New Ohio State cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is back with the Buckeyes after a six-year hiatus, and while OSU is not new to him, plenty has changed since he’s been gone.
Names, faces, defensive coordinators, they have all changed since Johnson left for Arkansas in January of 2012. What has continued, however, is the long legacy of top-flight cornerbacks. In fact, that legacy has only grown since Johnson’s departure and Kerry Coombs’ arrival.
With Coombs off to the NFL, Johnson has a lot to live up to, but he’s no stranger to the demands or expectations.
Ahead of him right now is the fact that he will need to replace a starter, but he has plenty of possibilities vying for the spot. They will also be helped by a pair of returning starters in Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette.
There will be a expectations upon expectations for Taver Johnson, but he should fit right back into what he has always known. While he is getting his footing and getting to know each of his players, there will also be a few other things that he is going to need to take care of. We have helpfully jotted a few of them down.
1. Find a third.
Even though there is a new cornerbacks coach taking over, there is a standard of three starting cornerbacks in place now, and Johnson is going to have to meet that standard. While some may look at is as a luxury, Urban Meyer said last season that it was a necessity. There is no reason to think that necessity has changed. There will be a learning curve for Johnson in terms of getting to know his players. There are some assumptions that can be made on who that third corner will be (Jeff Okudah), but there are going to be some fresh eyes on each of the candidates, and jobs are wide open.
2. Try to find a fourth.
One of Urban Meyer’s core tenets is to never get comfortable, and only striving for three starters instead of four could be considered taking the easy way out. This may be the deepest group of cornerbacks at Ohio State ever. Most of them are unproven, but even the young players gained experience last season. The only player who didn’t — redshirt freshman Shaun Wade — may have the most upside of any cornerback on the roster. As Taver Johnson gets to know each of his players, he will learn who is capable of what, and that will tell him if any of them are capable of being in a starting rotation.
3. Keep Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield on target.
After the Cotton Bowl last season, Kerry Coombs said that he expected both Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield to return for the 2018 season because they still had work to do. The plan was for them to then be first-round draft picks as redshirt juniors after the 2018 season. Whether that was realistic or not, that was the plan. That should still be the plan now. Both Sheffield and Arnette had their struggles last season, but they closed well and were trending well according to Coombs. As the two most-experienced corners in the room, they have grown as leaders, and Johnson needs to keep that growth going in all respects.
4. Figure out if somebody is moving to safety.
Not only will this be Taver Johnson’s first look at his players, it will also be Alex Grinch’s first on-field exposure as well. Grinch is expected to take over as safeties coach, allowing Greg Schiano to do whatever he needs to. With a glut of corners and a lack of safeties, you would think that Grinch and Johnson will eventually be rock-scissors-papering for a player or two.
5. Put the freshmen to the test.
There are two true freshmen enrolled for the spring in Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks, and both of them come in carrying lofty expectations. There will be six cornerbacks in front of them, but Johnson has to find out what he has in the rookies. There are a lot of players for Johnson to get to know, and if you are going to go with a starting rotation, he’ll want to know what every last player can do. They won’t get the same number of reps as the older guys, but they enrolled early for a reason, just as Okudah, Wade, Sheffield, and Marcus Williamson did a year ago.