Buckeye Breakdown: Secondary Newcomers
A hot topic heading into Spring practice was the early enrollees that would be competing for time in the absence of Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, and Malik Hooker. The artists formerly known as the Ohio State secondary have spent the offseason getting drafted and cashing checks, leaving the door open to a new group of talented defensive backs to fill the void.
Denzel Ward is primed to be the next great defensive back groomed under the tutelage of Kerry Coombs, while Damon Arnette and Damon Webb provide needed experience in the back end of the defense. Josh Norwood and Rodjay Burns had a very good Spring Game, but with their recent departures it does not take a Tasseographer to read those tea leaves. The question remains, who will start opposite Ward in multiple receiver sets?
Kendall Sheffield could move into a starting role on the outside with Arnette locking down the inside slot receiver. Sheffield brings a great amount of athleticism and a physical style to be a dependable cornerback heading into the season. The redshirt sophomore transfer will need to improve his footwork to consistently win at this level while not relying on natural talent alone to be competitive. He also showed the mental aptitude to make a difference in the run game. We take a closer look at the traits Sheffield will bring to the defense below.
True freshman Shaun Wade had an impressive Spring Game and showed solid technique in Man Coverage while proving to be a heavy hitter, evident in his hit on Eric Glover-Williams at the one-yard line. What stands out most with Wade is his ability to play with his back to the ball. He has a natural sense of timing to disrupt the pocket of the receiver. With his length and athleticism, he provides an advanced skill set that is difficult to teach.
With the departure of Malik Hooker, the safety position is bound to take a step backwards from a production standpoint. After all, seven interceptions is a lot to replace from one player. Erick Smith, Jordan Fuller, and Damon Webb will have the opportunity to shine next season, but early enrollee Isaiah Pryor showed he has some traits to be an impact player as well should his number be called. What stood out the most with Pryor was his aggressive approach. He has very good instincts and enough athletic ability to reach the outside runs. He is not a natural runner when compared to Hooker, but showed in the Spring Game that he has the speed to leverage Demario McCall, which is no easy task.
Other players of note include:
Jahsen Wint – Displayed solid ability to tackle in the open field.
Marcus Williamson – Showed good mental processing when defending the screen as well as the ability to fight through blocks and make the tackle.
Jeffrey Okudah – Similar to Wade, Okudah showed the ability to play with his back to the ball. His use of hands to leverage the receiver within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage was impressive.