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Ohio State: Jeff Hafley, Buckeyes secondary under spring-game spotlight

Jeff Hafley-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley and the Buckeyes in the secondary will be closely watched. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Ohio State: Jeff Hafley, Buckeyes secondary under spring-game spotlight

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about new coaches like Jeff Hafley heading into the Ohio State spring game? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Exhibition games at the end of spring always have to be evaluated with a healthy helping of salt, and that might go double for Ohio State’s afternoon affair in the Horseshoe on Saturday. The field is already going to be tilted in favor of the defense thanks to the makeshift offensive lines, the lack of interest in running the football and the fact that both Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin are still inexperienced leading the offense at quarterback for the Buckeyes.

So, if anything, it might be a somewhat discouraging sign if new co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley doesn’t produce a solid outing from what should be a much-improved secondary that is bursting with talent. Of course, it’s only one day, and if the cornerbacks and safeties get beat a few times, it’s certainly not a reason to panic — just like nabbing a couple interceptions this weekend wouldn’t guarantee that the B.I.A. unit is really back among the best in the nation.

But considering how frequently the Buckeyes are likely to throw the football, the talent that is assembled in the defensive backfield and the interest in what Hafley brings to the program as a relatively unknown hire this offseason, that’s the group that is going to command the spotlight one way or another.

Damon Arnette-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette has had a strong spring for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

There is obviously tremendous interest in the quarterbacks, but Ryan Day has already earned the benefit of the doubt that he’ll have his starter ready by the end of August. Ohio State has no reason at all to be concerned about the offensive skill positions, and it’s already established that the line is a work in progress until Thayer Munford is healthy and Jonah Jackson arrives this summer. The Rushmen are overflowing with talent and coached by a legend. There are still plenty of looming questions about the linebackers, but without much full-speed hitting or many opportunities to show off what it can do against a rushing attack, the spring-game format isn’t likely to answer them.

That leaves the defensive backs, and more solid work from Damon Arnette and Jeffrey Okudah like they put on display in Friday’s open practice could ease some of the pressure for the cornerbacks heading into the offseason. A showcase in the Horseshoe could also wind up being a meaningful springboard for Josh Proctor as he tries to fight into the rotation at safety alongside Jordan Fuller and Brendon White — who will also get a chance to show off how the Bullet position might work for the Buckeyes. Where all will Shaun Wade line up? Can young guys like Tyreke Johnson or Sevyn Banks flash with some plays that give them momentum to take into summer conditioning?

One way or another, Jeff Hafley and the defensive backs will provide plenty to discuss as camp closes down at Ohio State. And whether that’s because of a good day or a bad one, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only one scrimmage and there has already been clear progress made during the 14 workouts before it.

But if the Buckeyes do get a positive performance from the defensive backs, good luck slowing down the hype for Hafley and the Silver Bullets.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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