Football

Coachable Shaun Wade Playing With Confidence Again

Shaun Wade Ohio State Football Buckeyes

When Taver Johnson took over for Kerry Coombs as Ohio State’s cornerbacks coach, he immediately went to work on getting to know the players he was inheriting. He watched every practice rep and game rep on film for each of his returning players.

Even though this past winter and spring was his first time seeing his players in person, due to his film study, he already had a pretty good idea of what he was working with. He was able to analyze game film for returning starters Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield. Freshman Jeff Okudah played plenty as well, especially at the end of the season. Even freshman Marcus Williamson played in 10 games last season.

The one guy he didn’t get to see much of, however, was Shaun Wade. Wade was also a true freshman last year, but he missed the season with an abdominal tear. There was film from the spring of 2017, but that was about it.

Now that Wade was finally healthy, these past few months were Johnson’s first chance to see him in action, and the Buckeye coach liked what he saw.

“He’s coachable and I think that’s what helping big time,” Johnson said this spring. “He’s made some plays. He’s a smart individual. He studies the game, and every practice he’s taken a step more and more.”

When Denzel Ward opted to skip the bowl game last season, that put Okudah in the spotlight for the Buckeyes. He stepped into the 3-man rotation at corner and performed very well. It was expected, given Okudah’s lofty recruiting rankings and spring performance as a true freshman.

The thing to keep in mind, however, is that those same expectations once belonged to Shaun Wade. Wade was a 5-star recruit just like Okudah, and he had a strong spring as a rookie just as his classmate did. The injury may have sidetracked him, but it never derailed him.

“That’s my guy,” Okudah said of Wade this spring. “I definitely was feeling for him just knowing that he had to deal with that abdomen injury. Now that he’s back, he’s kind of lifted up the spirits of the whole cornerback group, just knowing that we have all the guys back and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do this fall.”

Wade was healthy and ready to go this spring, and he performed very well. Missing last season slowed his progression, but Johnson saw improvement throughout spring ball, both physically and mentally.

“I would definitely say that, because he is an extremely intelligent kid, he has some football smarts to him as well,” he said. “Maybe missing that year physically kind of got to him, but it was good for him to go throughout spring really without any injuries. If anything it gave him more confidence to play the game. Mentally, that is definitely one of his assets and he uses it on the field as well. That was good to see.”

Taver Johnson says cornerbacks can’t have memories when they’re on the field, but he wasn’t talking about muscle memory. Wade proved to himself in the winter and spring that he is no longer being held back by an injury.

The only thing holding him back now is experience.

“Any time you are out and being able to get some game and mental reps, that can help you,” Johnson said. “He took that to heart and is a smart young man, so I think that helped him this spring. Being able to go through an entire spring gave him the confidence that he could play and gave him the confidence that he could really hold up day-in and day-out with the rigors.”