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 Tyreke Johnson? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Have to go with defensive back depth/experience after recent events
— Tony Frederick (@The_Real_TF) February 17, 2020
Everything Tyreke Johnson could need is right in front of him now at Ohio State.
The former five-star recruit has had two years to develop physically in one of the most respected strength programs in the country. The famed position coach he originally committed to play for has returned to work on his technique. And there is absolutely no doubt there will be reps available for him to show what he can do heading into spring camp at a position where there will be open competition for two jobs.
The time to make a move for Johnson has arrived. While it might be too strong to call spring camp a make-or-break moment for him, it’s hard to envision there will be another opportunity quite as appealing as this one with the Buckeyes.
Not everybody develops at the same pace, of course. And Johnson has certainly needed time to get comfortable at the position, a process that perhaps was a bit more complicated for him after Kerry Coombs left shortly after he enrolled two years ago. The entire unit struggled through the disastrous defensive campaign in 2018, so he wasn’t alone in that regard. And though Johnson was able to get a bit of work off the bench last year and show glimpses of progress under Jeff Hafley, he was still lagging behind in the pecking order behind both Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks among the reserves.
Both of those guys will carry momentum with them into drills starting in March, and obviously Shaun Wade has the top spot on the depth chart locked down after he elected to return for one more season at Ohio State. But Coombs has always loved to rotate fresh bodies in the secondary, and if he’s going to do that again with a unit that isn’t quite as deep or experienced as he would ideally prefer, Johnson will surely need to take a step forward.
Having Coombs back, though, might just be the boost he needs considering the built-in trust Johnson already has in the new defensive coordinator.
“I think that the players have confidence because we have a relationship,” Coombs said. “You can’t coach without a relationship. … Some of the kids, I’ve known Sevyn Banks for a long time. When you start dealing with that, Shaun Wade, it was like going home. We can sit down and talk about anything.
“Most of the roster I know, because we might have recruited them and they signed after we left or they started the next year. And I love the new guys. So, yeah, I think there’s a greater comfort level than if I was coming in cold and I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me.”
Tyreke Johnson still has the same potential that drew Ohio State to him in the first place. It’s not too late for him to unlock it and become the star he was projected to be coming out of high school — but the clock is ticking.
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