Isaiah Pryor spent the 2017 season as Damon Webb’s backup as a true freshman. He watched Webb at free safety lead three new starters in an Ohio State secondary that had to replace first-round NFL Draft picks Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley.
The Buckeyes dropped from No. 3 in the nation in pass efficiency defense to No. 13. It was much less of a drop than most anticipated.
Now the Ohio State secondary will have to replace Webb and future first-round pick Denzel Ward, and thanks to the example set by Webb, Pryor believes he has a pretty good handle on how to lead as well.
“Man, we’ve been working so hard all throughout the season,” he said recently. “Damon has taught me a lot. All of the other DBs have been teaching me a lot. I just feel like for all of the young guys, we’re ready to go. They left a good legacy here and it’s just time to build upon that.”
Pryor came to Ohio State as one of the top safeties in the 2017 recruiting class. He enrolled early and took part in spring football. By the time the first game of the season rolled around, Pryor had worked his way up the depth chart and was Damon Webb’s backup.
He played in 12 games this past season, which was valuable, but seeing the standard set by Webb and the veterans ahead of him will pay dividends as well.
“He left a really good legacy, him and Erick Smith,” Pryor said. “They talk about the hard work and the good work ethic and the stuff like that. About how important it is to be a student-athlete in the meeting room, not just on the field. You have to know what you’re doing, so I commend him for that. He was a good leader.”
Pryor is planning to put everything he learned this past season to good use in the future, including stepping up one spot in the depth chart and replacing his mentor in the starting lineup.
“I’m going to take Damon’s spot. I’m going to try,” he said. “We’re all working for it.”
How will he get there?
“I’m just going to try to get better,” he said. “Working hard every day. Always. At the end of the day that’s what we’re trying to do. All of us.”
The Buckeyes had a true sophomore starting alongside Damon Webb this past season in Jordan Fuller. Like Pryor, Fuller was a highly-regarded recruit who spent his freshman season playing behind Webb. Fuller responded as a sophomore leading the Buckeyes with 57 solo tackles in 2017.
Now it looks like it will be Isaiah Pryor’s turn, and as the guy who watched both safeties grow, Webb has all of the confidence in the world in his replacement.
“He’s going to do really well,” Webb said after the Cotton Bowl. “Isaiah is one of those dudes who works hard, he’s very coachable, and this offseason he’s going to go hard in the weight room and go hard on the field.”