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 Ohio State and the running backs? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
What would you consider the Buckeye's weakest and strongest positions on both sides of the ball?
— Ji❌ Toney (@25jtone) January 15, 2020
(EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a loaded, intriguing question, so Lettermen Row will take it in pieces throughout the week. It’s also hard to consider any position at Ohio State much of a weakness thanks to one of the most loaded rosters in the country, but we’ll certainly dive into the units with something to prove.)
The situation had the potential to be incredibly daunting for Ohio State in the secondary.
The defensive backs coach and co-coordinator of the defense was leaving. Two starting cornerbacks were already heading to the draft along with the security-blanket safety, and Shaun Wade easily could have followed them all out the door.
But the smoke signals started emerging in the middle of last month that Kerry Coombs would be up for a return and another chance to reload the Best in America unit that he made famous before leaving for a two-year stint with the Tennessee Titans. And that, along with the chance to become the primary cornerback for the Buckeyes, enticed Wade to stick around for another season as well.
Those are the foundational building blocks for the latest BIA makeover, and that’s a significant head start for the Buckeyes heading into the offseason. It obviously doesn’t hurt that there might not be another program in the country that recruits in the secondary any better than Ohio State, so there is young talent waiting in reserve as Coombs gets to work.
How exactly will all those pieces fit together? That might take a little time to sort out, and the Buckeyes don’t exactly have to rush it right now. Wade is obviously going to lead the way as the top cornerback. And from there Ohio State will monitor a competition that could go a few different ways as Amir Riep, Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks get the first cracks at filling the other outside role or playing in the slot. All three of those guys have shown flashes of potential off the bench, and there shouldn’t be any reason for pessimism about the personnel already on hand.
The same is true at safety with Josh Proctor healthy, more experienced and ready to put his athleticism on display as the last line of defense for the Buckeyes. There have certainly been some learning experiences for the rising junior along the way, but nobody who has watched him practice over the last couple years at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center has much doubt that he can become a star at safety. Jahsen Wint has done a bit of work in a sort of Bullet role and can supply depth, and Marcus Hooker was called on in a few key moments last season as well. There are also big expectations for Ronnie Hickman and Bryson Shaw, with the former needing a season to get fully healthy and the latter getting a taste of experience in three games during his developmental year.
Now, there’s still only one experienced starter out of that bunch, so a little skepticism about just how the Ohio State secondary is going to look is certainly fair at this point of the offseason. But the cupboard is full, Kerry Coombs has proven he knows how to get the most out of his guys and the safe bet is that the Buckeyes will be more than fine by the time September rolls around for the defensive backs.
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