to heal that fast, then we’ll be OK,” Bruce said.