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.
How many are going to rotate?
Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said last month that he wanted to be able to rotate three cornerbacks, but we never really got to see how that was going to materialize. We also don’t know if that would have involved the slot corner/strong safety position manned by Shaun Wade last year.
The confidence is high in Shaun Wade, Cameron Brown, and Sevyn Banks, but where Brown and Banks will be is still up in the air. Will one of them being in the slot? Neither? Will Wade, Brown, and Banks rotate out wide at corner, leaving somebody else to manage the slot? Is there anybody else who can even be asked to do it outside of one of those three?
While Coombs will want to rotate, the Buckeyes showed last year that they don’t need to. However, they did allow Banks and Brown to combine for over 400 snaps in 14 games, so they did still give starters Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette a rest.
What do the freshmen have to add?
True freshmen Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos enrolled early, which greatly helped out the depth chart. Watts had a strong start to spring ball, but it’s unfortunate for both players that things were cut short. Neither player was ever allowed the repetition of iron sharpening iron, so that bit of improvement will have to wait.
What also has to wait is the evaluation from the coaches. Three practices is a start, but there was no time for either Watts or Cavazos to pick up any momentum. They weren’t able to string practices together and gain significant confidence as their technique improved.
The expectations for both players haven’t changed, but there is still a bit of mystery there than didn’t need to be.
Will Tyreke Johnson or Marcus Williamson make a move?
Cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley have blossomed in year three, which is where Tyreke Johnson is right now. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2018 and then saw cursory action in six or seven games on defense last year. This was the spring he needed to show that he could be counted on, be it outside, inside, or at safety. Now, the Buckeyes will head to fall camp hopeful that Johnson is ready for a larger role.
Marcus Williamson is now a senior with 14 total tackles to his credit. He’s had some injuries, but he’s been healthy enough to earn letters. Could he be the answer in the slot? He’s a smaller corner, which would make him a better matchup against the slot receivers. He would still need to be able to defend the run and prove himself an effective pass rusher on the blitzes.
Not having a spring cost Johnson and Williamson, and it also hurt the Buckeyes in their search for depth and a rotation. While Coombs no doubt knows who he wants to put in the slot, he likely hasn’t been able to see enough to know who it’s going to be, unless they just revert back to Wade, which would be a step in the opposite direction from what was originally intended when Wade put the NFL on hold.