- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The first step forward might have been too big.
Nathan Williams returned from his microfracture knee surgery in time to play in the season opener, and the Ohio State senior played more than anybody expected.
But it turned out to be too much work, and the next step for the defensive end went the other direction with soreness forcing him back to the sideline the following week.
He returned to the lineup again last weekend in a win against California and played even more than he did in the first game, but this time Williams hasn't even considered the possibility of missing another outing, setting his chances of playing at "100 percent" for Saturday's non-conference finale against UAB.
"I'm not worried," Williams said after practice Wednesday. "The first game I was a little worried because I took a helmet right on my knee, one of the very first plays I was in -- which was crazy, and I was like, 'Wow, thanks a lot.'
"I didn’t have that problem last game, which was lucky for me. I came back the next day and I was still able to run during Sunday practice and stuff, and you could tell just by running out on the practice field if you’re going to be able to go or not."
All the early signs were positive, and the continued health of Williams is significant for a defensive line that has emphasized getting more pressure on the quarterback after a sluggish start.
The Buckeyes supplied plenty of it against the Golden Bears and had six sacks to show for the effort, even without getting one from Williams -- who is still playing catch-up after being limited during training camp and trying to shake off the rust built up after a full year on the shelf.
"I’m coming along pretty well, a lot faster than I anticipated," Williams said. "You know, every day is just a new challenge for me when I wake up, and it’s been going great so far. I’m able to run and do the things I need to do, so I just have to keep executing and tighten up my technique, which is pretty off right now.
"Once I get that corrected, the sky is the limit."
Extra shifts: The coaching staff vowed to correct the tackling issue that helped propel Cal to more than 500 yards of offense.
The Buckeyes have done more than just talk about it this week.
Urban Meyer and his defensive assistants added extra tackling periods to practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday, including two more than normal for the linebackers.
"We’ve had, as linebackers, almost two or three tackling periods in practice for the last couple days," senior Etienne Sabino said. "Every position group has done a lot of tackling, so that’s something we’re harping on.
"We always work on it, but we made probably more of an emphasis this week. Hopefully it carries over to the game."
Bumps and bruises: A defense that has already been banged up is dealing with two more minor injuries as it prepares for the Blazers, both of them in positions that will be tested by an offense that likes to air out the football.
Cornerback Bradley Roby has a sore shoulder and safety C.J. Barnett is dealing with a sprained ankle, and both of those defensive backs have been limited in practice this week. Neither issue appears serious enough to keep them off the field on Saturday, but Meyer indicated he would "know more tomorrow."
Other injury notes from Meyer:
Running back Carlos Hyde is out with a knee sprain for the second consecutive game.
Defensive end Michael Bennett is "getting closer" to a return from his groin injury, but he also will not be available against UAB.
Defensive end John Simon's sore shoulder has limited him this week in practice, but he's again expected to play.
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer