One of the most experienced — and injury-plagued — members of Ohio State’s linebacking corps could be returning to Columbus for another season. Maybe.
Justin Hilliard confirmed to members of the media Wednesday that he has already filed a petition with the NCAA seeking a sixth season of eligibility. However, the fifth-year senior was non-committal on using that sixth season if it’s granted.
As Hilliard missed most of his first two seasons with the Buckeyes because of a pair of biceps injury, another year of eligibility is essentially a slam-dunk.
The past two seasons, Hilliard had played in a combined sixteen games. After missing the start of this season because of offseason Achilles surgery, he has played in six games thus far this year.
A five-star member of OSU’s 2015 recruiting class, Hilliard was rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Ohio; and the No. 35 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board. The Cincinnati native was the highest-rated signee in the Buckeyes’ class that year.
Jonathon Cooper‘s 2019 debut will have to wait at least another week.
An unspecified injury, believed to be a high-ankle sprain, sidelined Cooper for the season-opening win over Florida Atlantic as well as the Week 2 romp over Cincinnati. With the Big Ten opener against Indiana in Bloomington on tap Saturday, the starting defensive end has once again been ruled out as OSU listed Cooper as unavailable for the Hoosiers on the weekly status report released Friday morning.
As a true junior last season, Cooper started all 13 games for the Buckeyes and was credited with 25 tackles, 6½ tackles for loss, 2½ sacks and two quarterback hits. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors for his play in 2018.
Tyler Friday and Tyreke Smith, who both missed the opener because of injuries but returned in Week 2, are listed as co-starters at Cooper’s spot opposite preseason All-American Chase Young.
There is, though, some positive health news for the Buckeyes as linebacker Justin Hilliard will be available for the first time this season. Hilliard, OSU’s highest-rated 2015 signee, suffered an Achilles injury in late March and underwent surgery to repair the damage.