Shaun Wade came to Ohio State last year with high expectations as a 5-star prospect and the second-ranked cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class. His freshman year, however, did not go as planned.
Wade suffered an abdominal injury early last year which required surgery and sidelined him for his entire freshman season. Now healthy, Wade has already made an impact on the field for the Buckeyes this season.
With his athleticism and skill set, Wade has seen the field at three different positions in the secondary — cornerback, strong safety, and nickel. His versatility has been a plus, but his position still remains somewhat undefined. Regardless, he is a guy that has been praised by head coach Urban Meyer and has earned his playing time this season.
Last year, however, Wade struggled with not being able to contribute, but cornerback classmate Jeff Okudah was impressed with how Wade handled himself throughout that difficult time.
“He never complained one time, he just put his head down and worked hard everyday,” Okudah said.
That was also the mindset for Wade as he was coming back from the injury. His focus was on what was next for him and his role on the team. He knew that he had to work hard at both his rehabilitation and his play once he was healthy.
“Last year just having to sit and watch with an injury, it was a tough year,” Wade said. “This year I came in and just wanted to work hard and get on the field in some type of way.”
After conversations with coaches before coming back this season, Wade said they knew he had the skills to succeed and get on the field, he just had to go hard. From that point on, that became his mentality. He never doubted himself or his ability to step up and play.
And now as a major contributor, Wade has seen the field in many different forms, including one that he never expected when coming to Ohio State.
“I’ve been playing corner since I got here, but I’m learning safety now and just trying to get the basics down,” Wade said.
The conversations initially started after the first game.
“Coach Grinch came to me, I want to say after the first game on that Sunday practice, asking me ‘Have you ever played safety before?’ I told him no and he was like, ‘Well, would you be willing to play it?’ and I was like ‘Yeah,’” Wade said. “I just want to be on the field and help the team, that’s all.”
Wade has been the Buckeyes’ top nickel back since the second game of the season. This has also been a learning process for him.
“Nickel is a hard position,” he said. “Guarding the slot, a lot of quick receivers, but nickel is actually a fun position to play. It’s just like corner, but you can’t back up at all and you gotta get hands on [the receiver] definitely, or else it’s going to be a long day for you.”
In fact, Wade said it was the fact that he backed up and didn’t get his hands on Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler that the Buckeyes gave up a 93-yard touchdown Saturday night.
While it is certainly a transition to go from playing press to playing off, and then being hands on, Wade likes the flexibility of being able to switch around and learn multiple positions.
“It’s difficult, but that’s life. Life is difficult,” Wade said. “You have your ups and downs, but learning two positions, that’s a blessing to be honest.”
While working his different positions this season, Wade has already made a huge impact on the field.
And after coming back stronger from an injury and living his dream of seeing the field for Ohio State, he has shown that he is a multi-talented defender that the Buckeyes certainly want to use moving forward.