Football

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

Zach Harrison, Javontae Jean-Baptiste Ohio State Buckeyes

It is now July — or thereabouts — which means it is time to ramp up our 2019 Ohio State football preview topics.

Up first, is our annual rankings of the Buckeyes’ Top 10 playmakers on both sides of the ball, beginning with the defense.

Unlike the offense, which barely features enough skill players to fill out an “outsiders” ranking, the Buckeye defense has plenty of names that won’t show up in the Top 10, or the next 10 that we’ll be discussing today.

Being a playmaker on defense requires more than just talent, of course. It also requires a defensive system that puts players in positions to make things happen.

Those plans have been put in place during the winter and spring, and they continue this summer.

With the assumption that things will be better than they were a year ago on defense, here are the 10 Buckeye defenders who just missed making the Top 10 playmakers on the Ohio State defense.

20. Zach Harrison

This should be the last time Zach Harrison is listed among the Outsiders on this list. A freshman defensive end, Harrison is the prototype. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he has been timed in the 4.4s. He was impressive pass rushing and creating havoc in the spring, but has five other defensive ends ahead of him in terms of experience.

19. Josh Proctor

There is still a starting job to be won at safety, and if sophomore Josh Proctor wins it, then he will end up much higher on this list. In terms of making plays, Proctor is always one of the most active defensive backs in practice. Like Zach Harrison, however, he has older players ahead of him. Proctor has very good range and is improving his coverage skills. He is eventually a Top 10’er.

18. Cameron Brown

Sophomore cornerback Cameron Brown is one of three second-year cornerbacks for the Buckeyes. Any of the three could be the No. 3 corner on the team — or the No. 1 gunner on special teams — or both. If that is Brown, then he is definitely worthy of being listed here even if he isn’t on the field much defensively. Jeff Hafley has had good words to say about Brown, as have others.

17. Teradja Mitchell

Sophomore middle linebacker Teradja Mitchell makes all kinds of plays in practice, but has two older and more experienced middle linebackers ahead of him. In practice, Mitchell doesn’t always make the correct first or second step, but he still gets to the football and brings it down quickly. If those first two steps get worked out, it will be impossible to keep him off the field entirely.

16. Isaiah Pryor

Isaiah Pryor started half of the season last year for the Buckeyes at deep safety. Just a true sophomore at the time, he had a rough go at it early on. A new defense this season may fit his skill set better. He is big, fast, and athletic. He can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. We haven’t seen much from him in terms of making plays on the ball, but that could change this season. He was with the ones in the spring in Jordan Fuller’s absense.

15. Jashon Cornell

This is Jashon Cornell’s final season as a Buckeye and it finds him moving back to the more familiar stomping grounds of defensive tackle. He played defensive end last year due to a lack of depth, but his speed and quickness are better used on the interior. He may be the betting favorite to win the starting spot at the three technique right now, but has some young guys on his heels.

14. Baron Browning

Baron Browning started at middle linebacker last season as a true sophomore while Tuf Borland was recovering from an Achilles injury. He looks like a defensive end but can run like a safety. Despite the skill set, the production has yet to follow. Being put in a new defense will only help, but his understanding of his role needs to improve as well. If he puts it all together, he could be special. He is working at both the Mike and the Will.

13. Javontae Jean-Baptiste

A redshirt freshman defensive end, Javontae Jean-Baptiste arrived at Ohio State as an athletic 6-foot-5, 215-pound outside linebacker. After a year in the weight room, he is now an athletic 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end. He was a frequent uninvited guest in the backfield during spring practice. While Zach Harrison’s athleticism rightfully earns plenty of awe, Javontae Jean-Baptiste is not that far behind him — if he’s behind him at all.

12. Pete Werner

Junior linebacker Pete Werner would probably be higher on this list if it weren’t for the fact that the Bullet and the Sam — which is where Werner plays — will split reps this season. Werner was put into unwinnable situations last season, but that will be limited this season. Despite these struggles, he still managed 7.5 tackles for loss. That total is the most by an OSU Sam linebacker since Darron Lee’s 11.0 in 2015.

11. Tuf Borland

Tuf Borland wasn’t healthy last season and wasn’t healthy this spring, but if he is fine during camp, it will be a surprise to many if he isn’t the starting middle linebacker this year for the Buckeyes. With Al Washington and Greg Mattison coming over from Michigan, it is noteworthy that middle linebackers led the Wolverines in tackles the last three seasons. It is also noteworthy that despite the injuries last season, Borland finished third on the team with 9.0 tackles for loss.

9 Responses

  1. Hey Gurd, I like your picks… but, it seems like Davon Hamilton missed the bus, due to no fault of his own. Other players have mentioned Davon’s name when asked about who’s catching their eye.

    Halfway through your list I was thinking, “Well, it looks like Tony must have Davon ranked pretty high, even higher than B.B. Landers!” (But then Tony has the benefit of seeing them in practice) So now I’m thinking perhaps Hamilton wasn’t showing out as much as I thought.

    In any event, I’m sure you won’t mind if he proves he should have had a ticket. Like you, I’m anxious to see how it plays out in the first game.

    1. He was originally No. 11, but I took him out because I’m not sure how many plays he will be making only playing half of the running downs and almost zero of the passing downs.

  2. I would put Browning and Mitchell ahead of Borland and Werner. Now, Borland may have never been 100% healthy last year and that could certainly affect performance. BUT, he was also injured in the Spring and may not be 100% by the start of the season. Also, poor tackling was an issue for linebackers last year. I think Browning and Mitchell may be the answer.

    1. Posted by: atlbuck

      I would put Browning and Mitchell ahead of Borland and Werner. Now, Borland may have never been 100% healthy last year and that could certainly affect performance. BUT, he was also injured in the Spring and may not be 100% by the start of the season. Also, poor tackling was an issue for linebackers last year. I think Browning and Mitchell may be the answer.

      Hard to put Browning or Mitchell ahead of Borland and Werner when neither has mad any plays yet. Do they have more potential? Perhaps. Still waiting on Browning. He started three games last season. Do you remember any plays? Mitchell is still looking for his first career tackle. Could one of them or both of them end up in the top 10 this year? Absolutely. But it would be quite a projection.

  3. A paradigm existed with Urban as the coach and in some context your rankings are a bit similar in approach. The paradigm is that upperclassmen are always more proven and better options for starting or playing most minutes because of experience. Yes, I know there have been a few rare exceptions in which freshman have logged plenty of minutes or even started in recent years. However, you state numerous times above how certain players are full of talent but are stuck behind experienced players. When the younger players are recruited they are most probably told they will have a chance to compete for a starting position. So let them compete. If the standard message is “we love your talent but there are players with more experience…” then opportunities are simply lost. Nick Bosa was stuck behind some talented and experienced DE’s his first year at OSU which limited his minutes and then shared time significantly his second year, we missed most of the 3rd year due to the injury. Again, yes, I know some of that talent was NFL talent but Bosa was All-Pro NFL talent. At present, the same situation may occur with Zach Harrison. Unless we get rid of the paradigm regarding experience and simply let the best players play – with applicable coaching, the potential for better team play increases. By the same token, if Zach doesn’t win the job, he doesn’t win the job but give him equal opportunity and abandon the experience barrier. No, I do not undervalue experience and I get the benefits of it, but there is a tendency to overvalue experience at the cost of talent and a result – limited playing time for some real outstanding and talented players. In conclusion, my point is coach the players up so the most talented players play regardless of experience. Just saying. Go Bucks!

  4. You say Pryor is fast and can cover a lot of ground… dude, did you watch any of OSU’s games last year? Fast? He may be big and an ok athlete, but if its anything keeping him from being a good-to-elite athlete it’s his lack of speed.

    1. Good question. I would ask the same for Werner & Pryor. Playmakers? They are struggling to fill articles for the summer. These are truly the dog days.

      1. Posted by: Christopher Perry

        Good question. I would ask the same for Werner & Pryor. Playmakers? They are struggling to fill articles for the summer. These are truly the dog days.

        Who you putting in front of them?

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