Spring’s Unanswered Questions for the Ohio State Safeties

Kourt Williams Ohio State Football Buckeyes

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.

11 Responses

  1. If Proctor is your last line of defense watch for a lot of long TDs like they had in 2018. He is a me first guy and cant tackle.

    1. I think you are still upset about one bad play from the Fiesta Bowl. That said, the kid needs to be coached up on 1) pursuit angles and 2) how to BREAK DOWN and tackle. Not willing to give up on him yet. Because notwithstanding his missed tackle on Trevor Lawrence, we need him.

      1. Christopher, not one bad play. In a big part of the game his man caught a pass 20 yards behind him. Then he couldnt even stop Lawrence from scoring. I weatched him in other games and it seems like the game is either to complicated for him or to fast. I hope noy.

  2. Last year we had three first round CBs that dictated they all had to play at the same time…which led to a single safety scheme. This year, we don’t have any such situation at CB and we don’t have a safety on the roster that is a true single high safety. Thus, we should adjust to our personnel and go with a more conventional 2 safety scheme (strong/free).

    Moreover, if we are going to sale kids on this Bullet position and lure them to Ohio State under that notion, then we should allow the kids who were recruited as such and fit the bill (i.e. Kourt Williams) to play the damn position. If in year 2 of this “Bullet” experiment Pete Werner is still the best option then something is wrong with the guys we are recruiting as Bullets or there is a false pretense we are selling.

    1. I think the possible move of Werner to Will would free up the Bullet to actually happen. Unfortunately, the question remains — who is the 2020 Bullet? Craig Young? Kourt Williams? Baron Browning? Or does it have to be Werner again?

      1. By design, the bullet is a Safety-LB hybrid in that order (i.e. safety first because of the coverage responsibility). Its a safety who is on the bigger side so he can easily play in the box against the run as well.

        So to suggest Browning, who has been a LB and discussed as a pass rushing edge guy as the Bullet is absurd. Quite honestly, Werner as Bullet is bad as well (again, LB first guy). We got away with some things with Werner (i.e. rotating him to single high safety, lining him up out wide on an island in man to man, etc) that we would never get away with in a conference with better skill guys across the board.

        1. I don’t think Browning is the answer either, but then I didn’t expect Werner to be the answer last year and he was. I expect Browning to be a traditional Sam who can then slide down on passing downs and is replaced in the back seven by a different Sam/Bullet/Safety. And I don’t think Werner was ever the problem last year. And you won’t find anybody at Ohio State to say that either.

          1. Yeah I said we got away with it…

          2. a fascinating literal non-sequitur: “actually happen” .

            literally: deterministic random-ism…

            ….agree, Tony, our usual way of ‘thinking’ is in terms of “the answer” and zero-sum assumption, not the dynamic nature of the factors Ryan Day applies to his competitive method…strategy….

            the checkers man is neither great nor stupid; he simply does not recognize what game Ryan Day is playing… and keeps thinking and playing in terms of what he EXPECTS to see [aka ‘my perception is reality’].

      2. a fascinating literal non-sequitur: “actually happen” .

        literally: deterministic random-ism…

    2. Chris said “Last year we had three first round CBs that dictated they all had to play at the same time…which led to a single safety scheme. This year, we don’t have any such situation at CB and we don’t have a safety on the roster that is a true single high…”.

      Chris, IMO on the tactical spectrum from zero-sum [inductive; post hoc ergo propter hoc], LJ’s term “tool box” and his context for using is roughly toward terms such as ‘flexibility’, ‘situational’, continual adapting/initiating.

      Picture Patton’s famous saying, “fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man”. This is not the whole human story, but it is a very popular perception choice…, no?

      Another picture: picture The GoToGuy playing a series of snaps vs a guy ‘using his tool box’ to defeat him….

Comments are closed.