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.