Most Important Buckeyes: No. 7
By Patrick Murphy
Photo by Jim Davidson
Last season, Christian Bryant finished second on the Ohio State Buckeyes with 36 solo tackles and 34 assists.
The Buckeyes played mostly in the nickel formation that requires safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage at times. Ohio State also had difficulty tackling up front, meaning they relied on their safeties to prevent big plays. Both of those factors helped Bryant's stats.
Bryant has 22 career starts – and has played in 31 games – in his three years as a Buckeye, making him one of the most experienced players on the team.
With that experience comes responsibilities and expectations.
The coaching staff will expect Bryant to be an impact player once again on defense and improve on his numbers from 2012. That is why Bryant finds himself at No. 7 on our list of Most Important Buckeyes.
What Makes Him Important
Bryant’s experience may be his biggest asset this season, as he and fellow safety C.J. Barnett are the lone seniors expected to start for Ohio State defensively. Along with his ability, Bryant’s leadership will be a determining factor on how well this defense fares this season.
The Buckeyes were fifth in the Big Ten – and 34th overall – in total defense last season and have lost several of their more productive players. Along with that production, Ohio State will miss the leadership of players such as John Simon and Etienne Sabino.
This is not lost on Bryant, who is looking to be a leader in his final year as a Buckeye.
“I take a lot of pride in being a leader just because it’s my fourth year and I have a lot of experience under my belt,” Bryant recently said. “I want to lead the young guys how I was led as a freshman.”
With ten of the eleven expected starters on defense younger than Bryant – the exception being Barnett – leadership will be crucial if they are to reach their goals.
“We’re trying to be the best secondary in the country and I feel like that’s very possible,” Bryant said.
Achieving this is not out of the question for Ohio State, as there is talent at every position in the secondary.
"I think it's important that those guys who have played a lot of snaps here show leadership,” defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. “Not just in the defensive room, but throughout our football team and help us with our young guys, because they know the Ohio State way.”
Talent will take this team some of the way, but Bryant’s ability and willingness to lead could be what pushes the defense to the top.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
Bryant has set the bar high with his recent statements about the secondary’s goals, yet expectations are always extraordinary for a Buckeye defense.
The senior will want his last season in Columbus to be his best as he looks to help this team win the Big Ten and possibly a national championship.
The Cleveland Glenville product has been active tackling throughout his career, but only has one interception in three seasons.
Bryant was named as a member of the Jim Thorpe Award watch list for this season, but if he wants to be a candidate come the conclusion, he will need to improve this area of his play.
Making big plays the other way will certainly help this defense become one of the best in the country, but Bryant must not rest on his laurels. He will continue to be counted on to shut down big plays on his side of the field, while making tackles when necessary.
If the tackling in front of him improves, Bryant will be able to focus on pass breakups and making the big plays that safeties of Ohio State past have been known for.
What Would They Do Without Him
There is talent on the roster that could rotate in at safety if the Buckeyes were to not have Bryant.
The likely first candidate would be Corey Brown, who is in his fifth season at Ohio State. “Pittsburgh” Brown has played periodically throughout his career and concluded last season with four tackles.
Redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell is a player who is expected to play the star position this season, but could fill in fill free safety if necessary.
Vonn Bell is a true freshman who came to Ohio State with a lot of hype. He brings speed, but is yet to step on the field at the collegiate level.
Cleveland product Chris Worley has done well so far in fall camp, so he would be another true freshman possibility if Bryant were not available.
With the new targeting rule in place in college football, which directs referees to lean on the side of ejection, there is a greater chance that the Buckeyes could be without Bryant at some point during 2013.
There is talent that could fill in, but the experience and leadership Bryant brings to the fold would be severely missed.