Ohio State senior safety Damon Webb led the Buckeyes with five interceptions this season. Two of those five came in his final two games, both postseason wins.
It’s just what leaders do.
Webb’s interception of future first-rounder Sam Darnold in the Cotton Bowl came on the first play of the second quarter. He returned it 23 yards for the touchdown, making it 17-0, and turning the game into a rout.
Webb started at safety for his final two seasons at Ohio State, after beginning it as a cornerback. His career as a starter had some bumps early on, but he got better as the season went on last year. This year, he was solid throughout, and capped his career as any defensive back would hope to do.
“I feel like I closed it really well,” he said of his career. “That’s just a testament to all of my teammates and coaches for putting me in those positions. I just feel extremely blessed that I could end my career the way I did.”
Urban Meyer talks about the fifth-year seniors on this Ohio State quite a bit, as well as the leadership that they brought to the Buckeyes. There were some fourth-year seniors who helped the team along the way as well.
One of those seniors was Damon Webb, who led a group of defensive backs that was able to withstand the loss of two first-round cornerbacks. On the offensive line, there was Jamarco Jones at left tackle. A backup his first two seasons, Jones came into his own in 2016 and has been fantastic on the left side of the offensive line ever since.
For the true seniors, there was no redshirt year, which means their time at Ohio State went quicker than most. After the win over USC, Jones sat by his locker room and reminisced about his final game.
“It’s bittersweet, man,” he said. “We got a great win tonight with my boys. The last one. It’s just sad to think about the time being over here. I’ve made some great memories. The brotherhood here is special. I’m going to miss those guys.”
One Proud Papa
One of the reasons Damon Webb was so important for the Ohio State defense this season was because the Buckeyes were breaking in a new pair of starting cornerbacks in Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield. They replaced Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, who were both selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Lattimore performed so well as a rookie that he was named to this year’s Pro Bowl. He was the youngest New Orleans Saint ever awarded the honor.
Lattimore’s time at Ohio State was short — he left after his redshirt sophomore season — but he had been through more than most. His first two seasons were spent dealing with injuries, and in his first fully healthy season, he proved to be one of the best corners in OSU history.
Looking back at where Lattimore was and where he is now, OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs feels nothing but pride.
“I would say that you feel as proud as you possibly could,” he said. “Really proud. Like that’s my son, and that’s how I feel. I’m very excited about Marshon and all of my guys that are playing.”
Conley, meanwhile, missed the bulk of the season due to a shin injury. Conley expects to be fine for 2018, and will spend some time in Columbus making sure he’s ready when the time comes.
“Well, the injury was hard for Gareon, but he’ll be back and he’ll be good,” Coombs said. “He was around the facility. He will be working out in the offseason. I’ve got to get some work in with him here next month, as a matter of fact, to get him ready to go. So he’ll be very good.”
Those Who Stay
Ohio State was without their top cornerback in the Cotton Bowl when Denzel Ward decided to sit the game out, but the cornerbacks held up pretty well without him.
The collective performances of Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield, and Jeff Okudah had Kerry Coombs excited about the future of the Ohio State cornerbacks.
“So, I think to me, I couldn’t be more fired up,” he said. “I’m ready for next year. If we start spring ball tomorrow I’m not going to be disappointed because I’ve got some really good guys coming, and we’re gonna play.”