How Losing Safety Christian Bryant Affects This Week and Beyond for Ohio State

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How Losing Safety Christian Bryant Affects This Week and Beyond for Ohio State
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State may have won 31-24 on Saturday against rival Wisconsin, but there was little celebrating in the Buckeyes locker room less than 24 hours later—and that's because devastating news was handed down to the team in the aftermath of victory. 

Senior safety, and team captain, Christian Bryant suffered a broken ankle in the win and his season, along with his career, were over. 

This is how Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer put it to the media (h/t ESPN.com): 

We just got news we lost our captain. Just tough news, I just love that kid -- he's done so much for our program, come so far. Incredible leadership skills, and he's going to be even more valuable outside of football. Hard part of the game, boy.

So, life must go on for the No. 4 ranked team in the latest AP Poll

That's the harsh reality of sports and the grind of a season—there is little time for self pity and loathing about things you can not control. 

It also puts Ohio State in an interesting position because of what is in front of them. 

Up next on the schedule are the Northwestern Wildcats, who have one of the most explosive and multiple offenses in the Big Ten. However, after that things become much easier to deal with—thanks to games with Iowa, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois all in the mix. 

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, there are some tests in the passing game, but those teams are a lot less multiple and a lot more straight forward with what they like to do. 

For Ohio State, the question to consider moving forward may be: Do you start with experience in this one contest and turn the position over to a potential difference maker for the future after this week? 

Or is the future now for the Buckeyes? 

It appears likely that Ohio State is going to go with the former, choosing to start Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown over a collection of younger, but potential-filled players like Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, at least according to cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs (h/t ESPN.com): 

I think as we sit here this afternoon that Pitt Brown will go in there and play. I don’t know exactly the configuration of how all those guys are going to fit going into the week, and some of that will be developed and discussed during practice. 

But our guys, those are versatile players back there and I think that gets understated somewhat.

Brown is the likely option because he's the most experienced of the group and saw most of the action in place of Bryant on Saturday night. He also happens to, at least statistically, stack up very close to what Bryant was putting up this season. 

Brown has just one fewer tackle (21 to Bryant's 22) on the year and has just about as many passes broken up and defensed in a more limited role than Bryant this season.

Losing a guy who's been in your starting lineup for your entire current win streak, and has been in the top three on the tackles list for the past two years, may be big on the field, but the one thing that may be missed the most is his leadership both on the field and in the locker room—at least that's how Meyer sees it

Our leader is in an ambulance right now going to the hospital.That's the concerning part [about preparing for Northwestern]. He's our leader, so that's concern No. 1, 2 and 3.

Who is going to assume that leadership obligation? The responsibility that he has shown, he's an incredible young man.

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If there is such thing as an upside to an injury like this, it could be that Ohio State at least has talented options to fill the role and different ways they could handle the position on a seemingly weekly basis. 

Don't be surprised to see Brown back there as a steadying force against Northwestern, but also don't be surprised to see Powell and Bell get plenty of looks moving forward.

Considering the schedule lightens up following the Northwestern game, at least until "The Game" at the end of the regular season, it wouldn't be surprising in the least to see Bell or Powell starting and gaining valuable experience for coming seasons, too. 

With the experience surrounding that position, taking a chance or two wouldn't exactly be the worst thing in the world back there. 

Losing Bryant will hurt, but how the coaching staff handles the reps now that he is gone will be something to keep a keen eye on moving forward and could be a key to what happens the rest of the season in that defensive backfield. 

 

*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of everything B1G. 

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