2006 Defensive Preview – Secondary

OSU Football Our defensive preview continues with a look at the defensive backs. OSU’s secondary will be replacing all four starters from a year ago. The new players, for the most part, are unproven and untested in game situations. Second year coaches Tim Beckman (cornerbacks) and Paul Haynes (safties), do not have much time to make these players a cohesive unit. Sept 9th will be here before we know it, and even without Vince Young our players will face a huge test. We are not trying to downplay the importance of the season opener, but OSU plays N. Illinois at home. On the road, at night, will go a long way in determining how well the relatively new DB coaches and players continue to adapt to big time college football. (It is too early for a prediction, but revenge will taste so sweet). Here’s a look at the top two players at each position going into training camp this fall and a talented incoming freshman to keep an eye on.

Left Cornerback

Malcolm JenkinsMalcolm Jenkins (6-1, 202, So.) – As a true freshman, Jenkins started four games last year because of an injury to then starter Tyler Everett. This year, with those starts under his belt and an off-season where he added 15 pounds, Jenkins will have added responsibility. He will, on most occasions, be asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver. I expect with OSU’s inexperience at DB, teams will try to throw on the defense early and often, testing our young secondary. Jenkins, after not being highly recruited out of high school, is poised to show what a lot of schools missed. He has high hopes of becoming the next great cornerback from Ohio State. He has the size, ability, and speed to be great, but time will tell how great he will be.

Andre AmosAndre Amos (6-1, 180, R-Fr.) – Amos, a converted wide receiver, goes into the fall as the backup to Jenkins. After red-shirting last year, Amos has not played a down in college (a theme that will be repeated throughout the secondary). Amos will add important depth to a young corps of cornerbacks. He will compete for playing time as the Nickel corner, but look for him mainly on special teams this year.

Right Cornerback

Antonio Smith (5-9, 195, Sr.) – Antonio Smith, a former walk-on from Beechcroft High School here in Columbus, has paid his dues at Ohio State, having now earned his scholarship. Antonio has been a strong contributor on special teams, and this year he will get his shot to be a starter for the Buckeye’s defense. At first glance, Antonio does not look the part of a cornerback (as evidenced by the picture, have you ever seen a cornerback wear a neck brace?). He started his career at OSU listed as a strong safety and was known for his hard-hitting. Over the years he has developed his cover skills. Standing only 5-9, he will use his quickness and smarts to challenge and out-think the receivers. He won’t be the next Antoine Winfield, but assuming he continues on top of the depth chart, look for Antonio to provide senior leadership to the young defensive backfield.

Donald WashingtonDonald Washington (6-1, 195, R-Fr.) – Washington, like Andre Amos, red-shirted last year. Another backup corner that has not seen a snap in college, Washington will play the same role as Amos; however, due to the lack of Antonio Smith’s experience, having never started a game either, Washington may be in the mix for more playing time.

Strong Safety

Jamario O'Neal 1Jamario O’Neal (6-1, 190, So.) – O’Neal is another former player from Ohio State’s farm team, Cleveland Glenville. Jamario will be replacing top-ten draft pick, and fellow Glenville Tarblooder, Donte Whitner at strong safety. There is a lot of hype that has followed Jamario to OSU. He was ranked in the top five nationally for defensive backs and was the second best overall prospect in the state of Ohio coming out of high school. He was a regular on special teams last year as a true freshman, but this year much more will be asked of Jamario. We will quickly find out if he is worthy of all the hype. Hype drives pressure, and some people thrive under pressure while others fade. Jamario has a chance to be spectacular, here’s hoping he is one who thrives.

Anderson RussellAnderson Russell (6-0, 190, R-Fr.) – Russell is from the same high school class as Andre Amos and Donald Washington. In effort to avoid being redundant, his role on the team will be much of the same. Russell, like the other two, will get on the field in special teams situations, but all three will need to show signs of brilliance this fall to contend for regular playing time during the season. Again, we mention the importance of building depth and Russell will help bolster the depth of this young and talented secondary.

Free Safety

Nick PattersonNick Patterson (6-2, 210, So.) – Patterson going into fall is listed atop the depth chart at free safety. Nick will be taking over the spot left vacant by the graduation of Nate Salley. We hope Nick will dish out as many punishing hits we came so accustomed to seeing from Salley. Patterson red-shirted in 2004 and lettered last year playing on special teams. He is yet another player that will have to step up this year to prove he is ready to start for the Buckeye defense. I have to admit I was surprised to see him listed above Brandon Mitchell on the depth chart. Patterson must be a special player to be listed in front of a senior with considerable game experience.

Brandon MitchellBrandon Mitchell (6-3, 205, Sr.) – Brandon is one of only two seniors (along with Antonio Smith) in the Buckeye secondary, but unlike Antonio, he will bring game experience to the defense. Mitchell has started 8 and played in 33 games in his career. He will see significant playing time this season even if he is not starting. I expect to see Mitchell in the game in most nickel situations. Due to the nature of college football the young secondary will look to Mitchell for some leadership. After losing so many players from a senior-laden defense a year ago, OSU needs to find new leaders on and off the field. Mitchell has a chance to be one of those guys. Time will tell if he grabs the responsibility.

Player to keep an eye on:

Kurt Coleman (5-11, 185, Fr., CB) – Coleman graduated early from Northmont high school in Clayton, Ohio. He enrolled at OSU this spring and was able to participate in spring practice and the spring game. He had a strong spring, making the coaches take notice, which culminated with an nice interception in the spring game.

That’s a look at the defensive backs ready to make an impact for the 2006 OSU Buckeyes. Unless you have memorized the depth chart in the previous year or two, there may be some names listed here that you have never heard before, or at least players not very familiar to you. Now is the time to get to know them. Love them like they are family (we, the Ohio State community are one big family anyway, right? O-H!). We are going to have to live with some mistakes. The players are raw, but man they are talented. The new players all have the size, speed, and ability to become good if not great players at OSU. It will required hard work and determination from each individual player to acheive greatness. Here are some sentiments from their new DB coaches (courtesy of the Ozone):

“Surprisingly I think we’ll be faster in the secondary than we were last year. These guys fly around,”

said safeties coach Paul Haynes. Cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman added:

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can run. I think with their physicalness and the stature of each one of them, we’ve got some big kids back there, that this could be a special group. It’s up to them to take their game to the next level.”

Nobody likes the “P” word: potential, but these guys have it. Who will be the next Mike Doss, Antoine Winifield, Nate Clements, or Shawn Springs, to name a few? Will any of them come close? Time will tell. Luckily for OSU fans there are three or four years to figure that out.

More importantly for the 2006 season, OSU needs these young players to adapt quickly to the college game. As I said before, most of these players have not played at all (aside from special teams) in college, and only a couple have played any significant minutes. One thing OSU can hang their hat on… it can’t hurt going against the OSU offense on a daily basis come fall camp. The chance for the DBs to cover Ginn, Gonzalez, Hall, etc. will only help their development. At this point in their young careers OSU doesn’t need superstars – that will come. As long as they can be good collectively, the defense should be fine. The DBs will rely heavily on the pass rush of the front four. The more pressure on the QB, the easier the job for the DBs.

Stayed tuned in the coming days for our preview of defensive line.


  1. Very nice and in depth post. We are definitely going to be young in the secondary but we are potentially going to be faster and more athletic. The talent is there, they just have to put it together on the field as a unit.

    Go Bucks!!

  2. Another great preview. I’m not too worried about the safeties this year, as I believe O’Neal is going to be very good, and I know Brandon Mitchell is capable. For Patterson to get the nod over him means that he must be a pretty solid player. I’m a little worried about Jenkins at corner, but I’m more concerned about Antonio Smith at the other. I don’t know how a guy can go from no-name walkon to starter at Ohio State so quickly, but if he proves to be even a decent player, he could be one of the best stories of the year on this team, and one we’ll get tired of hearing from Musberger and the like before the season’s half over.

    My big question for these guys is “can you force more turnovers than last year’s squad?” That was the only place they were lacking, and if this year’s secondary is faster, that could lead to more picks. And that would be fun.


  1. […] The first installment of the USA Today Coaches Poll has been released and the Buckeyes find themselves at #1. The national media articles I have read today all begin with a similar sentence: Despite having lost 9 starters on defense, the Buckeyes are #1 in the coaches poll. After reading all three parts of our defensive preview, in which we previewed the linebackers, secondary and D-line, it is apparent that we are not too worried about the defense stepping up this year. The coaches showed me that they agree by voting the Buckeyes #1. As the old saying goes, OSU does not rebuild — it reloads. […]

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