If I was Coach Fickell [Defensive Back Edition]

Continuing in our series of who we would start if we were Coach Fickell, we now take a look at our Defensive Backs.

Ironically, when most people talk about the 2011 Ohio State team they like to say that this group is going to be our biggest weakness because of players graduating and lack of experience. When I look back to 2010 season (yes it really happened no matter what anyone else says) OSU suffered a lot of injuries in the defensive back field and a lot of players got to see significant time because of it. The young backs got valuable experience against strong competition. To me, when I look at the defensive backs we have on the roster, I see this as a true strength. I had a hard time picking my starters and fully expect to see a lot of guys used this year as all of them capable of being studs.

So lets do this thing.

Cornerback – This first cornerback spot is an overwhelmingly obvious choice for me. Travis Howard is a straight up BEAST. The 6’1″ 190 pound redshirt junior out of Miami has the experience and has had the former players he learned from to become the next great CB at OSU. He is a huge hitter and his speed is top notch. His football intelligence is off the chart. He will be the anchor and leader of our defensive backs and he will probably have the least amount of balls thrown his way because of all these things so his numbers wont be huge but his impact on the team is immeasurable.

Cornerback – This second cornerback I had more trouble deciding on but if I was Coach Fickell I would want the best athletes and players on the field no matter the experience. This is a make or break year for Coach Fickell so he is able to take more chances then normally would be acceptable at OSU. Having said that, Ohio State recruited and landed what many believe is the best cornerback in the nation last year in high school. Doran Grant is a 5’11” 180 pound true freshman out of Akron. He was a star cornerback, wide receiver, and kick returner in high school as well as a state champion in track and field in the 110m and 60m hurdles. Oh, and he was also an outstanding basketball player. He is an athlete in the truest sense of the word. He has the talent on paper to be an All-American someday and why not put the best player on the field and put him in a position to succeed. Is he the safest choice? Probably not. He could have troubles at first but given playing time and surrounding him with upperclassmen I think he will become great.

Strong SafetyOrhian Johnson won this spot last year but was injured early on and lost the spot to CJ Barnett before CJ got hurt as well and then the revolving door of safeties began. Orhian is a born leader and a big time hitter. He will throw around his body at guys twice his size and come away the victor more often then not. This was an easy choice as Orhian was selected by Coach Fickell to attend the B1G media days this year which is reserved for the leaders of the team. Orhian is a 6’2″ 205 pound redshirt junior safety From Florida who hits like a Mack Truck but runs like a Ferrari. This spot is his and if he stays healthy he will fill the needs OSU is lacking after losing seniors last year to the NFL.

Free Safety – To me, this is a simple choice. When Orhian Johnson got hurt CJ Barnett stepped in a performed nicely in his place. CJ is a 6’0″ 190 pound junior out of Dayton, Ohio. He is a strong hitter and has cornerback speed and size. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays some cornerback this year if needed but he has to be on the field. He proved himself last year and is looking to have a breakout season this year if he can stay healthy. I almost picked Christian Bryant for this slot but I have other plans for him coming up.

Nickel PackageChristian Bryant is the man for when we go to five true defensive backs. The 5’9″ 190 pound true sophomore out Cleveland Glenville saw a lot of action last year before getting injured as well. He managed to make the All B1G Freshman Team despite not playing the entire year. His size is underwhelming for a safety but he makes up for it in toughness and skill. I think he could play cornerback or safety and he even played some STAR last year when Tyler Moeller got injured. The coaches love his work ethic and his toughness. He could and may start this year at a number of different positions and if someone gets injured he could easily step right in and we wouldn’t lose a step.

Dime Package – When (and it isn’t very often but when) we do go to six defensive backs we need a guy who can play his spot and not blow his assignment. Nate Oliver is a 6’0″ 215 pound fifth year senior out of Cleveland. He is a guy who has paid his dues but has had the unfortunate case of always having better players ahead of him. He has ability and as a fifth year senior he should know his assignments by now and could fill in nicely where ever it is needed.

The guys listed above here are the six best defensive backs on the team in my opinion and all should see plenty of time. That isn’t to say there aren’t even more guys who could and probably will see plenty of playing time. Luckily for OSU they don’t have a single defensive back who is suspended or transferred out of the program. Here is a list of backups and potential replacement starters if injury or bad production dictate they are needed.

Dionte Allen is a transfer player from Florida State where he was injured but was a five-star recruit. He is 5’11” 185 pound cornerback. He is a wild card since we don’t know much about him except on paper. He could be amazing.

Corey Brown is a 6’1″ 189 pound redshirt sophomore from Pittsburgh.

Jeremy Cash is a true freshman free safety who may redshirt this year.

Dominic Clarke is a true sophomore who played well on special teams last year and could see time at cornerback this year.

Zach Domicone is a junior safety who plays on special teams mostly.

Nate Ebner is a Rugby star trying to convert to football as a safety. I am sure he is a huge hitter.

Donnie Evege is a fifth year Senior who is best known for his beautiful hair.

DerJuan Gambrell is a true freshman I think he will redshirt this year but you never know with depth issues.

Adam Griffin has the genes as the son of Archie Griffin but can he produce at this high of a level?

Vincent Petrella is a redshirt junior safety who plays on special teams.

Taylor Rice redshirt junior special teams player looking to turn the corner.

Bradley Roby a redshirt freshman who has lots of ability and just needs playing time.

Ron Tanner extremely talented true freshman free safety who should see plenty of playing time.

Jaime Wood is a redshirt sophomore who saw plenty of action last year and that wont change this year.


  1. So a lot of talk out of camps has Roby as the other starter. What differences to you see between Grant and Roby that had you pick Grant?

  2. @El Kaiser- Bradley Roby has dreadlocks which reminds me of Maurice Wells so he was doomed from the beginning for me.

    But Grant is a little bit bigger and more highly touted coming out of HS. Neither has any experience as Roby RS last year and Grant is a true Frosh. So based on this info I went with Grant.

  3. Kind of silly to ignore Roby, since he is the #2 guy at this point.

  4. @Nick- Well when I wrote this article camp was just beginning. Regardless though as this is what would I do if I were Coach Fickell. Truth is I am playing things more wildly then he would. Coach Fickell needs to take chances and not play it so close to the vest.

    Roby may well be the starter but Doran Grant is the future so put him out there and let him learn on the job was my strategy.

  5. This defense is just LOADED each and every year. I almost feel bad for the rest of the Big Ten.

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