Best Guessing the Ohio State Depth Chart on Defense — April 7

Amir Riep, Isaiah Pryor Ohio State Football Buckeyes


With just three practices left in spring camp for the Ohio State football team, we now have a pretty good grasp on where things stand with the depth chart on both sides of the ball. Yesterday we covered the offense, so today we will focus on the defensive side of the ball. Like there were on offense, expect a handful of ORs in these waters.

These are fall projections based on what coaches have said — and also what they haven’t said. Injured players have been included as well because they will factor in once fall camp gets underway. The only newcomers listed below are the ones who are currently enrolled.

Defensive End
97 Nick Bosa, Jr
9 Jashon Cornell, rJr

What they are saying: Jashon Cornell has adapted well to defensive end from defensive tackle. It has been a couple of weeks since we talked with the defensive line, so we don’t really know how things are going at the moment. With the amount of rest that Nick Bosa is receiving this spring, Cornell should be progressing on a daily basis with all of the work that he is receiving.

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

What they are saying: Jerron Cage has earned some praise from teammates this spring. Antwuan Jackson is still working his way back to full speed from a broken foot. Davon Hamilton may be the most-improved defensive lineman on the team. Even after losing a pair of fifth-year seniors at this spot from last season, this could be one of the deepest positions on the team.

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

What they are saying: I’m not really sure where freshman Tommy Togiai is lining up, be it the three-tech or the nose tackle, so he’s here in order to even out the numbers. Malik Barrow was hampered by an injury earlier this spring, but it doesn’t appear to be anything serious. There is a bunch of potential in this group, which is one reason the coaches were okay with moving Jashon Cornell.

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

What they are saying: If you want to see what hungry looks like, watch these two guys going through pass rushing drills. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find anyone who will say anything bad about Chase Young or Jonathon Cooper this spring. They continue to rotate this spring in preparation for rotating during the season.

Sam Linebacker
39 Malik Harrison, Jr
33 Dante Booker, rSr
19 Dallas Gant, Fr

What they are saying: Dante Booker is out this spring, but linebackers coach Bill Davis still expects him to be a contributor this season when he returns. Malik Harrison is the most-likely winner at this point, even though he is also getting some snaps at Will as the unit is continuing to be built in a versatile manner. All three linebacker spots are wide open right now, but the process of elimination allows us to narrow some things down a bit.

Mike Linebacker
47 Justin Hilliard, rJr OR
5 Baron Browning, So
32 Tuf Borland, rSo

What they are saying: Urban Meyer told me that Tuf Borland had done enough prior to his injury to be locked into a starting role. Doing the math, however, if he is out until September, then he won’t be starting against Oregon State to open the season. Currently, Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning are rotating in the middle. Prior to Borland’s injury, Browning was getting a look at the Will. Could somebody move when Borland returns to full strength and full speed? Possibly.

Will Linebacker

16 Keandre Jones, Jr
20 Pete Werner, So

What they are saying: Pete Werner moved mid-way through spring from Sam to Will, so he is still learning everything he needs to know. The positions are pretty interchangeable, but the Will does more run stopping than pass defending, so it does take some time to get used to. Keandre Jones and Malik Harrison have switched back and forth throughout camp. Bill Davis did say that due to sub-packages, he expects more than three linebackers to play this season.

8 Kendall Sheffield, rJr OR
29 Jeff Okudah, So
21 Marcus Williamson, So
12 Sevyn Banks, Fr

What they are saying: Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said they are hoping to continue rotating starting cornerbacks, which is why there is an OR here. Kendall Sheffield continues to play well this spring. Jeff Okudah is out, but is spoken of like a starter. Marcus Williamson is getting plenty of work at both corner and the nickel. Johnson called him arguably the quickest of the corners.

4 Jordan Fuller, Jr
10 Amir Riep, So OR
15 Wayne Davis, rSo

What they are saying: Jordan Fuller moves from the deep safety to the free safety that Damon Webb played last season. Moving a starter from a position he excelled at can be dangerous, but nothing the staff has seen from Fuller this spring has concerned them in any way. Urban Meyer has praised his play and leadership. Amir Riep moved over from cornerback, which was not unexpected.

14 Isaiah Pryor, So
25 Brendon White, So OR
23 Jahsen Wint, rSo OR

What they are saying: This job is still open, but Isaiah Pryor is the favorite, just as he was before the spring. Perhaps it is a concern that he has not run away with the job, but he is playing a different position than he played last season. A year ago, he was Webb’s backup, so a learning process should be expected. Jahsen Wint has played well at times this spring according to teammates. Brendon White is also receiving mention at this spot.

46 Damon Arnette, rJr
24 Shaun Wade, rFr
13 Tyreke Johnson, Fr

What they are saying: Shaun Wade’s return from last season’s injury has raised the spirits of the entire cornerback group. It has also raised the talent level. Taver Johnson hasn’t said whether Wade has made his way into the rotation, but if he continues to play as he has been, he’s going to have a great shot. Asked how Damon Arnette is playing this spring, Johnson’s first comments were about the experience he brings.

Special Teams

Long Snapper: 49 Liam McCullough, rJr
Place Kicker: 96 Sean Nuernberger, rSr
Kickoffs: 95 Blake Haubeil, So
Punter: 91 Drue Chrisman, rSo
Kick Returner: 30 Demario McCall, rSo
Punt Returner: 30 Demario McCall, rSo

What they are saying: Sean Nuernberger and Blake Haubeil are not competing for jobs as each has their own specific role. Haubeil works on kickoffs and increasing his accuracy and hang time, while Nuernberger has been very good on placements per teammates. Replacing Parris Campbell on kickoffs is going to be a hard act for Demario McCall to follow.


8 Responses

  1. Why isn’t Nick Bosa seen in this lineup?

    1. ?? He is the first name listed.

  2. Damon Arnette is talented. He’s also a centerpiece for people looking for a guy who will pop you in the face over and over again with little to no regard for his own well being. He has a way of intimidating that every defense needs. His coverage skills haven’t been great but he’s had his moments. Hoping that those moments become a regular thing. He DOES have the talent. If he didn’t Kerry Coombs never would have had him on the field.

    The early depth chart looks right to me. The only weaknesses I see right now, haven’t NOT seen any of them actually anchoring the unit, is linebacker. We’ll be getting a look in a few days. I hope they look better than last year or the defense is going to struggle early again.

    1. Which is why it is striking that Meyer and Davis really have no concerns about the LB situation. They must really like the parts. Now they just have to finish the puzzle.

      1. I think the linebacker weaknesses were a little overblown. For the first 8 games last year the Lbs were very inconsistent, but after that they really settled down and played well. As good as Tuf was, Browning and Hilliard have the potential to surpass him this season, due to their size and athleticism. Keandre Jones and Malik Harrison are two very athletic OLBs that can run sideline to sideline and cover in space. And that’s not to mention the depth at LB. Pete Werner is good enough to start, whoever loses the current MIKE LB battle is good enough to start, and Dallas Gant has seemingly come along. Linebackers should be solid and might even be a strength this year.

  3. Does experience vis a vis Arnette mean talent? Not sure how to read into that one.

    1. It was an odd answer to the question of how he was playing.

  4. I feel very confident in that depth chart. We are literally 2 and sometimes 3 deep at every position. The only real weakness I can see is if a safety goes down. We don’t know what we would be getting if Wint/White/Davis had to be thrown into a much larger role. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a starting 11 that’s better than what we have.

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