Ohio State returns two starting cornerbacks from last season in Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette, which is (technically) as many or more than anybody else in the nation. The Buckeyes were without one of their top three cornerbacks this spring in sophomore Jeff Okudah, which allowed fellow second-year players Marcus Williamson and Shaun Wade to receive valuable reps. There were also a pair of true freshmen taking part this spring in Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks. Attempting to figure out what do with all of this talent is new cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, who had glowing things to say throughout spring about his players.
8 Kendall Sheffield, rJr (6-0 193) OR
1 Jeff Okudah, Sr (6-1 199)
21 Marcus Williamson, So (5-10 185)
13 Tyreke Johnson, Fr (6-1 190)
46 Damon Arnette, rJr (6-0 195)
24 Shaun Wade, rFr (6-1 192)
12 Sevyn Banks, Fr (6-1 190)
Sophomore Jeff Okudah missed the spring with shoulder surgery, but Urban Meyer said after the spring game that he was part of the three-man rotation they’ll have this season. In 2017, Okudah played more as a freshman than any other corner during Meyer’s tenure, which should mean good things in 2018. The fact that Okudah is already in the rotation without a spring camp to show for it says some pretty good things about a guy who looks like he might be the next great one for the Buckeyes.
“I’ll tell you what, the one thing Damon Arnette has is game experience. He has game experience and you can’t take that away and he is a feisty competitor. A lot of the times out here I have to calm him down to make sure he doesn’t punch himself out, which you appreciate that because he cares so much. But he’s a guy we’re counting on big time. And not just because he has game experience, but because he has talent and all of those other attributes that we need for him to have a really really good season.” — Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson.
Sophomore Marcus Williamson is the smallest of the Ohio State cornerbacks, but he showed in the spring game against 6-foot-5 Jaylen Harris that his size doesn’t hold him back. Williamson is feisty and physical, and according to Taver Johnson, he’s also the quickest of the Buckeye corners. That quickness landed him a spot at the nickel during the spring. The question now becomes whether he can work his way into the rotation as a nickel back this season.
Now through his second spring as a Buckeye, fourth-year junior Kendall Sheffield appears to be on the verge of taking that “next step.” His progression from starter to star seems to be right on line. Sheffield ran track in the winter and if there was any concern about his abilities or progression on the football field, there is no way Urban Meyer would have permitted the dual-sport approach. Sheffield is the fastest Buckeye and arguably the most experienced player in Ohio State’s back seven. The expectations are very high for him this season.
Once Denzel Ward gets drafted in the first round later this month, the Buckeyes will have sent four cornerbacks into the first round over the past three drafts. Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, and Ward are an impossible-to-ignore recruiting pitch for prospective Buckeye defensive backs. This season, the Ohio State corners will have four former 5-star prospects and three former 4-star prospects vying to continue the line of draft picks the next few years. No school in the nation can match what the Buckeyes have done at corner, which means Taver Johnson has an incredible challenge on his hands.
Shaun Wade played well last spring without being 100% healthy. He missed last season as a true freshman due to an abdominal tear. He is fine now and showed it throughout the spring. Urban Meyer said after the spring game that the cornerback rotation might go beyond three players, which would make Wade a candidate to play quite a bit this year. Even if he isn’t in the rotation immediately, you will see him on special teams, which could convince the coaches to give him a shot on defense. Due to the depth, the rotation may not happen this season for Wade, but he won’t have to wait much longer. And once he does get into the rotation, expect him to shine.