Ranking Ohio State’s Top 10 Playmakers on Defense: The Outsiders 20-11

Baron Browning, Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Pryor Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Every defense has playmakers, but the great ones have more than anybody else.

The Buckeyes had one of those defenses in 2016, with five defenders scoring a total of seven touchdowns. That defense also had 21 interceptions — compared to just 13 last year — which was the most since the 25 they had when they won the national championship in 2014.

Last season, Ohio State had just two defensive scores, which was fewer than Malik Hooker had all by himself in 2016. Those two touchdows were the fewest for an OSU defense since 2011, when the Buckeye defense failed to score a single touchdown.

If this Ohio State football team is going to make the playoffs, then history has shown us that they’ll need at least five defensive touchdowns.

That’s probably not scientific, but it’s still historical.

The 2018 OSU roster is filled with potential defensive playmakers, which is why it only makes sense that we rank them each year.

As we always do, we begin with the 10 guys who are just on the outside looking in.

20. Amir Riep

Amir Riep will be battling for a starting safety spot next month, so he could jump way up this list if things turn his way. He is an aggressive defender who should excel in man coverage at his safety position. Riep will be in a position to make plays on the football, which is the first key to being part of this list.

19. Pete Werner

Once Pete Werner finally finds a home during camp, he should begin to blossom. He moved back and forth from Will and Sam in the spring, but the coaches love his tenacity and ability to find the football. You’ll see him on special teams this season, but he could absolutely win a starting job.

18. Davon Hamilton

Davon Hamilton should be part of the rotation at nose tackle for the Buckeyes. He has always shown himself to be a penetrator in practice, and now he could finally be able to get the reps during the games to show everyone else what he is capable of. He had a tremendous spring, so momentum is on his side.

17. Baron Browning

Baron Browning may have more potential than anybody else on the entire Ohio State roster, which is saying a ton. But even with that potential, he is still just a sophomore linebacker with 14 career tackles. He’s big – 6-3 238 – and has been timed in the 4.5s. He even played some corner in high school. If he wins a starting job, go ahead and put him in the top 10.

16. Shaun Wade

Shaun Wade redshirted last season due to injury but had a fantastic spring this year. He is a big corner who has tremendous ball skills. If he can force himself into a rotation for the Buckeyes, do not be surprised when he leads the cornerbacks in interceptions. And scores.

Ohio State Football Shaun Wade breaks up a pass against Binjimen Victor
Shaun Wade breaks up a pass against Binjimen Victor | Ohio State Football

15. Justin Hilliard

Justin Hilliard is going to compete to be the starting middle linebacker out of camp while Tuf Borland returns from Achilles injury. Hilliard can play any of the three linebacker spots, which gives you an idea of his ability to make plays. He has shown an ability to get into the backfield during practice.

14. Keandre Jones

Keandre Jones will be one of six players who could win the Will linebacker job, so figuring out where to put these players on the list is difficult. Jones has been the backup Will for two years now, so he knows the position. He has been patient, but the time for patience is over. He is tremendously athletic – perhaps a bigger Jerome Baker. If he can win a job or get into the rotation, he has the potential to be an impact player.

13. Tuf Borland

Tuf Borland already showed what he could do last season with his 58 tackles and nine starts. His recovery from an Achilles injury clouds his situation somewhat, and his lack of plays in the backfield last season – just 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack – warrant a slower approach when it comes to his playmaking ranking.

12. Isaiah Pryor

Isaiah Pryor has everything the Buckeyes want in a safety, and now he needs to put it together. A year ago at this time Jordan Fuller hadn’t yet won the strong safety job, but he was outstanding last season. Pryor could follow a similar path. He is supremely athletic and can cover a remarkable amount of ground. If he puts it all together, he might be low on this list.

11. Malik Harrison

Malik Harrison has been solid in relief during his first two years as a Buckeye. His size (6-3 245) and athleticism make him a guy who can cover a lot of ground and then do damage when he gets where he’s going. Harrison is in the same boat as all of the other linebackers. Maybe the job goes to the guy who is the best playmaker?

Tomorrow: No. 10

3 Responses

  1. People in Buckeye Nation will remember Justin Hilliards name for a long time after the 2018 season. I saw him working not too long ago and what really caught my eye was how quick he’s become and how rapidly he shrinks the field against offensive playmakers. I already know that he can bring some serious force when he arrives on target, and that he’s a smart player dissecting plays. I haven’t seen this guy moving the way he is right now since his junior year in HS but with a more imposing presence and physical stature. Baron Browning is going to make it tough on him to stay out front but he looks like a guy ready to take ownership of the entire LB crew. If Tuf Borland regains the start he’s got serious work to do starting very soon. The Mike is key for just how much better the LB’s can be in 2018 and it’s looking good.

    1. When I saw his highlights I wondered why osu recruited him, I never thought he’d play a minute. But, I hope you are right.

      1. Stars don’ mean much, but they do mean something. Justin was a tremendous HS linebacker and finished as one of the best of the best 5 stars in his class. Just about every top school wanted him. That includes programs like Alabama, USC Miami {fl), Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina, Penn State……..and a ton of other. He only played in 7 games his final year at Saint X and still managed 75+ tackles 4 tfl and a int. Even after his foot injury the scouts still valued his level of play by giving him a composite # 2 linebacker in the Country, and was the best HS player in the state of Ohio. He was also a top 20 player Nationally.

        Not exactly sure why you wondered why Ohio State offered him..

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