Projecting OSU’s Defensive Depth Chart – Post NFL Declaration Edition

Jeffrey Okudah Ohio State Football Buckeyes


Earlier in the week I took a look at Ohio State’s projected depth chart on offense, so now it is the OSU defense’s turn to get guessed at.

The Buckeyes lose five defensive linemen, two starting linebackers, and two starters in the secondary from last season. There is a lot to shake out yet, but the return of defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones gives them at lease one less question mark.

Even with the Jones return, the defensive line is going to look much different. The linebackers could be unrecognizable as top prospects become on-field contributors. The secondary will be impacted by coaching changes and player departures, but the recruiting has been solid and things should fall in place okay there.

It is going to be a very informative spring, and some of those battles will continue well into fall camp.

So with all of that said, this is the best guess that I can make on what the depth chart will look like this spring for the OSU defense.

Defensive End
97 Nick Bosa, Jr

As you can see, Nick Bosa needs some  help, which is why I keep expecting a linebacker to slide down. Dante Booker is my first best bet to help out there.

Nose Tackle
67 Rob Landers, rJr
53 Davon Hamilton, rJr
98 Jerron Cage, rFr OR
Antwuan Jackson, rSo

This is a pretty deep group that could all return in 2019 as well. Robert Landers will likely be the starter, as he’s been the backup for the last two seasons. Antwuan Jackson is expected to arrive for spring football from junior college just as Kendall Sheffield did last year. Davon Hamilton has had moments, but he needs to become what Landers has been the last two seasons.

Defensive Tackle
86 Dre’Mont Jones, rJr
9 Jashon Cornell, rJr
55 Malik Barrow, rSo OR
92 Haskell Garrett, So
Tommy Togiai, Fr

Looking at the names here, Ohio State didn’t need Dre’Mont Jones to come back, but it’s still nice to have him back. Regarding speculation that he could move to defensive end, Jones said a couple of weeks ago that it was too early to think about that, but he believed there was enough talent at defensive end already. Any of the four players below him could emerge as the No. 2, save for maybe Tommy Togiai because he is a true freshman. Jashon Cornell, Malik Barrow, and Haskell Garrett are all very, very talented prospects who could have a Dre’Mont Jones-like impact with more snaps. It’s just hard to get a bunch of snaps at defensive tackle right now.

Defensive End
2 Chase Young, So OR
18 Jonathon Cooper, Jr

Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper will both be in the defensive end rotation this season. There may be some linebacker/defensive end hybridization going on this spring as well.

Sam Linebacker
39 Malik Harrison, Jr
33 Dante Booker, rSr OR
20 Pete Werner, So

This position was talked about in much more detail a day ago, so you can get a pretty good idea of what the Sam linebacker spot is going to look like in that piece. I still expect this to be Malik Harrison’s job at the outset.

Mike Linebacker
32 Tuf Borland, rSo
5 Baron Browning, So

Tuf Borland will start out as the No. 1 middle linebacker, but don’t be surprised to see Baron Browning getting a shot at taking the job from him. This should be a competition all spring long.

Will Linebacker
47 Justin Hilliard, rJr OR
16 Keandre Jones, Jr
Dallas Gant, Fr

Justin Hilliard and Keandre Jones were the backups to Jerome Baker in 2017, so this would be the assumed starting point for 2018. Baron Browning or Pete Werner could also be in the mix here. Dallas Gant could end up at either of the outside spots this spring. Sophomore Brendon White could also be here, as opposed to safety where he ended the season.

8 Kendall Sheffield, rJr OR
29 Jeff Okudah, So
Sevyn Banks, Fr

Kendall Sheffield improved as the season went on, and the jump from the first season as a starter to the second season should be sizable. The loss of Kerry Coombs is obviously going to be an issue, but it’s too soon to say what impact this is going to have. Jeff Okudah should step in for Denzel Ward as a third starter with Sheffield and Damon Arnette.

14 Isaiah Pryor, So
21 Marcus Williamson, So OR
15 Wayne Davis, rSo

I am projecting Marcus Williamson moving from cornerback to free safety simply because there are so many corners on the roster right now and there is a need for depth behind Isaiah Pryor. Pryor should step in pretty well for Damon Webb, but he is a big safety — 6-2 195 — who will be required to defend slot receivers. This is one reason why the staff likes to move cornerbacks here, as they did with Damon Webb and Tyvis Powell.

4 Jordan Fuller, Jr
25 Brendon White, So OR
23 Jahsen Wint, rSo OR
FR Josh Proctor, Fr

Jordan Fuller had a fantastic season as a first-year starter last season, and even more will be expected this year. There are options behind him, though Josh Proctor might have the most potential. Brendon White still needs to find a full-time home after spending time at receiver, linebacker, and safety.

3 Damon Arnette, rJr
24 Shaun Wade, rFr OR
10 Amir Riep, So
Tyreke Johnson, Fr

There are a number of guys looking to join OSU’s projected trio of starters, and any one of Shaun Wade, Amir Riep, Marcus Williamson, or even true freshmen Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks could end up winning the job. This is a very deep and talented group, but they still have plenty to prove.


5 Responses

  1. Pretty good early projection. One thing I suspect we’re going to see. Dre’Mont Jones joining Nick Bosa on the edge. He’s probably going to project as a DE at the next level in a 3-4 scheme and I trust Larry Johnson is going to help grow those necessary skills to help open the door for that.His size and first step speed is a rare combination that can be exploited and I think it happens for him.

    Can’t wait to see if Justin Hilliard is finally ready to show the skills that made him such a prized recruit. Injuries suck but he looked as the year went on like he was gaining confidence in the rehab process.

    With Kerry Coombs leaving I wonder what thought process change CEO Meyer is having in regards to moving Greg Schiano down to the box to help with linebackers? Kerry Coombs went from being a head scratcher hire to becoming one of the best corner coaches in all of College football. He represents the toughest piece of the defensive puzzle to find a fix for. Get it wrong and what should be a great defense will struggle.

  2. Damon Arnette is horrible. Gets beat way too many times for his “supposed” talent. He is at best a number two. The corners should be Okudah and Sheffield.Wade will presure Sheffield unless he lives up to his JUCO hype. Tuf Borland should be in the middle with the incoming freshman Mitchell and Hilliard as his backups. Borland has the “field smarts” to play in the middle.Browning needs to moved outside opposite Harrison, length and speed. Keandre Jones has never lived to his hype either. Dante Booker’s “bus” has come and gone. Too injury prone to be dependable. The incoming freshman Gant and or Pete werner will be heard on the outside.

  3. Sheffield was very very bad this past year. I don’t see how or why he would be a lock to start. He was awfully bad. Maybe that meteoric jump from year 1 to 2 comes to fruition, but based on year one I just don’t get it…

    Safety is a serious position of concern. Fuller is solid. Just solid. Dont know what the others are capable of.

    1. Jordan Fuller is a soon to be All American. ANY and all glue for the secondary went through him and Denzel Ward. Jordan is a playmaker.

      Sheffield started out rocky but got a lot better as the season went on. I have no concerns with him at corner at all. I’m a geek so I went through the games that seemed to exploit Kendall Sheffield. Against Indiana his coverages were very good. Lagow of Indiana didn’t exploit any weaknesses in Kendall, he just made some GREAT throws and his big receivers just made plays. I think Kendall is going to be hard to beat in 2018. He’ll become as shutdown as Denzel was in 2017.

  4. Reload….that seems to be the theme when it comes to the defense. Last year had its shaky moments but toward the end they became the dominating force we all expected throughout. Bosa, like his brother before him will be a major force once again which will open up opportunities for the other defensive players to shine.
    While the defense lost some very good and valuable players the amount of depth on defense is staggering…Spring football should show somewhat the makeup of who will be starting but with talent still coming in there may be an additional push in fall camp. Either way I’m looking forward to some FOOTBALL!

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