Buckeye Safeties Could Be in Danger Against Penn State

Damon Webb Jordan Fuller Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Penn State dictated the outcome of Saturday’s night’s 42-13 win against Michigan because they put the Wolverine defense in unwinnable positions.

One of those positions was matching up Michigan linebacker Mike McCray against Heisman hopeful running back Saquon Barkley in the passing game. Barkley finished with three receptions for 53 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown.

The other was putting their best receiver DaeSean Hamilton in the slot and forcing safeties Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus to match up with him.

It did not go well for the Wolverines.

Hamilton finished with six catches for 115 yards, and most of that came against the Wolverine safeties.

Ohio State is up next for the Nittany Lions, and knowing how the Buckeyes like to play the pass, Hamilton should expect some more time in the slot next Saturday.

That means senior Damon Webb and sophomore Jordan Fuller are going to have to be ready for quick hitters and double moves for downfield jump balls. They are also going to have to tackle well after the catch.

The OSU safeties struggled with all of this last week in Lincoln, Nebraska, as Huskers receiver J.D. Spielman caught 11 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown.

As most games are, this one will be won up front, but what happens on the back end cannot be ignored.

As the team’s free safety, Damon Webb is often tasked with defending a slot receiver. On Saturday, that could be Hamilton quite often.

Is Webb up for the challenge?

“I think he’s played well,” said Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. “He’s in charge of a lot out there. He’s got a new guy with him in Jordan and I think they’re really starting to get a chemistry together. But when you turn it over every year, it’s…there’s something to be said for having safeties. When they play for a while together they almost don’t have to talk. They know what each other is thinking because they watch film together all the time. They’re in meetings together. They practice together. I’m hopeful that’s where we’re headed right now with those two guys.”

If they are headed in that direction, it should be apparent on Saturday. Fuller was named the Defensive Player of the Week following his performance against Nebraska, and after splitting reps with Erick Smith throughout camp, the job is clearly his the rest of the season.

Webb, meanwhile, has been the Buckeyes’ starting free safety for two years now, but rarely without his critics.

“Damon wasn’t a starter either coming into [last] year, so he was kind of getting his feet under him, as well as he was the guy making all the checks back there,” Schiano said. “So it was a big responsibility on him. I think it’s easier for him this year with the experience he has.”

Webb got better as the 2016 season went on and he has emerged as a leader for the Buckeyes in 2017.

If Ohio State is going to contain Penn State and DaeSean Hamilton, the Buckeyes are going to need their entire secondary at times to get it done. Having Webb in the back end makes Schiano feel better about Ohio State’s chances.

“I think he’s helped our whole room, I really do,” he said. “He’s the elder statesman, the guy who came into this season with experience. He’s a very smart football player. He helps me. I forget stuff. He’s like, ‘Hey coach, remember we said this.’ I’m like, ‘You’re right.’ So he’s really a sharp guy.”

7 Responses

  1. Ohio States defensive line is Average. Johnson is an average coach. Lack of a pass rush will probably determine the outcome of the game. Because of it to much pressure will be put on our linebackers & d-backs. However Penn State could come in & lay an egg. Bad weather will help Ohio State. If you are a gambler, Take the 7 points!!!

      1. Actually, the weather will be a difference maker. Tressell ball is back.

  2. I hope all goes well, and Barrett loses his “can’t win the big one” label. Clemson, Penn State last year The no loss season is not attainable, so matching 2002 14-0 is impossible. Every year, he’s lost at lest one. And the teams most impressive run ever he was injured for. We wpn’t even mention 31-0. As a bog critic, I can say last game he finally started to throw in time and with confidence. I know WIldson has been trying to get him to put the ball up and tie his receivers a chance. It seems to have finally sunk in. So, I’m more hopeful than I’ve been all year. Especially since Michigan and Michigan Syae appear to be not really great competition.

    To win this game Barrett will have to make 4 excellent plays. Leaving this year without a Big Ten championship would be a terrible thing. But it’s still on the table.

    Mind you it will be a travesty, given that the tie breakers going against Ohio State is nothing anyone can control.

    Is he going to be the a “one hit wonder: band or Credence Clearwater Rival ( the band with the most #2 hits without ever having a #1 hit.)

    He has played well enough to deserve better over the last 4 years.

  3. This will answer a lot of questions about tOSU’s defense. Can the DL actually get to the QB and sack him against a team with an offensive pulse? Can the LBs plug and flow the way they will need to in order to contain Barkley the runner AND the receiver? Can the Buckeye secondary handle 2 good wideouts (Juwan Johnson is pretty good too), a very good TE in Mike Gesecki AND Barkley out of the backfield? Any one of those three questions could turn the game. Add in an offense that APPEARS to be doing well but hasn’t shown it against a defense with a pulse yet and you get a game of intrigue with stakes that couldn’t be higher.

    1. I agree 100 %. Especially about the pass rush. I like this defensive line but they dont get to the QB like I thought they would.

  4. Great article.

    I think our last few opponents have specifically tried to target Jordan Fuller. For the most part he has answered the bell and has begun taking on a leadership role because of his success. He’s making plays all over the field. While Damon Webb is undoubtedly the signal man and a leader, Jordan Fuller is the playmaker who always seems to be around the ball or covering someone else’s missed assignments. He’s hitting his stride at the right time.It pains me to say it, but, I’m concerned about Kendall Sheffield. He’s making way too many mistakes in coverages. While he has great make up speed, it’s not a controlled make up speed. His technique goes to crap when he knows he’s beat and he gets really wonkie with his body control. That “panic” is why he’s getting flagged so often. Damon Arnette is an assassin type of player, but IMHO his coverage skills just aren’t quite there yet. He plays low and that makes him vulnerable to the size PSU will probably try to match up against him. I anticipate some stunting by Coach Schiano that switches assignments between Fuller and Arnette based on the look PSU lines up with for 2 reasons. 1. To gain a better matchup. 2. To allow the switch to give Jordan Fullers eyes to be looking down across the receiver to the quarterback instead of Damon Arnette having to try and look back to locate the ball.

    That still requires the linebackers to play disciplined and executing plays in space when they come along. Barkley is way too fast to try matchup against him, unless your name is Denzel Ward. I really don’t think PSU will design their plays this week that leaves Barkley alone with Denzel Ward. DW is more talented a corner than Barkley is a receiver. We can be sure of one thing. Mr. Close your eyes and heave a pass will close his eyes and heave passes. High arching slow arriving things of 50/50 fame. Franklin would rather risk it all and have his receivers there to make a play on those 50/50 balls. If the defender makes a play and picks it off. It’s generally the same as a punt. If the DB’s are undisciplined PSU will have stolen what amounts to hail mary passes and keep rolling.

    As always. The Buckeye defensive success rises and falls by the level of play of the defensive front. It will be especially focused on the interior of that defensive front. They MUST maintain their gaps with their hands free or McSquirrely and Barkley will shred them.

    If the Buckeyes actually have any kind of an effective idea of blitzes, this might just be the right game for the Country to see them. All of the blitzes we’ve seen up to this point are generic over the counter plays. They’ve shown nothing to date that DC’s haven’t seen from the Buckeyes the last few years.

    So I completely have to agree. The Buckeye DB’s, especially the safeties are going to have to play the best ball of their careers at Ohio State this Saturday night. If they allow McSquirrely to complete hail mary after hail mary, the Buckeyes get blown off their own field for the second time this year.

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