COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State’s cornerbacks pride themselves on being BIA: Best in America. That hasn’t been the case in recent years.
Mississippi transfer Davison Igbinosun is wearing No. 1 this season because of Jeff Okudah — one of seven OSU cornerbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft between 2014 and 2020.
But in the past three years, only one Buckeye has been drafted. Last year, Ohio State finished 26th in pass yards allowed per game, recorded zero interceptions at cornerback and lost too many 50/50 balls in coverage when they were blanketing the receiver.
“People forget last year there was a lot of injuries. There was a lot of guys in and out,” cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said. “I can go through and show you five or six different lineups over 12 games. Now, guys are all there, guys have all played together, guys all understand [the scheme], so now you can see it gel a little bit more.”
Injuries to sophomores Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and senior Cam Brown hindered Ohio State’s ability to be BIA. Burke dealt with a nagging shoulder injury in the spring, followed by a finger injury that required surgery before the Wisconsin game. Meanwhile, Hancock missed most of the season because of a hamstring injury. Now that they’re healthy, the corners believe they can be the best again.
“We all some dogs,” Burke said. “We gonna get in your chest, we’re gonna talk some trash, we gonna play hard, we gonna have great technique and we’re gonna do our job man and win for our defense.”
Burke gained national attention his freshman season for playing more than 100 consecutive snaps without allowing a touchdown. But he struggled in OSU’s first four games last season, giving up 10 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Burke turned it around the final seven games, allowing 12 receptions on 22 targets for 101 yards and one touchdown.
“My confidence is probably at an all-time high, probably the highest its ever been,” Burke said. “You gain your confidence by guarding [Ohio State receivers] Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka every day. They gonna get you better, and I’m gonna make them better.”
Confidence is also through the roof for Hancock, who finally feels like himself again after fully recovering from the hamstring injury.
“I mean there’s only so much I could do last year coming off my injury,” Hancock said. “I couldn’t run as fast as I can now or anything like that, so I’m in a position to help our team win. … It’s a huge difference for sure. I can feel it.”
The cornerbacks room is also bolstered by depth. The addition of Igbinosun, who stands 6 feet 2, adds needed size and experience after playing one season in the Southeastern Conference.
“I had to earn it. I had to gain the trust of the team first and foremost,” Igbinosun said about wearing No. 1. “Seeing Jeff Okudah do what he did, I’m trying to be better than that.”
Behind those three players are sophomores Ryan Turner and Jyaire Brown. The latter played the most snaps (197) on defense of any true freshman last season.