COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — No position group struggled as much as Ohio State’s secondary in 2020. The Buckeyes were stacked at all the other positions on defense, so the secondary’s flaws weren’t enough to be detrimental. But those flaws were still glaring. The Buckeyes ranked 122nd in the country in passing yards allowed per game (304).
In all fairness to then first-year defensive coordinator and DB coach Kerry Coombs, OSU didn’t have spring or fall practices to figure out how they would replace Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller who were all drafted in 2020.
This season the Buckeyes return several cornerbacks, including Sevyn Banks, Cam Brown, Marcus Williamson.
OSU will also utilize a rotation of younger player such as Lejond Cavazos, Denzel Burke and Cameron Martinez who moved from quarterback to defensive back coming out of high school.
So while the perimeter looks to be shored up, the middle of the field still remains a question mark. But the safeties say this will be their year.
“Trust me I’m not the only one. We all dawgs,” redshirt freshman safety Kourt Williams II said. “It’s going to be really cool to see how this year turns out because we’re just so good.”
The Buckeyes have used a single-high safety the past few years and will continue to do so in 2021. Josh Proctor, Marcus Hooker and Lathan Ransom will get plenty of reps there and safeties coach Matt Barnes says that’s by design.
“We can put a lot of guys back there. Just depends on what call we want to go with, how we want to rotate and what guys give us the best chance to win,” Barnes said. “It’s a great group. It really is.”
Ohio State is introducing a ‘bullet’ safety position as well that was described by junior Ronnie Hickman who will be one of several Buckeyes who can play in that role.
“I guess [it’s like] an athletic DB who can stop the run and also cover,” Hickman said. “I think it fits my style of play, my athleticism, so I’m very excited about it and so are all the other guys in the room.”
Other players who will gets reps at the bullet position include redshirt freshman safety Kourt Williams II and junior linebacker Craig Young who wouldn’t normally play in a defensive back position given his 6’3″ 223-pound frame.
“I use [my size] as an advantage: speed, my skill, my length. I use everything as an advantage,” Young said. “I’m very versatile. I can fit in the box, I can guard, I can go back in deep thirds, I can do pretty much anything that a 5’9″ player could do.”
Barnes said they do not have a set depth chart at this point but added they intend to play more than six defensive backs this season.
“We’re coming for it all this year man,” Hickman said. “We’ve got definitely more depth man, really talented room. We’re deeper this year, so I’m really excited to see what we can this year.”