Kendall Sheffield arrived in 2017 from junior college and worked his way into the starting rotation alongside Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette as a redshirt sophomore. After his second season in the rotation last year, he opted to forgo his fifth-and-final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Sheffield finished eighth on the team in tackles (35), second in interceptions (2), and tied with Shaun Wade and Jeff Okudah for most passes defended (10) last season. He was also the least penalized cornerback in the rotation, getting flagged for interference just once on the season, compared to four for Okudah and five for Damon Arnette.
Now with Sheffield off to the League, the Buckeyes will have to decide how they want to proceed at cornerback in 2019.
New co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley talked about scouting OSU’s cornerbacks in the NFL and being puzzled why they were rotating. But then when he was seeing them every year, he understood and now brings that realization back where it began. In other words, if a player is good enough to play, he’ll play. If the Buckeyes have three corners worth rotating, then they’ll rotate just as they have done since 2016.
The first name that comes to mind when thinking about continuing the rotation is redshirt sophomore Shaun Wade. Wade was the team’s nickel back last season and led the Buckeyes with three interceptions. He also spent the last two-thirds of the season at free safety, which is a possibility this season as well.
Ohio State signed three freshmen cornerbacks in the 2018 class. The highest-rated among them was Tyreke Johnson, who ended up redshirting. Johnson was a 5-star safety signee from the same high school as Wade. Classmates Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown each went a game or two past the redshirt threshold.
Junior Marcus Williamson battled injuries last year and has played sparingly in his first two seasons as a Buckeye.
Ohio State did not sign any cornerbacks in the 2019 class.
Entering his third season as a starter, Damon Arnette won’t need as many reps as the rest of the guys, even though secondary coaches Jeff Hafley and Matt Barnes will still want to get a good look at him in order to draw their own conclusions. The biggest question is where will Shaun Wade be playing. Even if he is at corner, keep in mind that Hafley said that if more players are deserving, they will play.
That’s right in line with what former cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said in the past when hoping a rotation of four corners could emerge. Everybody is going to get reps this spring, however, because the new coaches have to know what they are working with. That will give the unproven and less-proven guys an opportunity that they might not have had otherwise with a returning position coach.
It seems like there should be enough options at safety that Shaun Wade could move back to corner and give the Buckeyes three skilled starters there. That won’t keep the younger guys in the dark, however, because they will need to be ready to step into a rotation of their own in 2020 after the Buckeyes take an expected NFL hit following the 2019 season.
Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah will need to cut down on penalties, and with a change in coverage philosophies from full-time press-man to much-of-the-time press-man, there may be some growing pains. With so many unknowns in terms of coaching and what those coaches know about the players, there could very well be some surprises at cornerback for the Buckeyes. Anybody else stepping up outside of the top three would be a welcome addition for the coaching staff.