Looking at Ohio State's 2014 Safety Depth Chart
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the angst and consternation that the Ohio State secondary has provided defensively the last couple of years, no amount of talent on hand could be too much. Replacing three senior safeties with 71 career starts is a daunting task, but at least the Buckeyes got the ball in motion during bowl practices with Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell.
Much of next season's defensive success will hinge on how well Powell and Bell play. Assuming Bell is the favorite at free safety and Powell the favorite at strong safety, that would give the Buckeyes a pair of sophomore starters for the first time since C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant were sophomores. While the safety spots may be theoretically settled, there is also the matter of Powell's vacated star position. While it is obviously early, let's go ahead and take a look at what next year's depth chart looks like right at this moment.
Vonn Bell (So. 5-11 195)
With his speed, athleticism and knack for finding the football, Bell seems like the most logical candidate to start at free safety for the Buckeyes. It could be argued that not only is it logical, but it is needed. Ohio State needs playmakers in the secondary, and Bell showed that he was certainly that in the Orange Bowl with his one-handed interception of a Tajh Boyd pass. While there is always concern surrounding a new starter, this one feels a bit more reassuring than most.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tyvis Powell (rSo. 6-3 207)
Powell started five games this season as the team's nickel back, so he was essentially the 12th starter on defense. The experience he gained will help his transition to safety, which is assumed to be his next move. Powell finished with 48 tackles this season, which was good for ninth on the team. His lack of plays in the backfield is a concern, as the star has historically been a playmaking position, but how much of that was Powell and how much of that was by design? There are also some questions about his speed. Regardless, it would be a shock if he doesn't end up as a starter in 2014.
Ron Tanner (rJr. 6-0 200)
Tanner was solid in his limited defensive snaps this year, and was called the team's best tackler by C.J. Barnett. He is a veteran now, and should provide some valuable depth. He is also a standout on special teams. As a fourth-year player next season, more will be asked of him. How much he ultimately plays will depend upon how he responds to the challenges he is given.
Jayme Thompson (rFr. 6-0 190)
Thompson broke his ankle in fall camp, which cost him the season. He was expected to be a contributor on special teams as a freshman. Thompson is a tremendous athlete who frequently made plays in high school. He will obviously need to contribute first on special teams, and he is the type who should excel at that. Thompson should provide depth at the very least, and should find himself in the mix and nickel and dime.
Chris Worley (rFr. 6-1 204)
Worley redshirted this season, but during fall camp he was in the two-deep at safety. He is a Glenville product who has drawn favorable comparisons to former Tarblooder Jermale Hines, which should get Buckeye fans excited. Worley may ultimately end up at linebacker, or he could also be a prime candidate to end up at nickel back. Keep your eye on him.
Erick Smith (Fr. 6-1 185)
Smith played cornerback at Saturday's Army All-American Bowl and was one of the best defenders on the field. In fact, he led his East team in tackles with six. Even though he played safety in high school, a year ago, Ohio high school football scout John McCallister said that Smith could very well be the best cornerback in the state. Smith showed himself to be a very big hitter and was able to cover a lot of ground when leaving his own receiver. The future looks bright for Smith wherever he ends up in the secondary. With a need for a nickel and a dime, Smith's aggression and affection for contact could find him involved early. He should also help immediately on special teams.
Malik Hooker (Fr. 6-2 185)
Hooker is a three or four-star prospect per the four recruiting services. He is a tremendous athlete, so he could probably find himself at a couple of different positions before he settles in. He was one of the best players in western Pennsylvania this season, and that's a very high level of high school football.
Devan Bogard (Jr. 6-0 198)
Bogard was moved to weak side linebacker before being lost for the season to a second ACL tear. He's on this list because of his possibility of sliding back down to nickel back. Though with two ACL injuries, the likelihood of finding himself back at defensive back is certainly minimized.
2014 Depth Chart at Corner
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