COLUMBUS — Ohio State needed to do something different defensively.
Part of the Buckeyes adjustments included Josh Proctor.
In the Buckeyes 34-21 Big Ten title win over Wisconsin on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, Proctor found himself on the field when Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison needed a second high safety — and he was out there for big moments against the Badgers. Proctor finally had a chance to show in a pressure-packed moment why he generated a lot of buzz in preseason camp. And he might be one of the keys for the Buckeyes national title chances moving forward, as they now have to face Clemson.
“It’s doing nothing but helping me prepare for next year,” Proctor told Lettermen Row. “I’ll be in that starting spot. I know what I’m doing and I’m not nervous, so it’s pretty good.”
But what he is doing this year might be more valuable. The 13-0 Buckeyes use Jordan Fuller, who Proctor learns from and studies under, on every down. Proctor won’t be used in that capacity moving forward, but a chance on the field for much of the second half can always boost some confidence for the second-year safety from Oklahoma.
So, while Proctor continues to groom himself as a budding star for next season’s Silver Bullets, he is beginning to find a role on the No. 2 team in the country, experience that’s far more valuable than the practice reps and preseason hype. The potential for two more games and a national title could springboard Proctor into a role similar to Fuller’s next year.
First, though, is a chance at a national title after helping capture the Big Ten crown. Proctor showed what he could do and helped his cause in Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin. Lettermen Row picked four other Buckeyes who helped themselves out as the Buckeyes remained perfect.
P Drue Chrisman
Drue Chrisman had a decent day as a punter, averaging 43 yards per punt and only kicking twice. But a surprise fake punt was how Chrisman became one of the key players of the game for the Buckeyes. Down 14-0, the Buckeyes needed a spark after another three-and-out. That’s when Chrisman caught a long snap and completed a 21-yard pass from his own 26-yard line, a gutsy call by Ryan Day and special teams coordinator Matt Barnes, and one that Chrisman aced. Chrisman’s pass was right on the mark, and although Ohio State didn’t score on the drive, it gained some momentum that set the tone for the remainder of the game.
DB Cameron Brown
In previous weeks, Damon Arnette has been sidelined due to his ongoing wrist issue. Cameron Brown was the first cornerback off the bench. That didn’t change when Jeff Okudah got banged up in the first half of the Big Ten title game Saturday night. Brown came in and held his own against a talented stable of Badgers wide receivers, making life difficult for quarterback Jack Coan for the final 40 minutes of the game. If Ohio State is going to beat Clemson and win a national title, Brown will have to be a reliable backup cornerback option for Jeff Hafley in the secondary.
OT Nicholas Petit-Frere
Petit-Frere battled with Branden Bowen in training camp for the starting right tackle spot, and Bowen won the job. Petit-Frere hasn’t had to come in often, but he did in the biggest game of the season. When starting right guard Wyatt Davis went down with an injury, Bowen kicked inside to take the guard spot, and Petit-Frere took over for Bowen. Petit-Frere made the most of the opportunity, and he showed that even against a tough Wisconsin front, he can play at a high level. That may not make a difference in the College Football Playoff, but he could begin to build a case for a starting tackle spot next season.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
Jeremy Ruckert didn’t have a massive game, but he did make the play of the game, the play of his career so far and the best catch of the year for the Buckeyes. On the opening drive of the second half, Justin Fields worked some magic to get the Buckeyes down the field in just four plays. Then, Fields found Ruckert in the middle of the end zone, but the throw wasn’t perfect. That was no problem for Ruckert, who leaped to make an insane one-handed catch to cut the Badgers lead to just seven. It ignited the majority-Ohio State crowd and sparked the comeback that led to the Big Ten title for the Buckeyes. If Ruckert can make plays like that in the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State will be even harder to defend.