Every year following Ohio State spring football we recap what happened position by position.
Who stepped up, who stepped back, what got fixed, and what didn’t?
With 12 of the 15 spring practices cancelled due to the pandemic, however, essentially nothing happened, nothing got fixed, nobody stepped up, and no questions got answered.
So since we can’t talk about which questions got answered, we will instead discuss which questions still remain.
Position by position.
We have already discussed the quarterbacks, the specialists, the cornerbacks, the receivers, the defensive ends, the running backs, the linebackers, the defensive tackles, the offensive line, and now we move on to the Buckeye safeties.
Is Josh Proctor ready to be the last line of defense?
Josh Proctor had a great fall camp last year, earning comparisons to former Buckeye All-American Malik Hooker. He began the season with an interception against Florida Atlantic, but that was his lone pick of the season. He played quite a bit last season as a sophomore, but was a step down from Jordan Fuller as a tackler when he got snaps at deep safety late in the year.
Knowing his shortcomings, there is no doubt he spent the offseason trying to fix any outstanding issues before spring ball began. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see those improvements in action because the spring was over almost before it began.
Jordan Fuller may not have made highlight plays like Malik Hooker, but he didn’t make mistakes. With Proctor now slated to be that last line of defense, having a nose for the ball is great, but being disciplined as a tackler and defender is greater.
Who is the second safety?
Buckeye head coach Ryan Day wants to keep this a one-high safety defense, but there will be situations where there are two deep safeties on passing downs or various other situations.
Not having spring camp, that competition is still very much up for grabs, and the bulk of the players fighting for that job are unproven.
Redshirt sophomore Marcus Hooker played in seven games on defense, but was a starter on special teams in every game. He was relied on several times on defense when games were still in doubt, which is tremendous experience. Redshirt freshman Bryson Shaw played in three games, so didn’t get much on-field experience. In the spring, he was working in the slot a bit, which we are considering a cornerback position for the purpose of this series. In the spring, however, things get shuffled around in order to find out what players can do.
Fellow redshirt freshman Ronnie Hickman enrolled early last season, but was already injured when he got to Ohio State and missed the spring and the season recovering from an ACL. This spring was a huge opportunity for Hickman to finally show what he could do, but now we’ll have to wait until the next camp instead.
Can Kourt Williams handle life as a safety?
True freshman Kourt Williams got some time at deep safety this spring, which was a surprise considering everybody considers him a Bullet. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds, Williams is bigger than your average safety and faster than your average linebacker. Getting a look at him at safety was a luxury that the Buckeyes could afford this spring, but that luxury didn’t last long.
Will he remain at safety? Keep in mind that all spring last year, the Bullet was the talk of the town, and yet it didn’t really look anything in the spring like it did during the season. The Bullet in the spring of 2019 was playing as one of the two-high safeties more than half the time, which didn’t happen nearly as much once the season actually started.
Expect Williams to eventually move closer to the line, but part of being a Bullet is knowing they can handle the safety aspects. They knew they had that last year in Brendon White, but eventually found out they also had it in Pete Werner. They’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out exactly what they have in Williams, but the coaches are definitely excited to have him as part of this defense moving forward.